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!

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(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

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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!