September 2016 – Veggie of the Month

cubanelleCubanelle peppers are our delicious vegetable of the month! They are also known as Italian frying peppers and Cuban peppers. They grow to be about 7 inches long and can turn from yellow-green to a well-ripened bright red. Whether this pepper is picked in the color of green or red it is sweet as can be. With this sweetness it makes for a great snack or addition to any meal. A few enjoyable ways to prepare this pepper are raw (eaten as is, in a salad, or with some dip), grilled (seasoned or sprinkled with olive oil), and sautéed (toss in an omelet or with some brown rice).

This smaller pepper is currently growing in popularity due to its bright colors and nutritional qualities but are commonly be found in Slavic, Spanish, Italian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican cuisines. CHP has worked with Frank Mangan at UMass Stockbridge, who focuses on growing crops popular with immigrant communities and recommended this variety for us to grow and donate.

The nutritional benefits to Cubanelle peppers are almost identical to those of bell peppers. With its red and green colors the peppers supply vitamins A, C, K, B1, B6, and folate; all of which play some type of role in our immune systems to keep our eyes, skin, and bones healthy. Low on vitamin C? Just one cup of Cubanelle peppers can provide you with 200% of the Recommended Daily Amount of vitamin C! That’s amazing! Another nutritional benefit these peppers provide is the mineral potassium which supports proper function of cells and organs by conducting “electricity” though the body.


Grilled Chicken Kabobs: (serves 3- 4)

Adapted from: http: //

  • 8 Cubanelle peppers
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 small zucchini
  • ¼ pineapple
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • ½ bottle of Italian dressing

Begin by cutting the chicken into large cubs and place into a bowl. Then pour Italian dressing over the chicken and leave in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. While waiting slice the peppers, onions, zucchini, and pineapple into pieces the size of the end of a fork. After the chicken is done marinating begin to skewer the vegetables, fruit, and chicken in alteration. When done start the grill and heat to medium setting, as soon as it comes to temperature place skewers on the grill and cook for 10, or until the juices of the chicken run clear when cut. Enjoy!

Read the rest of the September 2016 Sprout!

Thank you, Jodi.

jodi3This month, our Executive Director, Jodi Koeman, stepped down from her position. We are so sad to see her move on, but thankful for all she has offered to CHP in her time here.

Since she started with us last year, Jodi has been a force for change at CHP. She led us through a huge year of expansion, where we hosted 11,000 volunteers, donated 1.2 million servings of produce, and had our first full season at Prospect Hill Farm in Harvard. Jodi was dedicated to honing our organizations visions and goals, strengthening our local partnerships and forging new ones. She applied for and received a record number of grants to assist with CHP’s long-term growth and so we will ultimately be able to donate more fresh, local produce to more people. These grants included one from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, which allowed us to expand acreage in Grafton to support our Farm to Health Initiative, and the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts Activation Fund Grant, which over the next three years will be used to convert part of the orchard to high density planting and greatly increase our season length and the amount of fruit we donate while also conserving resources.

Jodi guided the staff through the visits of many influential community leaders, including Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito, Representative Jim McGovern and Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Having such prominent leaders on the farm put a state and national spotlight on our work. While she was tirelessly meeting new partners, exploring grant opportunities and managing staff, Jodi constantly kept in mind the difference fresh produce could make to the people we serve and this was the chief motivation for everything she did.

We asked Jodi to share a few words on her experience here: “From the moment I stepped onto the CHP property, I could sense the beauty of the land and the commitment of the people. It has been a privilege to be part of the CHP community. Great things are happening! It is exciting to see the acreage in Grafton grow to almost 20 acres and to see the apple orchard in Harvard in its second year of production. Two highlights were the transition of two acres of apple trees to a high density apple growing system at Harvard and the implementation of pilot farm to health programs in Grafton that integrate volunteerism, produce distribution and nutrition education. I continue to believe that the more we engage with the people we serve, the more we will understand our community and the impact of our work. I am thankful to an amazing staff, dedicated board, unbelievable volunteers, and supportive donors for the time, energy and resources that they have poured into CHP.  I’m excited to stay involved in the fundraising work of CHP and volunteering. Wishing you all the best and looking forward to see what this next chapter holds.

We are thrilled that Jodi will still be staying involved at CHP by helping us write grants and through volunteering. Thank you, Jodi, for all the time you spent working to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for those in need. We will have a greater impact because of your work, and we wish you the very best in your new endeavors beyond CHP.

The end of the season is a fitting time for transition. Next month we’ll be introducing you to our new ED, Cordelia Lyon.

