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When ever we get a request from a group to help us out on the farm, the first things that flash through my mind are logistics. Do we have the time, resources and the need for a mass of people to join us in the fields or forest? There are a lot of moving pieces and to top it all off we are completely at the mercy of mother nature’s whims. Coordinating so many details can be a daunting task, but one that I can assure you all is well worth it.
This Spring a group of 25 freshmen from the Rivers School in Weston came to work on the farm. Together with the Land’s Sake farm staff we planted nearly 5000 strawberries in about an hour and a half. That is a serious amount of work. A project that may have taken days of time out of the farm staff’s limited schedule was accomplished in one fell swoop.
Jeanette Szretter, Director of Community Service and Spanish Teacher at Rivers School, said, “The weather cooperated and our faculty and students have nothing but raves about the success of their work with you today! What an impressive amount of strawberries! Thank you so much for your willingness to host us and to partner with us. We look forward to many more such opportunities!”
These projects go far beyond the tangible work that is accomplished. By focusing our physical energy on a common goal we build stronger connections with our friends, neighbors and to the community as a whole. My experience at Land’s Sake over the past two and a half years has been that when we call upon our community for support in a time of need we are often rewarded by a profound outpouring from all over.
When I arrived at Land’s Sake I felt like I was immediately adopted into a truly unique and strong community. Every day I am proud and grateful to contribute to an organization with such deep roots. Now in our thirtieth year we are working harder then ever to assure that those roots remain healthy and will support us for another thirty years. If you live anywhere near Weston and want to feel connected to an amazing community, don’t hesitate any longer, explore all we have to offer. Join us in working towards a sustainable and rewarding future any way you can.
-Douglas Cook, Education Director
Weston is blessed with some 2,000 acres of protected conservation land, including farmland, forests, and open fields. To help preserve this great resource, over the last several years Land’s Sake has been working on behalf of the Community Preservation Committee and the Conservation Commission to maintain several of Weston’s open fields. The work of preserving these fields is some of the most daunting, but rewarding, that I have been involved in while at Land’s Sake.
Most recently, we have been working at the 80-Acres field at Cat Rock to push back the field to its original stone walls and clear all the “tree islands” of overgrown invasive vines and debris. If you’ve hiked or walked your dog at Cat Rock over the last six months or so then you have probably seen the slow transformation that’s taken place. When we first started the project last year, most of the trees were completely entangled in thick walls of bittersweet, multiflora rose, and (my favorite) poision ivy! Each day we attacked these massive invasive entanglements with chainsaws, loppers, and hauled it away with our tractor.
For the larger trees and debris that needed to be removed, we brought in a large chipper to grind them up. Once removed, the brush was either burned or hauled into the woods and cut down low to decompose. Although the work was difficult and often left our crew with cuts and scratches from thorny brush all over their arms and legs, it was always incredibly rewarding to look back at the newly cleared sections of field and see our progress.
And this spring, after months of hard work, we finished our work clearing the 80-Acres field. If you haven’t been to the field, we encourage you to take a walk, check out our work, and enjoy all that Weston’s conservation land has to offer. A map of Weston’s extensive trail system can be found on the Weston Forest and Trail website – you may be surprised to find that nearly every area of town has access to this great trail network.
For more photos of our work at 80-Acres field and the Dickson fields on Highland St, click here.
In all, Weston has 24 fields that are maintained by the Conservation Commission and the Weston Forest and Trail Association. For updates on how Community Preservation Act funds are being used to preserve Weston’s fields you can visit the Conservation Commission’s website.
- Dave Quinn
Land’s Sake is one of the greatest things about Weston. I have long believed this since ‘discovering’ it during my third year as a Weston resident. Driving by the farm one warm May day, I decided to enter the long driveway to poke around and see what the wooden farm stand, and the fields, were all about. A tall, thin man with a long beard was there, hoeing a field. It was a wonderful sight for my Wyoming-raised eyes that ached for familiar scenes of farmers working their fields.
“Hi. Do you work here?” I asked, naively.
“Sort of,” the man answered, with a bit of a grin.
Little did I know that I had just met Brian Donahue, a co-founder of Land’s Sake, an internationally known academic and a champion of suburban farming and forestry programs, of which Land’s Sake was a national model.
And little did I know that Land’s Sake would forever change my life.
Now, eight years later, I am honored to serve as Board Chair of this great organization and to work for the Land’s Sake community. As a mom, a customer, and a volunteer, I can attest to the many impacts that this land, and the people who work on and for it, have made on my family. Whether it’s stopping by the farmstand on a steamy July day for fresh basil and carrots for dinner, or watching my children frolic in the farm and forests that Land’s Sake staff help maintain, the memories we’ve made are fresh and powerful. I have grown attached to this part of our town in a way that I never expected.
