July means…

hot stuff!

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As things heat up- Veggies For All is in full swing, the greenhouse is cranking, and campus is green and busy.

The seedling season is officially over now that the fall cabbages have been transplanted, so that makes life a little easier for the team.  One less piece of the puzzle to watch over.  An added bonus to the super hot weather: our little aphid problem seems to have resolved itself during a brief period when the greenhouse got a little too hot.

Our new gorgeous greenhouse is being kept neat as a pin by Food + Farm tech, Sarah B.   Because this is our first summer with the facility, Sarah is experimenting with the cultivation of hot weather crops.  Tomatoes, peppers, okra, and luffa squash have put on major growth in the last several days.

Tomatoes and peppers are crowd-pleasers.  The luffa squash, which can be dried into the bath “loofa” you’d find in the beauty products aisle, was Sarah’s choice.  Okra is a much less obvious addition; people seem to love it or hate it.  But a little bird told us that it is President Stephen Mulkey’s favorite, so we are giving it a whirl.

Out in the fields, it’s all about weed control with a few exceptions.  In the coming weeks, there are also plans to sow fall carrots and pick the early cabbage.  If you are curious about field near the Quimby Library, this is a “rest” season for that plot, which means we are cycling through a care regimen that includes cover-cropping, cultivating for weed eradication, and fallowing.

Currently, one round of cover crop has been incorporated and now Tim is engaged in, as he calls it, “killing weeds” by cultivating just after they germinate.  It’s one of the most fertile plots we manage- and we intend to keep it that way!  Next year, expect some healthy squash plants out there.

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Welcome, Sarah!

“I look at the world and ask,  ‘What needs to happen?’  Then I see how my passion can fit those needs.”

Who said that?  How do we get them working with our team?

Sarah B 1Sarah Bicknell, a current Sustainable Agriculture student at Unity, has joined the Sustainability Office as Food and Farm Projects Technician for the summer months.  We’re thrilled to pieces!

This student position, which was made possible with the generous support of the Sewall Foundation, is designed to further the hunger relief mission of Veggies For All by providing support in the veggie fields and creating more connectivity between the College and community food work.  Sarah will also manage some summer greenhouse projects and assist in other food security collaborations we maintain with local partners, such as the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry and Unity Barn Raisers, the administrative home of VFA.

Sarah is a continuous source of positivity and initiative on the worksite.  If you’re lucky enough to work with her- you will find yourself laughing a lot and working hard.   She is also an independent and dedicated team member who is not afraid to dig into tasks.  Her passion for this work is crystal clear!

Her experience includes an AmeriCorps Apprenticeship at The Youth Garden Project in Moab, Utah, an internship with Maine Farmland Trust’s Farm Viability office here in Unity, and volunteer-student greenhouse manager during the last semester.

She works on gardens and other projects at her off-the-grid homestead in Freedom when she’s not doing good work out in the community.

We have a feeling this is going to be a great year…

Welcome, Sarah!

summertime

…and the living is BUSY.  While students are away, campus both buzzes with summer programs and undergoes some major improvements.  Media Lab construction, new roof on the Student Activities building, remodel of the Wyman Commons entry, and general sprucing are all happening at once.

A new multipurpose greenhouse will be  build just between Thomashow Learning Labs and the Quimby Library in late summer.  This space will serve as much needed seedling space for Veggies For All, a teaching and learning space for the Sustainable Agriculture degree program, and a semi-indoor space for students of all programs to study plants or soils or solar gain, etc.  This building will fill the role of, and definitely improve on, the “old hoophouse” (pictured at the bottom of this link) which was used for similar purposes.  If you want to see just what a HUGE improvement this new building will be, take a look at alum Holli Cederholm‘s 2007 article in the MOF&G, here.  Stay tuned for progress reports on the greenhouse as it goes up and fills up.

Students, we are SO excited for you to be get back and see the improvements to your campus- but we’re also glad we’ve got a few more weeks to button up projects before you arrive.

Here’s a Sustainability Office perspective on summertime improvements and happenings.

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Community Meal and Onion Planting Saturday

The monthly Community Meal to support Veggies for All takes place this Saturday at 5.  Join us at the Community Center on School Street for burgers, beans, fiddle heads , lawn games, and more.

And  help VFA plant onions in the library field at 3pm Saturday. No experience necessary.