Read the rest of the August 2016 Sprout!

Welcome, Tyler!


(Tyler with 3 other interns from last summer)

Some of you may recognize a familiar face who has been popping up more. Tyler was an intern last year, and in July he joined the CHP team as the Partnership Fellow Anti- Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA. We asked Tyler to explain a bit more about himself and his new position at CHP.

Q: How did you get involved at CHP?

A: I first heard about CHP through a program at my (now) alma mater, Holy Cross. During my junior year, I worked to think of bright ideas for the farm through the school’s Career Services department, got an internship with CHP through Holy Cross’s Government and Community Relations department that following summer, and entered a year of service through the AmeriCorps VISTA/Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps with them after college. CHP just grew on me!

Q: What will you be doing as Partnership Fellow AmeriCorps VISTA?

A: Most of my work includes research into providing better access to nutritious produce for the food insecure populations that CHP serves. But more than data collection and analysis goes into that! To name a few responsibilities, I also get to meet with partners, analyze distribution processes, manage groups of volunteers, and connect with food insecure populations directly, as part of my mission to end hunger.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as our Partnership Fellow AmeriCorps VISTA?

A: I’d like to at least set the groundwork for more infrastructure that will make access to CHP’s nutritious food easier for people experiencing food insecurity. That will include systematic and uniform data collection techniques, standardized approaches to serving our partners, and identifying the food insecure populations we can aid best. But most of all, I want to connect more deeply to everyone around me, including those we serve.

Q: Why does the CHP matter to you?

A: I have a very unique and special relationship to the farm. Undoubtedly, CHP is an amazing non-profit and has an unmatched volunteer experience, which generates a community of love and growth for all. But most of all, CHP matters because it has been a community of love and growth for me. Everyone here has seen me grow as a person, professional, and thinker. So, being here, helping out in this grand vision, I am humbled to be a part of an entity so impactful.

Q: What is your favorite farm task?

A: HOEING! I love how physically taxing it is. I grew up in a family that did yard work and manual labor for fun. A lot of family time was literally a labor of love. So as an intern, all I wanted to do was get dirty and work hard, and hoeing gave me just that! (I secretly hope that I can do that again one day.)

Q: When you’re not at the barn, what activities do you enjoy?

A: When I’m not at the barn, I have a ton of fleeting passions. For instance, I like to hang out with friends and family, run, work-out, bake bread, play guitar, write poetry, or go hiking. But above all, I love to walk and write (usually at the same time) for long periods of time. Doesn’t sound like anything too crazy, but the experience is exhilarating! The longer the walk, the more profound of an experience for me.

Q: What’s your favorite vegetable? How do you like to cook it?

A:  My favorite veggie is spinach. Mostly because it makes me feel like Popeye. And I like it best sautéed or steamed over tomato, mozzarella, and bread… almost like Bruschetta… but with more fiber!

Read the rest of the August 2016 Sprout!

August 2016 – Stay active this fall

runners.PNGAs autumn approaches and the days grow shorter, it can be appealing to cozy up at home. But if you’re looking to stay involved and work off the delicious pumpkin treats, the Fall Fitness 5K Series is just for you!  The Fall Fitness 5K Series is a chain of three 5K races that support local non-profit organizations involved with healthy living in Central Massachusetts. Partnering again this year, Community Harvest Project, The Reliant Medical Group Foundation, and the YMCA of Central Massachusetts – Boroughs Family Branch, will each be hosting a bi-weekly race this fall.

These three races have unique qualities which add to the excitement of participating in the series. The first 5K is held by The Reliant Medical Group on Saturday, October 1st at 10am. This is the perfect kick off to the series with a fairly flat road route around Indian Lake in Worcester. The second race, held by the YMCA, takes place Saturday, October 15th at 8:30 and offers a slightly more challenging course through slightly hilly neighborhoods in Westborough and Shrewsbury. These two races will prepare you for Community Harvest Project’s beautiful trail race through the Grafton Land Trust meadows and woods on Sunday, November 6th.

All of these races are chip-timed and USATF sanctioned 5K courses. Medals will be presented to overall series winner and prizes will also be distributed to winners of each specific race. Series participants registered before September 20th are guaranteed a t-shirt from each 5K. You can choose to sign up for the Fall Fitness 5K Series or to participate in just a single race.

