Our Hannah and Friends greenhouse continues to be a place for us to seed our vegetables and nurture them to a point where they can be transplanted to our grow beds and outdoor growing area. We experimented with a number of new varieties of greens and herbs to better understand ideal temperatures and growing conditions, their rate of growth and what factors influence the size of our seedlings - and which of our seedlings eventually tasted the best and were everyone’s favorite for our farm to table recipes! This work is great because it is very hands-on and all of us involved are learning a lot about greenhouse farming.
In our work at Hannah and Friends, we are proud to have begun a project that we’ll complete next year. We are transforming the raised beds in the outdoor gardens to accessible beds so all of the Hannah and Friends participants with different abilities can take part in planting and harvesting. This terrific project is spearheaded by Melissa Tomas, an amazing volunteer of ours. We were also very happy to grow bumper crop of potatoes and tomatoes. Two of our favorite, tastiest vegetables!
Other highlights included our very successful Downtown Skywalk Garden in South Bend, which is a wonderful and fragrant place to visit. Especially when it’s winter outside! Herbs and a lot of greens and even flowers are doing great there. We enjoy helping South Bend be a more sustainable city. And what we grow there makes the most wonderful teas – my favorite is lemon balm tea. It’s an herb that makes a very soothing, fresh tea! In 2016, we also took aquaponics into the classroom through our Aquaponics Across the Curriculum program which ran at Edison Intermediate Center in South Bend last year. We partnered with the sustainability program at Notre Dame and the science education and communicative science programs at Saint Mary’s College. Lots of learning about STEM that was very hands-on!
At our expansion site, we are nearly finished building our first two greenhouse structures. We are very happy that so many groups this fall came out to the farm to lend their help and expertise. Programs like the Knights of Columbus, GreeND, Professor Susan Latham’s students from Saint Mary’s College, and various grad and alum programs at the Mendoza School at ND were terrific volunteers. We’re thrilled to have had their help!
Growing lots of fresh, local food for the community is what I’m looking forward to the most in 2017. All of us are excited that people with autism will get training and jobs. That brings a lot of hope! On the farm this year, I know I’m really going to enjoy the chance to produce food sustainably. That’s really important for our community and we are happy to contribute that way.