Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Blog

Hello! We have changed blogs to one that is more specific to St. Mary's (through the name). It is here at

This blog and all of its wonderful pictures and history will stay up, of course.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meeting with the SGA for the First Time

Today Tess and I met with Ken Benjes, Vice President of the SGA, to discuss speaking to the SGA about the changing the farm's status. It was a very helpful meeting that pointed us in the right direction towards individuals to talk to and the procedures and different possibilities for changing the funding of the farm.

Later that evening, Tess, Jesse, and I represented the Farm at the Student Speakout at the SGA. For this Tess spoke about how the Farm grew out of the Community Garden Club, but the farm's needs have grown beyond what the benefits of being a club can offer. The farm needs to be able to pay its workers and needs to have a stable income and hopefully the SGA will be able to help us so we can flourish and continue to educate and support our campus.

I am optimistic about the response we received from the SGA and its senators. Senators Frank McGough, Becky White, Jamie Phillips, and Alex Walls all volunteered to help the Campus Farm draw up legislation towards changing the status of farm. Many at the meeting had questions and seemed very interested and seemed to understand what the farm wanted to work towards. I hope we will be working with them more in the future.

Notes from Meeting 1/28

On the farm. It's cold out there. There's still some kale and spinach left alive and the garlic is still growing. I think there was also one lettuce plant left alive. We took down the row cover because it's not really doing anything anymore. Overall, everything is looking good and all of our supplies are still there.
  • Do we need to get any more supplies? Like mushroom soil or hay or straw? I know we have money in our budget for some tools like the swivel hoe, also. 
  • Should we buy a rototiller? The feeling I'm getting is no. Should we rent one? That might also be a problem. Kate has been reading about using rototillers and I think has more information about whether this might still be a bad idea.
Whats been done so far this semester. We are in the process of turning in the lease so that we can have a full acre! Thank you for doing that Kate! We got a grant application turned in to apply for up to $1000 for us to use to pay workers over the summer. Hopefully we'll hear from that sooner rather than later. We've also done some planning to talk to the SGA about getting funding for over the summer (more on the SGA proposal below). 

Plans for the future. We think we would like to keep the layout of the farm pretty much the same with some minor variations to width and length of beds. We are meeting this Friday to finalize what seeds we want to grow as well as come up with growing schedule for the semester and summer. So far, here are our ideas for what we want to grow:
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Sunflowers
  • a few hot peppers
  • bell peppers
  • melons
  • pumpkins
  • garlic
  • onions
  • summer squash
  • zucchini
  • patty pans
  • spaghetti squash
  • basil
  • beets
  • marigolds
  •  How should we go about buying seeds? Chancellor's Point wants to collaborate and I am all for that. Are there plants we should definitely not get (i.e. non-natives, etc)?
As you can see it is quite a list. Who knows if we'll be able to grow it all, but this was just an initial planning for things we are interested in.

There are some supplies we'd like to invest in this semester, such as looking at an irrigation system as well as revamping the farm's fence. For the fence, it needs to 1) work and 2) keep out animals. It didn't do the best job of either last season, so we need to change it around.
  • Since we do/will have more land, we need to move the fence around I think. Most of what I heard at this meeting and in talking with Kate was that the fence should be grouped at the bottom to keep out rabbits and groundhogs and tall to keep out the deer. I'm pretty sure we can do this and I think we have a lot of wire left. 
  • Also, when going out to visit the farm Terry, Sam, Tess and I talked about 1) finished the compost bins and 2) building a "cold frame bed." This bed would have the frame in the ground with plastic or windows on top. This would allow us to move it if we needed to, save us from a lot of construction and cutting labor, allow us to reuse the lumber, and save us from relying on lumber that was all the same size. 
In order to propose to the SGA that we deserve to get special money to pay for workers (currently the money we get from the SGA cannot go towards wages) we need to come up with reasons/ a solid argument for how our club is different from other clubs and reasons why the SGA should fund us being able to continue. Any suggestions?
  • Okay, here's the money section. Tess and I (and anyone else that wants to join are meeting Ken Benjes today at 4 at the Grind to talk about this proposal.
  • Also, we need to look for more grants, just as a back up plan. I think we should have a "Grant Finding Day" so one person does not have to spend hours and hours alone on the computer, but rather a group works together to search for money we can apply for. 
  • Reasons for support from the SGA. Read and add them to this document:
One last item I forgot to mention in the email was the Community Garden. What are our plans for that? Small plots for students were suggested as well as collaboration with Keep St. Mary's Beautiful or SEAC or maybe another group. But we need to do something with it. Maybe at the very least get some bushes or flowers planted.

