Looking Back on the Season

The 2018 season is winding down, and our team has had a lot to reflect on. Here are some end-of-season thoughts from our Volunteer Farming team:

Dave Johnson, Farm Manager:
As farmers we are uniquely fortunate to experience the nuances of day to day change throughout our New England seasons.  We strive to align ourselves and our work with the rhythm of this cycle on a daily basis.  With leaves beginning to turn and autumn’s characteristic crispness on the air, we are reminded that when we walk in step with our natural surroundings, many things are above our control.  We’re gifted the opportunity to work alongside the plants, soil, critters (the helpful and the less-helpful), and even the weather to grow delicious, nutritious, and beautiful fruits and vegetables for neighbors in our community to enjoy and give to their families.  Here at the farm, this season has brought thousands of individuals and groups together to work and have fun in service to a mission bigger than any of us alone.  The 2018 growing season has presented us with a good number of challenges, but we’ve enjoyed our successes too.  Some of our all-stars this year include peppers, eggplant, butternut squash, and the seemingly never-ending green beans!
As we embark on the process of planning and looking toward the coming year it is both humbling and exciting to apply the lessons that the farm continues to teach.  There is an abundance of potential living in the soil we till, the seeds we plant, and the countless community members who give of their time and effort.  We continue to do our very best to realize and cultivate that potential and treat each new season as a gift.
Susan Conant, Orchard Manager:

Over the past two months, we have been very busy at Prospect Hill Farm harvesting and packing apples and are looking forward to some quieter days ahead.  This growing season was not without its challenges, but a growing season on a farm rarely is.  The unseasonably warm temperatures in August and September combined with the very wet weather had an impact on the already medium to light apple crop.  We have had some wonderfully resilient volunteers this harvest season picking in all kinds of conditions from near 100 degree heat to heavy cold rain.  Thank you to all the volunteers that made this season a success!  Despite the weather obstacles, we are on track to donate over 100,000 pounds of apples to local hunger relief organizations this year.

Volunteers of the Month: Dell EMC

VolunteerGroup.Dell.2017 (17).JPGThis month we would like to applaud a very large and mighty volunteer group that offers unique support to Community Harvest Project year in and year out .  Our friends at Dell EMC continue to connect with our work in large numbers and over the last couple of years they have volunteered at such a rate that they account for almost a quarter of our total volunteer count.  Year after year Dell EMC group coordinators do the work of organizing teams to come out and help with our hunger relief efforts. Because of this effort this year brings to a total of over 10,000 volunteer visits to our Grafton and Harvard since they began visiting.  

Our Dell EMC volunteers also find creative ways to help us drive our mission with interesting events such as holiday luncheons or an inside mini golf tournament at headquarters with proceeds being donated to support our work.  They recognize the great need in our community to provide healthy produce to those seeking hunger relief services. It is fitting that this level of support comes to us via Hopkinton as that is where our little project started with the Abbotts original Elmwood Farm.  We like to think that they would be proud to see the amount of support sprouting out from Dell EMC just down the road from their farm.

We would like to thank the entire Dell EMC Team for their incredible support in 2018 and look forward to seeing them back on our farms next year.  We could not do this work without their help and are humbled that they continue to choose to work with Community Harvest Project.


One Step Further Campaign

YE IconsThanks to the hard work of our volunteers, over 60,000 food insecure community members received fresh, nutritious produce this summer. We were recently reminded of their impact by one our hunger relief partners, Community Servings. After receiving fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and squash, Kevin Conner, Director of Food Services, remarked:

 “Our partnership with Community Harvest Project enriches our meals with top-quality local produce. Community Servings’ culinary and nutrition teams use the fresh, local produce to carefully construct 15 different diets to accommodate the nutritional and medical needs of our clients suffering from a variety of critical and chronic illnesses.”

Everyday your work helped food insecure individuals live healthy lives. Hunger is an ongoing issue that does not end just because the summer does, which is why our work never stops and we continue to take steps to ensure that every neighbor has access to the food they need. Nevertheless, we can’t do it without your help.

That is why today, we are embarking on our One Step Further Campaign. Our goal is raise $50,000 by December 31. We know you are as passionate about hunger relief we are and we hope you be willing to take your passion one step further to make a donation to feed more individuals and families in need.

We are beyond excited to share that your donation today will have double the impact, thanks to a generous match! Major General (US Army, Retired) Robert and Karen Catalanotti, Assumption College Trustee and Community Harvest Project Team Leader, respectively, is proud and honored to support our hunger relief efforts this year. The first donations up to $10,000 will be matched dollar by dollar, to make their impact go even further.

Please join us today by making a donation! Your support will make a real, lasting impact in the lives of food insecure community members.

Thank you!

What’s Cooking: Whole Grains

What's Cooking - October.PNGIn our September cooking class we learned about whole grains! First we started with what a grain is (the seed from many different plants in the grass family) and examined the seeds from the winter rye we grow as cover crop on the farm. Then we talked about the difference between a whole grain and a refined grain. A grain is made up for 3 parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ. The majority of the nutrients and fiber are in the bran and germ, which are removed when a grain is refined (like when making white rice or white flour). The benefit to refining is the grain product can last longer, but it is not nearly as nutritious. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends the majority of the grains we eat be whole grains.

Our recipe for the class was a salad with farro, a kind of wheat that is often consumed as the whole seed (like rice), as opposed to ground in to a flour. It cooks up in about 20 minutes, and freezes well. Since we still had summer produce to work with we made the salad with tomatoes and peaches, but this is easily adaptable with other vegetables. Root vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, asparagust, and just about any other vegetables you can think of would be great.

