Stone Soup
The Newsletter of Stearns Farm CSA
April 2010

From the Field: Greening Up/Kathy Huckins

We welcome you to the 2010 farming season at Stearns Farm CSA. We are entering this spring season asking our earth to act as a giant sponge. The deluge of our recent rains has left our soil squishy and saturated. It has delayed our work in preparing the first beds of the season for planting. We have beet seedlings in the greenhouse ready to plant out in the fields. We are ready with our first carrot seeds and of course, our always appreciated pea seeds. Now we wait until we are allowed in by the conditions of our soil. That is the way with nature. We have our schedules well planned out during the snows of winter, but we also have to be flexible because of the weather.Stearns Farm in the spring

This year, before we can plant or transplant our crops we will be adding a combination of minerals (rock phosphate, greensand, gypsum, calcitic lime, etc.) to each bed along with dehydrated chicken manure and sometimes other organic fertilizers. These will be mixed in with our spader which acts like a gentle tiller. Next, our bed former will prepare a smooth raised bed for us and we will be ready to plant. Other years we applied compost to about half of our beds, but because of the wet conditions of our compost heaps since last year, we have been unable to mix and prepare the windrows for decomposition. We have bought in dehydrated chicken manure instead. We are hoping to find a way to build these windrows this spring so we will have compost to put on the beds this fall. We are grateful to our local farms for the horse and cow manure and the landscapers for the fall leaves that they deliver to us. One of our compost areas is on the adjacent field leased by Tom Hanson. We thank him for offering this space to us.

We had a very successful Winter Share this past season, managed well by Trish Stefanko who will also be working with me this year as the Assistant Farm Manager. She has been managing the permanent greenhouse since we started the onions, leeks and scallions in mid February. Come by and see: the seedlings look healthy and happy. Both she and I will be working a bit less than full time for the season. We have hired two capable field workers, Casey Ann Wiggins and Susan Peters, who will begin their orientation on April 13th along with the Work for Shares. The opportunity to put in your share hours will begin the following day, April 14. We look forward to meeting, greeting and then putting you all to work. There will be plenty to do, as always.

We have planned for a prosperous, healthy and balanced farm season. We have worked out a crop plan that ensures a variety of your favorite vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Our job is to be flexible as the weather and nature guide our work. Your job is to include all of these factors when you come and pick up your share each week. You can be assured that we will do the best job possible to honor the investment you have made to our little farm.

Now, it’s off to the greenhouse for more planting of flower seeds. We look forward to meeting you, old and new, as we all celebrate spring.

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Farm News: Sharer Work Hours Changes/Kathy Huckins

Each year it has been a tremendous challenge on pickup days to harvest, clean, weigh, display and determine each share by lunch time. Most of the time we have worked well beyond that time, under much stress, often eating lunch at 1 pm or later. We are making two changes this season to help ease this situation: we are hiring more work-for-shares and asking sharers not to work on pickup days.

Even though sharers have been helpful on pickup days, it breaks the flow of our work pattern to include your contribution. The harvesting crew of work-for-shares receives specific training, comes every week, and works with efficiency and speed as a team. Sharers do not have the training necessary to be as effective as we need you to be, given our time constraints.

Beginning in June, sharer works days will be Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. However, until we begin our pickups in June, you are free to work any day that the farm is open (Tuesday through Saturday).  For complete information about signing up for sharer work hours click here. As always, we thank you for all you do and we look forward to working with you in the fields this season.

        • “[The work commitment is the] best part of belonging to the farm.”—From 2009 survey

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Annual Appeal Update/Brian Holland

One of the best things about Stearns, I think, is the support we receive from sharers, work-for-sharers (WFS), staff and friends of the farm. Many people volunteer their time and their talents to make the farm successful, and, of course, the staff bring their knowledge, motivation, and dedication to us every day.

