Another Successful Season of Farm to Health

BeetsIt’s hard to believe but our harvest season is beginning to wind down. It’s a bittersweet time of year for us, and an excellent time for reflection on our partnerships. This month, we wanted to highlight one partnership in particular, the Family Health Center of Worcester. Our partnership with the Family Health Center is part of our Farm to Health Initiative, that works to pair nutrition education with our donated produce. This program is generously funded by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Healthy Food Fund, and it’s enabled us to reach hundreds of individuals experiencing food insecurity. 

Broccoli FeaturedThis year, we once again had a very successful season of providing fresh produce to the Family Health Center. In past years, we have sent boxes of bulk produce to set up a farmers market- style distribution at the Family Health Center, but this year and last, we decided to make up family-sized shares that were pre- bagged and ready to go. These went out to various patient support groups so that physicians could educate about nutrition and healthy eating as it relates to medical treatment, and track the benefits of receiving fresh produce. The shares always included 4-6 varieties of produce including cherry tomatoes, collard greens, eggplant, peppers, squashes, and cucumbers.

We were able to engage many community members in making this program possible this year as well. Our interns prepared many of the bags, our Education Coordinator provided tastings, and our Team Leaders made the deliveries each week. It was truly a group effort, and we’re already looking forward to next year!

Read the rest of the September Sprout!

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Introducing Jen!

Jen_CroppedII-262x262@2xFor those of you who’ve worked with our previous Farm Manager, Bill Harris, you may have noticed that he wasn’t around the farm as much this summer. This year, Bill has slowly ended his time at CHP so he can pursue a lifelong dream of opening a woodshop. While we’re going to miss Bill’s expertise and stories, we are thrilled to introduce our new Farm Manager, Jen Friedlander!

As a student at Middlebury College, Jen found herself falling in love with farming. Over the past several years she has worked on research and community farms, and most recently at Hidden Villa, a nonprofit that works with volunteers just like Community Harvest Project. To get to know Jen better, see what she had to say when we interviewed her after her first few days here in North Grafton.

Why did you choose to come to CHP?
The farm manager position at CHP was a right place at the right time fit for me–I just moved to Boston from San Francisco and knew I wanted to continue farming and growing my skill set as an organic vegetable farmer. CHP will allow me to farm in a new climate, on new land, with new people. Furthermore, some of the most rewarding work  for me has been giving food to those in need, so the mission of CHP is a great fit.
What are you tackling in your first weeks here?
In my first weeks I’ve been getting a better understanding of the growing practices and volunteer programs currently in place, and have already started formulating a work plan for the 2018 season. Also, I’m getting to know all of my new co-workers to build a foundation for my time at CHP.
What skills and experiences are you bringing to CHP that will help in your position?
I have worked on various non-profit farms prior to CHP. In Louisville, Kentucky I worked with a youth apprentice group in the fields as well as conducted various farm to table cooking and nutrition programs for school groups. I then went on to build a research farm for the University of Nevada, Reno where we grew experimental vegetables for the freshman dining hall. For the past two years I worked at a small scale organic vegetable farm in the South Bay of San Francisco, where I learned everything from seed to harvest, to market, about growing vegetables in a “beyond organic” way. I am passionate about being an environmentally conscious steward of the land and hope to bring some of those ideas and experiences to CHP.
When you’re not at the barn, what activities do you enjoy?
I love running, biking, hiking, swimming, being outside…and eating!
What’s your favorite vegetable? How do you like to cook it?
My favorite vegetable changes all of the time, but I think an underappreciated staple in my life is lettuce. It is the vehicle for SO many great dishes and when eaten fresh, is incredibly flavorful and almost buttery. My favorite way to use lettuce is in the spring, when its really tender, mix it with a strawberry balsamic dressing and some fennel.
You can contact Jen at jen@community-harvest.org, or stop by the barn to say hello!

 

Read the rest of the September Sprout!

Lunch & Learn Success

LL2Community Harvest Project recently celebrated its inaugural Lunch & Learn, a special event to learn more about our work, with distinguished members from the community including Congressman Jim McGovern. Other speakers shared their moving stories about the meaningful impact we make together as community partners. Lunch, provided by Flying Rhino, was delicious and culminated with a tour of the farm in full swing! It was an excellent day of learning how we can create healthy and engaged communities together with local companies and businesses.

