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. 

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.

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.

Thank You 2019 Corporate and Foundation Grantmakers!

Every year Community Harvest Project relies on the generous donations from community grantors and local corporations to keep our programs up and running. 2019 was no different. Our grants supported every aspect of CHP’s work from operational support to specific programs and equipment so that we could carry out our mission of farming for hunger relief. 
Thank you to our generous grantors and corporate partners, listed below, who allow us to continue fulfilling our mission. In 2019, their support allowed CHP to host over 7,500 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds that helped us harvest and donate 417,644 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables through 16 local community partners serving 60,000 individuals and families across central Massachusetts.

Agnes M. Lindsay Trust

Avidia Bank

Bemis Associates INC

Bridging Peace Fund Of Tides Foundation

The CarMax Foundation

 Clif Bar Family Foundation 

DCU for Kids

 DELL Technologies

Doe Family Foundation

Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation


Fallon Health

The Fletcher Foundation

 Fred Harris Daniels Foundation 

Frederick E. Weber Charities Corporation

George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation


Greater Worcester Community Foundation

Grimes and Company INC

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation

Hoche-Scofield Foundation

Homefield Credit Union



The J. Irving and Jane L. England Charitable Trust

 Liberty Mutual 


Nypro – A Jabil Company

People’s United Bank

Reliant Foundation

Robert Half International

 Schwartz Charitable Foundation

Stoddard Charitable Trust


TJX Foundation, Inc. 


United Way Of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley




Webster Five Foundation


Winning Home, Inc. 

White Charitable Trust

Yesod Foundation

The 200 Foundation

Thank You!

With your help, we can donate ONE MILLION MORE pounds

Boxes of pepper, cabbage, squashGenerous 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.

A recipient of our produce at our partner organization, the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden Cancer Support Center in Harvard said:

The program has encouraged me to try new veggies and new recipes, and getting fresh produce at no cost has been invaluable since I live on limited income and I’m not working much while recovering from chemo.”

Your contributions and time spent on the farm are so valuable to our operation, but there is another way you can help. Because hunger in our community is not going away, we’re embarking on a campaign to donate ONE MILLION MORE pounds by 2025. Generous donors Dr. Steve and Lindsay Tosi feel so strongly about the impact we can make together, that they have offered to match the first $10,000 in donations to the ONE MILLION MORE campaign.

“As a doctor, I know how critical fresh fruits and vegetables can be to a patient’s health. Community Harvest Project’s mission to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to our neighbors experiencing hunger fulfills a vital need in our community. For that reason, Lindsay and I are delighted to support this much-needed project.”

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 December Sprout here!