Harvard Residents Support APR!

On June 20, 2020 at their Annual Town Meeting, voters in the Town of Harvard agreed to contribute $150,000 of Community Preservation Funds toward the purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) for our Prospect Hill Orchard!

To ensure the long lasting future of harvesting fruit for hunger relief at our orchard, we have teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Town of Harvard, Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) to raise funds to endow our orchard through the sale of the APR, which will allow farming to continue on the land and prevent the property from ever being developed.

The Impact of One Million

2019 was a milestone year. At the conclusion of the 2019 harvesting season, we had officially donated over ONE MILLION pounds of produce for hunger relief in just 5 years. Nutritious fruits and vegetables were made available to 83,538 of our neighbors who don’t have enough nutrient-rich food to put on their tables.
This benchmark, however, would not have been possible without our community of dedicated volunteers, staff, board members, hunger relief partners, interns, monthly givers, corporate sponsors and our hundreds of individual donors. To read about the Impact of One Million in our 2019 Annual Report, and all the people who helped us get there – click here!

Blossoms, Asparagus and A Farewell

Spring is always a busy time at our Harvard orchard. 130 Ambrosia trees were planted which have already started to leaf out and some even have blossoms. The flowers will be pulled off for a few years to let the trees focus their energy on growing strong roots and branches. The other apple and peach trees are in fruit setting mode! Now that fruit is beginning to grow, fertilizing around the orchard will start. Spring is a critical time for pest management – our orchard team has been scouting for insect and disease issues. 

We have also been harvesting asparagus daily and delivering it to Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry for donations on Wednesday and Fridays. Asparagus is the first crop we harvest from either property for donation. 
Last week was our Orchard Assistant, Savannah’s, last day. Savannah has been a part of the CHP Team since 2017 when she joined as a summer intern. After graduating from Clark University in 2018, she re-joined the team in the fall of 2018 as the orchard assistant. She hit the ground running in the busy harvest season – and never stopped. “I can’t express how much I will miss working with Savannah. Not only is she a hard worker with a great attitude, but she is also a wonderful individual that I have been lucky enough to get to know” says Susan Conant, Orchard Manager. Savannah has been essential in implementing so many projects at the orchard during her time here. While we are excited to see what her next chapter brings and wish her nothing but good luck, she will be truly missed by the staff and volunteers.

Adjusting plans to continue to support our community.

Like many of you, we have spent the last several weeks evaluating how all of the variables associated with the current Covid-19 pandemic affect our operations. We realize the far-reaching impact and disruption that this is causing throughout our communities and hope that you and your loved ones are well and remain safe. 

Thus far, we have maintained our focus on preparing our orchard for spring blooms, seeding for eventual transplanting outdoors, and preparing our fields for planting. Our staff has been working diligently with the help of a small but mighty team of volunteers and we are pleased to report that everything is right on schedule here on our farms. All of this is in an effort to stay on track and ultimately provide much needed fresh fruits and vegetables to the 60,000+ in our community seeking hunger relief from our partner agencies. That need is likely to grow and our crops will be a critical piece of community support in the coming months. 

With the current restrictions placed on large gatherings we have had to rethink how we will go about our work during the planting season. As an organization that thrives because of the thousands of volunteers that support our work each year, this is particularly challenging. However, to protect the health of everyone in our community, we are cancelling all group volunteer requests through June 13.

Despite this, we remain committed to fulfilling our role as the largest or only source of free fresh fruits and vegetables for our 16 hunger relief partners, especially as the need now grows. In these unprecedented circumstances, we have resorted to using a mechanical planter to ensure that our crops are in the ground on time so that we are still able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to those who rely on us. As with everything, we will continue to reevaluate and update you on our next steps in the coming weeks. 

While we can still provide essential nutrition to our neighbors in need, we will deeply miss the connections fostered between volunteers both veteran and new on our farm this spring. Recognizing the deep good in friends and strangers, the light and joy of working hard and working together – that will be harder but equally important to try to replicate as we are now called to take care of each other in new ways amid social distancing.

So we encourage you to stay in touch with each other – and with us. Follow our Facebook and and Instagram to stay informed. Stay tuned for other changes as we continue to adjust our plans for this season. 

With your support, we can help our neighbors in need as illness, unemployment, and instability make having enough healthy food that much harder. Any donations made during this time will ensure that we are able to continue to provide healthy hunger relief as our community recovers. Your support and understanding in the coming weeks and months is critical and we will strive to get back to normal operations as soon as the situation allows.

