Half the Grain and Half the Hay

Half the grain, And half the hay, Must still remain, On Candlemas day.

T3.jpgThat might be a strange (and from a quick Google search) rarely-quoted rhyming quatrain. Candlemas Day, a Christian holiday that falls between Christmas and Easter, has largely been shadowed by a furrier holiday here in the United States. While it might be strange for a Lawrence organization to bring up a holiday more popularly celebrated in the Keystone State, or even to reference this old English holiday, it held an important spot in early colonial American agricultural society.

Candlemas Day, or February 2nd, marked when farmers would look at their stores and make sure they had at least half of their supplies (e.g. grain and hay) to ensure they would survive to harvest.

With more than a few advances in preservation (namely refrigeration), as well as grocery stores, contemporaries of our time aren’t really bound by this logic. However, with the Urban Farm at Costello, we find that February 2nd is a great time for us to evaluate our planting plans, as well as look at ways we can preserve and extend our growing season. 

With major support from MDAR, we have purchased and installed a walk-in refrigerator, which we plan to use to store produce for selling at the Lawrence and Methuen Farmers Markets, bodegas and restaurants, and donations to local soup kitchens like Bread & Roses and Cor Unum. During the farmers market season specifically, the refrigerator will allow Green Team members to harvest earlier, and sell later in the week. This streamlining will allow for easier labor management, and more fresh produce to be available for sale.

ajidulce.jpg The installation of a high-tunnel on the Urban Farm has meant that we are able to begin planting early, and continue harvesting later. Beyond season extension capability, the high-tunnel has invited new, creative growing techniques to Costello. Trellising cucumbers proved highly successful, as the vertical growth (as opposed to vining on the ground) doubled the yield.

We had an ambitious planting plan last year, which pairs well with the fertile soil found at Costello. We garnered a bit of a reputation for our eggplants, zucchini, and aji dulce peppers. This year, we asked three questions of everything we wanted to plant: is it culturally significant for Lawrence? Is it marketable in Lawrence? Can we readily teach Green Team and volunteers to grow it on the farm?

At Costello, we want to represent the best of what Lawrence has to offer by melding traditional agricultural techniques with innovative technology. We have a few surprises in store for this year - stay tuned for more details, and we look forward to seeing you at the farm, or trying some of the produce at your local bodega or farmers market!

The Urban Farm at Costello is a half-acre educational farm that engages Green Team and volunteers in fresh, locally grown food production. Major support for our fresh food programs, such as our cooking classes, Fresco Cooking Club, and farmers markets is provided by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation and Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Co-written by Brian Kibler, Finance and Operations Coordinator, and Heather Conley, Community Food Manager.