Coming up we have classes featuring orange foods for Halloween, eggs, pizza, and party food for the holiday season! All classes are open enrollment, and proceeds support our hunger relief efforts.

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

The Beta Carotene Monster – Tuesday, October 30th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

Magic Eggs – Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

It’s a Party! – Monday, December 10th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

The Beta Carotene Monster – Tuesday, October 23rd, 4-5pm

Personalize Your Pizza – Tuesday, November 13th, 2018, 4-5pm

Delightful Dips – Monday, December 3rd, 2018, 4-5pm


Summer Farro Salad

Adapted from https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/summer-farro-salad/


For the salad:

  • 2 cups cooked farro
  • 5 kale leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1 large peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved) or chopped tomato
  • 1 cup corn (raw or frozen)
  • A large handful basil, torn into pieces

For the dressing:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. In a jar combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Shake to combine.
  2. In a large bowl combine the farro, greens, peaches, tomatoes, corn, and basil. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

Save the Date for Harvest Home!

Tractor PicIt’s almost here – Harvest Home Festival and 5K!  Mark your calendars for November 4th!

The start of September has been busy here at Community Harvest Project.   Registrations for the 5K Race are rolling in daily and the runners are so excited about the new course this year!  We love this family-friendly fall festival which brings community members together in celebration of the harvest.

JAM Events, our DJ for the 5K and festival, is booked and ready to entertain the attendees and keep the music playing all afternoon.  Country artist, Shanna Jackmann, will sing the national anthem prior to the 5K start. Shanna is an award winning and has performed for the Boston Bruins, Red Sox, Celtics, Revolution and numerous charity and military events. The pumpkin trebuchet teams are busy constructing their catapults and apples are getting picked for our delicious apple crisp and cider. With great live music, local food trucks, delicious craft beer, an apple cannon competition, kid’s crafts, hayrides, a raffle and roasted s’mores by the campfire- there is something for everyone! You won’t want to miss it!  See you there!


Thank you, Annie!


It is with great sadness that we announce that Co-Farm Manager Annie Stegink is leaving Community Harvest Project after 4 1/2 years to pursue new adventures.  As many of you know, Annie has been working closely with Co-Farm Manager Dave Johnson this year and she feels that it is the right time to pass the operation into his capable hands for the remainder of this season, and the next.  In the last several weeks Annie has been busily preparing the farm for her departure and her work will leave a lasting legacy here at the farm. We will greatly miss her beaming smile as will the thousands of volunteers that have come to know her over the years.  

As a member of our team during our busiest period of growth, Annie has been instrumental in helping the volunteer farming operation run like a well-oiled machine. Her ability to plan, organize and communicate has been exceptional and we are far better off in our daily volunteer operations thanks to all of her hard work.  Annie leaves knowing that she will always be part of the Community Harvest Project family and that she will be greatly missed. Her favorite memories are exactly what you would expect — interacting with all of our great volunteers and Team Leaders. Please join us in wishing Annie well as she heads out on her next uncharted adventure and  good luck as we know her future is very bright. Thanks for everything Annie!

What’s Cooking: Fresh from the Garden

cooking class in the garden - names removed.pngSummer has been so much fun in the garden! We start each class learning about vegetables and then harvesting what we are going to cook with. In August we made pico de gallo in our salsa class, ginger pickled beets in our pickles class, and these green pancakes in our garden scavenger hunt class.  Pancakes are almost universally loved, and this savory green pancake packs in vegetables and is as easy as putting everything in a blender. We used soy milk in the class to make them dairy free, and you could certainly use different flours as well. Flipping pancakes is the most difficult part of this recipe, so we practiced! Each kid got a piece of paper with a circle on it, a cardboard coaster, and a spatula. They practiced flipping the coasters over in the circle before they did the real thing.

The garden still has plenty to harvest through September. At the end of this month we’ll focus on whole grains, then have our apple classes, and end October with our classes featuring orange foods while we learn about beta carotene! All classes are open enrollment, and proceeds support our hunger relief efforts.

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Apples Apples Apples! – Tuesday, October 16th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

The Beta Carotene Monster – Tuesday, October 30th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

Apples Apples Apples! – Tuesday, October 9th, 2018, 4-5pm

The Beta Carotene Monster – Tuesday, October 23rd, 4-5pm

The full schedule is available on our website and Facebook events page.

Green Pancakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 cups (475 ml) whole milk or soy milk
  • 2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 10 fresh chives, snipped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Leaves from 10 parsley sprigs
  • 5 large or 10 small Swiss chard leaves, center ribs removed, roughly chopped or ripped
  • Neutral oil for the pan

To serve: Plain, thick yogurt mixed with a little lemon zest, lemon juice and salt, to taste

If you’d like to keep your finished pancakes warm while you cook them: Heat oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.

Make the batter: Put everything except the Swiss chard and oil in a blender or food processor and whirl until the batter is smooth. Scrape down sides. Add chard leaves and pulse machine until they’re chopped to your desired consistency.

Cook the pancakes: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and pour in a a bit of oil. Spoon in about 3 tablespoons batter in per pancake. Cook until browned underneath then flip, cooking on the other side until browned again. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, and then, if you’d like to keep them warm, to the foil-lined tray in the oven.

Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with lemony yogurt or another sauce of your choice.

Do ahead: Unused batter keeps in fridge for 3 days. Finished pancakes keep in fridge for a couple days, and will freeze much longer. Separate pancakes with pieces of waxed or parchment paper so they don’t stick together.


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!

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!