If your company missed the Lunch & Learn, there are still opportunities  to engage your company with Community Harvest Project this season:

  • Nominate CHP to receive Community Grants or Year End contributions from your company
  • Schedule a tour for your Community Engagement Manager to learn how partnering with us creates a healthy community to live and work in
  • Sponsor and attend our Harvest Home Festival and 5K, our biggest fundraiser of the year 
  • Providing professional services or in kind donations
  • Encourage your employees to utilize your company’s matching gift or payroll deduction programs
  • Save your place on our 2018 volunteering schedule!

To thank you for your support, we can:

  • Guarantee that your employees will leave smiling and raving about their experience of making an impact in the lives of individuals and families
  • Expose your team to a healthy lifestyle, connect with nature and get a little dirty
  • Grow and donate over 220,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to create healthy options for those who need them most.

So are you ready to make a lasting impact?

Support at any level helps contribute to the ongoing success of CHP’s hunger relief efforts.  Please contact Carolyn Ambrose at 774-545-5409 or email at carolyn@community-harvest.org to discuss ways we can continue to partner together. 

Read the rest of the September Sprout!

Summertime Reflections

9 (21).PNG“Over the course of this internship, I learned more than I ever thought I would. I learned many valuable skills ranging from public speaking, to leadership in a group, leadership on my own, and how to take initiative. I also learned that I love being outdoors, meeting new people each day, and being part of the work a non profit accomplished.” – 2017 Summer Intern

It has been a month since our 2017 Summer Sustainable Farming Interns finished, but we still miss them! It helps to read through the surveys they submitted at the end of their internship to tell us what they really loved and learn what we can improve for next summer (though we may not be able to prevent the sock tans). The internship had many different components to appeal to varied interests and skill sets. We even passed along some lessons we didn’t know we would, like the benefits of waking up at the same time.

3 (1).JPGThe interns met with each staff member throughout the summer for an informational interview to understand each person’s background and job composition. “The staff chats taught me a lot about how different career paths can be and how the inner workings of a non-profit are run.”

After their chat with our Executive Director, Cordie, the group became interested in grant writing, so they worked together to write and submit a grant. “Compared to a grant writing class, this was real experience in refining applicable grant writing skills and ultimately submitting a working grant application. I am so grateful for that opportunity!” We’re still waiting to hear if we will receive the grant, but the benefit of this experience to our interns far outweighs any monetary gain.

7 (7)Twice a month they had a nutrition lesson with Tori, our Education Coordinator. They learned about fats, carbs, and protein, picking the healthiest options for each, and cooking easy, healthy meals. “I’m interested in nutrition and taking care of myself, as well as trying new and creative foods, and the sessions served as little reminders of healthy habits.” Using fresh produce from the learning garden they made fried brown rice with vegetables, noodles with tahini sauce and cucumbers, pesto, fresh rolls, and hummus.

“I learned a lot about how a non-profit works and engages with the community. It was really interesting to learn how to engage with all types of community members and to learn about how CHP impacts the larger community as well. I may want to work at a non-profit in the future so I found this to be a great first experience.” Our goal was to expose our interns to farming, many different people, and the non-profit world. We hope they take their experience at CHP to inform a future in nonprofit work, and of course, come back to visit us regularly.

If this sounds like an experience that you would like to have in summer of 2018, please email wayne@community-harvest.org to learn more.

Read the rest of the September Sprout!

A Big Thank You to the Worcester Fire Department!

Firefighters.pngCommunity Harvest Project is honored to be a major recipient of race proceeds from the 2017 WFD6K Road Race. For seven years, the Worcester Fire Department has identified CHP as a partner organization and has cumulatively donated over $40,000 to support our mission! We are incredibly grateful and humbled to continue to be part of this great event. Thank you for your support and for all that you do for the Worcester community.

The WFD6K Road Race has been held for 17 years, started after the devastating loss of six firefighters in the Worcester Cold Storage Fire back on December 3, 1999. To honor these individuals, the Worcester Firefighters hold a 6K Road Race with proceeds going directly back to community organizations including NEADS, Genesis Club, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Community Harvest Project. Since inception, the WFD6K has donated over $550,000 to community organizations.

Thank you, Worcester Firefighters!

Read the rest of the August Sprout!

Donate Today to Support the Harvest!

Tomato HarvestYou know firsthand the importance of our work. You are as passionate about our work as we are! Our farms are where our values come to life, and together we are improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables for those who need it most. Thanks to your dedication and support we owe much of our success to you.

Our harvest is just getting started and already this season, your generosity has helped us:

  • Donate over 55,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to the local hunger relief network
  • Create a vibrant community gathering place where over 6,000 volunteers have engaged in the joyful spirit of volunteerism
  • Provide a safe and active learning environment for nearly 1,500 of your children and grandchildren to learn the importance of farming and nutrition through the hands-on experiences

VeggiesWe are thriving because of you! Your continued support keeps these activities going, and allows us to continue growing food, community, and minds. Please donate today so we can continue to plant seeds for tomorrow. Thank you in advance for your generosity. We hope to see you at one of our farms soon!

