As a field crew member I have loved witnessing the strong community-farm connections at Waltham Fields Community Farm - families in our CSA share program picking their own crops in the fields in addition to the produce we've harvested for them, members of the public enjoying farm tours and events (like our free Farm Day festival this Saturday - join us from 2-5pm!), youth engaging in Learning Garden programs, and all the other moments that make up the daily hustle and bustle at the UMass Waltham site - our base of operations. This farm site is meant to be accessible so that as many people as possible can experience and enjoy it, but there is more to Waltham Fields Community Farm, including leased fields just down the road at the Lyman Estate (which you can glimpse through the trees as you drive into town on Lyman St.) and quite a bit farther down the road in Weston, are the Gateways fields we lease from the Danforth/Hyde family.
Gateways has a different feeling to it than the Waltham sites, and lately I have been appreciating these differences and the time we have been able to spend working there. Gateways is quiet and still. The fields there are large, rolling, and tree lined, and whether because of the relative isolation or the fact that Gateways doesn't reap the benefits of the weed crew and weekly volunteers, everything feels more wild. The birds and the insects seem louder there, set against a quiet backdrop of distant white noise from the highway. Somehow the mornings feel extra cool and the afternoons extra warm. Reminders of nature and life are abundant, like the cry of a hawk as it circles out over the trees, and the fresh teeth marks of a coyote that had been enjoying our watermelon. There are no buildings to be seen, and the fields have a kind of undisturbed beauty.
Earlier in the summer, some of the Field Crew worked at Gateways regularly, harvesting peppers and eggplant in the morning. These peaceful hours have been some of my favorite moments so far. Lately though, we've been going there in the afternoon, chipping away at the melon and storage onion harvest, and this perspective has been just as enjoyable. When everyone goes to Gateways, it almost feels like a field trip, and our afternoons there have been filled with energy and laughter. We have discovered together at Gateways that it is impossible to be unhappy while harvesting watermelon, and that no matter what type of bucket or basket you pick into, sweet and bell peppers are some of the most beautiful crops we grow. Last week we cruised through the pepper and eggplant harvest with the full crew (in some math-defying way, farm work seems to go by exponentially faster when just a few more people join the effort), we happily tossed around several hundred watermelon, and we got a sneak peek at the sweet potato harvest. At this point in the season, the challenge and novelty of a new crop to harvest is especially exciting, and I'm sure our shareholders and food access recipients will also enjoy some of the most recent additions, like leeks and broccoli, as much as we have enjoyed planting and harvesting them.
It is so hard to believe that fall officially begins this week! Farming is all about shifts, and I can feel one happening now as tomato and summer squash production slows and nine pound cabbages can be found amongst the rows of fall brassicas. But change is good; it makes it easier to appreciate the contrasts and value the little things. I am excited to see what this shift will bring to Gateways and to the rest of our farm fields, and I am looking forward to all the beautiful, delicious food still to come.
Claire Penney, Field Crew Member