Harvest Home Festival and 5K 11/6

harvard-homeThe end of the season is near, and you know what that means…it is time for our annual Harvest Home Festival & 5K!  This year’s Harvest Home Festival & 5K is of special importance because it is our 10th anniversary.  That means this is our 10th annual harvest themed celebration of all of our hard work of farming for hunger relief.  Yes, we know time flies!


This year’s race shirt!

This year’s festival is being held on Sunday November 6, 2016 on our beautiful farm in North Grafton.  The day kicks off with a 5K trail run or one-mile walk at 10:30 a.m. on the beautiful Grafton Land Trust trails and is followed by the Harvest Home Festival across the street from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Brigham Hill Community Barn, 37 Wheeler Road, North Grafton.  Admission is $10 at the gate, kids under 5 are free, with a cap of $30 per family.  There will be plenty of things to do for the entire family including live music, great food and beer, a bake sale, kid’s crafts, a raffle, hay wagon rides, pony rides, apple cannons, and a pumpkin trebuchet competition!  All kid’s activities activities are FREE after entry and runners in the 5K (and 1 mile walkers) receive FREE admission to the festival!

All of our proceeds go towards our mission here at CHP, and allow us to continue to create healthy and engaged communities through volunteer farming and education.  In 2015 the Community Harvest Project was able to grow and donate over 1.2 million servings of local fresh fruits and vegetables to hunger relief agencies.  As of this year, 44% of the fresh produce received at the Worcester County Food Bank was courtesy of CHP and we are on track to have over 11,000 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. On top of all of the fun activities, you can learn more about CHP’s impact in 2016 and celebrate our bountiful crop at our Harvest Home Festival.

cannon.PNGCHP would not be able to do all of the amazing things we do without the help of our wonderful community and volunteers.  This event is intended to bring the community together in celebration of all of the hard work and support we received from you during this season’s harvest.  Please come out to the Harvest Home Festival & 5K, have some fun, and help be a part of the healthy solution to hunger in our community!

Click here to register for the 5K, and for more information about the Harvest Home Festival & 5K please check out our Facebook events.

 November 6th, 2016

5K: Day of registration at 9AM, race, walk, and fun run at 10:30AM

Festival: 11:00AM-4:00PM

37 Wheeler Rd, North Grafton, MA, 01536

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

Photos by Norm Eggert Photography.

Fresh Vegetables and Health

This year, CHP partnered with Hector Reyes House (Worcester), the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden (Harvard) and the Family Health Center of Worcester (Worcester) to implement the Farm to Health Initiative. The initiative is a comprehensive program that supports food-insecure patients in including fresh produce distributions and nutrition education as strategies for increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. While we don’t measure health outcomes, the hope is that by removing the barrier of cost and providing nutrition education targeting patients with specific health issues, patients will develop healthy eating habits that improve their health long-term. The program is implemented through a 3-year grant funding from Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation.

One of our new partners this year was Hector Reyes House in Worcester, a recovery program for Latino adult males. About 10-20 men from Hector Reyes came bi-weekly to volunteer harvesting produce, learn about nutrition through a partnership with UMASS Extension Nutrition Education Program, and then take the fruits and vegetables home with them. They learned practical cooking skills and new recipes over 5 sessions in nutrition education. The men shared that they would use what they’d learned to eat healthy, control their weight, and support a healthy diet for working out. Over 1,746 pounds – or 7,507 servings – of fresh produce from the farm supplemented residents’ diet over the course of our growing season. These gentlemen were a pleasure to host each week – we will miss them!

healing garden.PNG

Photo by Richard Price

Our other new partner this year was the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard, Massachusetts, an organization that offers a holistic approach to treating cancer patients and their families. Here, we distributed produce bi-weekly to 15 food insecure families in conjunction with a series of lectures on nutrition specific to patients recovering from cancer. Every minute spent with these individuals gave inspiration and nourishment to the power of community because of the partnership. One person even said, “I started going to the fresh produce first instead of the junk food because of CHP… I love being able to have the healthy option.” 889 pounds – or 4,024 servings – of fresh produce were distributed throughout the season at the Healing Garden. The partnership there proved to be a huge success!