In spite of difficult economic times last year we received $6179 from the annual appeal. Everyone at the farm is very grateful for this generous level of support. Last year we were able to rework the entrance and exit of the parking lot to reduce erosion problems, install a year-round water line to the greenhouse, improve the electrical safety in the greenhouse, and buy a chisel plow with your financial gifts from prior years. This year we will use the money from the annual appeal to buy a drop spreader, a water-wheel transplanter, and special hoop houses for the fields.

kale under snow
It’s hard to harvest kale on your knees, in the snow

These are investments in improved yields and improved productivity at the farm. The chisel plow will first be used at the Parkland to loosen the soil to improve yields, especially of root crops. Natural processes tend to compact the soil as does the use of heavy machines like tractors. The drop spreader will apply soil amendments to our fixed beds. Previously, we had done this by hand, so we expect to save time and labor as well as to improve yields. The water-wheel transplanter is used to transplant large numbers of corn and other plants. We have had to borrow this equipment in previous years. This year we will be able to plant when the time is right instead of having to wait until the borrowed transplanter is available. Hoop houses will make it possible to grow field crops in the Fall and Winter while protecting them from being buried under snow. They will be large enough to walk into, making it much more efficient to harvest these crops.

Scott Cleveland points out that this is the 20th anniversary of Stearns Farm CSA and also the 35th anniversary of Margaret Welch’s gift of land to Sudbury Valley Trustees. Everyone who is active in making Stearns a success each year contributes to this fine tradition.

Your gifts to the annual appeal help make it possible for us to invest in improvements to the operations of the farm, and we thank you for your continuing support.

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Enrollment Update/Cathy Briasco

Sharers harvesting radishesEnrollment for the upcoming season is close to being finished. The process started last Fall, with enrollment forms arriving along with deposit checks from previous season’s sharers. Over the winter, I have been working on setting up the new season’s bookkeeping information in the farm’s database.

For the 2010 season, we will have a total of 174 sharers: 108 with full shares and 66 with alternate shares. There will also be up to an additional 19 work-for-sharers. A number of work-for-share positions are still open on both the Tuesday and Friday harvest crews. Please contact me if you might be interested in a work-for-share position for the upcoming season, or if you’d like more details about this program; the working season starts in just 2 weeks!

The Stearns Farm waiting list continues to grow, with over 350 names of people who would like to have a share in our farm. While we regret that the farm cannot support all these folks who are waiting for a share, it is a testament to Stearns Farm’s reputation that our waiting list continues to grow.

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Summer 2009 Survey Results

We thank the 112 sharers who filled out our survey last October. This information helps us focus on the pulse of the farm from your perspective. Your responses we generous, positive and grateful. The survey affirms our alignment with your expectations.

This past year we sold a total of 164.5 shares, including 16 work for share positions. Our retention rate from the previous year was 95%.

Each full sharer received over 282 pounds of produce, which averaged 14 pounds per week. The full share value was $428 under the stand and $331 of the pick-your-own, with a total value of $759 per share. Full sharers paid $36 per week and received $37.95 worth of produce.

Even though we did not have the weight and value of the summer crops, especially tomatoes, we were able to substitute with other produce, particularly greens of many varieties.

The survey represented 2.8 adults per share. 85% found the quality of the produce high; 78% found the amount just right and 90% found the variety just right.

The highest value logged was at 96%, appreciating the farm as a beautiful/peaceful place, 94% being part of a community, 92% valued doing farm work and 88% knowing who grows your food.

Seventy percent read the newsletter, 100% felt work instructions were adequate. Culinary herbs were picked by 57% of the sharers and tea herbs by 11%.

Two sharers were disappointed that they did not get any butternut squash. We are planting more butternut and less of other varieties to accommodate this frustration. A few felt the share had lessened since we began the winter share program, but our records show that you are given more than your financial investment. That has been true every year since I have been farming at Stearns.

