Field Notes ’16

Hi All,

It’s been tough to find time to write a more comprehensive update about what has happened at the farm during the fall and summer, so given the rainy day and the relative lull of early January, I’ll give it a shot.

This summer was hot and dry. July and August were unrelenting, and the heat remained well into October. These conditions made for a difficult summer of growing, especially when we are growing in an area already stricken by drought. One of the easiest ways to manager heat stress in a plant is to water it from above in the midday heat – a technique you can see in use during the summer if you head south into Chino – but managing heat stress with water is not the most responsible move in southern California.

Luckily we did discover a great summer cover crop for our region – cowpea. Cowpea is a black eyed pea cultivar that does extremely well in the the summer heat, growing a thick enough canopy of foliage to shade out the soil. This helps keep that soil in good condition throughout the summer, losing less water through evaporation. Harvested young, cowpea greens can also be used as a heat tolerant spinach substitute. Other summer successes included our extremely long lived tomato plants, Italian basil that somehow refused to bolt, and the construction of a seasonal shaded nursery area (a project I hope to continue in the late spring).

By next summer, I hope to have installed a permanent shade structure for our nursery area, and a moveable tunnel shade structure to offer some shade to our succeptible summer crops. Though our greenhouse is great this time of year, in the summer our seedlings need cooler temperatures, and though plants like summer squash, eggplants, and bell peppers all enjoy the warm weather, they can all go dormant in the worst of the heat. With the help of shade cloth we can keep starting seedlings throughout the heat, and we may even be able to grow some summer greens!

The heat this fall also proved difficult, keeping us from planting our cool season crops as early as we would like. Much of what we grow during the cool season becomes heat stressed with temperatures over 85 degrees (think lettuce, peas, greens, broccoli, cabbage), and long periods of high heat can ruin the flavor and texture of certain veggies. This meant that intensive cool season planting couldn’t start until well into October. Certain plants, like our broccoli, have much lower yields due to this delay, and the lower levels of sunlight they receive during their growing season. Other plants, like greens, have been unfazed by the shorter days, and have shot up throughout the fall.

I find that I learn the most at the farm from mistakes and failures. Not just my own (though certainly that), but also past mistakes. I’ve learned more about fruit trees by watching our peaches slowly die than in any other time in my life, and though I hope to save a few with some early season care, they stand as a reminder of how not to treat a tree, and how a series of small stressors can ultimately lead to a tree’s demise. It’s not only the peach borers, or only the drought, or only the over-pruning, or only the cytospora – a healthy peach can handle all of these individually – but the combination of all these factors. Borers tend to attack drought stressed trees and cytospora infects the wounds made by the borers and pruning cuts. It makes me think a lot about stress. I’ll get back to you on that.

The more optimistic side of me says it’s all part of the cycle, and we have been planting new trees to replace the old ones as they go out. Some of our peaches are about 15 years old, which is old for a tree that has been bred to produce heavily. We’ve also been planting a ton of new native plants in the newly established grandmother garden and hope to continue to turn the garden into an educational space where people can learn, not only about California native plants, but also their uses by and importance to local tribal communities.

Speaking of cycles, the spring/summer season is already upon us! Early tomato and pepper seedlings have already sprouted up in the greenhouse, and our summer seed order is on its way. We’ll be offering a Spring Planting 101 workshop early in the season for anyone interested in learning more about what to put in the ground.

Peas and Carrots,


Claremont Food Justice Summit

Hi all,

This week kicks off the Claremont Food Justice Summit on Pomona’s campus! After months of preparation, the students organizing this event have put together a killer lineup of events and speakers spanning a wide array of topics. The Sunday of the Summit will mark the opening ceremony for the new Indigenous Heritage Garden on the north side of the West farm. The Summit is free and open to the public. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

This Wednesday from 4-6 the Farm will also be offering a workshop on propagating plant cuttings. We will be taking cuttings for the Indigenous Heritage Garden, our new pergola area, as well as for San Antonio High School. Bring a pair of pruners/scissors if you like, or we can provide a pair for you to borrow. You will be able to take plants home!