 

Read the rest of the August Sprout!

Celebrating Ten Years of Volunteering with Community Harvest Project

IMG_2404At the beginning of August we had the great pleasure of hosting the CSAW Team from St. Brigid Parish in Millbury.  This lively group of youth volunteers spent two days at the farm weeding countless rows of vegetables (10,800 feet to be exact) and harvesting over 2,698 lbs. or 13,673 servings of fresh produce for donation to hunger relief agencies throughout Central and Eastern Massachusetts.  They challenged themselves to stay focused even in some pretty punishing humidity and blaring sun.  The energy and humor that they brought to the job made our days fly by, this team had the “it” factor and understood that the hard work that they were doing was all about helping community.  

This years team is following in the footsteps of giants as this visit marks ten consecutive years of involvement from the CSAW Youth Program.  Under the watchful eye of Greg Bernard and his team of adult mentors this week long summer service program goes out into the community to help their neighbors.  This year at the farm they were led in their work by one of their own who is now a CHP Team Leader, Katie O’Leary.  With a mission and work that directly aligns with ours this program is ensuring that their participants learn just how easy and rewarding it is to help others.  We feel very fortunate that they have selected us as part of their annual rounds.
We would like to honor the CSAW Youth Program as our Volunteer Team of the Month in August.  Their ten years of service to Community Harvest Project is greatly appreciated and we invite them to come back to the farm for at least another ten years!  

Keep up the great work CSAW, we appreciate being part of your team.  
Read the rest of the August Sprout!

Team Lead at Prospect Hill Orchard

ApplesWe will be hosting a training at our orchard in Harvard (115 Prospect Hill Road, Harvard) on August 29th from 9:00 AM to Noon.  We are looking to engage volunteers to assist us in leading the volunteer groups that will be visiting the farm from September 1st to October 15th.  Team Leading is an extremely rewarding hands-on experience that involves guiding diverse groups of volunteers in completing various farm activities.  Volunteer Team Leaders are the backbone of Community Harvest Project’s success story.  Our Team Leaders work with CHP Field Staff and Interns to represent the organization and ensure a positive experience for the over 10,000 volunteers that work with us annually. At the Harvard orchard we need Team Leaders to help coordinate and direct the work of small groups of volunteers in picking, sorting and packaging apples for donation to hunger relief organizations throughout Central and Eastern Massachusetts.

Apple harvest will take place from September 1st through October 15th from 9:00 AM to Noon several days a week, just six short weeks of commitment for a great cause. Join in and help out one day a week or as many as you are able to and we can assure you that you will get more from the experience than you will give. This is a great volunteer opportunity for retirees, at home parents or anyone looking to fill a morning with volunteering to help our community. Anyone interested in joining in we would ask that you visit our North Grafton Farm one time in August to see Team Leaders in action and come to the training in Harvard on August 29th from 9:00 AM to Noon.

Anyone that is interested in helping out can also reach out to us via volunteer@community-harvest.org or call (774)551-6544 for more information

orchardVolunteer Team Leaders are the key to our successful volunteer farming program. Their dedicated time and expertise allow CHP to host the volunteers necessary to farm fresh fruits and vegetables for donation. While staff work diligently to support operations and groups, Team Leaders spend the most face time with a volunteer groups and provide the experience that motivates a volunteer to return as a drop in, bring another group, participate in one of our events, or donate to support our mission. We could not do this work without them.

Here are some quotes from our existing Team Leaders on why they lead;

  • There are three parts to my answer: being a member of an extraordinary team!!, contributing to CHP’s goal of growing/harvesting fruits and vegetables for the hungry, and simply working outdoors with individuals of all ages!!
  • Interaction with the volunteers, understanding why they volunteer. Each has a story to tell.
  • The ability to give to the community in a meaningful way. Specifically in that the efforts of the CHP promotes good healthy options for a population with limited access to healthy foods given their circumstance and the current food supply system in the US. Additionally, meeting all the people encountered during the volunteer experience such as CHP staff, other Team Leaders and volunteer groups is a constant draw to participation. They are all fabulous, interesting and constantly restores one’s faith in the goodness of humanity. Working in the outdoors is the icing on the cake.
  • It is hard to pick just one favorite part of team leading! But if I had to, it is definitely the people at CHP, volunteers and staff. It is an uplifting and inspirational place and I just love spending time working alongside others who care about others in our community.
  • Getting to meet so many interesting, kind people!
  • Getting exposed to diversity with leading different groups and experiencing the passion/excitement that emerges for the cause!