farm to health.PNGWe continued partnering with the Family Health Center of Worcester to distribute produce to 35 families on a weekly basis. Different from previous years, patients were enrolled through their participation in health workgroups: prenatal groups, adult diabetes groups, and a youth obesity group. Healthcare providers who led the workgroups distributed bags of produce at their group meetings, some patients picked up at the health center, and the UMASS Medical students delivered produce to some patients. Annika Bannon, of the UMASS Medical students, shared, “One of the most memorable moments was seeing the face of one of the participants look in her produce bag. She had a stern face when she came to pick up, but she softened when she took a look inside. I felt like I could just see the stress melting off of her.” Cooking Matters also led a series of classes for the youth obesity group involving parents. While there were fewer opportunities for volunteers to assist with this produce distribution compared to last year, the experience was much improved for participating patients. Distributing 2,361 pounds – or 11,547 servings – of produce was distributed to patients over 12 weeks. We are now working with a Population Health Clerkship team of UMASS Medical students to analyze participant and provider feedback about this partnership. We couldn’t have done it without the amazing patients and invested healthcare professionals at Family Health Center of Worcester, volunteers at CHP, and the UMass Medical students involved.

All said and done, none of the partnerships could have been sustained without help. From the volunteers in the fields, to the volunteers and staff members at our partner agencies, a heartfelt thank you is in order.

Thank you all for doing the good work you do in and around our community – at CHP and every agency participating in the Farm to Health Initiative. Each hand involved was deeply impactful.

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

Two Farms – A Season in Review

It has been quite a year of farming, both in Grafton and Harvard. Our Farm Supervisor in Grafton, Annie, and our Orchard Manager in Harvard, Susan, both took some time to reflect back on what an interesting season it was.


It’s hard to believe the season is already coming to a close here at the Grafton farm. The leaves are beginning to turn, the last of the crops are coming out of the field, and our resident hawk, Harriet, has been scavenging in the fields as we pull up the plastic mulch and till the soil, uncovering all sorts of goodies for a hungry bird of prey.

blueberry-pickerWe’ve had a few standout crops this year, as well as a few challenges that we are excited to improve upon next season.  Our sweet potatoes did surprisingly well for this region of the country. It was a nice hot and dry summer which is ideal for growing those giant tubers. The lady bell green peppers are always a consistent producer, but WOW did they boom this year! Especially as we clean pick what’s left in the field, we are amazed that so much is still coming in looking as good as ever. Our blueberry total surprised everyone at almost 700 pounds! As one of our only fruits, we were excited to be able to offer more this year to our direct distribution partners.

Along with new varieties of produce, we also started a new distribution model, which included more direct pick-ups at our Grafton farm. This means the produce gets to the client sooner and fresher. We have had very positive feedback on this new program and hope to continue it next year.sweet-potato-picker

From the farmers, we just want to say a huge thank you to all of our partners, team leaders, and volunteers who made this season run so smoothly. We had a great time getting to know all of our new and returning volunteers and working alongside of you. Know that your efforts are crucial to the success of the farm. We couldn’t do it without you and hope to see you back next season!!



As we begin wrapping up our second harvest at Prospect Hill Orchard, it is a good time to reflect on the events of the season.  This was a very different growing year than 2015, mostly due to a late freeze and a severe drought.  This meant that our apple crop was lighter, about 1/3 of last year’s production, and smaller, because of the lack of rain.  Despite the weather challenges, we were still able to harvest over 2,000 bushels or 80,000 pounds of very tasty apples.  These apples started going to the Worcester County Food Bank as well as a few other new partners in the first week of September and will continue through October.  We also sold a small amount to Wegmans grocery stores and to the Greater Boston Food Bank. 

 It was nice to see the friendly faces of returning volunteers and many new volunteers to pick, sort, and pack the apples.  Although we didn’t have as many apples to pick, we actually increased the number of volunteers at Prospect Hill Orchard by about 400 people.  This extra help allowed us to grade and pack all of the produce on site instead of shipping a portion of the fruit to our North Grafton farm.  Less shipping means better quality fruit and we heard great reviews from many recipients of the apples.

apple-binAside from taking care of our established orchard, we planted 1,667 new apple trees and doubled our asparagus field this spring.  The new apple trees were planted in a high density system, where the trees are planted 3 ½ feet by 14 feet and are clipped to wires.  Luckily, the new trees had irrigation and thrived this growing season despite the drought.  The trees will start to bear fruit in the fall of 2018 and will add to the amount CHP can donate as well as expand the varieties we grow. 

