#GivingTuesday is November 28!

Help CHP raise $5,000 for #GivingTuesday on November 28th! Make sure you donate to our “Coming Together to Give Back Campaign” and have your contributions matched.

Giving Tuesday

Please take a moment this #GivingTuesday to appreciate all generosity in our communities and across the world! Each season Community Harvest Project is astounded and grateful to see busloads of schoolchildren, civic organizations,local corporations, and many dedicated families and individuals coming together to volunteer and give back to those experiencing hunger in our community.

This year, CHP’s is raising #GivingTuesday donations to support our “Coming Together to Give Back” campaign. This is a unique opportunity to DOUBLE YOUR DONATION as contributions to this campaign will be matched up to $10,000. Help us reach our $5,000 #GivingTuesday goal this year and double your impact in the community.

Together in 2017, you came together to give back at our farms!  8,500 community volunteers grew and donated over 265,000 pounds of fresh local produce to partner agencies. The food we grew provided over 1,100,000 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables for individuals and families who may otherwise not have access.

Never doubt that your donations make a difference. The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard, MA, has a mission is to optimize the quality of life for all those affected by cancer. As an organization who receives our food donations, they understand first hand the positive impact fresh fruits and vegetables paired with nutrition education can have on a community:

“The Community Harvest Project and Healing Garden Pilot Study has again conclusively proved that providing access to fresh produce in conjunction with nutrition education has markedly improved client health…We are thrilled with its success and we have seen the remarkable impact it has made on the health and well-being of our clients.”

We hope that on this #GivingTuesday you come together to give back and help us reach our $5,000 goal. Thank you for your support!

 

Read the rest of the November Sprout! 

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving can be a day of indulgence, but as a day of thanks we should consider one thing to be very appreciative of: our health! Thanksgiving may start as a single day, but with the mountain of leftovers the meals stretch to many more. For our health’s sake, we should consider dishes that highlight their vegetable ingredients instead of smothering their nutrition with saturated fat and sugar.

Mashed potatoes can be laden with butter and cream. If you think it is sacrilege to consider a Thanksgiving table with potatoes that are roasted instead of mashed, you could instead make those potatoes with just a tad less butter and cream.

Stuffing is a necessary part of the Thanksgiving meal, but also an excellent place to include some extra vegetables (or fruits!). Sautéed greens like kale are a great addition, especially when their bitterness balanced with a sweeter (but not sugary!) ingredient like caramelized onions, fennel, or apples.

Two ubiquitous dishes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and green bean casserole, are begging for a makeover. Foregoing sweet potatoes with added sugar and marshmallows for ones that are simply mashed or roasted cuts 150 empty calories per serving. A single serving of the classic condensed cream of mushroom soup used in casserole has 90 calories total, and 50 of those calories are from fat, plus 36% of your recommended daily salt intake. This classic casserole is the inspiration for the recipe below, which highlights the earthiness of mushrooms, sweetness of onions, and brightness from green beans with a much better health report card.

Green beans with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions

Serves 8

  • 1 lb. of white or yellow onions
  • 1 lb. of button mushrooms
  • 2 lb. of green beans, stems removed and cut in half cross-wise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Thinly slice the onions. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook them, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour. They should lose the majority of their moisture and become a dark caramel color.

Wash and thinly slice the mushrooms. In a separate pan, heat the remaining butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer (working in a couple batches if necessary) and sprinkle with salt. If the pan looks dry wait before adding any more oil – the mushrooms will give off a lot of moisture. Cook until they are browned on both sides and then remove to a bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and put it next to the stove. Put the green beans in the boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes. They should be bright green but still retain some crispness. When they are done shock them in the ice water to stop them from cooking further, and then dry them off in a dish towel.

To finish the dish, add the mushrooms and green beans into the pan with the onions. Toss to combine all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and finish with the vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Keep on the stove for another 5 minutes, until just heated through.

Read the rest of the November Sprout! 

