Volunteer of the Month: Jan from Germany

If you have visited the Grafton Farm over the summer or this fall, you may have met one of the people who regularly visited the farm to help out. We were lucky that Jan from Barsinghausen, Germany chose to spend part of his gap year visiting his aunt who just happens to be a neighbor to our farm. After a few weeks he was a familiar face with everyone here and became an impactful presence for all of our volunteers. A regular question that we heard from our visitors was “where is Jan”? In his effort to utilize his gap year to improve his English language skills while meeting new people he found the right community to do both. His ability to communicate with the diverse volunteers that visit our farm was remarkable, in the process he has made many friends and will leave a lasting impact with volunteers, neighbors, and staff. 

When Jan was asked about his experience here with Community Harvest Project he said Spending time at CHP felt like being part of a big family. School classes, students volunteering for school on their own, families, corporate groups, team leaders and the farm team all welcomed me. Everyone was doing their part to help relieve hunger in the community. I really enjoyed spending time with this amazing variety of people. Everybody was willing to spend their time to do whatever was needed to make a difference, even if they had to come visit on a Saturday. Another thing I will remember, was driving with a team leader to the apple orchard in Harvard to help harvest some of the late apples. So in a nutshell, I met a lot of great people, got to improve my English and found myself doing good things with great people while I learned about this unique approach to helping others.”

With that please join us in applauding Jan as our Volunteer of the Month for November. The time and effort that he spent with us is very much appreciated. Congratulations Jan!

End of Season Farm Update

IMG_20191011_092334843As the Grafton farm season is wrapping up, we engage in our final harvest of the year — sweet potatoes! The 2019 season is proving to be a great year for these sugary tubers with a heavy harvest. As we work alongside local elementary students to hunt for, dig, and clean these tasty nuggets, it really feels like digging for buried treasure. Excitement runs high as volunteers across the field triumphantly hold their harvests in the air and yell “I found one!”. Working with this crop serves as a reflection on our work here at Community Harvest Project and farm life in general. We plant sweet potatoes at the beginning of the season alongside the many acres of other crops. However, while harvest baskets are been loaded with veggies of all colors and shapes throughout the season, the sweet potatoes quietly develop under the soil surface, where we can’t see them, until they are fully formed and ready during the crisp, final weeks of the growing season.

Farming is often like that…we plant a seed in the soil. For a time, we have to wait and see what germinates. We can’t force it to happen; we can merely do our best to provide for each seed’s needs and manage conditions to encourage a healthy crop. Each year, we rely on the outstanding generosity of our donors and volunteers to support and act on our mission. We can’t force or demand this support; we instead strive to plant seeds in the minds and hearts of our neighbors, cultivating a community of giving and collective accomplishment. We’re incredibly grateful for the community connection and collaboration that makes our farm thrive. The rush of excitement when you spot that golden sweet potato peeking from the soil is a reminder of the treasures that lie under the surface, waiting to be revealed. The seeds we plant truly go on to grow strong and provide much needed nourishment. We’re thankful for our community!

Read the rest of the November Sprout here.

What’s Cooking: Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Honey Mustard

carrotsOur October classes featured the spooky, scary Beta Carotene Monster. We learned about the health benefits of beta carotene, the vibrant pigment that can be found in carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe (and other plants too!). It helps our eyes be able to see (but doesn’t improve vision), helps with growth and development, and supports a healthy immune system.

We made these easy sweet potato fries which are not in fact fried, but healthfully roasted. Sweet potatoes can be difficult for beginning-cutters to cut, so we cut them into thin planks for the kids and they practiced making the long cuts for them to be fry-shaped. While the potatoes roasted, we made an easy honey mustard dip that we sampled with carrots harvested right from the garden.

There are just three classes left this year – we hope your child can join us!

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425F.

Cut the sweet potato into wedges ½” thick and 4” long. 

Toss sweet potato wedges on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt. The sweet potatoes should be shiny all over with the olive oil. 

Roast for 45 minutes, flipping the sweet potatoes halfway through cooking, until the sweet potatoes are completely soft (easily pierced with a fork) and dark brown in many spots. 

Enjoy fries with honey mustard or your dip of choice!

Honey Mustard Dip

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

Whisk all ingredients to combine. 

Read the rest of the November Sprout here.

10 Days Until Harvest Home!

5KHarvest Home Fall Festival and 5K will be taking place on Sunday November 3rd from 10:30am to 3pm at 37 Wheeler Road, North Grafton MA. Starting at 10:15am, there will be a kids fun run and 5K trail run. Athletes will run through beautiful trails on and around the farm before enjoying free admission to the festival. Festival tickets will be sold the day of for $10 per adult with a $30 family cap. Kids under 5 are free. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time here. Online registration for the 5K Trail Run will close on Thursday October 31st. There will be day of registration for $35. Register online here.