The end of any farming season is a time to rest and let the lessons learned soak in, then use new knowledge from the season to prepare for next season!

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

October 2016 – Volunteers of the Month

The McDonough Family

leah-finn-ciaraPlease join us in a rousing round of applause for Leah, Finnegan and Keira McDonough, our Volunteers of the Month for October.  Like many of our volunteers something here seems to have resonated with them and they can be found visiting the farm again and again.  It seems that they have found a great family activity and originally what was going to be an article written by our staff has turned into a question and answer session that can’t be matched as a story to inspire.  Thank you Leah, Mike, Finnegan and Keira for all you do to support Community Harvest Project we really appreciate your efforts.

How did you first hear of CHP?

I was working for a regional accounting firm and in 2008 the firm decided to host an annual Community Day of Caring.  I was on the committee for our Westborough office to plan the event and we had to search for organizations where our large office could volunteer.  In our search, we came across the Community Harvest Project and having moved to Grafton only a couple years earlier, I was surprised to find such a great organization was basically in my backyard.  CHP was a much smaller organization back then and did not have the reach that it does now.  It is wonderful to see how much it has grown and what a tremendous following of supporters it has generated over the last several years.

Why did you choose Community Harvest Project as a non-profit to support?

From the first time I volunteered as part of my former employer’s Community Day, I knew that the Community Harvest Project was a special place.  The people there were so caring, kind and invested in doing something for the greater good.  The first day I volunteered, I also signed up to become a Volunteer Team Leader and I really enjoyed that role for the next few years until I had my first child.  It is incredible how many people you meet from all walks of life who come together to help others while getting your hands a little dirty.  I have been very much looking forward to the day when I could take my children to get involved and as this past spring approached, I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty again!

 My kids and I enjoy looking at the choices of rows we can sponsor each year.  I always let them pick which fruit/vegetable they want to sponsor.  I also use it as vehicle to make an annual memorial contribution on behalf of two very close people that we lost a few years ago who meant a lot to both my husband, Mike, and myself.  It is great to be able to make a financial donation to a local organization where you can really see how that monetary support is used while also being able to make a donation on behalf of people who will forever remain in our hearts.  We very much value having a local organization like the Community Harvest Project that we can support both financially and personally.  The fundraising events are also tremendous and something the whole family can enjoy.

What are you hoping for Finnegan and Keira to experience and learn while volunteering here?

My original hope was to try to leave the farm a little better than when we first arrived each day, but to my surprise, my kids really took to farming too!  I wanted to encourage them to come with me to CHP with the hope that they would start to learn what it means to give back to your community, that it is important to help others and you can have a lot of fun doing it too.  I also hope that when they are a little older to be able to take them to the Worcester County Food Bank so they can not only be involved in the planting, weeding and harvesting of fresh produce, but also see where that produce goes and how many people can benefit from it.  Every year we make a point to go through our outgrown clothes and books/toys to donate to others who could use them.  I try to teach them about their neighbors and other community members not having as much as we might have, but to see it all first hand through the Community Harvest Project is such a tremendous feeling when you can donate your time and help others.  It is extremely gratifying!

What are your favorite things to do on the farm?  Least favorite?  How about Finnegan and Keira?

I really love it all!  Each day that we visit, we try to show up at the farm with a positive attitude and a willingness to take on any task that is needed.  Keira and Finnegan really seem to enjoy planting and they also really enjoy harvesting, especially when they could compete over who found the biggest pepper or squash.  They were also very interested in seeing all the groups, especially the young children their age that came on field trips from school.  I think it helped reinforce that there is a job for everyone at any age and with any ability or limitation.  I’m not going to lie, they definitely had days when they weren’t really into it and I did most of the work, but I would always encourage them and try to find a way to give them a job or responsibility so they contributed in some way that day.  Beyond the enjoyment of being outside and getting dirty as we work hard to help others, I really enjoy all the fascinating people that you get to meet.  This past year we met people young and old, local and from foreign countries, and everyone has a different story as to how they learned about CHP and why they were there on the farm that day.  What an extraordinary experience that can be shared!

What advice would you give to other families looking for a place to volunteer?

