Items may be dropped off at our office during regular business hours or at the JCC Welcome Desk.
Congregation Brith Sholom is seeking volunteers to help tend its beds at Monocacy Farm and sponsors to help families in need. Call 610-866-8009 or visit www.brithsholom.net to learn more.
Join volunteer Jennifer Lader to learn more about farming and gardening in her podcast series brought to you from Monocacy Farm in Bethlehem.
Episode 4: Bushels of Beans
Jennifer: Okay, so we’re here talking with Bob Drake at the farm; it’s late August. Bob, what kind of work is still left to do at the farm between now and the end of the season?
Bob: Well, we’re in the process now of doing what we call our second planting, which means we put in the ground seedlings to last us and give us crops to give away between now and the end of October.
Jennifer: What kind of work would be helpful from the volunteers?
Bob: Transplanting, harvesting, some weeding but less than during the regular part of the season.
Jennifer: I noticed today, because we harvested a lot of green beans, it looks like 4 bushel baskets, that with the harvesting, what’s nice there is that it’s not real hard work. It’s just really plucking green beans, for example, off the vine. No hoeing, no weeding involved.
Bob: Yes, and I know that’s more of a challenge, so, as I mentioned, next year, even as I resist doing it, I’m going to use plastic, they call it plastic mulch, to put over each bed before we do the planting, and that way, it’ll cut down on the weeding quite a bit and not be so draining for the volunteers.
Jennifer: Yeah, and if we think back to the rows that we were hoeing and weeding a few weeks ago, the areas that we did pull out the weeds, the green beans that grew in those spots had so many beans per plant, it was amazing.
Bob: String beans are fairly labor-intensive and that’s why some people won’t do them on the scale that we’re doing them, but because families like them so much, my inclination is to keep growing them.
Jennifer: Well, that’s one thing I noticed – now, I got fascinated earlier in the season by the broccoli, because you put the seedling into the ground and it grows into a big, big plant with a lot of leaves, but there’s only one stalk of broccoli in the center, and if you go to cook a meal for a family, you’re maybe using two or three stalks of broccoli, so there’s a lot of plant there, to get relatively a little bit of food.
Bob: In our country, the custom is, if you buy broccoli, let’s say frozen broccoli or fresh broccoli at the store, typically it has very few of the leaves left on the stalk. I encourage people to, if you’re growing your own, cook everything. The leaves are delicious. We’re just not accustomed to it because people don’t want to be bothered shipping the leaves, but they’re actually as good, if not better taste, than the heads of the broccoli.
Jennifer: So that would probably have all the calcium.
Jennifer: And the Vitamin C.
Jennifer: And probably Vitamin A, I’m guessing.
Bob: Yes, and they’re just delicious, if they’re sautéed in olive oil, garlic, onion, whatever other seasoning people want, and it takes you three minutes to cook, and it’s done, and it’s delicious, and kids like it.
Jennifer: That’s right, okay, and with all that said, I think I’m ready for lunch! All right, thanks so much, Bob.
Bob: Thank you.
We knew from the start, when we saw this row, yeah, it was really discouraging to see all of those weeds, but what we’ve learned in the meantime is that even though we can’t solve the whole big problem completely, all by ourselves, what we can do is pick one little piece of the problem, in this case the weeds around the green beans that were keeping the light away and that were drinking up all of the moisture in the dirt and we were able to clear away some of the weeds. So probably I would say for every plant that we’re able to clear the weeds away from, like the one in this picture, would probably be one meal of green beans for a family. So, that really makes a difference, and that’s one thing that we really can do. Okay, back to work!
The congregation Bob mentions is Brith Sholom in Bethlehem.
Jennifer: Okay, so we’re here with Bob Drake, who’s the project manager for the farm. Bob, what’s going on on the farm today?
Bob: Well, I had volunteers from your congregation helping to till and then seed an entire new bed. In this case, we were planting turnips, which grow well in this soil, and in about 90 days, we’ll have full-fledged turnips to donate to the 10 organizations that we support.
Jennifer: Okay, now I know that a lot of the weeds here are the thistles, and they grow in rugged terrain. Does that have anything to do with why turnips can grow well here too?
Bob: Not that I know of. The thistle, as most weeds, can grow anywhere, unfortunately, so we’re fortunate to have different congregations and organizations like your own that have adopted the various beds. So, I have about 10 beds adopted, and they tend to the weeds, as opposed to our using plastic covering to subdue the weeds. I don’t think anything’s wrong with it, but I tend to shy away from using plastic if I can avoid it.
Jennifer: There’s some benefits to good old hard work and a little bit of sweat, right?
Jennifer: It’s a beautiful day here on the farm, actually.
Bob: It is, and we’re very fortunate because we wouldn’t be able to do a tenth of what we do without the help of volunteers, so we’re really appreciative to your congregation.
Jennifer: Could you use any more volunteers?
Bob: Certainly. The more I have, the more I can plant. The more help that we have in terms of volunteers adopting beds, the more I can plant, and in turn the more we can donate. We donate – we make weekly donations to the 10 organizations that are listed in our profile.
Jennifer: Do you still have several beds that are left to adopt?
Bob: Yes, we do.
Jennifer: Okay, and what have you got growing in some of them?
Bob: So far we have kale, we have two varieties of kale, we have three varieties of cabbage, we have broccoli, brussels sprouts, maybe six varieties of tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, bush beans, which are a type of string beans, onions, carrots and beets.
Jennifer: Okay, well, that sounds pretty mouthwatering. Thanks for visiting with us and we’ll check in in a future week.
Bob: Thank you very much.
Episode 1: Broccoli
Did you ever wonder where broccoli comes from? I’m here today at Monocacy Farm taking a look at some of the plants that are coming up through the soil here this spring aimed for families who would otherwise not have access to fresh produce, and especially organic fresh produce. This is a little broccoli plant, it’s one in a long couple of rows of broccoli plants, and we’re going to watch it through the season and see what happens. Right now, we just see leaves, but I have a feeling before long we’re going to see what looks like broccoli coming off the top there. If you’d like to take a closer look, we’d welcome some extra hands here, helping at the farm. There is a volunteer program and Bob Drake out of Rodale is in charge of that, and he can really find a job for any level of ability in terms of farm work, whether you’re able to pull weeds, water, wash vegetables once it’s time to harvest that broccoli, you would be most welcome. Jewish Family Service has an adopt a row program. If your organization would like to help out by doing that, or if you would like to otherwise support JFS, just visit the website at jfslv.org.