      • “Thank you for the beautiful and ravishing food. I feel blessed every time we eat the food that you and your whole team grow. This is a wonderful place and it enhances my life.” —From 2009 survey

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Newsletter Update/Nomi Sofer

I am looking forward to my second season as the editor of Stone Soup.  As you can probably tell, this year Stone Soup has a new format. With the help of our webmaster Tom Yelton I have spent the last few weeks moving Stone Soup onto the Stearns Farm website and making it entirely web-based.  There are a number of reasons for this shift: we hope to make the task of publishing the newsletter each week a little less labor intensive; we want to make it even easier to read Stone Soup online, and moving away from PDFs will make the pages load more quickly and eliminate the occasional problems sharers experienced with “downloading” the newsletter; and, finally, having the newsletter be part of the website means that it is entirely searchable, making it easy for sharers to find articles and recipes in previous issues.  Let us know what you think of the change.

Most things about Stone Soup are not changing: It will still be published weekly, on Saturday mornings, in order to give you time to plan your shopping around your week’s pickup; it will still contain a wealth of information about our wonderful Stearns Farm produce; and of course, it will continue to highlight the many people that make our farm a vibrant community.

This year we are in need of a new recipe page editor.  Sara Shonbrun, who has created so many wonderful recipe pages for us over the past few years is no longer able to contribute to Stone Soup. We will miss her sorely.  If you are interested taking over the volunteer task of creating a weekly recipe page please contact me at  As always, we are happy to have sharer contributions of articles, poetry, and photography.

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Volunteers Needed

There are several areas where we need the help of some dedicated volunteers. Please consider helping out with one or more of these tasks. You may want to commit to help for a couple of hours, or for the duration of the project. These are the current ‘job openings’:

Muscle Power in the Fields
We are always happy to have extra volunteer help (beyond your required share hours) in our fields!  Please consider signing up to come by and work, whenever you have the time and the opportunity presents itself!

Surplus Distribution
We will have some need during the season to distribute leftover vegetables to local shelters and charities. If you are interested in being part of this project or learning more about it please contact Volunteer Coordinator Sara Abramovitz at

Make NotecardsRed poppy
As soon as possible. We have many beautiful photographs of the farm that need to be made into notecards (which will then be sold to raise funds). Please contact Sara.

Food Preparation
As needed/on call. Throughout the season we need help to prepare food for events; mostly desserts and appetizers, occasionally soup. We also need people who are interested in preparing food for ‘tastings’ during pick up times. For details please contact Sara.

Community Outreach
As needed. We occasionally have programs in the Framingham area that we are invited to participate in and would like to have some help to be present at those events and serve as a farm “ambassador”. For further information, please contact Sara.

Children’s Garden
If anyone has an interest in running a program for children in the Children’s garden or a children’s “tea” at the farm on a pick up day, please contact Sara.

Professional Expertise
Many sharers have a wide range of skill sets and expertise that may not appear to be “farm related” but could be helpful. We would like to build up our list of people who would be available to help when needed throughout the season. There may be some ongoing projects as well as occasional consultation.

Check the following list to see if you have professional experience in one of these fields: law, computer and website design, physical therapy/body work/related fields, marketing, education, environmental/informal education, early childhood experience, nutrition, accounting, insurance, plumbing, or whatever other areas that you might think of! Feel free to put your skill set out there. Please contact if you want to be on our list.

If you have any questions about volunteering at Stearns in general, or would like more information about opportunities to help, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Sara Abramovitz at or (978) 443-9747.

            • “I always felt appreciated.”—Comment from “volunteer experience” section of 2009 survey

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Ways to Share the Farm

A bouquet from the Flower Garden
Photo by David Ferrini

Flower Shares:  Once again we are selling flower shares at Stearns Farm. A share entitles you to pick your own flower bouquet for about 15 weeks, starting in mid July. The Flower Garden is open dawn to dusk. A share is $100.00; for an application click here. If you know someone who is interested, please let them know. If you want to give a special gift to someone, please consider a flower share.

