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The time of the season

Barrington Farm School hosts its first annual harvest celebration, a story of persistence, patience and community in rebuilding a working farm as a learning enterprise

Photo by Richard Asinof

The next generation of farmers in Barrington attend the Barrington Farm School harvest celebration on Nov. 4.

Photo by Richard Asinof

Farming is a family enterprise at the Barrington Farm School.

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By Richard Asinof
Posted 11/5/18
The Barrington Farm School hosted its first annual harvest celebration, with four generations of residents attending, with plans brewing for next year’s improvements.
Would the members of Nature’s Trust RI, who are suing the state of Rhode Island over climate change, be willing to become part of the Barrington Farm School community efforts to teach sustainable agricultural practices? How can sustainable forestry practices become part of the conversation around climate change? Is there an opportunity for elected officials to pitch in as part of volunteer day at the Barrington Farm School to put their words into action?
Years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, ConvergenceRI directed communications at a large, passive solar greenhouse in Orange, Mass., including conducting workshops for high school students and community members on building cold frames. In talking with Dan Penengo, ConvergenceRI realized that there was a host of good information about low-tech approaches to building cold frames, such as rock wall heat storage and simple devices for opening, closing and venting of cold frames and greenhouses, which was not easily accessible. Perhaps the Social Enterprise Greenhouse could consider supporting new, innovative low-tech businesses to help promote sustainable farming efforts in Rhode Island – or at least serving as a clearing house for such information.

BARRINGTON – The osprey have departed from Hundred Acre Cove. Many of the bright leaves on the maple trees have fallen, succumbing to the recent weekend of high winds. The cover crops of winter rye, clover and vetch have turned much of the four acres at the Barrington Farm School into a sea of green, replenishing the soil.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 4, the Barrington Farm School hosted its first annual harvest celebration at the former Vendituoli farm off Federal Road, which the nonprofit group purchased in February with the goal to preserve and revitalize it as a working farm.

Call it the time of the season. More than 60 people, including four generations of Barrington residents, attended the celebration, which included a sumptuous harvest meal of roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, all cooked over an open pit.

About a dozen young children, the future generation of farmers, scurried about the farm, delighting in the open-air festivities and the smoky aroma of fresh roasting food.

Tim Faulkner, one of the community group’s leaders, spoke in a kind of farmer’s quiet, reserved parlance, choosing his words carefully when he talked to ConvergenceRI about what had been learned during the first year of working the farm.

Faulkner paused, carefully considering his response: “Patience,” he answered. “Like with anything. In farming, in particular, it pays off.”

Faulkner paused again, choosing his words carefully: “A lot of the usual life lessons. Making sure you are making good friends, and always keeping an open mind.”

In addition to the normal farming chores, this fall has featured of a number of enterprising activities to bring in the community: plein air painting, a wild mushroom foraging workshop, and a Girl Scout troop planting a row of apple trees.

Faulkner, when asked about the growing relationship between the community and the Barrington Farm School, talked about the sense of discovery involved in the process.

“Most of the positive things are unexpected,” he said. “So, it is learning not to have expectations or a firm vision of how you want things to be, because there is so much that is just unpredictable.”

As far as the continuing interactions with the community, Faulkner continued, “It is just keeping the welcome mat out, keeping the open sign up. Because people really want to enjoy this – and the fact that it will always be here. And the people will always show up.”

A year ago, in an earlier story in ConvergenceRI, as the effort to purchase the farm appeared to be on the verge of success, Faulkner talked about how the effort had reinforced his understanding of the importance of quilting the fabric of community together. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Preserving a working farm in Barrington as a farm school.”]

“You become more mindful of the people in your community, who they are, what they are doing, and your relationship with them,” he said. “Regardless of where you live, it’s about making it the best place that you can.”

Plans for next year
The mission of the Barrington Farm School is to provide an opportunity for young people in the town to learn about farming and the farm’s role in protecting the local ecosystem and environment.

At the harvest celebration, Dan Penengo, one of the team of volunteer farmers, talked with enthusiasm to ConvergenceRI about plans for next year at the Barrington Farm School.

The plans include building two new greenhouses and a series of cold frames to enable the farm to lengthen the growing season.

In addition, the farm is looking to acquire its own bee hives as part of the ongoing operation.

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