Land’s Sake is a place, a model of sustainability, a community of dedicated citizens that value open space, working landscapes, and community involvement. It is a source of healthy local food, a proud steward of forests, an inspirational teacher to children and adults. It is a board of leaders and a hardworking, talented staff, it is the tired hands of volunteers that give of their time, and the smiles of children that depart their buses and discover where their food comes from. Land’s Sake is all of this, and much more.
Interestingly, as our roots grow deeper in Weston and my kids experience more of the farm and forests, I find that Land’s Sake keeps on affecting my family in new and memorable ways. My oldest son, a 4th grader, decided to ‘try’ the After School Explorers program just last week. He’s always enjoyed being outside, but I’ve been careful not to inundate him with too many farm-related outings—not to push the agenda, if you know what I mean.
After one day of sign painting, planting, watering, playing, learning, and doing valuable outdoor work, the sports nut fell in love with Land’s Sake on his own, much to my surprise. He now has the Land’s Sake “bug,” and has returned to the farm as often as his program will allow. Thanks to Doug and Geeta, our dedicated education staff, and the magic of the land that sits in the geographic center of Weston, my son has been turned on to science, farming, and community service in a new way. Here, in his words, is the proof.
Mom: What made you interested in the After School Explorers program?
Lukas: My mom told me about it and I wanted to give it a try.
Mom: What did you think of the first day? What did you do?
Lukas: We planted some seeds in the education garden and took a tour of Land’s Sake. We did Name games, had snack, and met the nice teachers.
Mom: What is the favorite project that you’ve done in your last four visits?
Lukas: My favorite thing about it is that I bring something special home to my mom each time, such as a bouquet of various things around the farm, a cup of worms from the Norway maple, blossoms from the Norway maple, and rhubarb. I liked to paint signs for the education garden, work with other kids, and be around the farm.
Mom: How does the After School Explorers program compare to other sports or music activities?
Lukas: I like it the same amount and it’s different from other sports because we walk around a lot outside in nature.
Mom: What else would you like to say about the after school program?
Lukas: I would really recommend it to someone who likes to be outdoors and in nature a lot.
So there you have it. A new generation of smitten Land’s Sakers are sprouting up before our eyes. Our job, as parents, Westonites, and Land’s Sake supporters is to ensure that this story continues. Through your support as a member, donor, or parent that enrolls your child in the after school or Summer Programs, you can help this community gem keep on giving. And that way, when you or your child are at the farm, you too will be part of its community and its special history.
- Alyson Muzilla, Board Chair
A significant portion of my time as a farm manager is spent making to-do lists. For the crew’s next day, week, or month of work. For our purchases. For repairs. For emails I have to send. The lists are occasionally in my head, but are almost always on paper, and now sometimes on GoogleDocs.
To celebrate all of the wonderful things that we have accomplished here on the farm this past month, I would like to share with you a most-of-what-we-have-done list. Some items on this list are triumphs, big or small, while others are just the facts.
- Planted ACRES of veggies, in the form of seed or transplants, out into the fields. Includes: potatoes, onions, shallots, scallions, strawberries, lettuce, kale, collards, chard, carrots, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, Napa cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, radishes, fava beans, arugula, beets, fennel, parsnips, cilantro and dill.
- Covered about an acre of the farm in row cover.
- In the greenhouse, we have seeded at least one succession of pretty much every crop that we can start in the greenhouse, with the exception of melons and winter squash.
- Got some early cover crops down. We have planted about 4 acres of peas and oats to help fix nitrogen and add organic matter to the soil before we put our tomatoes and other nightshades in come June.
- Purchased several tons of compost, and spread about half of it in the flower garden and in our new strawberry field.
- Crossed Route 20 a collective 500 times, at least.
- Started work with a high school senior from the Winsor School who is completing her senior project on the farm.
- With the education staff, we led a group of 25 freshman from the Rivers School in planting 5000 strawberries in 2 hours!
- Our open volunteer days started!
- Swiftly diagnosed an infestation of onion maggots in some of our alliums.
- Made numerous repairs to our large disc harrow.
- Gave our Hi-Boy Cub tractor a tune up.
- As a crew, have eaten at least a dozen bags of chips. All kinds of chips.
- We started cultivating to knock out weeds in between our rows of crops using our Allis Chalmers G and the toolbar on our larger tractor.
- Took 5 educational crop walks as a crew.
- Put deer fence up around 8 acres worth of crops.
- Successfully kept rodent damage to a minimum in our greenhouse.
Next month (June) we will add running the stand, harvesting and weeding to the field prep, planting, supervising and pest control. Also, our crew size will double! The farm season hustle is only just beginning.
Over and out,
Melanie Hardy, Farm Manager at Land’s Sake Farm.