As we wrap up our year there are some very special people that we would like to highlight. The work of our farms would be impossible without the 35 Volunteer Team Leaders who led all of the volunteers that visited our farms in 2019. This selfless group of leaders gives us their all day in- day out, helping with the first seed being planted and are there when the last field is being prepped for winter. They are the friendly and welcoming force that makes Community Harvest Project a leader when it comes to marshaling community efforts to support hunger relief. Thanks to them we were able to host the 7,563 volunteers that visited our farms in 2019. It does not stop there however as we have 12 Volunteer Board Members who serve at our monthly meetings and events, 12 Tuesday Volunteer Crew Members helping both farms on a weekly basis and we hosted 5 amazing Volunteer Interns this past summer. Without all of these hands we would be unable to donate hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to our hunger relief partners annually.
Please join us in congratulating and thanking the 7,563 individuals who took time to help their communities by volunteering with Community Harvest Project in 2019. We are incredibly lucky to have you on our side doing this important work and are thrilled that you chose us as a place and cause worthy of your time. To that we say a hearty thanks to each and everyone of you.
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!
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!
It’s that time of year where the air is showing a hint of crisp coolness even on the warmest of days and the leaves are telling us that the season is changing. Fall in New England holds a very unique place and is at the heart of many of our traditions. Thoughts of the leaves turning color as though they are flowers and the brightness of light due to the changing angle of the sun all give us a sense of warmth and change. We also can think back to the excitement we experienced as children on a trip to an orchard or farm to pick apples and select pumpkins. The smells of apples, fallen leaves and crisp fall air all help to make this a most magical time of year.
For the last several weeks our orchard has been a buzz of activity with hundreds of volunteers helping us to pick, sort and package thousands of pounds of fresh apples. Without these energetic and committed volunteers we would not be able to get these fresh and nutritious apples out for donation to our hunger relief partners. This month we would like to thank and congratulate the many hands helping to do the work of the orchard. Please join us in a hearty thank you and congratulations to all of our volunteers from Bristol Myers Squibb, Dell, Hype 9, Bose, Olympus, PolyOne, Wegmans, Charles River Labs, Bromfield Boys Cross Country Team, Middlesex School and South High. We can not do this work without the help of many and these groups came out in force to support our work. Thank you all for your effort in making our 2019 apple season a success.
One of the most interesting pieces of the work that we undertake in supporting area hunger relief is bringing a diverse community of volunteers together in order to do the work of our farms. When people come together with their hands in the dirt or over a plant as they weed or harvest there is a greater sense of community and interesting conversation that takes place. With the slower pace of a farm everyone has the opportunity to learn more about farming and hunger relief as well as each other. Over the summer months we have the opportunity to engage youth groups from near and far in our efforts and always marvel at the community that comes out to support Community Harvest Project year in and year out. We are lucky to have such a loyal and committed following and feel honored that many programs trust our ability to provide a healthy and engaging environment for their groups.
This month we would like to thank all of our summer youth groups that continue to visit us and help with the summer work of the farm. Whether they come for a day, two days or even spend the entire week with us these groups all are key partners in helping us to have a successful summer. This year we saw teams from all over Massachusetts., Connecticut, Michigan, Washington, Canada and from as far away as Sweden and Hungary. All of them came together to learn about food, hunger relief and community. They all have left a mark on us and on their efforts have helped to make an impact on the hunger relief partners that rely on Community Harvest Project as a resource for fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Please join us in thanking and congratulating these teams for a job well done. This years’ programs included Young Neighbors in Action, St. Johns High Senior Leaders, Whitinsville Serve, CSAW from Millbury, Westborough Recreation, You Inc. Career Pathways, Operation Friendship of Grafton and United Way’s Summer Teen Program. We applaud them for their service to community and for their work in engaging youth by helping to build community. Thank you all for effort on behalf of Community Harvest Project, we appreciate all that you do.
This month we would like to recognize the entire team from Access TCA for their continuing support and partnership of the Community Harvest Projects mission. This creative and spirited team holds their annual volunteer visit at our Grafton farm and we are very lucky to have them on our side. Just a few short weeks ago their visit coincided with our first push on tending (read as weeding) at the farm. Not being afraid of a difficult task this team jumped right in and really did impressive work in our fields. They left us with almost four of our fields completely weeded and with the second stage of plant growth in a much better place now that those pesky weeds were out of their way. What’s even more impressive is that they approached the task of the day with amazing team work and had fun while they were here.
Not wanting to stop their work with a one day visit however this team continues to find creative ways to support the mission and help us do better work presenting ourselves to the outside world. Their creativity in marketing, design and fabrication is taking shape this year on several fronts. Their design team has been instrumental in helping to “cultivate community” with support on t-shirt design work, signage throughout the farm and materials to help market our upcoming Sunflower Festival. Their fabrication team has been hard at work helping to update our learning garden, provide benches for our volunteers to enjoy the landscape and signage to help us get our message out. We can not say enough about how much we appreciate their support and also how lucky we feel to be able to work with this great team.