The Fall Fitness 5K Series a great opportunity to stay active this fall and support three amazing local nonprofit organizations. After the final race in the series, held by Community Harvest Project 5K on Sunday, November 6th, all race participants have free admission to the Harvest Home Festival just across the street. Come hang out during the Patriot’s bye week and enjoy some great music, beer, food and a variety of free kid’s activities. We hope to see you there!

Read the rest of the August 2016 Sprout!

August 2016 – Volunteer of the Month

jim ex.PNG

Jim Sicard

As an example of the amazing efforts of our Volunteer Team Leaders in supporting our mission this month we would like to congratulate Jim Sicard.  As a Team Leader at our North Grafton farms Jim has been involved at Community Harvest Project for three years now.  He regularly can be found working with our diverse groups of volunteers and leading them in their efforts.  As we continue to grow we are always looking for new ways to engage our thousands of volunteers and Jim has played a key part in our efforts over the summer.

As many of you know, we were given the gift of Prospect Hill Farm in Harvard, MA in the fall of 2014.  Since then we have been learning more about the distinct differences involved in operating an orchard.  The day to day in Harvard is much different with the peak volunteer time being just a short six weeks of harvesting in September and October.  We still do however have the need for small experienced groups of orchard volunteers and that is where Jim upped the game this spring and summer.  He not only assisted us with the planting of our high density orchard but he became a key member of our Wednesday orchard volunteer team.  In speaking with him he described the great work of planting the trees and that he wanted to see them through to the next step.  His help in setting the trellis system for the new orchard, pruning trees that had the fire blight virus and helping to clear brush and thorny vines from under the existing trees was selfless.

Jim explained that he really enjoyed helping to make improvements that would impact not only our ability to grow but also the thousands of future volunteers that will visit this farm.  With the drive out being quite enjoyable he happens to be located almost as close to Harvard as he is to North Grafton.  He enjoys the rural nature of the area and then went on to talk about what a great environment it is with the rolling hills and view from the orchard.  It is obvious that he really is committed as illustrated by the fact that he recruited one of his friends from high school who used to work in the orchards in Fitchburg to join in the fun.  Illustrating the power of our volunteers and how we grow through word of mouth.

Please join us in congratulating Jim Sicard for his continuing to support of both locations and for all of the hours that he volunteers.  His impact on both the volunteers that he works with and his efforts as part of the Wednesday Harvard volunteer group is immeasurable and we truly appreciate him for his amazing gift of time.  Thanks Jim, we could not do it without you!

Read the rest of the August 2016 Sprout!

August 2016 – Veggie of the Month

girls with eggplant

This month’s vegetable is the crowning jewel of the farm – eggplant! The shiny shades of purple complete our rainbow of produce. Eggplant is a culturally popular food across the world, which makes it a great vegetable for us to offer the community, reaching many cultures. This popularly purple vegetable gives our bodies protein, fiber, vitamins K and B6. No matter your palate, it’s a great time of year to experiment with recipes that deliciously and nutritiously dish up eggplant!

Just as tomatoes are classified as a fruit in biology, eggplant is actually considered a berry, biologically speaking. In cooking though, of course, just like tomatoes, it’s a vegetable! Eggplant has meaty texture and small edible seeds inside. This fleshy inside acts like a sponge in cooking to absorb flavors, thus eggplant is often cooked and enjoyed in sauces. Shapes vary from small and egg shaped, to large like a squash, to long and thin and even artfully curved. Again, each of these shapes can lend themselves to different recipes. Colors vary from white, to pink, purple and even black, but flavor doesn’t drastically change based on color. Eggplants came from Asia, and were popular in the Near East long before they reached Europe. Then, in the Middle Ages, traders brought a certain kind of eggplant to Europe, a rare white variety shaped just like a chicken egg. So the vegetable was called eggplant, and the name stuck, even when the familiar purple eggplant reached Europe years later. Eggplants were also called mad apples in some places, because people thought that eating an eggplant would make you go insane!

It turns out that eating eggplant doesn’t make you go insane…but you know what would be crazy? If you didn’t enjoy a dish with eggplant in it this month! Eggplant is delicious grilled, stir-fried, and roasted, in salad, on pizza, in wraps and sandwiches, and pasta.  Check out our Pinterest board of recipes and then head to your local eggplant source! If an eggplant is fresh, when you press your finger against it, the fingerprint will disappear quickly. Thank you for all your help providing fresh eggplant for the community this month! Come join us for the harvest!

Roasted Eggplant Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 4.

