It's many a farmer who works back-breaking 12-hour days in the fields-but few do it with as much enthusiasm and passion as Bridget Meigs. Now the farmer and her farm are being honored for the fruits of their labor.
Meigs and The Farm at Stonehill recently won a 2012 Green Difference Award from Project Green Schools, a Massachusetts nonprofit dedicated to creating "greener and healthier learning environments through education and awareness."
The Farm at Stonehill is a rolling acre and a half of fertile soil near the Clock Farm, tucked back from Rt. 138. Founded by the Mission Division at Stonehill in 2011, it is a sustainable, organic farm that grows and distributes produce to local organizations to feed the needy and local families who lack access to affordable fresh fruits or vegetables.
The Farm distributes produce to some 400 people through three organizations: Saint Paul's Table at Father Bill's and MainSpring, the two family centers at Old Colony YMCA and My Brother's Keeper.
The Green Difference Awards recognize outstanding contributions to environmental education made by students, teachers, leaders, activists, and communities. Meigs will be one of 20 educators to be honored at a ceremony at the Statehouse on May 4.
"It's exciting to learn that what we love to do at The Farm is not just valued by our students, staff and local community, but is also recognized as playing an important role in raising awareness about environmental and social health," said Meigs, who also co-teaches Stonehill's Food Justice Learning Community course with Professor Susan Mooney.
"I nominated Bridget and the Farm because the efforts of the Farm really bring the Stonehill mission to life: Her ability to take less than two acres of open land and turn it into an outdoor classroom that teaches our students about sustainable agriculture and food justice- the harvest of which is given to our neighbors in need- is such an amazing feat," said Marie C. Kelly, director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Stonehill.
"As soon as I met Bridget, I found that her passion for farming and food justice is infectious," said Kelly.
In Meigs' first season at The Farm, she and two work-study students- Michelle Kozminski ‘13 and Brian Switzer '13- grew and donated over 12,000 pounds of vegetables and herbs with the help of some 350 volunteers.
Meigs also forged a relationship with fellow farmers at Langwater Farm just north of the college and they helped turn the fields with their tractors and ploughs, which the College does not currently own.
Not only does The Farm feed hundreds in the surrounding community, but it's also place where the Stonehill community is welcome to study and discuss environmental and social issues.
"The Farm is a place where ideas for change on our campus-like composting in The Commons-ethical discussions- such as fostering one's own relationship with the land- or strategies for social change can take place," said Meigs.
Meigs, 34, is a Cornell grad with a master's degree in Natural Resource Management. She's worked on a number of different projects related to food security in Kenya, Guatemala, California, Vermont and Martha's Vineyard.
Her passion for the Farm at Stonehill-and for sustainable, organic farming in general- is nearly tangible.
"The hardest part of working at the Stonehill Farm is leaving it," said Meigs, of Easton, who works long days at The Farm simply "out of love and passion."
"It's an amazing job. It doesn't feel like work. I wake up with the sun, and I can't wait to get to the Farm. I'm there till the sun goes down," said Meigs.
Certainly, in listening to Meigs talk about the Farm, you can feel that infectiousness:
"Farming is a year-round profession. As soon as the fields are put to bed in the fall, planning begins for the next season. We already have peas, radishes, onions, lettuce, flowers, cabbage and broccoli growing in the fields. The greenhouse is filling up with healthy little seedlings-over 1,000 tomato plants and they already smell like tomatoes!" she says excitedly.
In addition to her regular planting this summer, Meigs will design and plant the Meditation Garden, which will serve as a place for small classes and groups to meet and also as a space for quiet reflection.
In the fall, The Farm will serves as one of the main classroom spaces for the Food Politics Learning Community that Meigs will teach with Professor Chris Wetzel.
All faculty are welcome to contact Meigs to discuss ways that The Farm can be utilized as an outdoor classroom, she said.
There are volunteer hours every week posted in Meigs' "This Week at The Farm" e-mail, which goes out to the community every Tuesday. You can like them on Facebook for regular updates or visit The Farm Blog.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.