On Tuesday morning, the Hampshire College Farm crew teamed up with students attending the summer Food, Farm, and Sustainability Institute (FFSI) to pick nearly 700 pounds of local strawberries at historic Warner Farm in Sunderland, MA. The purpose of the trip was not only to provide a fun learning experience for the summer farm crew and FFSI students but also to harvest berries that Bon Appetit will use in pursuit of Hampshire’s 100% Local Food Challenge.
The group of 19 students picked all morning under cloudy skies until a thunderstorm rolled in and caught them just shy of their 720 pound goal. While the students waited for the storm to pass, 10th generation farmer David Wissemann retraced the history of his family farm back to 1720 and expounded on the current operations of the 160 acre fruit and vegetable farm, which he manages with his father.
After the skies cleared, Food, Farm, and Sustainability Director and PhD soil scientist Beth Hooker took the students back out into the field to give a brief overview of the world famous Hadley Silt Loam soils that characterize farms along the Connecticut River Valley. The FFSI students will continue to learn about soil science and agricultural practices throughout the week, balancing classroom time and field work as they did at Warner Farm.
The field trip also benefited the summer farm crew, providing them with a new experience and introducing them to the workings of a production farm. One student remarked that it was a nice change of pace from seeding, planting, and weeding to have an opportunity to harvest crops. The Hampshire College Farm times it’s peak production to coincide with the academic year, so most of what the farm grows won’t be ready to harvest until the fall–with the exception of tomatoes and cucumbers that will be harvested this summer and processed at the dining hall into tomato sauce and pickles.
This isn’t the first time that the farm crew has taken a field trip to pick a bounty of berries for the dining hall to preserve and serve throughout the year; in fact, Farmer Nancy Hanson intends to make it a tradition. Last summer, a group from the Hampshire College Farm spent a day at the Benson Place in Heath, MA picking and sorting low-bush blueberries. Farmer Nancy coordinated with dining hall manager Jim Lachance to determine that 600 pounds of blueberries should supply the kitchen for a full year. As it turns out, student demand for chef Lydia Kumpa’s local blueberry desserts and dishes was remarkably higher than anticipated, so Jim and Lydia have doubled their request for this summer’s blueberry haul to 1200 pounds! Farmer Nancy might need a bigger crew!
With over 680 pounds of strawberries picked and a daunting blueberry harvest ahead, Hampshire’s farm crew has their work cut out for them. Rest assured, they will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor this fall at the Hampshire College dining hall!