An Update On Our 2017 Initiatives

Each year we challenge ourselves to do more, be better, and make a bigger impact on our community. This year was no exception, and we undertook a number of Initiatives to improve our Volunteer Farming and Education programs. Below are just a few of the many projects you may have seen us working on this summer!

Produce Varieties.jpgIncreased Produce Variety: Each year we work with our partners to create our crop plan, so we can ensure that we’re growing the right types of produce for our recipients. It’s not enough to grow nutritious food, it needs to be tasty too! This year we trialed a number of new varieties including tatume squash, tomatillos, ground cherries, and different varieties of sweet peppers and eggplant. Some crops fared better than others, but we received great feedback and are looking forward to trying new plantings next year. In Harvard, we also planted an acre of peaches! Although these won’t bear fruit right away, they will eventually help to diversify our fruit donations.

Partnership Diversification: As our vegetable and fruit production increases, we continue to work with new community partners to reach food insecure individuals. This year was our largest group yet, with a great mix of new and returning partners in both our Grafton and Harvard communities. These organizations included: Worcester County Food Bank, Community Servings, Family Health Center of Worcester, Grafton Food Pantry, The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden, Hector Reyes House Kylie’s Kare Kitz for Kids, Loaves & Fishes, Key Program, YouInc, Bread of Life Food Pantry, Boston Area Gleaners.

StudentsEducation Improvements: Since we started operating nutrition education programs we’ve learned more and more each year about how we can better educate our students. In 2017 we offered a new series of cooking classes and scholarships for our Sprouting Minds programs. We also introduced educational signs around the farm, so our visitors can learn more about our practices (like composting!) and we debuted a new presentation for our student volunteers to better engage them in nutritional principles before they headed out to the fields.

Cover Cropping: One question we were asked by several volunteers this year was why one of our fields looked like it was growing grass instead of vegetables. Well, it wasn’t grass, but cover crop! Farming can deplete the nutrients naturally found in soil, but by planting certain crops like rye and vetch, you can add those nutrients back year. We have traditionally cover cropped in the fall, but this year we began a rotating acreage program where one field will be out of production each year so it can receive longer care. But don’t worry, we still planted plenty of vegetables, and we used succession planting to ensure we didn’t decrease our production.

TractorEquipment Changes & Upgrades: Thanks to the generosity of our donors we were able to make several changes to increase our farming efficiency. First, we repaired our rototiller for field maintenance, and purchased two Cub cultivators (from the 1970s!) to help us keep the weeds down. Then, we improved our irrigation in both locations: in Harvard our newly planted peaches now have a new irrigation line to match, and both our greenhouse and outdoor irrigation was automated for greater efficiency. Lastly, we purchased a chisel plow, which helps to till the fields and reduce soil compaction. These changes gave our farmers more time to spend with our volunteers, and will continue making a difference in the years ahead.

These improvements would not be possible without the hard work of our staff, volunteers, and community supporters. We are especially thankful to the following funders for their assistance in making these changes a reality:  Agnes Lindsay Charitable Trust, Amelia Peabody Charitable Foundation, Avidia Bank, Bank of America Foundation, DCU for Kids, Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, French Family Foundation, Fuller Foundation, Hoche-Scofield Foundation, Nypro Foundation, People’s United Community Foundation, Project Bread, TJX Foundation, Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund, Worcester County Food Bank Fund to End Hunger, and the Worcester Garden Club.

Read the rest of the November Sprout!

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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Each season a number of seasonal farmers join us to help support our Volunteer Farming Program. This year’s seasonal team has proven to be exceptional, and we hope you enjoyed your time with them. Here are just a few of their highlights from the summer:

Austin Moline, Orchard Assistant

AustinAustin’s interest in farming for hunger relief began long before he started work at CHP. For some years he has been looking to get involved in the non-profit agricultural sector. Austin is particularly interested in working directly with low income populations to help facilitate community sustainability through farming. His passion for growing healthy food with the community has made him a perfect fit for CHP.

This season, Austin has been busy working on many projects at the orchard including tree trellising, weed management, equipment maintenance, harvesting, and distributing produce. He has recently been spending much of his time leading volunteer groups as we work to pick and pack the apple crop. Thank you, Austin, for your dedication this season. Your willingness to lend a hand whenever needed has been a great help at both our farms this year. We appreciate all your hard work that has helped make this apple harvest at CHP the best yet! – Susan Conant, Orchard Manager

Jennessa Piccirilli & Brandon Sills, Farm Assistants

In a year of changes, we had two farm assistants who helped us through the season and we couldn’t have done it with out them. Jenessa Piccirilli has been with us since the beginning of the season, and brings so much cheer and joy to the team. Team leaders and regular volunteers appreciate her great attitude and willingness to do whatever task is needed to make the farm run smoothly.

Brandon Sills joined us midway through the season, and was a natural fit to the team. He often accomplishes our to-do lists before we even write them down, and also brings a lot of joy and energy to the job. We are so grateful to all that our farm assistants have done. Thank you guys!   – Jen Friedlander, Farm Manager

Read the rest of the September Sprout!