 We will be selling apples from our orchard in Harvard, merchandise and baked goods. There will be great food including butternut squash soup, chili, hotdogs, pulled pork and apple crisp. You can warm up by the fire with some hot apple cider and hot chocolate. Wachusett Brewery’s Wally Airstream will be joining the festival and will be serving craft beers and wine to attendees over 21. 

craftsThere will be hay wagon rides around the farm, petting zoos featuring rabbits, chickens, alpacas, goats, cattle, donkeys and baby potbelly pigs, a ton of kids crafts and face painting and an antique tractor for the perfect photo op. DJ Jam Events will be providing music for the 5K and the beginning of the day before Big Jon Short performs.

Water’s Corporation will be participating in a pumpkin trebuchet competition, launching pumpkins through the air all day. Guests are invited to shoot apples out of apple cannons.

 There will also be a scarecrow contest determined by popular vote, lawn games and a raffle, made possible by generous donations from local businesses across central Massachusetts. All proceeds from this event will go towards our mission of hunger relief. 

Generously Sponsored By: 

Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare Foundation – Unibank

Wegmans – Homefield Credit Union

 

Waters Corporation – Lampin Corporation – Halstead Insurance

Savers Bank – Window Logic – Mancuso Insurance

Reliant Medical Group – J.J. Bafaro Inc. – Scheier, Katin & Epstein PC

Pyne Sand & Stone Co Inc. – Koopman Lumber – Atchue Opticians

J.F. Cove Insurance Agency Inc. – Clifford Rano & Associates

Gaudette Insurance – Cornerstone Bank – LaBounty Family – Collette Motors

Leominster Credit Union – H&M Bay Inc. – Millbury Savings Bank

 

Read the rest of the October Sprout here!

End of Season Orchard Update

From our Orchard Manager, Susan:

In just a few weeks we will be ending the harvest activities for the 2019 season at the orchard (phew!).  It is a great feeling to see almost all of the fruit off the trees and the last boxes of apples from the cooler being shipped out to our partners.  While apple harvest is my favorite time of year, I do look forward to the quieter days of November and December and the tasks of putting the farm to bed for the winter months.

20190913_094039

Before the temperatures really drop, there are some projects we will be working on to prepare for the winter and also get a jump start on the next growing season.  The apple trees will receive their fall application of fertilizer which will get them off to a good start in the coming Spring.  Mouse guards, which protect the tree trunks from winter mouse damage, will be installed on all of the young trees whose thin bark is most susceptible to girdling. Additionally, the property will get a final mowing, which also deters rodents from entering the orchard as they become exposed to predators without the tall grass to hide in.

20190920_091652.jpg

As always, I would like to thank the volunteers that have helped and continue to help us at the orchard this year.  Whether you came to volunteer once or weekly, your hard work was much appreciated.  This year marked our first peach harvest from trees planted in 2017 with the help of volunteers.  We picked 20,000 pounds of apples from our two acre high-density trees, also planted with volunteers in 2016.  Every growing season has challenges but I am always uplifted when I see the people of the community working together to help grow healthy food for others in need.  Thank you!

Read the rest of the October Sprout here!

Help us reach ONE MILLION MORE pounds

Kevin's LetterGenerous volunteers and contributors have made it possible for us to donate more than one million pounds of fresh produce to local hunger relief over the last five years. Fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables were made available annually to 60,000 of our neighbors who don’t have enough nutrient-rich food to put on the table.

Food insecurity is a widespread but often invisible issue in our state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. For over 1 in 9 people, purchasing food becomes an uncertain choice. When limited funds are necessary for expenses such as rent, heat, transportation, and medication, the quality of the food that is available declines. There is an alarming cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease that begins when an individual or family cannot afford enough nutritious food.

This letter we received from a student volunteer named Kevin highlights just how critical fresh produce donations are:

Thank you for taking on this amazing role in the community that other people wouldn’t take on. It’s difficult to be so helpful, so I’m grateful that you guys are taking on such a hard but extremely helpful task. Seriously, believe me, I appreciate you guys so much because for two years of my life my parents had to rely on food pantries to give me, my brother, and themselves proper nutrition. Without that, I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am today. What you guys do is save people, so I, and many others, want you to be recognized.”

Volunteers and contributors funded the vital supplies and tasks needed to get vegetables from our fields into the hands of those who need them, like Kevin. 

Because hunger in our community is not going away, we’re embarking on a campaign to donate ONE MILLION MORE pounds by 2025. If you donate today, $25 will provide 75 servings of green beans, $50 will provide 150 servings of leafy greens, and $100 will provide 300 servings of cabbage.

Please consider making a year-end gift to Community Harvest Project so we can donate ONE MILLION MORE pounds to those experiencing hunger. Together, we can ensure our neighbors have the nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables they need to thrive.

Thank you for your support!

Read the rest of the October Sprout here!

Volunteer of the Month: Team Leaders

Capture
Team Leaders and Staff at our orchard in Harvard

As we finish out the farming season here at CHP it is always a great time to reflect on our successes over the past months. As always the first thing that comes to mind is the power of our programming thanks to the dedicated team of Volunteer Team Leaders that support our work. Without this great group of welcoming, engaging and committed volunteers the work of our farms would not be possible. We are incredibly lucky to have this group on our side and on the front lines representing us as the face of the organization on a daily basis. If you visited our farms this season you are likely to have a story of your own about how inspiring our Volunteer Team Leaders are.  