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

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Thanksgiving can be a day of indulgence, but as a day of thanks we should consider one thing to be very appreciative of: our health! Thanksgiving may start as a single day, but with the mountain of leftovers the meals stretch to many more. For our health’s sake, we should consider dishes that highlight their vegetable ingredients instead of smothering their nutrition with saturated fat and sugar.

Mashed potatoes can be laden with butter and cream. If you think it is sacrilege to consider a Thanksgiving table with potatoes that are roasted instead of mashed, you could instead make those potatoes with just a tad less butter and cream.

Stuffing is a necessary part of the Thanksgiving meal, but also an excellent place to include some extra vegetables (or fruits!). Sautéed greens like kale are a great addition, especially when their bitterness balanced with a sweeter (but not sugary!) ingredient like caramelized onions, fennel, or apples.

Two ubiquitous dishes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and green bean casserole, are begging for a makeover. Foregoing sweet potatoes with added sugar and marshmallows for ones that are simply mashed or roasted cuts 150 empty calories per serving. A single serving of the classic condensed cream of mushroom soup used in casserole has 90 calories total, and 50 of those calories are from fat, plus 36% of your recommended daily salt intake. This classic casserole is the inspiration for the recipe below, which highlights the earthiness of mushrooms, sweetness of onions, and brightness from green beans with a much better health report card.

Green beans with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions

_B9A4471Serves 8

  • 1 lb. of white or yellow onions
  • 1 lb. of button mushrooms
  • 2 lb. of green beans, stems removed and cut in half cross-wise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Thinly slice the onions. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook them, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour. They should lose the majority of their moisture and become a dark caramel color.

Wash and thinly slice the mushrooms. In a separate pan, heat the remaining butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer (working in a couple batches if necessary) and sprinkle with salt. If the pan looks dry wait before adding any more oil – the mushrooms will give off a lot of moisture. Cook until they are browned on both sides and then remove to a bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and put it next to the stove. Put the green beans in the boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes. They should be bright green but still retain some crispness. When they are done shock them in the ice water to stop them from cooking further, and then dry them off in a dish towel.

To finish the dish, add the mushrooms and green beans into the pan with the onions. Toss to combine all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and finish with the vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Keep on the stove for another 5 minutes, until just heated through.

Read the rest of the November Sprout! 

Volunteers of the Month: Harvest Home & 5K Volunteers!

D81_20171105_130243_01aOur season is officially over now that we have the Harvest Home Festival and 5K under our belt.  If you were one of the people that came out to support our work that day it is likely that you came into contact with one of the many volunteers that it takes to support an event of that size.  The day went off very smoothly thanks to the almost 100 volunteers that donated their time and energy to make sure each of our visitors enjoyed their time.  Between making sure everyone is able to park and cross our roads safely to hayride guides, trebuchet safety monitors and beer servers everyone is a critical part of ensuring the day is a success.  Some  work is also done in advance so it took an army to get our trails ready and set up for the big day.  We are very lucky to be able to round up a great team of volunteers in order to support the event which is our largest of the year and helps to fund our operations.  

This year Tori our Education and Volunteer Coordinator took the reins and recruited, scheduled and communicated with our Harvest Home Volunteers.  It was her first time taking on this responsibility and she did an amazing job ensuring that we had the right people at the right time in all of the right places.  She even took it one step further by recruiting her mother to help out at the front gate with admissions.  So, we would all like to applaud Tori for a job well done in supporting the event with great volunteers, including her mom.  

For our November Volunteer of the Month we would like to thank all of the volunteers who participated.  From our regular Volunteer Team Leaders who make this place run like a fine machine day in day out, to our Volunteer Board Members who work tirelessly on our behalf everyone in our community pitching in together is what makes it work.  We would also like to thank our volunteers from Douglas High School, Assumption College’s Baseball Team, Worcester Restaurant Group, The Junior League of Worcester, Grafton Job Corps, Grafton Boy Scout Troop 106, Waters Corporation, our very own Harvest Home Committee and each and every volunteer that spent their day with us.  Your help and selflessness in supporting our event is greatly appreciated!  We could not do all that we do in supporting hunger relief throughout the community without your help.  Thank you!   

Read the rest of the November Sprout! 

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!