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Grow Food Northampton is pleased to announce another successful season with our Senior FarmShare program, and grateful for excellent MassLive coverage of the 55 low-income senior citizens who are receiving shares of produce from Crimson & Clover Farm. For $1 per week for a ten-week season, participants get a bag of fresh local produce worth at least $10! Read on for our press release.
#### August 26, 2015 ####
Grow Food Northampton and the Northampton Senior Center have expanded their collaboration to address food security in the area by making fresh produce from Crimson & Clover Farm accessible to low-income seniors. The program, which began in 2011 under CISA’s Senior FarmShare program, has grown to 55 shares this year, from 30 in 2014.
With the help of community volunteers, produce is picked up each Tuesday at Crimson and Clover Farm and delivered to the Senior Center, where it is divided into “shares” sized for one or two people and distributed to senior citizens. Participants apply for the program and demonstrate financial need to Senior Center staff, then pay $10, or one dollar per week for a 10-week season. Grow Food Northampton raises funds privately to pay the remaining $90 per share so that the farmers receive a fair price.
Michele Dihlmann, who manages program sign-ups and produce distribution for the Northampton Senior Center, said “Many seniors grew up on farms or with easy access to local produce, but can’t obtain it regularly now. The tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other produce provided through this program are good for their health and remind them how much they enjoy fresh vegetables!”
“The produce arrives by the crate,” says Danielle Jacques, a Smith College Praxis intern working with Grow Food Northampton, “and it’s an enormous amount of food. We organize the vegetables in giant piles of zucchini, squash, onions, kale— whatever it is they send us— and divide up the produce into the 55 shares. The variety, the freshness of the vegetables, all of it, it’s just incredible.”
Shirley Bak, who volunteers at the Senior Center distributing the farm shares and is also a participant, described her experience as, in a word, “sensational,” adding also that “it’s a good thing that we are doing for the community.”
Grow Food Northampton operates the 120-acre Northampton Community Farm in Florence, most of which is leased to farms like Crimson and Clover Farm. In addition to preserving land for agriculture, a large part of the mission at Grow Food Northampton involves improving food security through providing access to healthy, sustainably grown produce through a number of programs. The organization also offers a discounted fee for low-income gardeners to participate in its organic community garden, and families receiving SNAP benefits may use them to purchase a half-price farm share at Crimson and Clover, with Grow Food Northampton paying for the other half. Donations to the Northampton Survival Center and local soup kitchens ensure that those who cannot afford produce or do not have access to a kitchen still have some local produce in their diets.
Clem Clay, Executive Director of Grow Food Northampton, said “It is gratifying to see the Senior Farm Share program grow each year. Thanks to our donors and a great partnership, a truly meaningful number of low-income seniors are eating fresh, local food, and a local farm is able to grow its business.”
Although funding is not linked to CISA’s Senior FarmShare program, the Northampton partnership contributes to the effort led by CISA at 14 sites across the region. Claire Morenon, Program Coordinator for CISA, said “Senior FarmShare has tripled since CISA started it in 2004 and now the program serves 430 seniors in all three Pioneer Valley counties. We are thrilled that Grow Food Northampton has embraced Senior FarmShare as a model to increase the amount of fresh produce available to seniors.”
The positive impact of the program on its participants is apparent. “My overall health improves during farmshare and farmers markets. We are extremely fortunate to have such generous farmers in this valley,” said one participant in last season’s program.