Claremont Food Justice Summit poster



Breaking New Ground

Hi all,

Spring has officially sprung and the Farm is in full bloom. Calendula, agrostemma, nasturtium, bachelors buttons, sweet peas, and more are painting the Farm in beautifully vibrant colors.

March is the time for planting so plants can establish themselves before the heat of summer kicks in, and we are excited to share that the Farm is expanding its boundaries for our new native plant garden. We are working with local Tongva elders to create an indigenous heritage garden including plants for food, medicine, spirituality, and fibers. Come help tomorrow at 4:15pm to put the first plants in the ground!

This Thursday we will be also be having a potluck at 6pm as a welcome back from Spring break!

RSVP here:

Indigenous Heritage Garden Planting

Back from Break Potluck

Peas and carrots,


Eat Your Weeds!

Hello all,

Summer planting is in full swing! Flowers, beans, tomatoes, eggplants, squash, and more are digging their roots into the ground and promising delicious food in the near future. Our brassicas are bolting in the heat and soon we will be collecting their seeds to save for next winter.

The time in between seasons, when the leafy greens are turning bitter but the peppers are not producing, is the perfect time to devour the nutritious volunteer crops we call weeds! One of our favorites on the Farm is stinging nettle. Nettles have been used for centuries as a medicinal herb to treat arthritis, eczema, asthma, UTIs, insect bites, and much much more! Not to mention they are pretty damn tasty in pizzas, pasta, stir frys, and more or less everything. Make sure to harvest with thick gloves and long sleeves, and cook to remove the stinging hairs before you eat!

To learn more about cooking stinging nettles come to our workshop this Saturday at 3pm to make stinging nettle pasta.

This Friday we will also be having a potluck on the Farm at 5pm in the outdoor kitchen. RSVP for the events on our Facebook page below.

Stinging Nettle Workshop, Saturday 2/27 3pm.

Farm Potluck, Friday 2/26 5pm.

Peas and Carrots,


Potluck and Family Weekend

Hi all,

Climate change is here and it poses major threats to our delicate agricultural systems. After a couple chilly weeks of winter we are facing temperatures in the high 80s that is uncharacteristic even for Southern California. Our delicate cool season crops like snap peas and greens are wilting in the beating sun, but will next week be back to night time lows of 30 degrees? Has winter jumped over spring and entered summer full force? Should we compost the cabbage starts in the greenhouse and begin planting squash and okra, or will one good cold snap take those out as well? These are the questions farmers are starting to ask more and more as our climate begins to become unpredictable.

In light of the undoubtedly turbulent road ahead for our changing climate we must adapt our food system to be resilient and work with nature, rather than a simplistic monoculture attempting to tame the variables of our natural world. And the roots of this resilience will be strong local food communities. And what better way to build community than a good ol’ fashioned potluck?

-Join us this Thursday at 4pm for a Potluck on the Farm! This event will be cosponsored by Common Vision, an California school garden organization founded by Pomona alumni. Please bring a dish to share and RSVP on our Facebook event.

-This weekend is Family Weekend at Pomona College and the Farm will be having volunteer work hours, guided educational tours, and a farm stand featuring smoothies and pizza made with farm ingredients. Bring mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa, it’ll be a great time! Check out our Facebook event for more info.



Celebrations on the Farm

Hi all,

This week we have a special combination of extra festive celebratory workshops. Tomorrow (Tuesday 2/2) we will be planting new fruit trees on the Farm to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat is also known as “the new year for the trees” or the “birthday of the trees,” and to celebrate we will be planting persimmons, olives, and pomegranates while we nom down on some kosher fruit snacks. Rabbi Yossi Matusof of Chabad will share about the history of the holiday while we plant trees into the sunset.

The celebrations continue Friday at 4pm with the first cooking workshop of the semester. Our new cooking workshop coordinator Olivia Whitener will be leading us as we make dumplings with veggies from the Farm to celebrate Chinese New Year. Stick around afterwards for our first Farm Friday potluck of the semester.

