Host a Read for Seeds Fundraiser

Sprout Schools PhotoThis year we are thrilled to introduce you to our newest fundraising program for schools, Read for Seeds!

Each year Community Harvest Project farms fruits and vegetables to donate to individuals experiencing food insecurity. The produce we grow provides free, nutritious food for families in need who otherwise would not have access. We do so by using a neighbor-helping-neighbor approach, and engage volunteers each season to plant, tend, and harvest all of our crops. In 2017, Community Harvest Project hosted 8,456 volunteers who grew 271,509 pounds of produce for donation to food insecure individuals in Worcester County.

Many of our visitors are students, with over 3,500 elementary and middle school youth visiting our farms annually. After several years of working with local schools, we saw an opportunity to combine education and community service.  As you know, frequent practice is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader. Similarly, frequent community engagement is an essential component of becoming a well-rounded individual. Our Read for Seeds program encourages students in their reading practice, engages them in community service, and raises funds for both our organization and your classrooms!

Here is how it works:

  • Pledging – Students collect pledges from relatives, friends, and neighbors for 15-minute time blocks that they will commit to reading during a two to three week reading period; we call this the Read-a-Thon! During the Read-a-Thon, students track the amount of time they read on the pledge form.
  • Donating – Once the Read-a-Thon is over, students follow up with their supporters to gather their pledges.  The pledges will then be split between your participating classrooms and Community Harvest Project.
  • Growing – The donations will help support our farm operations and your schools.  All produce grown by Community Harvest Project is donated to those in who need it most throughout Worcester County.
  • Celebrating – Participating classes will be invited to visit our farm in North Grafton to celebrate their hard work and see what they have helped accomplished!

Our team will support your classrooms throughout the entirety of the program with Read for Seeds materials, presentations, and more.  To sign-up for this program for the 2018-2019 school year, or if you have any questions, please contact me, Carolyn Ambrose, at 774-545-5409 or carolyn@community-harvest.org.  We look forward to collaborating with you!

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Apple Season is Almost Here!

Apple featured imageIt has been a hot summer and we are looking forward to the cool, crisp fall days that so many associate with heading out to the orchard to pick apples! We have been gearing up for harvest season at the orchard and will pick our first apples at the end of August. This year also marks the first season we will harvest from our new high-density apple trees planted in 2015.

Last year, we had a very good apple crop, with the orchard producing over 260,000 pounds of fruit. Apple trees naturally have a cyclical pattern of “on” and “off” years, meaning that one year the orchard could have a bumper crop of apples and the following year the orchard will produce less apples. Some apple varieties are more susceptible to this phenomenon. This fact, combined with certain weather events means that we will have a lighter crop this year.

We are looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, as well as new ones, to help with the picking and packing activities for our fourth harvest season at Prospect Hill Farm. It is hard to believe that in just a few weeks we will be boxing up apples to be shipped to our hunger relief partners. We hope to see you there!

Harvest Home 5K Registration Now Open

Harvest Home 5KThis heat has us looking forward to cooler fall weather – our Harvest Home Festival and 5K are right around the corner! Join us on November 4 for this fall festival, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the season and bring the community together in celebration of the harvest on our beautiful farm in North Grafton. All proceeds directly support CHP’s mission of building healthy and engaged communities through volunteer farming and nutrition education.

This year we are excited to announce a new course for our 5K Trail Run on the beautiful Williams Preserve and Grafton Land Trust trails. The 1 Mile walk and Kids Fun Run will begin directly after the 5K race kick off!

Registration is now open for this popular run, and we’re looking forward to another great year. Sign up at https://event.racereach.com/community-harvest-5k

Don’t forget that your race registration includes free admission to the festival! The family friendly festival begins at 11am and includes live music, food trucks, local beer, hay wagon rides, apple cannons, pumpkin catapults and more!

Introducing Our Wine Tasting Fundraiser!

Wine TastingCommunity Harvest Project is delighted to collaborate with Broken Creek Winery for an evening of wine tasting on Thursday, September 13th at 5:30pm. Social fundraisers like these are a great opportunity for our nonprofit to partner with local companies.  Each ticket includes a donation to support our hunger relief efforts, all year long!

Broken Creek Vineyard & Winery is family owned and located on 41-acres in Shrewsbury. Attendees can walk the vineyard and learn about all the wines grown there. It is the perfect setting for sunset pictures. Gather your co-workers, friends and family and come sample Summer White, Vidal Blanc, Marquette, Special Reserve and Maddie’s Rescue Red . If you taste a wine you love, Broken Creek has bottles available for purchase.  We will also be serving delicious hors d’oeuvres and each attendee will recieve a 20oz etched wine glass to take home.