3 medium tomatoes, halved
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1 small onion, halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange tomatoes, eggplant, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet. Brush or drizzle vegetables with oil then roast them for 20 minutes, pausing only to remove the garlic cloves and returning the pans to the oven for another 25 minutes, until the remaining vegetables are tender. Remove from oven and scoop eggplant flesh from skin into a heavy, large saucepan or soup pot. Add the rest of the vegetables, the thyme and the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until onion is very tender, about 45 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until it is as smooth as you’d like it to be. (Or, if you have an immersion blender, you can do this in the pot.) Back in the pot, add the cream and bring the soup back to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Read the rest of the August 2016 Sprout!

Two doctors join our board

We are proud to welcome two new members onto our Board of Directors. Amber Sarkar is a Primary Care Physician at the Family Health Center of Worcester, who we partner with for our Farm to Health Initiative. Evan Soderstrom is the Medical Director of the Tri-County Medical Hospitalist Program in Milford. Even after just a few minutes with either of them, you can tell how passionate they are about health and making a healthy lifestyle accessible to all.

Both of them took the time to answer a few questions about joining the board, so they can tell you more about why there are here in their own words.

amber.jpgAmber Sarkar

Why did you want to join the CHP board?

Practicing primary care at the Family Health Center of Worcester, I work with food insecure individuals every day.  Much of the care that I provide involves dietary changes and advice to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. It is easy for me to tell a patient with diabetes, single working mother or new immigrant to eat more vegetables, but infinitely harder for them to obtain affordable produce. I was inspired by mission of CHP and eager to see more produce ending up on the plates of my patients and similar communities in the area.

How do you think your background and experience can further CHP’s mission?

I have a front row seat to the struggles of families trying to scrape by on un-livable working wages, food stamps and public assistance, and bear witness to the short and long term health consequences of the dependency upon highly processed foods that these conditions create. 

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?

I hope to be able to provide insight into the populations that CHP is serving, serve as a liaison to some of the medical and public health communities in Worcester and help to inform best practices around produce utilization and distribution. 

What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like to eat it? 

Just one?  I crave spice, and in the vegetable kingdom satiate my craving with daikon.  It is delicious sliced raw with some black salt, shredded and cooked down with some ginger and turmeric or stewed in an Asian soup. 

DSC_5648Evan Soderstrom

Why did you want to join the CHP board?

Since I first set foot on Brigham Hill Community Farm, Community Harvest Project captured my heart.  It is a special place made up of a dedicated staff and volunteers who are passionate about CHP’s mission.  Exposing people to the agricultural environment who would not otherwise have that experience is life-changing for many people.  I am a strong believer in the effects of outdoor activities on our psychological well-being and, in turn, how that has a positive influence on our physical health.  Combining that with education, hunger relief, and the promotion of a diet with adequate healthy fruits and vegetables fills such a need in today’s society.  My family and I will always be supporters of Community Harvest Project and I am honored to be able to support the organization through the volunteer Board of Directors.

How do you think your background and experience can further CHP’s mission?

My hope is to grow the connection between Community Harvest Project and health professionals to educate and promote a healthy lifestyle beginning early on in our youth.  We need to expose our youth to habits that will promote a lifetime of health so that they can make changes in their own lives and promote those changes in their families and friends.  As a health care professional, I hope to steer my efforts towards intervening early in the lives of our community members in preventing many of the disease epidemics that our society faces today. 

What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like to eat it?

The benefits of a plant-based diet are well known.  There is not an upper limit to how many vegetables you can eat before it negatively effects your health.  I have many favorite vegetables.  If I had to pick one it would be a big pile of raw baby leaf spinach with an olive oil and balsamic dressing.  Second to that favorite is lightly steamed broccoli.  My favorite fruits are raw fuji and gala apples and raw tomatoes.

Amber and Evan – we are so excited to have your unique perspective and expertise help to further our mission!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Ride with CHP!

the rideThis year Community Harvest Project is thrilled to be one of the organizations participating in the Ride for Food! This bike ride serves as a fundraiser for small, local non-profit organizations working in the hunger relief food system within Central and Eastern Massachusetts. The Ride for Food is the morning of Sunday, September 25 and has 10, 25, or 50 mile staffed route options beginning and ending at Noble and Greenough School campus in Dedham, MA. This is a family friendly event for many abilities. Community Harvest Projects hopes to recruit 10 people to the CHP Team and raise over $10,000 for the organization.

Robb Ahlquist, Volunteer Board Member at Community Harvest Project, initiated CHP’s involvement in this event and has taken the lead role in coordinating the CHP team. Robb dedicates a lot of his time to financial development at CHP and recognized The Ride for Food a perfect opportunity for him to help out further volunteer his time. “Fundraising is always challenging so the chance to combine two of my passions (supporting CHP and riding my bike) is a great opportunity to accomplish two things at one event.”

