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Things are buzzing at Barrington Farm School

Farm features beehives, plein air painting and more

Master beekeeper Dane Pursley stands with the hive boxes at the Barrington Farm School.
Master beekeeper Dane Pursley stands with the hive boxes at the Barrington Farm School.

Posted Wednesday, July 24, 2019 6:10 am
By Cindy VanSchalkwyk

It is their third year in operation and Barrington Farm School is going strong, with new things happening all the time. 

Executive director Tim Faulkner said the goal of the farm is to educate people about food, farms, and the environment. New things in place or in the works offer more ways to share what’s happening or expand crops growing on the land. The farm school has applied for a grant for a solar panel array that would power wells for irrigation, which officials hope will be operational by the fall. Mr. Faulkner said the farm is also in the process of getting a grant for a new, larger greenhouse.

On a recent Saturday, while walking near long rows of vegetables, Mr. Faulkner spoke about rebuilding the soil with compost, and cover crops that can restore nutrients, like buckwheat or rye. He said both are things that will help bring the soil back to life. 

“Compost is huge. It’s all part of the food cycle. Instead of making it linear and putting it all into the trash, we can make it part of the food and farming cycle; better for plants and the environment,” he said.

Individuals, youth groups, and camps frequently visit and learn at the farm. Working Wednesdays offer a one hour time slot in the morning and one in the evening to come and help and learn and socialize. 

The involvement of the community is seen in so many places on the farm: Members of the Barrington High School football team came and put down compost; students from St. Andrew's School and Barrington High School painted the boxes that house the bees. 

The 3.24-acre farm has been continually operated as a farm for 120 years and is the last farm remaining in town. There is also a wooded acre that is planned to eventually be a woodland classroom. Tim said there is always a lot going on.  

“There’s tons,” he said.

Last May the land was officially preserved. The Farm School worked in conjunction with Barrington Land Conservation Trust to acquire the land so it remains farmland. 

Everyone involved, including Mr. Faulkner and a 12-member board of directors, are volunteers. Candace Clavin is one of the many volunteers on the farm, and she recently started leading plein air painting evenings, planning one a season. She said when they gather at the farm to paint “nature is our muse.”

Farm stand

The farm school maintains a farm stand right along Federal Road. 

On sale are fresh vegetables in season that have included rainbow chard, onions, kale, beets and beans. Also sold are herbs and local honey, t-shirts and flowers arranged in mason jars. 

Barrington resident Paige Buckett is a rising senior at St. Andrew’s School. Paige is a farm intern who spends some time at the stand every week. When Paige is not working, there is a cash box with an honor system so the stand is open every day.

The farm uses all organic methods and no pesticides, though the produce cannot technically be called organic until it goes through a long process of certification. 

The farm stand has some enthusiastic fans. Paula Frias lives next door and said she comes often.  

“The farm stand looks awesome. The produce is excellent, you cannot get it fresher,” she said as she purchased rainbow chard and beets recently. 

All the buzz

This year, master beekeeper Dane Pursley applied for a grant and received funding and started two colonies of bees. He teaches members of the community about the bees. 

On a recent Saturday, Dane gave a one hour tutorial on bees to a small group: Matt Zeleznik, and Julia, Natalie, and Kerry Stanchina.  

Dane lifted off the individual frames in the hive and showed the group what was going on inside after calming the bees with smoke. He showed the group baby bees and the queen, pointed out pollen the bees brought in for food, and honey being filled in the combs. Dane also spoke about how bees communicate where pollen can be found and how they unerringly return to the hive. 

Julia, 15, and Natalie, 18, both said it was really cool, seeing what was going on inside the hive. Matt was also intrigued. He said he knows something about bees as he works in the Big Backyard area for Roger Williams Park Zoo, which includes a beehive. 

“Everyone’s fascinated by bees,” he said. 

For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit the farm’s website: http://barringtonfarmschool.org/ or check out their Facebook page: BtownFarmSchool/

Working Wednesdays

Working Wednesdays offer the opportunity for anyone to get involved and help out for an hour in the morning or evening. 

Usually several children come with parents to help out, but on a recent Wednesday evening an imminent summer storm kept the numbers down. Brown University rising juniors Angela White and Grace Berg joined farm board members Ann Doran and Gail Read to weed amongst the flowers sold at the farm stand; larkspur and globe amaranth and marigolds. 

Grace was familiar with the farm; she helped out with a project there for her second semester freshman year. She noticed how many changes have happened since that time: “It’s amazing how much is going on here now,” she said.