Sustainable Ag. and Campus Farm and Food Updates

The fledgling Sustainable Agriculture Program is evolving … but we thought our faithful readers deserved a look behind the scenes.  Next week, members of the faculty, staff, and  reps from partner organization and the student body will hold the first meeting of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) to flesh out the whens, hows, and wheres of the exciting pieces of the program.  Here’s some of what we’ll be discussing.

Campus Livestock: We are bringing animals back to campus! A farmer will pasture fiber goats here this spring, summer and into fall, with kids due in August. We also received a grant with Waldo County Tech for chickens now happily cheeping in the new animal room in Koons Hall.

Co-curricular Development: This fall we want to launch a number of initiatives designed to increase opportunities for our students outside of the classroom. This includes a facebook page for networking with local farmers, a four-year co-curricular calendar with suggested regional activities for students such as MOFGA workshops or the Winter Film Series, and financial support for students to attend functions.

Intensives, Internships, Apprenticeships: Built on our successful internship program, we would like to develop special opportunities for students in their particular interests in agriculture. For example, for students who wish to gain experience in community food we are working on a Community Food Intensive initiative for this summer. We would also like to further develop our relationship with MOFGA around farm apprenticehips. We envision each summer cohorts of students getting some special training for a day or two on campus, then going out to various sites around the state for summer internships, followed up with group presentations or publications to share their experiences with various aspects of the food and agriculture landscape.

CHEFS: Feeding our Future: Unity College is a founding member of CHEFS, launched this spring, designed to assure long term funding to agriculture projects in our area.

Veggies For All: Through an ongoing partnership with Unity Barn Raisers, students have the opportunity to contribute to this food bank farm project, which is hosted on campus. Students can build their agricultural knowledge through assisting in field work and offering consultations, while gaining an understanding of food security issues at the community scale.  Foundation support for the collaboration between Veggies For All and the College has set wheels in motion to increase and improve our campus agricultural infrastructure.

Maine Food Plan: The College has been invited into the statewide discussion regarding food planning and policy through inclusion in some beginning discussions regarding the Maine Food Plan.  While the application is currently under review by a regional funding team, the College has signified interest, willingness to act, and hope to be included in some form when the role of higher education is addressed with other educational food leaders.  We’re excited to find connections with this plan to our curriculum and our impact on the community food scene.

Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee: In addition to the hands-on participation  of SAWG, our College Advancement office is creating an advisory committee for our program consisting of thought leaders in food and agriculture from throughout New England. This committee will meet once per year to hear about our program and to identify for the college trends in food and agriculture that may inform development of our program.

Come and git it!

Join Unity Barn Raisers and friends for a mid-winter comfort meal.  Vegetarian lasagna will be chefed up by the Sustainability Office’s own Ryan G.  Dishes will feature goodies from Morning’s Glory Farm in Unity.  Word on the street is there’ll be an open jam afterward.  Bring your banjo or your baby- depending on who you are.   All proceeds benefit Veggies For All!

Let’s eat!

Root Cellar-bration!

The Environmental Citizen: Fall Harvest and Storage course invites you to join in the ribbon cutting and celebration of our new root cellar!

Come for an opening ceremony and tour at 3:00pm 12/9/11 (near the Maintenance barns), followed by a presentation at the Student Center at 3:45pm.  Light refreshments will be served.

Join us!

More info about this project, here:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLZuU6zJ6bE

Join it: http://www.facebook.com/events/301160396584820/

The most wonderful time of the year…

… is Autumn!  This year we’re getting treated to an especially long and unusually warm season.  Why is Fall so colorful here?  Among other exciting things, harvest time brings community together: meals, service, chores, celebrations, generosity, and activity.  Just when students have hit a groove in balancing studies, work, and play- they’re almost ready for a break.  Now they’re busier than ever as final projects, presentations, and exams loom.  But all this activity ends in some satisfying, concrete results:  gardens put to bed, papers submitted, root cellar stocked with veggies (more on this soon!), credits earned, experience gained.  In short, harvest.

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Extra onions, please.

Actually, they’re not extra.  There are just a lot of them.  You are looking at part of the Veggies For All 2011 onion harvest.  Just like the rest of our crops, they are headed to folks in our community through the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry.

But before we send these onions out into the world, they need to dry thoroughly so they can be safely stored into the colder months.  About half of our harvest is dried, but still needs to be trimmed, boxed, and delivered to the VRFP.  Hey, that sounds like a service-doin’-work-party to me.  If you’re interested in helping out Thursday 9/1 at 5:00 PM-ish give me a shout: strunzo@unity.edu.

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