We regularly hear great comments from our volunteers about their visits and are always impressed when someone leaves our farms and remembers a name. Comments like “Bruce was an awesome team leader. He was knowledgeable and friendly. Thank you for having us. We will be sure to come back again!” let us know just how valuable these connections are. Every day we are lucky enough to be surrounded by this great group as a supporting cast. There are so many ways to describe all that they inject into our work and how much they give of themselves to make our programming run smoothly day in and day out. 

With that we could not miss the opportunity to applaud our Volunteer Team Leaders as our Volunteers of the Month for October. We would like to thank them for all that they are and all that they do to make it look seamless to the thousands of volunteers that support us over a season. We would like to offer a sincere thanks and acknowledgement of their role at Community Harvest Project. We can’t thank them enough and are humbled by their presence on a daily basis. Thanks to an amazing group of Volunteer Team Leaders, we can’t do this great work without your support!

Read the rest of the October Sprout here!

What’s Cooking: Quinoa Salad

whats cooking oct

For September’s cooking classes we learned all about whole grains! Whole grains are grains that are less processed than refined grains, leaving the bran and germ intact (refined grains are just the endosperm of the seed). This makes have a higher fiber content which means they take longer to digest and therefore make you feel full longer, and more vitamins and minerals than their refined counterparts.

For the cooking class we made a summery version of this quinoa salad with peaches, cherry tomatoes, and corn. Now that we’re well into fall we adapted it with apples and roasted squash.

There are just a few more cooking classes for the year left! Click the class titles below to see the full class descriptions and sign your child up.

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

Quinoa Salad with Apple and Squash

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

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 5 kale leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1 large apple, pitted and chopped
  • 2 cups roasted squash or sweet potato
  • A large handful basil, torn into pieces

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a jar combine olive oil, vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Shake to combine.
  2. In a large bowl combine the quinoa, kale, roasted squash/sweet potato, and basil. Add the dressing and toss to combine. 
  3. Enjoy!

Read the rest of the October Sprout here!

Give CHP Your Ongoing Support

collardsAs the busiest part of our harvesting season begins to wind down, it is important to remember that hunger and the needs of those experiencing it go on year round. While we prepare for slower days on the farm, we also plan and prepare to combat hunger in our communities throughout the months we are not harvesting. Our Monthly Givers and their consistent donations help us in this preparation with donations we can count on. 

For just a few dollars a month, you can join this wonderful club and support hunger relief year round. Monthly Givers receive a convenient yearly acknowledgement for tax purposes, along with special recognition in our Annual Report and invitations to exclusive events. Monthly Givers also receive two free tickets to our Harvest Home Festival! Become a Monthly Giver by October 15th to receive your tickets. Learn more and join our growing Monthly Giving Program here

Read the rest of the September Sprout.

Susan’s Apple Picks

Our Orchard Manager, Susan, has a wealth of knowledge and opinions about apples. We asked her to share some of her favorite varieties and what they are best for:

During this time of year, the orchard is buzzing with activity as we get the apple harvest in. Over the next three months, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we will pick over 3,000 apple trees with the majority of the apples going towards hunger relief.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by the volunteers at the orchard is what my favorite kind of apple is. That’s sort of like asking me which child of mine is my favorite!  The answer I give is, I don’t have a favorite, but rather, I have several that I love equally for different reasons.

ft021-web.jpg

The Best Baking Apple: In my opinion, using a mix of different apples is best when baking. Each apple lends its own flavor and texture to your pie or crisp and the results are delicious. But if you did have to choose just one apple for your Thanksgiving pie, choose Cortland. This apple variety is widely known as the best baking apple for good reason. It cooks to a perfect texture, not too mushy, like its parent the McIntosh and not too crunchy. It has the tartness you want with a baking apple but a hint of sweetness, as well. Fun fact: Cortland apples have beautiful white flesh and are slow to brown so use them on your cheese and fruit platter or in salads too!

20190917_154018.jpg

The Best Fresh Eating Apple: Again, it’s impossible to choose just one! Macoun tend to be my go-to around this time of year. To me they are one of the very best fresh eating apples. Crisp, and juicy, with a complex sweet-tart flavor, this apple is a New England favorite. Macoun, like its McIntosh parent, is also very good for apple sauce. Other delicious fresh eating favorites: Esopus Spitzenburg is an explosion of flavor in one bite (if you can find it, try it!) and Honeycrisp, of course, are rated one of the best.

20190917_154723

The Best All Purpose Apple: The Ginger Gold apple fits easily into this category. They are a very good baking apple and are also excellent for fresh eating.  This early season apple is the first to ripen at our orchard so I look forward to these beautiful yellow apples as they mark the start of apple season. They are not great keepers so get them while they are in season!  Runner up: Baldwin apples are not easy to come by these days even though they were once one of the most widely planted varieties in the U.S.  They ripen late in the season and are another great all-purpose apple.  Unlike the Ginger Gold, they store very well.

Read the rest of the September Sprout.