A Word From Our Farmers – Spring Update

Spring is showing its face here in North Grafton as we plant our first seeds of the season. We’re grateful and excited to start another year on the farm. Our theme for this year is soil health and fertility as a strategy to grow even more fresh produce. This emphasis is a nod to the cycle that keeps us all alive and healthy — we feed our soils, they in turn nourish the thousands of plants across the farm, those plants yield thousands and thousands of servings of fresh vegetables for distribution throughout our community. Though our volunteer operations are currently on hold, early season volunteer crews were working hard to get our greenhouses set up, blueberry bushes pruned, and seeds planted. Currently, our greenhouse is home to the baby kale, collard, broccoli, and cabbage plants that will be nourishing neighbors across our region in just a few months time. New crops at the farm this year will include peas and onions while we increase our production of green leafy veggies. We’re looking forward to a fertile and robust growing season and to working side by side with our community to grow healthy crops for hunger relief. 

Farming for Hunger Relief: Sustainable Farm Internship

Spend your summer working with a leading Central Massachusetts non-profit organization as they continue to improve operations and expand their reach of healthy produce to Worcester County’s most vulnerable. Gain valuable experience and learn about mid-size farming practices, the basics of non-profit operations, and volunteer organizing while you spend your summer outdoors working with a diverse group of staff and volunteers.  Be part of a dynamic team aiding hunger relief in Worcester County while exploring your future.  

Responsibilities

Our Interns will participate fully in all aspects of operating a non-profit volunteer farming organization.  They will have direct hands-on engagement in farming over 11 acres of production on two farms in Grafton, MA.  The internship includes working with and leading volunteers in farm activity while gaining valuable leadership and communication skills.

Tasks include but not limited to:

  • Lead diverse groups of volunteer farmers in daily activities at our farms primarily in North Grafton, MA. 
  • Assist with maintaining a positive volunteer experience for all who visit the farm
  • Support farm maintenance tasks (mowing, harvesting, weeding, irrigation, etc.) 
  • Occasional visits to work with our orchard team in Harvard, MA will be required    
  • Support and work on some organizational events as needed 
  • Other tasks as needed

Educational Components 

  • Interns will have the opportunity to work with and learn from all staff members of the non-profit and will gain insight into the multi-faceted operations of the organization 
  • Interns will have the opportunity to learn from Central Massachusetts community leaders
  • The internship also includes off-site visits to partner organizations which allows students an opportunity to learn more about local hunger relief efforts and non-profit partnerships.

Preferred Qualifications, qualified applicants will:

  • Be an excellent communicator and be able to demonstrate previous leadership responsibility
  • Have interest and/or some experience in farming or gardening
  • Be able to lift farm equipment and/or produce weighing up to 50 pounds
  • Be comfortable using or learning to use power tools like weed-whackers and lawn mowers 
  • Be prepared for work in outdoor weather conditions, we operate rain or shine
  • Work within a team or independently, be self-motivated, with great attention to detail
  • Have reliable transportation   
  • Be available for 30 hours per week, June through August, working primarily-morning hours with an occasional late afternoon/early evening or Saturday.  Unique scheduling needs may be negotiated in advance and are subject to operational needs of the organization 
  • Be flexible and have a sense of humor! This is a true farming operation and we operate at the whim of nature, so flexibility is key 

Organization Information: 

Community Harvest Project (CHP), a 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to improving access to healthy foods through community engagement.  Through their volunteer farming, education, and volunteer programs and partnerships, they bring thousands of community members together each year to build an engaged and healthier Worcester County.  In 2019 working together with over 7,500 volunteers they produced significant fresh produce resources for individuals and families in need throughout our community who otherwise may not have had access.  The produce is donated through numerous partner organizations such as The Worcester County Food Bank, Community Servings, Loaves and Fishes, Jeremiah’s Inn, and The Hector Reyes House.  CHP operates at Brigham Hill Community Farm and White’s Farm in North Grafton, MA and at Prospect Hill Farm in Harvard, MA.  

For more information about their programs and impact, please visit www.community-harvest.org

Contact

To apply send letter of interest and resume via email to Wayne McAuliffe, Manager of Volunteer Programs, at wayne@community-harvest.org 

Thank You January Grantmakers!

We would like to thank our January grantmakers for continuing their support of our mission to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for hunger relief. The Fletcher Foundation has provided funds that will allow us to make important capital purchases that will be essential tools on our farm and orchard this upcoming season. We would also like to thank Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for their continued support that will fund our general general farming operations. Our work in the fight against hunger would not be possible without generous grantmakers and donors. Thank you!

Prospect Hill Community Orchard Pruning Update

With over 3,000 apple trees in the orchard, pruning can be a daunting and time consuming task.  To be exact, it takes the staff with the help of our “Tuesday Crew” volunteers three months to complete. This year has been particularly kind to the pruners, although we still have many weeks to go. The mild temperatures and little snow fall have made it easier to make our way through the orchard both because we are not trudging through snow and not wearing 5 layers of clothing to stay warm.