Read the rest of the August Sprout!

What’s Cookin’ at CHP

kids cooking 1.PNGHow can you tell when a carrot is ready to pick? Are all carrots orange? How can you tell a plant is in the mint family? What part of the plant is the broccoli head we eat? We addressed all these questions in our kids Garden to Kitchen Cooking Classes earlier this summer. Each class started in the garden where we explored or did a scavenger hunt. Then the kids were split up into smaller groups and given recipes to read over so they could find the ingredients that they needed to harvest from the garden.

Everything we grow in the garden is selected so it can be picked by many little hands. The kids harvested beets, carrots, collards, cucumbers, dill, parsley, basil, chard, kale, wax and green beans, and tomatoes.

kids cooking 2Our first class focused on carrots and beets. One group made carrot pancakes with whole wheat flour and then a carrot ribbon salad with carrot top pesto. They used a peeler to make long thin strips of the carrots, which are a much easier way to prep carrots if you have small hands and a small knife. The other group made whole wheat chocolate beet muffins, plus a beet and apple salad.

Our second class continued our healthy breakfast and salad theme. There were three groups and they made baked oatmeal with blackberries, mini frittatas with garden herbs, and mini muffins with blueberries. While those were all in the over they made salads featuring cucumbers, kale, chard, carrots, and snap peas with homemade dressings: ranch, sesame, and balsamic.

kids cooking 3If your child missed out on these classes they could still join in the fall! We’re offering one class on October 16th, from 2:30-4PM, for kids in 4th-7th grade. The class is open to kids from all towns and will take place at 37 Wheeler Road in Grafton. Cost is $20/child, and all proceeds support CHP’s efforts to provide fresh produce for those experiencing hunger. Space is limited, so sign up today!

This is one of the most popular recipes that kids have loved again and again. It is easily adapted with whatever leftover cooked vegetables you have, and makes kid-sized portions.

Mini Frittatas

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. Makes 24 mini muffin frittatas, or 12 muffin frittatas.

  • 9 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2.5 cups of cooked filling, such as peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes (sundried or fresh), broccoli, asparagus, chopped small, cooked pasta or rice, beans
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped herbs, such as chives, parlsey, thyme or mix of these (plus more for topping)
  • 8 oz. cheese

Preheat the oven to 350′. Grease a standard muffin tin or mini muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper until well blended. Then add in any vegetables, grains, or beans being used for the filling and stir to combine.

Fill the muffin tins a generous 3/4 of the way full. Bake on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins, or 18-20 minutes for regular muffins.

Read the rest of the August Sprout!

Volunteers of the Month: Access TCA

DSC_0066We have been very fortunate over the past three years to host the Access TCA Volunteer Day here at Community Harvest Project. They are a large exhibit and event marketing company based right here in the Blackstone Valley in Whitinsville.  This team of volunteers always comes out with great spirit and energy to help their community.  Their creative approach and considerable amount of effort in planning for the day and even doing advance work to prepare is greatly appreciated.  This year they were able to help us with a list of projects around the farm that we would not otherwise be able to complete.  

They spent their day on the farm  trellising cucumbers, replanting eggplant that was washed out by flooding, twining tomatoes, weeding, and cleaning out the small greenhouse.  Because of them the thousands of volunteers that visit our North Grafton farms will have access to a picnic grove of new and newly repaired and painted tables.  They also helped us with some major repairs on the barn deck, making it safer for all of our visitors.  Their gift and talent of the addition of passive education signs will come to life around the farm in the coming months. This project would not have been possible without their expertise and the design execution of Eric Anderson.  In visiting the barn you may notice that we have new graphics in the back of the great room and on the hallway walls.  With innovative techniques they were able to print life size photos on plastic and fabric to help us provide a very inviting environment for our guests.    

We would like to applaud and thank Access TCA for their amazing gift of time, resources and volunteer labor.  Their efforts to make us shine are greatly appreciated.  This team was able to not only help us farm for the day but also used their talents to advance our mission by donating services that we would not be able to fit into our budget.  A special thanks goes out to Jamie Levine for her coordination of these efforts, Dean Cerrati and Jess Thibault for making the day go smoothly, Phil Oikle and his band of magicians for their amazing craftsmanship and the rest of the Access TCA Team for their support and energy during their visit to our farm.  We really appreciate your support of our efforts and of our community.      

Read the rest of the July Sprout!