Flower Gift Certificates: Think May Day! Think Birthday! Think Mother’s Day!! We are selling a beautiful card containing three coupons that entitle the bearer to pick three bouquets of any of our 50 varieties of flowers, any time from mid July until the end of September. The cost is $20.00. Click hereto order certificates on the website  or pick one up at the farm. It is wonderful to pick naturally-grown flowers in someone else’s tended garden. Think of people in your life who would love this thoughtful gift and support the farm as well.

Plant Sale: Each year we grow thousands of transplants for our fields. What we donʹt need, we sell to our Sharers and the general public as they become available. This year we will have lots of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, herbs, greens, flowers and perennials. All of these plants have been grown in healthy, natural soil and grown only with natural fertilizers. It is difficult to find plants grown this way, so consider taking some home and trying them out in your soil. Our stand will be open in early May, is located near the entrance to the farm and will be self serve. We also sell perennial flowering plants. If you have any perennials that you are dividing in your garden this spring, consider potting them up and bringing them to our sale. The revenue from this sale helps us add needed field equipment to our farm.

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Neighborhood News

Eastleigh Farm: Our neighbor Doug Stephen, owner of Eastleigh Farm, has just received approval from the Town of Framingham to sell raw milk at the farm. The milk will be available through a newly-established CSA and at a retail store on the farm that is scheduled to open in April.  For complete details click here to visit Eastleigh’s website.

Neighborhood Cleanup: Every year the residents of Edmands Road spend a morning cleaning up the roadway. Since we live on this road, we have been invited to join in on this event. The area covered by the cleanup is from Pine Hill Road to Garvey Road.  This year’s cleanup is scheduled for Sunday April 11th. Start anywhere with a garbage bag from 8 to 10 AM. The bags can be dropped off in the empty lot next door to the Friends Meeting House. Then you are invited to walk across the street to the home of George and D.D. Harrington for coffee and snacks at 10:30. Come help clean up our road and then visit with neighbors and friends.

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Stearns Farm CSA Policy on Splitting Shares

We are aware that sometimes Sharers find a full share to be too large for their use and decide to divide their share with people outside their household.  We do our best to accommodate Sharers and give them the most satisfying CSA experience possible, but we do want to address some of the problems that share-splitting has caused in the past.

The alternate week share was created to eliminate the main reason for splitting shares (the regular share being too large), while minimizing problems that split shares have caused:  overuse of farm facilities (parking lot overflow, congestion at the farm stand), and extra administrative and management work for staff and volunteers.

In allowing the practice of splitting shares, we respectfully ask for your cooperation in avoiding any extra administrative work for the Farm or extra use of the Farm’s resources. In other words, splitting a share is something that you do privately, without involving the Farm officially. Please refer to the specific guidelines below.

Sharers are persons who have enrolled and paid for a regular share, an alternate week share, or a work-for-share for the current season, plus members of their household. Households who benefit from splitting a share with an enrolled sharer are NOT considered Sharers themselves. Only enrolled Sharers may vote and serve on the Board of Directors.  Additionally, if an enrolled Sharer who is splitting their share leaves the farm or terminates their agreement with a sharing household, the non-enrolled household does not have priority to purchase a share in their own name over someone on the wait list.


  • Because space is limited for parking and at the pickup stand, we ask that only sharers OR their designees—NOT BOTH—come to the farm on pickup days.   Please do not divide your share with someone at the stand, in the fields, or in the parking lot.  As a sharer you may, of course, do whatever you wish with your share once you have left the farm property.


  • You may designate another person to pick up your share for any of your assigned pickup days, but you are responsible for making sure they know how a pickup is done.  We encourage you to bring your designee with you to the annual Sharer Orientation/Refresher session.  Please ask your designee to pick up your whole share and in the correct amounts.


  • For special farm activities (Spring Festival, Harvest Festival, etc.), Sharers are welcome to bring non-sharer guests.  Parking is limited, however, so we encourage carpooling.


