Greetings from the farm,

I might have missed the actual Equinox, but I am hopeful you’ll still enjoy the Spring installment of our newsletter. Spring is an exciting season on the farm, so rather than ruminating on a theme, I want to share a snapshot of what we've been getting up to recently. 


Earlier in March, Kate Sims brought her Econ 111 class up to the farm to experiment with efficiency and diminishing returns. They split up into different group sizes and went through all the steps of filling and seeding a tray of onions. They timed themselves and ran the experiment a few times before they had to clean up, wash the dirt off their hands, and head back down the hill to the rest of their classes. We’ve done variations on this activity for several seasons now and it’s always really fun! I love hearing students excitedly strategizing the most efficient way to do the task, and look at these results!

Check out at that curve and also those onion sprouts! Top image is the data students collected put on a graph, it shows a gentle curve. The bottom photo is of the trays that were seeded during the experiment. The soil is dark brown and the sprouts are bright green. The leaves are long and thin and bent as they emerge from the soil.
On Monday Rachel Peters and Karl Longto, two of the people who work in Landscape and Grounds, came up to the farm during the workstudy shift to instruct us on pruning our apple trees. While farm staff is confident in the vegetable growing realm, trees aren’t necessarily our specialty! (Although, during the pruning lesson, we noticed that there are a lot of similarities between pruning apples and tomatoes). I always learn something new when Rachel and Karl come to the farm- this week I learned to rub a handful of grass onto the spots left from pruning. This encourages the tree to heal faster and also camouflages the pruning marks. We’re so lucky to be able to collaborate with such knowledgeable colleagues & fellow plant nerds!
Photo of our wednesday afternoon crew enjoying pruning in the warm sunny weather. Everyone is using tools to snip branches off the trees and pile them onto a brown tarp.
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of talking with the 2 lab sections of Surface Earth Dynamics, taught this semester by Anna Martini and Nick Holschuh. The 2 hour long labs really gave us some time to dig into the material (pun somewhat intended). Both classes stood in our field of oat & pea cover crop and talked through some of the nitty gritty nuance that goes into the management practices we use at Book & Plow. We talked a lot about carbon and the importance of microbes in a healthy soil. The classes ALSO managed to dig soil pits, photograph the horizon layers, take soil samples, and fill the holes back in! The labs will be analyzing the soil samples next week, I am so excited to hear about what they find! 

Next week I’ll be going down the hill to talk to Professor Becky Hewitt’s ENST310 Ecosystem Ecology class. I’ll be bringing soil test results in to talk through how we calculate our fertilizer rates for each crop and the different ways we manage nutrients on the farm. A really exciting part of being a campus farmer is recognizing all the different ways the farm can provide opportunities for students to get tangible experiences to connect to what they’re learning in class. We've got a bunch more classes scheduled for farm visits this spring as well, we're just getting started!
Photo of students standing around in a circle in a field of straw colored plant debris. Some students are leaning on shovels, the sky is bright blue behind them and the Pelham hills are in the background. A pile of dark brown soil sits on a plastic bag at their feet.

I started this newsletter with the intention of spreading the word about Earth Week happening April 22-29. We've been collaborating with the OES team, the MRC, Student Activities, the Food Justice Alliance, Dining, and local partners to plan some really exciting programming that I'm absolutely buzzing to tell you about. I think rather than mush it all into the end of this newsletter that is right on the verge of feeling too long, I'll leave it here. 

We'll send out another newsletter specifically about everything we're planning for earth week, so if you're interested, keep an eye out for that! Another way to stay in the loop about earth week is by following us on instagram, we'll be sharing information about everything there as well!!

happy friday, happy spring!

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Book & Plow Farm · 301 E Hadley Rd · Amherst, MA 01002 · USA

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