Collaboration Brings Local Food to All

New Dawn Farm is a participant in the Monadnock Farm Share Program.

It’s been long known that a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is beneficial to overall health. Furthermore, it’s equally apparent that most of us don’t get nearly enough of these essential foods into our diet.

One way to encourage the consumption of these healthful items is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, which, for an annual fee, will provide a whole season’s worth of fruits and veggies. Unfortunately, these programs can be frequently rather pricey, and well out of reach of lower-income Monadnock Region residents.

Accordingly, the Cheshire County Conservation District has instituted a new initiative called the Monadnock Farm Share Program and set up a partnership with eight local CSA farms where the customers can get a share at a 50 percent discount. Farms participating in this program are Abenaki Springs Farm in Walpole, Foggy Hill Farm in Jaffrey, Hillside Springs Farm and New Dawn Farm in Westmoreland, Hungry Bear Farm in Mason, Picadilly Farm in Winchester, Sun Moon Farm in Rindge and Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam.

The farmers raise funds to cover 25 percent of the program costs, and another 25 percent is provided by the Cheshire Medical Center for Population Health through its Healthy Monadnock Initiative. The other 50 percent is picked up by the customer. Residents have the option of paying up-front or can work out a payment schedule directly with the farm. Applications will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis, and funding is limited.

“The farmers actually approached us about initiating this program, when they decided this was something they wanted to offer the community,” said Amanda J.C. Littleton, district manager of the Cheshire County Conservation District. “The customers get to pick the farms they want to go with, and the size of the share they want.

“Some of the CSAs are offering home delivery, while others require the customers to go to the farm to pick up their produce. The goal of this program is to provide limited-income residents with fresh, locally grown vegetables at an affordable price throughout the whole growing season.”

Littleton said that it can be really challenging for low-income residents to get good produce throughout the summer.

“We really recognize that this can be a problem for a lot of people,” she said. “We really wanted to offer this to as many people as possible, and this is a program we hope to continue into the future.”

Littleton said that the program is open to donations from the general public on a tax-deductible basis. She also pointed out that this helps fill in a hole for many people who are in a bit of a gap when it comes to benefits.

“This is going to be very useful to people who aren’t eligible for SNAP benefits, because their income might be a little too high, but really can’t afford a CSA,” she said. “We have another program, called Granite State Market Match, where we offer a 50 percent discount for people who do have SNAP benefits or food stamps.

“We found out that, even with these programs, we just weren’t meeting the needs of those who either didn’t have SNAP benefits or didn’t want to use them for this purpose. This is our way of filling a niche that we had identified within the community.”

To apply to the Monadnock Farm Share program, contact the Cheshire County Conservation District at 756-2988, extension 116, or email amanda@cheshireconservation.org. For more information about Cheshire Conservation District programs, visit cheshireconservation.org.