  • As a Sharer you may ask someone else to do work hours for you.  You are responsible for making sure that person signs off on your work hours.  Ultimately, it is your job to make sure your hours are completed.


  • As a Sharer you may ask to have additional email addresses added to your account to receive email notifications (e.g. newsletter notification).  Please include the name and address of the person associated with that email. User IDs/Passwords are only given to staff and Sharers; please do NOT share this confidential information.

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Upcoming Events

April 14 Sharer work hours and volunteer hours begin
April 17 Burn Day: spring cleanup and brush burning
Onion Day: Planting onions and leeks
May 6 Potato Day: Planting potatoes
May 8 Flower Day: Planting zinnia/sunflower seeds
May 22 Tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedling planting
May 23 Opening Celebration and Orientation
New Sharer Orientation and Seasoned Sharer Refresher @ 11:00  and Potluck lunch @ 12:00 noon

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Our Mission

To preserve the historic Stearns farm as a sustainable all-natural garden, providing locally grown food in partnership between the land, the farmer, and the community

  • by using the CSA model
  • by providing fair compensation, adequate working conditions, and support to the farmer
  • by practicing good stewardship
  • by donating excess food to the needy
  • by encouraging the community to actively participate in the farming process
  • by providing learning opportunities
  • by fostering relationships between the CSA and the wider community and
  • by providing a beautiful place that is nourishing to body and soul.

Contact Us

Stearns Farm CSA
862 Edmands Road
Framingham, MA 01701
(508) 202-0387

Name Position Contact Information
Stearns Farm Main phone 508-202-0387
Susan Peters Farm Manager
Cathy Briasco Administration 508-358-4167
Frann Bennett Administration 978-440-9307
Sara Abramovitz Volunteer Coord. 978-443-9747
Aliya Ewing Children’s Garden
Tom Yelton Webmaster 978-443-5138

See Also Public/Staff and Public/Volunteers to contact a specific person.

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2010 Stearns Farm Summer CSA Calendar

Note that crop planting days are subject to change, due to the variability of nature.

Tuesday April 13 Staff and Work-for-Shares season begins
Wednesday April 14 Sharer work hours and volunteer hours begin
Saturday April 17 BURN DAY: Spring cleanup and brush burning
ONION DAY: Planting onions and leeks
Thursday May 6 POTATO DAY: Planting potatoes
Saturday May 8 FLOWER DAY: Planting zinnia/sunflower seeds
Saturday May 22 Tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedling planting
New Sharer Orientation and Seasoned Sharer Refresher @ 11:00
and Potluck lunch @ 12:00 noon
Tuesday June 1 2nd Installment payment due for those paying in two installments
Tuesday June 8 First pick-up: Tuesday Full Shares and Tuesday Alternate 1 shares
Friday June 11 First pick-up: Friday Full Shares and Friday Alternate 1 shares
Tuesday June 15 First pick-up: Tuesday Alternate 2 shares
Friday June 18 First pick-up: Friday Alternate 2 shares
Saturday June 19 SWEET POTATO DAY: Planting sweet potato slips
Thursday July 15 Date by which half your work hours must be completed or paid
Saturday July 17 Garlic Harvest
August 13-15 NOFA Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference
Saturday September 25 HARVEST FESTIVAL and ANNUAL MEETING/Potluck lunch at 12:00 noon
Tuesday October 12 Last pick-up: Tuesday Alternate 1 shares
Friday October 15 Last pick-up: Friday Alternate 1 shares
Saturday October 16 Garlic Planting for 2011 season
Tuesday October 19 Last pick-up: Tuesday Full shares and Alternate 2 shares
Friday, October 22 Last pick-up: Friday Full shares and Alternate 2 shares
Saturday October 30 Last day for sharers to complete their work hours or pay them out
Friday November 5 Last work day for Work-for-Shares
Saturday November 6 Last work day for Staff


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