While some may think this a less than ideal time of year to spend hours and hours working outside, there are many good reasons why we prune in the winter. Maybe the most obvious reason is that we have more time available during this season when our days are not consumed by mowing, planting, harvesting, scouting the orchard, spraying, weeding and fertilizing. By the time January comes around, the trees have dropped their leaves allowing us to really see their structure and make the best cuts to promote growth where we want. When the trees are dormant there is a much lower risk of spreading disease, namely Fireblight, from tree to tree with pruning tools. But the most important reason we prune in the winter is because the trees are in a dormant state. Dormant pruning stimulates stronger, more vigorous growth.  Basically, by pruning when the trees are dormant we are setting the trees up for a good start to the growing season where their stored energy can be utilized best on the branches we have selectively left to bear fruit.

In addition to pruning thousands of trees, we will also be removing approximately 100 of our older, less productive McIntosh trees this winter. In the Spring, we will replant with a new variety to our orchard called Ambrosia.

Farming for Hunger Relief: Sustainable Orchard Internship

Internship; Sustainable Orchard Internship, Farming for Hunger Relief

Spend your summer working with a leading Central Massachusetts non-profit organization as they continue to improve operations and expand their reach of healthy produce to Worcester County’s most vulnerable. Gain valuable experience and learn about a sustainable orchard and volunteer organization, the basics of non-profit operations, and volunteer organizing while you spend your summer outdoors. Work directly with an experienced Orchard Manager, responsible for 30 acres of fruit trees. Be part of a dynamic team aiding hunger relief in Worcester County while exploring your future.  

Responsibilities

Our Interns will participate fully in all aspects of operating a non-profit volunteer farming organization at our orchard. They will have direct hands-on engagement in farming 30 acres of fruit trees. Including 3,200 apple trees and 150 peach trees nestled on a 75 acre property in Harvard, MA.  They will be involved in orchard operations and have opportunities to participate in special projects.  Tasks include but not limited to:

  • Assist with orchard tasks such as pruning, fruit thinning, fertilizing, crop/growth analysis, mowing, irrigation, pest control, weed management, and property upkeep under the direction of our Orchard Manager and Orchard Assistant. 
  • Assist with maintaining a positive volunteer experience for all who visit the farm
  • Occasional visits to work with our farm team in North Grafton, MA will be required.    
  • Support and work on some organizational events as needed 
  • Other tasks as needed

Educational Components 

  • Interns will have the opportunity to work with and learn from all staff members of the non-profit and will gain insight into the multi-faceted operations of the organization. In addition they will have the opportunity to complete an optional group orchard project. 
  • Interns will have the opportunity to learn from Central Massachusetts community leaders 
  • The internship also includes off-site visits to partner organizations which allows students an opportunity to learn more about local hunger relief efforts and non-profit partnerships.

Requirements, qualified applicants will:

  • Be an excellent communicator and be able to demonstrate previous leadership responsibility
  • Have interest and/or some experience in farming or gardening
  • Be able to lift farm equipment and/or produce weighing up to 50 pounds
  • Be comfortable using or learning to use power tools like weed-whackers and lawn mowers 
  • Be prepared for work in outdoor weather conditions, we operate rain or shine
  • Work within a team or independently, be self-motivated, with great attention to detail
  • Have reliable transportation   
  • Be available for 30 hours per week, June through August with the opportunity to extend the internship into the fall season with adjusted flexible hours. Unique scheduling needs may be negotiated in advance and are subject to operational needs of the organization
  • Be flexible and have a sense of humor! This is a real farming operation and we operate at the whim of nature, so flexibility is key

Organization Information: 

Community Harvest Project (CHP), a 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to creating healthy and engaged communities through volunteer farming and nutrition education for those who are experiencing food insecurity. Through their volunteer farming, education, and leadership programs they bring thousands of community members together each year. In 2019 they hosted 7,563 volunteer visits that allowed for 417,644 servings of fruits and vegetables to be grown and donated through partnerships including the Worcester County Food Bank’s hunger relief network, Community Servings, and Hector Reyes House. They provided over 417,00 servings of fresh produce for individuals and families in need in our community who otherwise may not have had access. 

For more information about their locations, programs, and impact, please visit www.community-harvest.org.

To apply send letter of interest and resume via e-mail to Wayne McAuliffe, Manager of Volunteer Programs, at wayne@community-harvest.org

Save the Date; Plantapalooza Plant Sale is Saturday, May 16th 2020!

Photo by Norm Eggert

Dreaming of warmer weather and being out in the garden? Mark your calendars for our annual plant sale fundraiser, Plantapalooza, on Saturday, May 16th, 2020. Prepare to explore a huge variety of annuals, perennials, fruits, vegetables, sun and shade plants, heirloom tomatoes, and new this year, specialty hot peppers. 

The first 1,000 attendees receive a free 4-pack of tomatoes!

For more information, visit our Facebook page!

All proceeds from this event will go toward supporting our mission of providing fresh fruits and vegetables for hunger relief.