The Making of Community

With the summer a fading memory, and as the methodical takeover of night over day encroaches on our vitamin D rich bodies and minds, we take pause to reflect on the community in which we live and breathe.

While it was evident to us that the farm would enjoy success, we certainly could not have envisioned how the community would embrace the farm this summer.
Here are a few of the numbers from the season:

  1. Over 80 volunteers ranging from 2 years old to those over 80 gave an hour or more of their time to assist the farm with the chores and harvest.
  2. Well over 3,000 volunteer hours of community service at the farm recorded.
  3. Farm support via social media doubled, both on Instagram and Facebook, going from 600 followers to over 1,100 on each platform

While we are still collecting the data as to the amounts of food we sold to the community, and try to figure out how many customers came to the farm stand, we know that we:

  1. Assisted our brothers and sisters in Central Falls
  2. Donated groceries to local families in need
  3. Diverted tons of food scrap from the “waste” stream

Now is an opportune time to become a part of the farm school community, especially through volunteerism. The outdoors continues to be the place to be and the farm is enjoying many visitors, especially families, and middle schoolers.
Where is everyone else, we wonder? Come out and join us as we remediate the soil, plant garlic, prep for winter, and get ready to sow seeds in February.

The farm is here for all of us, all of you.

About Planting Garlic

It is time to plant your garlic (hard-neck garlic in this region)!

Hopefully, you’ve saved some of those delicious garlic cloves we sold at the farm stand in the middle of the summer. Now until early December is the right time to plant your garlic cloves into the garden. We usually plant out late October into November. This year, with an early fall, we plan to get these in before Halloween.

First, split your garlic bulb (head) into the individual cloves.

Then, sort your cloves by size and variety. The general rule of thumb is that the larger cloves produce larger bulbs!

Prepare your soil by enriching your planting area with a thick layer of compost (4-6 inches). You can add organic manure and/or worm castings as well. Many growers now also use seaweed as an additional source of food for the garlic. Garlic will want full sun and usually does not need to be watered.

Additionally, you will want to have a good amount of chopped leaves or straw available as a mulch. Wood chips work just as well.

Using a hand trowel, create a 4-6 inch hole (do not dig- simply move the soil to the side at once. Place one garlic clove point tip facing up into the earth. Cover with compost, topping it with 3 inches of finely chopped leaf mulch.

Repeat this with as many garlic as you have available, being sure to space each individual clove, 5 inches or more. For home gardens, some folks are known to plant their garlic around the perimeter of their beds to ward off critters and perhaps, evil spirits.

In late winter/early spring you should see the tips of the garlic breaking ground. Do not fret for they are very cold hardy. As the weather warms, they will enjoy lots of green growth into June.

June is when you will see the scapes (central stem with a curly point) shooting into the sky. This portion should be harvested to be enjoyed grilled or chopped into any dish. Cutting the scape allows the energy of the plant shift from flowering toward producing a large bulb underground.

Garlic bulbs should be harvested in early July, usually soon after the 4th. Set garlic bulbs to ‘cure’ in a dry and shady place, where they are well ventilated. Garlic is ready to eat immediately, but must be cured for 6 weeks if you want to use it for seed come the next fall.

We use 5 inch spacing, planting 8 cloves across a 50 inch bed, that is 100 ft in length. This allows us to plant approx. 2000 garlic in one bed! We hope to plant two bed for about 4000 garlic.

This year, all the garlic we plant will be from seed we saved this summer. Thanks to all the farmers who made it happen.

Find more varieties at your local farmer’s market. All organic growers will be selling garlic that is great for eating and great for seed. Inquire with them about their varieties. Popular varieties include Music, German White, Roja, and Chesnok, though there are loads more.
Here is a great resource for heirloom/heritage type garlic of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, found at Seed Savers Exchange.

Cover Crops Abound, and more on Saving Seeds

It is the the time of year when many farmers desperately wonder if they’ve, yet again, missed that window of opportunity to spread the joy of cover crop seed into the fields. 

In the last two years, we’ve utilized the benefit of spring, summer, and fall cover crop for a variety of reasons. Weed suppression is a favorite, as well as diversifying the biology of the soil.

Most importantly, we want to avoid leaving any soil exposed to the elements. Soil is a living thing as we all know, and it thrives when roots are working their way down and through it, scavenging for those beneficial minerals, and when plants are able to form a canopy, shading the soil from the sun.

In late summer into fall we purchase of cover crop.While many farmers are experimenting with mixing a whole assortment of seeds, we settle on two basic choices, rye mixed with vetch and clover, and peas and oats.