Volunteers of the Month: Dell EMC

IMG_2187.JPGAs we are winding down our volunteer season we would like to give a hearty thank you to our volunteers from Dell EMC.  As is always the case this group of volunteers is with us from the beginning of our season right to the end.  In fact the last group that will volunteer in North Grafton this year is one of our regular teams from Dell EMC. Whether it be early planting in cool temperatures or bad weather, weeding or harvesting in the heat of summer, helping to pick apples or working to prepare our fields for winter these teams always answer the call for help.  Coming from all parts of their company and all over the area and beyond we are lucky to have this team on our side.  

20170913_113421It’s funny how things around here take root, at this point there are Dell EMC Team Members who return year after year and look forward to visiting our farms.  These roots run deep and our estimate for Dell EMC Team Members that volunteered with Community Harvest Project this year is 909 volunteers that served over 2,700 hours helping us grow and distribute healthy locally grown produce to those seeking hunger relief services in our community.  Individually this is powerful work but cumulatively this group of volunteers is a force to be reckoned with.

With that being said we would like to collectively thank this group of volunteers for their impact on our work.  This relationship has grown immensely over the years and we are awestruck by the level of commitment we receive from the Dell EMC Community.  So, to each and everyone of you who came out to help or coordinated a group from the office we would like to say thank you.  Thank you for all of your effort, working through the cold, rain, heat and mud and giving us your energy and drive.  We can’t do this great work without the dedication of thousands and we are humbled by the fact that you choose to work with Community Harvest Project.  Thank you Team Dell EMC, we really appreciate this partnership and are already looking forward to your visits in 2018.    

Read the rest of the October Sprout!

 

 

Make an Impact All Year-Long

TractorFarming is always unpredictable, but this year we faced some particularly challenging situations. The heavy spring rains flooded our fields, delaying our plantings. The summer sun helped make up some lost time, but the unusually cool nights set our plants back again. As a result, our harvest season began several weeks later than normal, and our farm team had to get creative when it came to keeping the plants alive and happy!

It’s these unforeseen circumstances that remind us how grateful we are to have a special group of supporters, our Monthly Givers.  Monthly donations financially prepare the farms for summers just like this one.  Peach, one of our beloved Volunteer Team Leaders and a Monthly Giver, experiences the inconsistency of working with weather and knows her monthly donations are valued throughout the year.

PeachPeach perfectly captures why monthly donations make a difference:

“Giving a little bit every month is easy and convenient for me. Just as our neighbors rely on donations of fresh fruits and vegetables, CHP counts on my donations to help the farm through lean months and periods of severe weather. Even a little means a lot.”

Now is the perfect time to join Peach and become a Monthly Giver. As a thank you for your support, we are delighted to offer the following benefits for the first time:

  • An invitation to a “Special Spring Celebration”
  • A private “Monthly Giver Pick-Your-Own Day” at our apple orchard in 2018
  • Two complimentary tickets to our Harvest Home Festival
  • Recognition in newsletter, social media and Annual Report
  • Hassle-free donations and convenient year-end tax receipt
  • Above all, your donations are helping us bring in a great harvest to feed our neighbors and communities (185,000 pounds to date!)

It only takes a small commitment from each of us to make a big difference on our farms for the year.

Become a Monthly Giver today. It’s simple, just go online to www.bit.ly/CHPMonthlyGiver.

Thank you for your generosity!

Read the rest of the October Sprout!

 

Ready, Set, Go! It’s Harvest Home Time!

HH1.jpgEVENT DETAILS:
Sunday, November 5th (rain or shine)
37 Wheeler Road, North Grafton, MA

5K Kick Off: 10:30am (pre-registration begins at 9am)
Festival: 11am – 3pm

Admission: $10, 5 & under free, $30 max per family.
All kid’s activities are FREE after entry.

Join Community Harvest Project on Sunday, November 5th for our annual Harvest Home Festival & 5K! This fall festival is the perfect way to celebrate the season (and a Patriot’s bye week!) on our beautiful farm in North Grafton.

5KThe day kicks off with a 5K trail run or one-mile walk on the beautiful Grafton Land Trust trails and is followed by our Harvest Home Festival directly across the street. There will be plenty to do for the entire family including live music from Big Jon Short and the Mill Town Rounders, a selection of local food trucks and a variety of local beers.  Your kids will enjoy our popular crafts room, shooting apples out of cannons, bouncing on inflatables and watching our pumpkin catapult contest! Don’t forget to stop by the bake sale, pick up some raffle tickets for a chance to win great prizes, or make some s’mores in the picnic grove!

AlpacaIn addition to being a wonderful fall event, all proceeds support  Community Harvest Project’s mission of building a healthy and engaged community through volunteer farming and nutrition education. This event is an important part of our fundraising plan for the year so we hope you come have some fun at our Harvest Home Festival & 5K.

REGISTER for the 5K trail race and 1 mile walk here!

For more information visit community-harvest.org/events or contact claudia@community-harvest.org.

Read the rest of the October Sprout!