Please join us in a round of applause and a heartfelt thank you to our friends at Access TCA. It takes a community to do the work of volunteer farming to support hunger relief and we truly appreciate all of their work on our behalf.
Our Volunteer of the Month for June highlights a unique partnership with UNUM and South High School that allows students an opportunity for growth in a unique environment here at the farm. In this program the students are given the opportunity to learn leadership and communication skills and then to apply that learning by leading groups of UNUM Associates in farm activities here at Community Harvest Project. This partnership is in the third year and we continue to see participants returning annually from both the Unum and South High School teams.
This year over the course of three days our engaging group of 10 South High Students led 36 UNUM Associates in different activities on the farm. Whether they were planting or weeding the students did a great job engaging and managing the work. Over the course of these days combined they planted Summer Squash, Zucchini and Peppers that we predict will produce approximately 12,000 servings of fresh produce for donation to hunger relief agencies. We would like to applaud our South High School and UNUM partners and congratulate them as our Volunteers of the Month for June. Thanks to you all for making this year’s program a rousing success.
We are always lucky to have the thousands of volunteers that surround us on our farms helping to cultivate our community. Their hard work has resulted in over a million pounds of fresh produce being donated to hunger relief partners throughout our community over the course of the last couple of years. That is impressive and amazing work and we are all very proud to have the support of a vast volunteer network that makes all of this possible.
We are also very fortunate to have groups of exceptional volunteers who are willing to go above and beyond to help us when an extra push is needed. This month we would like to highlight and thank two such partners that continue to surprise us in their commitment to helping out here at Community Harvest Project. RSVP Volunteers of Central Massachusetts coordinated by Tiffany Benacquista and Massachusetts Master Gardeners coordinated by Eileen Clark are two groups that have really helped to set us up for success this spring. These two groups have been instrumental in helping to get us ready for planting season with seeding and transplanting work in our greenhouses. They have also been helpful in preparing for our Annual Plantapalooza Plant Sale which helps to provide funding that allows us to donate our produce throughout the community. Not wanting to stop there they are also committed to helping in other ways throughout our upcoming season. That is the type of commitment that really helps to cultivate community here at Community Harvest Project, it keeps things running smoothly making it easier for our daily volunteer visitors to do the work of the farm.
Please join us with a hearty thank you to the dozens of regular volunteers that visit Community Harvest Project from RSVP Volunteers of Central Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Master Gardeners. We really appreciate all of your support and hard work and thanks for starting this season off right!
Every year as we welcome volunteers back to the farm to help us plant our fields we receive comments about the healthy plants that we are planting. We are proud of the fact that we start everything we grow from seed here on our farms. These seedlings in turn produce the hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh locally grown produce that is donated out to our community annually. We watch, encourage and cheer the plants through many stages of growth and are always excited to see the bounty that they produce. Mother nature is truly an amazing force to watch through the seasons and we feel lucky to have a front row seat.
All of this amazing bounty would not be possible without the help of a dedicated Greenhouse Crew that helps us prepare all of these plants for our growing season. For the past seven weeks this crew has done the detailed, repetitive work of placing small seeds in our planting trays to start our plants. Our greenhouses are now carpets of bright green sprouts growing at different stages as the march towards outdoor planting continues thanks to this team of volunteers. So as we begin our season outside in just a few short weeks we need to look back and thank our Greenhouse Crew for their part in beginning our year. Please join us in thanking and congratulating our Greenhouse Crew for starting the season off and setting in place the work to be done by thousands of volunteers in the coming months. We appreciate each and every one of them and applaud them for a job well done!
As we head into spring it is a key time for work out at our Prospect Hill Community Orchard in Harvard. Susan, Savannah and our Tuesday Crew have been busy since right after the first of the year pruning the thousands of apple trees there so that they will produce a bountiful crop. Pruning is one of the keys of success and can only be completed when the trees are dormant prior to the trees becoming active with spring growth. During this process any diseased or damaged wood is pruned out of the trees, the pruners also look to improve sunlight penetration and air flow to stimulate a healthier crop. Lastly and one of the most important pieces of this process is to prune the tree so that it is able to support the weight of its crop. It is an art and something that this team has mastered with many years experience amongst them.
The crew visits weekly and works in all types of weather as with an orchard this big it will take a significant amount of time to get through all of the trees. Once this work is completed the crew will assist throughout the year on other important orchard tasks such as pest management, mowing, trellising and fence repairs. We could not operate this orchard without the power of volunteers and this hearty crew is the piece that sets everything in motion to have volunteers out in the fall to harvest our apple crop. We would like to thank the Tuesday Crew for all of their hard work so far this season and cheer them on as they continue their pruning work for the rest of March. Please join us in thanking Don, Marc, Russ, Brian, George, Scott and Peter for their continuing support, dedication and drive in helping us advance our mission. We appreciate all of their effort on our behalf and can not wait to see the “fruits” of their labor this fall.