Tickets are $35.00 and available on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wine-tasting-fundraiser-tickets-48593538582

Groups are encouraged to attend, and we hope to see you there!

Volunteers of the Month: Summer Youth Groups

7.16.2018 St. GabrielsFor as long as we can remember Young Neighbors in Action has been a reliable source of volunteer support during the summer vacation lull.  These great teams come out to our farms and help us at a critical time in our scheduling while many of our volunteers are on vacation. Whether it is harvesting, planting or even weeding at both our Grafton and Harvard farms they put their all into their work and find ways to have fun while doing it.  We are lucky to have them on our side and would like to celebrate and thank our 2018 Young Neighbors Teams. Coming from near (St. Rose of Lima in Northborough and St. Gabriel in Upton) and far (St. Matthew in New Hampshire) we really appreciated their hard work this year.

In these groups we had several volunteers who chose to visit for the second year of their Young Neighbors program, adding a level of familiarity with the farm.  All three groups experienced the results of some of our crazier weather events while they were here. That meant wet clothing, sneakers and even a car interior that needed to dry out but that never stopped them from coming back with energy and drive to greet the next day.  It’s that type of commitment to helping community that these makes these students and their chaperones standouts who left a great impression of what is possible with us as they left.

Please join us in thanking and celebrating our volunteers from the Young Neighbors in Action Program.  Thank you for your continuing support and showing that anything is possible when you approach it knowing that you are making a difference.     

What’s Cooking: Out in the Garden

what's cooking augustSummer gardens are overflowing with herbs right now. Even if you don’t have a huge garden space, a few herbs in pots are such a bounty in the kitchen. Soft herbs like cilantro, basil, and dill go to seed easily, and need to be reseeded throughout the summer to have a constant supply. Heartier herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary can last the winter (either outside or in pots). Herbs are a great way to add flavor and nutrition to foods, but contain very few calories.

We used herbs in many kids cooking classes last month, including Rethink Your Drink (about sugar in beverages), Pesto Power (defining and making pesto), and Herbal Mania (learning about herbs and making herb-focused recipes). This basil lemonade is lower-sugar than your standard offering, but high in flavor and was a huge hit with kids.

This month’s classes all focus on the bounty of the summer garden.

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

Pepper Pack (2-4 year olds)

  • Tuesday, August 14th and Tuesday, August 28th, 10-11am

Basil-Mint Lemonade

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Ingredients

  • approximately ½ cup of fresh basil leaves (regular basil, lemon basil, or Thai basil)
  • 12 mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • grated zest and juice from 2-3 lemons (½ cup lemon juice)
  • 4 cups of water
  • ice (crushed & cubes)

Directions

Using a muddler or a spoon, muddle the basil & mint leaves with the sugar until the leaves are crushed at the bottom of a pitcher. Add the lemon zest, juice and water. Stir well to combine. Serve over ice (strain if you please).

Volunteer of the Month: Community Servings

Community Servings 07.13.2018Sometimes the best solutions to a challenge that you may be facing can be solved by speaking to others and exploring different approaches with unique solutions.  That is exactly how our relationship with Community Servings began several years ago. Our executive director happened to be at an event and had the great fortune to run into David Waters from Community Servings.  One question about what we were doing with produce that could not be sent out due to imperfections or small bruises led us into a relationship that continues to grow. Last year we sent over 24,000 lbs. out to their kitchen to be processed and utilized in the medically tailored meals that are delivered direct to the door of clients with critical illnesses throughout the community.  These highly nutritious and appealing meals are a bright spot during difficult times for the families in Worcester, Leominster and Fitchburg that receive meals from Community Servings that contain produce grown at Community Harvest Projects farms.

The entire team over at Community Servings has seen our produce arriving weekly and marveled at how the team there is able to incorporate it into the meals they have planned.  They have seen coolers filled with marinara sauce made from a shipment of tomatoes coming from our farm or how their kitchen team uses green tomatoes in soups and salsas. What they had not all experienced however was a visit out to our farm to see our operation in progress.  That was of course until we planted the seed a few years back about bringing the entire Community Servings Team out for a visit to our farm. On a beautiful Friday a week ago the team visited and got to see where and how the vegetables that are used in their kitchen are grown.  