Rye, vetch, and clover are best sown in late summer prior to a long and steady (gentle) rain. These three crop plants will put on healthy growth quickly in early fall and then enter dormancy through the winter. Their make up allows them to survive cold, snowy winters. In late winter and spring, these crops will grow again, and together, will produce a fair amount of bio-mass. This can be tilled under or used as mulch when crimped. This blend works well for fields to be planted into in the summer.

The peas and oats is a favorite and go-to of many farmers. These cool loving plants grow well in the fall, and then winter kill, creating a dense layer of decomposing organic mulch on top of your beds. This is the ideal situation for the beds that will be transplanted earliest in spring. We recommend this for the backyard gardeners as a way of holding the soil, maintaining the biology of your soil, and for its ability to suppress weeds into the summer. 

Whatever method you choose, be sure to prepare your garden beds in the fall for a quick start in the spring. There are many techniques to choose from. Let us know your go-to method!

On a mid-morning this past Tuesday, we enjoyed a long overdue visit from farm friend and mentor, Patricia Bailey. Tricia is an adamant seed saver, and when she let us know of a wonderful seed saving project she’s collaborating on, we said we want in! 

Sojourning through the fields, we relished in the miracle that is the food web. For this project (more details to come down the road), the ask is to acquire a pound of any certain type of organic seed, especially those plants that are staples in the culinary world. 

We saw that the holy basil was beginning to dry its seed set. And as we sat on our haunches, we were struck by the reality of what a pound of holy basil seed would look like. We recognized we would need a lot more of the holy basil and saw that the tomato field was brimming with this wondrous herb all at its base. So we put off on the holy basil and went to a sure winner for the day.

One thing we knew we had lots of was Coriander (the seed of Cilantro). We have been saving this open-pollinated seed since the farm school’s inception, and dedicated volunteers had been collecting coriander throughout the summer. 

It was time to set the scale, and voila! Two pounds of coriander seed. Some kind of farm record for sure!

As we said our goodbyes, we planned for another meet-up. We knew that the holy basil awaited us, but what else … what else would we find out in the garden?

Collective Responsibility

Did you know there are 31,760 genes in a tomato? That is thousands more genes than the average human! That is one complex plant and it is vital for us to save and reuse this information through seed saving techniques. When we do, we are joining generations of families all over the world who have bred and saved to get the modern tomato we’ve come to love and enjoy.

While there is so much to learn and know about seeds and seed saving, we thought to share two main differences to keep in mind when thinking about collecting these little powerhouses of stored energy: open-pollinated or hybrid.

Open-pollinated seeds are seeds for which the new plant will essentially be an exact match of the previous year’s plant. These seeds and plants have stood the test of time and have often been passed on for generations. Many will know these seeds as ‘heirlooms or heritage’ seeds if they can trace the line for fifty years or more.

The great thing about open-pollinated seed and plants is most often the great stories that come with them, of how they were acquired or passed on. As well, these plants tend to be very rich in texture and flavor, making them highly prized and sought after by those in the know. Ideally, you will keep space between different varieties of the same species to avoid cross-pollination, but there are many ways to cross-pollinate purposely and successfully to acquire certain desired traits.

To that end, hybrid seeds have become an essential part of organic farming, especially for market farms, where vigor, uniformity, and yield make a big difference when it comes to the bottom line. These seeds are carefully crafted through crossing two genetically different plants in order to access the best traits of each plant. One plant has the flavor while the other may have the disease resistance. Crossing the two allows for the best of both worlds. The one main drawback to hybrid seed is that saving the seed will not give you the same plant the next year.

There is, of course, a plethora of information on the web and all kinds of videos about how to save and store specific seeds. Here is one such article, a favorite of board member and farmer extraordinaire, Aby O.

For us at the farm, the future of blending our educational goals with the market goals will be to merge these two growing practices of seed saving and crop production as much as possible.

As for you, keep an eye out for wonderous seeds and their stories circulating around the neighborhood and save some seeds today. Perhaps there is a wonderful variety you have for us to grow on the farm and share it with the greater community. Together, we join in and take part in the collective responsibility of hundreds of generations before us.

Farmer Vacations!

High summer is in full swing. There are projects to be done, fall seeds to be planted, and hundreds of pounds of produce to be harvested. It is also a wonderful time to get out of town, enjoy some secluded time with family in the woods, and spend time on the water. Our farmers work hard year round, and we are glad when they choose to take some time off for themselves! This month has seen a rotation of vacation schedules, with some stepping up while others take time to rest, only to balance the scales the following week.

