Field Work Fridays

Woman sorting through natural sponges

Most days, visiting the farm at Southall feels like a vacation — pastoral views might reveal our cultivation team planting, tending or harvesting, and the experience of stepping back in time to a slower pace of life. But on Field Work Fridays, certain corners of the property are abuzz with activity.

It all started with an idea to bring the entire staff together, not only to accomplish a task but also to share perspectives.

Southall’s People and Learning Coach, Jessica Glass, is responsible for programming the events each week, which could find dozens of team members working together in the kitchen gardens, the apiaries, the trails, the orchard or the production fields.

“All of the team leaders were excited to share the progress happening in their areas of the property, and it grew organically into a regularly scheduled gathering that became Field Work Friday,” she says. “I remember one of my first was planting garlic, not knowing that it took nine months to cultivate. Then we participated in the harvest, and now are able to see the chefs using it in the kitchen.”

Just as importantly as the agricultural lesson is understanding the journey, and the people who are responsible for the process.

“Many of us working in various departments — reservations, or human resources, or culinary or housekeeping — we may not be green thumbs, but we were attracted to Southall by the idea of this land being the center of our culture here. Then we work side by side, and we learn from each other. There’s a valuable transfer of knowledge happening, and people are getting to know each other in ways that might not otherwise be possible.”

It could be weeding strawberries, pruning and trellising the branches of 1,400 apple trees in the orchard, or harvesting honey from the apiaries. Even clearing brush is an educational opportunity, understanding what it takes to maintain 325 acres, and the importance of removing non-native, invasive species.

Back in the spring, as the elevated kitchen gardens along Carter’s Creek Pike were being prepared, 25 team members made short work of stripping rows of sod back to rich dirt for planting.

“Think of what we all learned that day — the way cover crops nourish the soil all winter for the vegetables in the growing season, and that this demonstration area is dedicated to hand tools only, because it’s meaningful to stay connected to the land in that way,” Glass says.

Now, as the staff continues to grow exponentially in preparation for opening, Field Work sessions have been incorporated into orientation twice a week. A recent session saw new team members painting bee boxes alongside Pollination Program Manager Jay Williams, and learning about the role that millions of honeybees play at Southall.

Glass says people have gravitated to it, like the bees to blossoms.

“We believe in this, walking the walk, and you can feel it,” she explains. “You can’t just talk about ethos and culture. You have to live it, and that’s a big part of what makes Southall such a special place.”

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