This month we would like to celebrate the entire team that makes up Community Servings.  Not just for coming out to learn more about us, or for the 100 lbs. of blueberries that they picked, or the weed wrangling that they completed in 2.5 rows of cabbage or the 79 boxes that two members of their team assembled while visiting.  We would like to celebrate Community Servings for by the impressive work that they do on a daily basis providing over 675,000 medically tailored meals to over 2,000 critically ill individuals and their families throughout our community annually.  Thanks to you all for the work that you do on behalf of our community.

 

Our Sunflower Festival is Almost Here!

Sunflower FestWhere else can you enjoy a perfect summer day and help support hunger relief efforts all year? Grab your friends and family and join us for our first Sunflower Festival at Community Harvest Project!

Wander through our sunflower maze, take some beautiful pictures, pack a picnic lunch (or visit the Food Trucks), play corn hole, indulge in a cool treat from the ice cream truck or just relax an in our picnic grove.  For $5 your kids can have a blast participating in fun, creative activities in the Learning Garden and around the farm!

Come on out rain or shine, Saturday and Sunday, July 28th & 29th from 10:00am – 4:00pm. Admissions is $10 for Adults and includes five flower cuttings from our gorgeous zinnia or sunflower fields!

Tickets can be purchased at the farm or you can buy them online from our website through Eventbrite at: http://bit.ly/CHPSunflowerFest

Generously sponsored by:

Country Bank_TransparentHomefield_TransparentCroppedOsterman_TransparentWegmans_Transparent

 

 

 

A Summer Update from the Farm

IMG-0213.JPGThings on the farm are starting to come into full swing, despite our later start in the fields! We have already harvested blueberries, green beans, zucchini, summer squash, and lettuce and each week a few new items are added to that list. We look forward to the days of a cooler full of colorful pallets of fresh produce. As always, us farmers are doing our best to keep on top of the pest situation, and keep all the plants watered and happy during the last couple weeks of extreme heat.

One of our new crops this year, lettuce, has been a real all-star. Beautiful heads of Red Sails and Buttercrunch lettuce were our earliest harvest, and we expect several more rounds of lettuce throughout the season. Summer ball summer squash and eight ball zucchini have also been an awesome addition to harvest, coming in early and strong. We have staggered our plantings of summer squash and zucchini in hopes of extending the usual tidal wave of squashes that usually overwhelms us during July.

Many visitors on the farm may see the farmers running all over the property, but not always know what it is they’re up to. In addition to the routine tasks of planting, weeding, and harvesting that our volunteers assist with, every day is filled with interesting challenges and unexpected issues that arise, as on any farm. An irrigation leak, a broken mower, or a sudden arrival of pests can change the whole day in the blink of an eye, and it is part of what makes farming so exciting and full of variety. To deal with pests that arise, the farmers use Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, which is a system to reduce the amount of spray we are using in the fields. We routinely scout for pests, make note of the damage and pressure, and only spray when necessary to protect the crops. We are also trying new methods of pest prevention including row covers and trap crops. Although we have learned some lessons of how to better use row covers for next season, they proved to be successful at excluding flea beetles in the majority of rows we tried. It is exciting to think of using some of these methods in the future to further reduce spraying.

To see the harvest, observe more about our farming methods, and just enjoy a day in the great outdoors, come stop by during drop in hours! We’d love to see you.

What’s Cooking: Eat Green!

whats cookingOur June theme was green foods. June is high time for greens in the garden. We have two kinds of kale (curly and Red Russian), rainbow chard, collards, lettuce, and spinach, plus baby beets and radishes which you can eat the greens of! This class started (as the rest of our summer classes will) harvesting from the garden to cook with. Many of the kids expressed that was their favorite part of the class, and we’re so excited to harvest the tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, beets, carrots and herbs for classes as the summer goes on.

As a bit different way to eat our greens we had them in falafel! Falafel is a chickpea fritter that is usually fried, but we baked ours in the oven. The kids especially loved using the microplane to zest the lemon and forming the falafel balls. Once cooked you can eat them straight (like a chicken nugget, but so much healthier!), on a salad, or in a sandwich.

Green Falafel

Adapted from:

https://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/green-falafel-bowl-recipe.html

Green falafel:

  • 1 pound / 16 ounces spinach or kale, washed, trimmed, cooked, and finely chopped (frozen and defrosted is fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup / 20g grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Combine the eggs, garlic, chickpeas, breadcrumbs, cheese, baking powder, and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until combined. Transfer to a large bowl, add the lemon zest and chopped spinach, and stir until uniform.

With your hands, form the mixture into small, 1 1/2-inch balls. You should end up with 20-30-ish balls. Place on a baking sheet, smush them down a bit, and put in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until very golden, flipping once along the way.