We are grateful for the many volunteers who help to keep us afloat ­čÖé


Progreso Latino

Dear Friends and Followers of the Barrington Farm School: Please join us in supporting our brothers and sisters in Central Falls, RI, a diverse, densely-populated city of 19,000, including 6,000 children. Like many urban communities but especially in Central Falls, the public health and economy have been greatly affected by Covid-19. We are partnering with Progreso Latino, which operates a large food pantry in Central Falls. We will be bringing donated products to Progreso Latino once a week. WE NEED YOUR DONATIONS! A box has been set up at the farm stand. Please drop off: 

  • Unexpired nonperishable food products.
  • Boxed cereals and snacks for children.
  • Diapers in sizes 3 and up.

 Please, every time you are shopping, remember to pick up something to drop off at the farm. Just one item will be greatly appreciated! You can make a difference. By donating once a week at the farm, we can demonstrate our concern for our urban neighbors and show how much we care for people both inside and outside of our town.

Queridos Amigos y Colaboradores del Barrington Farm School:

Por favor, ├║nanse a nosotros para ayudar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas de Central Falls, RI, una diversa y densamente poblada ciudad de 19.000, que incluye 6.000 ni├▒os. Como sucede en muchas comunidades urbanas, y especialmente en Central Falls, la salud publica y la econom├şa han sido afectadas por Covid-19.

Por eso nos hemos asociado con Progreso Latino, que opera un food pantry en Central Falls. Llevaremos donaciones a Progreso Latino una ves a la semana. 


Hemos puesto una caja en el farm stand.

Por favor depositen:

  • Comida no perecedera que no este vencida.
  • Cereales en caja y meriendas para ni├▒os.
  • Pa├▒ales de talle 3 para arriba.

Por favor, cuando vayan de compras recuerden agregar algo para depositar en la huerta. 

Usted puede hacer la diferencia. Donando una ves a la semana demostramos nuestra preocupaci├│n para nuestros vecinos y cuanto queremos a todos dentro y por afuera de nuestra comunidad.

Standing Up

When Brian Morley showed up out of the proverbial thin air and said he’s building us a tool shed, we just about kicked ourselves.┬á

A quick board approval for budget and location gave way to hours in his woodshop (aka garage). A couple of weeks later, a picture via text said, “are we ready to stand up these walls?”┬á

Indeed. With the help of farmer Milos and some power tools, plus the steady hand of two or three other volunteers, the shed went up with nary a hitch. 
We’re proud of Brian’s efforts and his handiwork, and for having become a steady presence on the farm. Thanks a shed full, and it’s on to the next project.

* have any skills you’d like to share with the farm? Let us know. There is always another project on the horizon.┬á

Flower CSA Work Share

Flower CSA Work Share
This week’s┬ánewsletter!

The flower fields are alive with perennials such as bronze fennel, lilies, irises, yarrow, and various herbs. They will soon be joined by our first planting of dahlia bulbs! Our sweet peas and bachelor buttons are also off to a great start.

We are incorporating a few edible components into our arrangements this year such as chocolate mint, oregano, and sage. We are most excited to welcome 4 families to our pilot CSA flower work share program. Courtney, Aby, Robin, Jody, and Ellie will be field crew and harvesters for the flower bouquets at the stand. They will begin their volunteering in early June.

Board members and volunteers gathered in the fields this weekend during the bustling plant sale to transplant stock, sage, yarrow, snapdragons, and direct seed sunflowers. We are looking forward to more consistent warm days before bringing zinnias, rudbeckia, cosmos, and amaranth out of the seed-house and into the fields. 

— Suzanne B., Board Member

Heads up on Lettuce

My girls and I planted 2 beds of lettuce, escarole, and bok choy on a beautiful sunny day at the farm last week. It took a bit of extra time as Vera, 8, decided she wanted to create a pattern out of the red and green lettuce heads, and her sister Evelyn, 4, was the hander of the transplants.

These days, instead of rushing from one thing to the next, we find ourselves in search of activities to fill the days. This mom was more than happy to sit back and watch the planting of a bed of greens unfold.

Many thanks to all who have worked towards creating such a space where these memories can happen. We look forward to munching on crisp, crunchy, cool greens come late spring!

— Aby Ollila, Farmer Volunteer

Aby is already proving to be a tremendous asset to our farming program. Since joining us a few short months ago, she has made herself right at home. She brings with her a wide range of farm experience and skills. Thanks for being with us, Aby :)!

Read more in our newsletter!