I would tell them don’t hesitate to try it out!  It is such a rewarding experience.  The staff are AMAZING and so engaged with the farm, the volunteers and the overall mission to aid in providing fresh produce to those in need.  Some days are hot and some are very wet, but knowing what an impact you are making as you see all of the other volunteers out there contributing their time and energy as they get dirty in an effort to help others, could not be more fulfilling.  There is a job or task for everyone as we all work together to help feed those that are hungry.

finn-keira-collageIs there anything else that you would like to add?

In an effort to really teach my kids what an impact their time and energy was making I created a collage of pictures and a log of all the things we did while on the farm in 2016.  We have this collage in our kitchen so we can see it every single day and acknowledge what a great job we did together.  I wanted to show them that while one visit may not seem like much, we really did a lot and when you add it all up, look at how much we accomplished over the growing season.

Thank you all for the time you put in over the season! The staff had a wonderful time getting to know the whole McDonough family, and watching the kids get more comfortable farming. We loved having you out and hope to see you in the spring!

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

October 2016 – Veggie of the Month

sweet-potato-basketThis month we celebrate the benefits of the sweet potato. Potatoes are part of the root of their plant and are primarily harvested in the fall- soon after the seasonal frost begins. Although many people enjoy eating this sweet orange vegetable, it is unknown to most that the young leaves and stems of the plant are also edible (unlike other potato plants). What is known is that sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and are one of the oldest recognized vegetables in the human diet. Its remains have been discovered as far back as 600CE (common era), currently we are in 2016CE, that was over 1,416 years ago!

Although we are eating the same vegetable as our ancestors of 1,000 years back, we have definitely learned to cook it in many more ways. Today sweet potatoes are mashed, steamed, made in soups, or even grilled/baked (loaded sweet potato). An American favorite is sweet potato casserole during Thanksgiving Dinner.

A common question asked is “Are sweet potatoes and yams the same?”. The answer is no. In some cases, the confusion has formed due to similarities between the appearance of sweet potatoes and yams and in other cases the confusion may be caused by labeling advertisements. Around the 1920’s farmers began calling their products yams to stand out, and as can be seen the term stuck.

Sweet potatoes bring along a super punch of important nutrients, including Vitamin C, D, B6, B12, and the minerals iron, calcium and magnesium! If that’s not enough already, just one cup of this root contains 377% of our Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin A! That’s amazing! So many benefits come along with all these vitamins and minerals, like anti-inflammatories and blood sugar regulation.

Veggie Joke

Q: Why shouldn’t you tell a secret on a farm?

A: Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears, and the beans stalk.


Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Recipe from Vegetal Matters

Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, but you could use any veg you have in addition or instead of them. This could easily become vegan by making a few substitutions in the sauce: use agave instead of honey, silken tofu instead of the yogurt, or leave out the yogurt altogether. You could easily turn these into actual burritos, or serve with smaller tortillas on the side. To the cilantro haters: I’m very sorry, and parsley could be subbed. One more note: jalapeños can greatly vary in spiciness, so taste a little bit if you are worried about adding too much heat.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes (this was 2 for me)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt

Black Beans

  • 3 cups of black beans and their cooking liquid (or 2 15oz cans)
  • 1/2 cup of  red onion (a quarter of  a large one for me, with a bit of the remainder chopped for topping)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Green Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small jalapeño, or half a large (seeds removed if you don’t want the spice)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice from 1 lime (mine was 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek would work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

For serving

  • cooked brown rice
  • chopped red onion or scallion
  • hot sauce
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped jalapeño

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the sweet potatoes (no need to peel though), and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan and heat on medium. Let them toast for about 5 minutes, until they start to color and you can smell them. Let them cool for a minute and then grind in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have one, but not your coffee grinder). Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, ground spices, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

Chop the onion and then heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and saute uncovered for 5 minutes until slightly softened. While it is sauteing mince the garlic clove. After 5 minutes add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, cover, and bring to a simmer. Remove the lid, and left simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Finish with some salt and the teaspoon of vinegar.

Start the motor of your food processor and drop in the garlic clove. Let it get pulverized, then drop in the jalapeño until it is equally pulverized. Wipe down the sides with a spatula, then add the cilantro. Run until the cilantro is minced, then add the cumin, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Run until it is a smooth, green sauce. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, then whisk together with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve bowls with rice, topped with beans and sweet potato. Let diners add additional toppings and sauce to their liking.

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!