RSVP to these events on our Facebook page:

-Tu B’Shvat Tree Planting Celebration; Tuesday 2/2, 4pm

-Dumpling Cooking Workshop; Friday 2/5, 4pm


Spring Semester

Hey all,

After a cold and rainy winter break the Farm is getting ready to explode with Spring colors and life! The longer day lengths and warmer temperatures are a welcome sign for our chickens who have begun laying again, kale that has doubled in size in a week, sweet broccoli ready to harvest, cabbages begging to be fermented into kimchi, and our citrus heavily laden with fruit.

While our brassicas, peas, and favas are pumping, our deciduous fruit trees lay dormant, getting ready to burst new life from their buds and provide us with sweet, crisp apples and juicy asian pears. Now is the time for us to prune these trees to maximize the production of said delicacies. Join us this Friday 1/29 @ 3pm to learn how to prune deciduous fruit trees at our Winter Pruning Workshop.



Finals and the Farm

Hello all!

Unbelievably, we are at the halfway point for this academic year. With finals around the corner it is sometimes hard to remember to relax. Fortunately, the Farm offers the perfect environment for a much needed study break! Come on down for a siesta in our hammocks, play with the chickens, eat some oranges, and relax. The Farm also has wi-fi now, so if you are looking for a study spot free from hordes of stressed students come knock out a few papers under the shade of our mulberry trees.

This week at the Farm:

Wednesday 12/9, 4:15pm: EA-Farmie Mixer at Professor Los Huertos’ house come mingle with other EA students and farmies. Learn about how to get involved at the Farm, the resources we offer, and grub down on some food made from farm produce!

Friday 12/11, 3:00pm: Destress Flower Planting join the Bee Keeping club as we start propagating and planting the first round of flowers for our new pollinator garden. For more information on joining the Bee Keeping Club contact Kristen Park at

Peas and carrots,


Cool Cole Crops

Hello all!

Shorter days, double layers, and frozen fingertips are a welcome sight for farmers and crops alike here in Claremont. The intense, mythological level of summer heat has passed and the brisk SoCal fall means it is time for brassicas.

The colder temperature has driven away the hated bagrada bug and allow cole crops like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collards to thrive without fear of bolting. Wild arugula is popping up in the West orchard, and countless plots of giant purple mustard have been sown. Fingers are crossed that the cabbages will head up and there is a near ocean of kale.

Looking forward to this week:

Thursday 12/3: LAST FARM STAND OF THE SEMESTER. 3:15-5:15 on Walker Beach. Email Emily Hill at if you would like to volunteer selling/harvesting produce. There will be greens, radishes, citrus, herbs, and more!

Friday 12/4: Backyard Chicken Basics: 2:30pm, West Farm chicken coop. Curious about keeping chickens at home? Dream about waking up to fresh eggs every morning? Come down to the Farm this Friday to get a basic overview of chicken care, urban chicken laws, and coop necessities.

Saturday 12/5: The Farm is excited to host the Food Forward Inland Valley Meet and Greet. Come learn about this awesome organization, tour the farm, make DIY tea mixes, and learn about citrus tree care from 1-3pm. Join us before from 10-12pm for our regular scheduled volunteer workday!



There’s Fungus Among Us!

Hey all,

With our Fall crops in the ground growing away and the weather starting to turn cold and wet, it is a good time to start some indoor projects. Last week we harvested and begun drying our persimmons to make delicious hoshigaki in our dome, the sheds are getting cleaned and organized, and this week we begin propagating mushrooms!

Scripps professor Nancy Auerbach will be leading us this Friday at 2pm as we make the first oyster mushroom bags of the Winter. Did you know you can grow mushrooms on scraps of newspaper, egg cartons, and even old jeans? Come learn about the process of cultivating the yummy fungus by attending our Growing Oyster Mushrooms Workshop.

This week we will also be having our Farm Stand at 4pm on Walker Beach. Come buy some fresh and organic produce grown on your very own campus! We will be selling persimmons, sapotes, pineapple guavas, and more from our farm as well as from Huerta del Valle. Make sure to pick up a Farm sweater for these frigid California nights as well!