woof. Busy busy busy

SGA Proposal

We've been trying to work towards finding a way to fund the wages for our (potential) workers over the summer. Going to the SGA meeting tonight and meeting with Ken Benjes this afternoon to find out if we can ask for money from the SGA to help pay for wages in a similar way Saferide or the Bike Shop.

I'm pretty sure we're closer in function and goals to those two organizations than most of the other clubs on campus.

Notes on last weeks meeting to follow.

We also have a meeting this Friday, Feb. 4 at 4PM at the Campus Center near the Grind.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reflections on Last Semester

Tess wrote up these reflections about the Fall season:

Overall, given the challenges we face as a club with minimal continuity and funding, this was a good season! We got a lot of volunteers out and exposed to the farm, we had several classes and clubs get involved, we donated most (still waiting on those numbers) of our produce to the local men's shelter, and a fair amount also to Bon Ap. We were also featured in the campus news several times. That stuff even grew to harvest was awesome! Of course, we also had some problems.

the biggest problem was the lack of continuity from summer to fall which lead to us sort of getting organized and starting everything just a little bit too late. the things we got in at the start of october did okay but were still a little small, so that was kind of a downer. while we had substantial harvests of spinach, arugula, kale, mustard greens, radishes, and parsley, the lettuce and chard were put in too late to grow much at all, although some of the lettuce did soldier through the snow in the row cover. the beets suffered from lack of water and weren't really noteworthy and the turnips we planted never germinated. the collard greens were harvested once but in a way that prevented them from growing back. we also planted garlic to harvest in the summer!

other issues:
-over seeding lead to plants being too close together despite thinning. plants want to grow---stick to less seeds and reseeding if necessary in the future
-lack of water! this was a really dry fall and we needed more irrigation than we initially thought would be the case
-better pest management--the spinach could have really used some approach to dealing with the aphids, just didn’t have time for that! ideally with more volunteers things like this could get taken care of
-the agribon row cover really only worked using the long bamboo poles to hold it down-using ground staples and the hoops to hold it down just ended up with it ripping holes in the fabric

good things!
-the straw really kept down the weeds, that was awesome. we did very minimal weeding
-no problems with animals!
-using the row cover seemed to help the lettuce keep living through snow!

in terms of recruiting volunteers/publicity:
-not many people came to the open work days that took place regularly during the week, more people came to the more organized ‘volunteer days’ that happened periodically throughout the semester
-contacting clubs, classes and other campus organizations (sports teams) was a good way to get people out there....but in this case quality control is a big issue!
-going to the community free market was really positive, as was offering samples of food. people really like that and it connects the dots between farm/dirt/working and food they want to eat!
-had trouble having meetings that were not on the farm....seemed to have lots of trouble drumming up interest in doing the planning, this is probably due partly to the general lack of momentum that happens every fall
-how to structure the leadership? ideally this would be a collective process but how to do that when some people have more time/commitment than others?

Spring 2011

We are looking forward to a new season on the farm and have been working on getting a grant for some money for over the summer today. Hopefully soon we will be buying some seeds. Also, we are going to start thinking about how we want the Community Garden this semester. Plots? Herbs? All berry bushes?