Franklin Farm — so much more than just a farm
Land in Cumberland a place to help, learn and reconnect with where we get our food
CUMBERLAND — Jayne Guertin wandered around Franklin Farm on a sunny Thursday morning, stopping to take pictures of varied volunteers completing a myriad of springtime tasks. The local photographer and writer, an 18-year resident of Cumberland, has been taking photos for the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm Preservation Association for the past several years.
“I think there's a lot of hope here,” she said. “It's a little bit of what was once a rural community.”
There was certainly a lot for Guertin to capture on May 19, the farm's first plant day of the season.
Home-schooled children placed cucumber and squash seeds in one garden. Students from The Spurwink School in Lincoln planted zucchini in another. Lynn Marie Dubeau enlisted people to help clean the chicken coop. Her 11-year-old daughter, Danielle, brought her bunnies for children to pet.
Veronica Plante, who has been living in Cumberland for 10 years, brought her three children to the plant day for the first time. Her two daughters and son – ages 6, 10 and 13 – are homeschooled, and she heard about the opportunity to volunteer through word of month.
The children placed seeds in evenly spaced holes punctured through taut plastic laid in rows across the soil. For each hole, they were instructed to poke two fingers into the soil up to their knuckles, and then place one seed with each finger.
This year, the farm will be growing zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Volunteers will put in 7,000 seeds, said Denise Mudge, president of the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm Preservation Association.
Mudge said volunteers with the HMFFPA do not use any pesticides or chemicals.
What they plant is based on what the Rhode Island Community Food Bank says it needs. Last year, the farm grew 40,000 pounds of food, with 25,000 going to the food
bank and the rest going to local food shelters.
A rototiller was used to prep the fields for plant day, and then a raised bed plastic mulch layer built up the soil into beds.
The machine also has a roll with 4,000 feet of plastic, explained volunteer and Cumberland Land Trust president Randy Tuomisto, and underneath the plastic is irrigation tubing. The plastic – which is used to prevent weeds – and irrigation tubing are laid down simultaneously.
Then a piece of equipment with spikes is used to poke holes for the seeds in the plastic. Volunteers choose
what type of wheel to use based on what they're planting and how far apart the seeds show be.
The seeds planted on Thursday were 18 inches apart, whereas the gap for seedlings will be 45 inches. HMFFPA members and volunteers are scheduled to plant hundreds of seedlings today (Saturday) for tomato plants and eggplants.
Between the two gardens where the home-schooled children and the Spurwink students worked, Lynn Marie Dubeau stood in a 16-by-24by-10-foot wire enclosure housing a chicken coop, worm composting bin, a compost pile and “chicken garden salad” for the fowl to feast on.
It was created to protect
the chickens from coyotes and hawks. Dubeau referred to its construction as “Lynn's version of barn-raising,” with 11 families coming out to help, following by a barbecue and potluck.
This happened seven years ago, after Boy Scout Troop 95 – Attleboro Area Homeschoolers built the
chicken coop. The scouts were working on a throwback historical badge of carpentry, Dubeau said, and one boy's father worked on the coop for six Mondays from noon to 5 p.m.
Dubeau grew up on the hill over Franklin Farm watching the cows, noting, “It's really special for me to
come back.” She has known Mudge since elementary school, and both of her parents are passionate about donating to the food bank.
“I want people to be more connected to where their food is from – how their animals are treated – so they can start to think about the choices they make,” she said.
Franklin Farm is situated on 65 acres of town-owned land, and the HMFFPA is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization.
The tenets of the HMFFPA are to preserve the farm for future generations, provide food and offer educational opportunities, Mudge explained. She expects about 450 kids to come to the farm this summer, between field trips, youth groups and camps.
Dubeau will be the instructor for Farm Camp, a program run for children ages 5-12 the weeks of July 25-29 and Aug. 22-26. There will be Pond Camp from July 11-15 (children entering first grade) and Aug. 8-12 (children entering grades 1-4). Registration is available at franklinfarmri.org/programs.
The farm also has an allotment garden abutting Abbott Run Valley Road. It gives people a chance to donate money to grow their own vegetables on a small plot of land in the summer. There are about 30 participants this year, Mudge said.
Additionally, volunteers can come to tending nights, for the plants grown for the food bank, every Monday and Thursday from 5:307:30.