The Ride for Food was created by the non-profit Three Squares New England in 2012 as a way for smaller non-profit organizations to participate in a large scale fundraising opportunity. Focused on eliminating food insecurity by building the capacity of organizations, the Ride for Food creates an alliance of food relief organizations who have diverse approaches to addressing the problem of food insecurity.  In 2012 the Ride for Food worked with a single organization but this year 18 organizations across Central and Eastern Massachusetts will fundraise and ride together while building awareness of their shared cause.

If you or someone you know is interested in fundraising and riding for the cause with the CHP, we invite you to learn more about the day and join our team! Registration is $75 and each rider is encouraged to raise money for the $10,000 team goal through the online platform where community members can donate towards your individual ride. If you’re more interested in volunteering the day of the event, sign up for one of the many volunteer positions and help CHP support this collaborative event!

Thank you, Robb, for taking the initiative on this event and for getting Community Harvest Project involved in the Ride for Food! We appreciate all that you do for CHP!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Online Updates

team leader.PNG

Did you notice….we got a makeover! Well, our website did. We worked with Small Steeple Web Builders, who are based right here in Grafton and work exclusively with small non-profits to create modern, streamlined sites. We began working together in January to update our website to reflect the growth and changes CHP has made since in the last few years. Our primary concerns were to make it easy to navigate, concise, mobile friendly, and showcase our farm, volunteers, and produce with new photos (mostly taken by Norm Eggert Photography).

We spent a lot of time paring down the words, so that it would be quick and easy to see what we are all about for first time visitors, but still familiar for returning friends. We went through thousands of photos taken in the last few years of all our programs to make sure that we fully captured all that CHP encompasses, from volunteer experience on the farm and community partnerships, to education and produce distribution.

volunteer2Our technology updates have kept us especially busy this year. Another dream that became reality was automated volunteer check in, which we could not have done without 501 Partners. We used to keep track of all our volunteers based on paper sign-ins and head counts that were manually tallied. Once we surpassed 11,000 volunteers last year that was really no longer feasible. Now all groups looking to volunteer fill out this handy form to get started. Once they are on the schedule, they receive an email a few weeks out confirming their visit, letting them know what to expect, and asking them to register. Then the day of their volunteering they check in so we know their hours were completed. As with any new technology adaptation we have a few changes to make for next year, but overall we are so happy with this new process which creates a better experience for the volunteers (and, makes our lives easier too).

Have you looked at our new website? Used our new check in system? Let us know about your experience! We are always striving to improve and provide the best possible interaction for our current and prospective volunteers. Feel free to send any thoughts to

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Volunteer of the Month

Sarah Moschini


Let us introduce you to Sarah Moschini, our July Volunteer of the Month. Sarah first visited the farm as a 10-year-old with her church. She says that she volunteered for an hour and remembers a lot about that day. She describes the fact that it was a treat to be able to come when usually only the older children came out to volunteer. She also remembers a really friendly Team Leader or Intern working with the group while they harvested cukes.

Fast forward almost seven years and we have had the distinct pleasure of having Sarah as a volunteer again. This time however she has significantly increased her involvement. If you visit the farm you are likely to see her volunteering for almost forty hours a week! While she was looking for something to keep her occupied during the summer her dad suggested CHP and even did her the favor of dropping her off on her first day. Her first impression was that everyone was nice and welcoming and an even bigger impression when our Team Leader Linda worked with her that day. “It was a “super” fun day and Linda taught me a lot” is the way that Sarah describes it.  This sparked an interest in Sarah to learn to become a Team Leader and she quickly mastered that role and has graduated to leading groups on her own!

Sarah is a rising junior at Whitinsville Christian School and if you ask her how it is going she will rave about the fact that she learns something new every day. The skills that she describes developing will all help her as she plots her future. She is proud of the fact that she has been able to apply her naturally outgoing personality to helping others. She has learned through some challenges in communication and organization with groups and come out with stronger skills and a better ability to lead. Then there is that weed whacking…Sarah is hoping her parents don’t find out that she has mastered that skill (just kidding).

So please join us in congratulating Sarah for her volunteer work in support of Community Harvest Project and as our Volunteer of the Month for July. Her drive and determination has put her in the driver’s seat as one of our newest Team Leaders and we are lucky to have her. Congratulations Sarah, we could not do the work we do without great people like you!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!