Deepening Roots in the Connecticut Valley
After years of searching with the support of the Kestrel Land Trust, in 2020 the Food Bank purchased its second Food Bank Farm… and probably the only one of the 200 food banks nationally. This new 142-acre farm in Hadley builds on the success of our first Food Bank Farm also in Hadley. It represents our unique approach to food banking not to rely exclusively on donated food from food retailers and commodities from state and federal governments. Instead, it is an investment in local farmland for farmers to strengthen our local food economy while also providing a reliable source of healthy organic food for those who need it most.
How the New Farm Works
Like the existing 59-acre Food Bank Farm, which we have owned since 1992, we contract local farmers who grow organic vegetables for the community, including households at risk of hunger. In lieu of cash rent, the Food Bank receives a share of the harvest, agreed upon in advance. In this case, instead of partnering with a farmer who sells shares to shareholders, the farmers of the new Food Bank Farm sell most of their share of the harvest to food retail stores and to schools in high-poverty school districts.
Farmers Joe Czajkowski, owner of Lakeside Organics adjacent to this farm, and Gideon Porth, owner of Atlas Farm, combined are farming about 35 acres. Currently, three acres have been set aside for Cultivating for Community (CFC), our regenerative farming and education initiative where The Food Bank, volunteers, and school groups work together to grow and harvest crops while learning about sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, food security and food sovereignty. CFC was conceived to begin a journey of learning and practice in no-till farming and food justice.
Innovative Farm-to-School Partnerships
Thanks to an initial grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Food Bank now partners with the Springfield and Holyoke Public Schools to:
- Increase the amount of locally-grown vegetables that are served in school meals
- Teach students about the farms and farmers who grow it, and
- The benefits of eating fresh (organic) vegetables
Springfield FoodCorps filmed two videos of Food Bank Farm employees describing our no-till farm:
The Food Bank also now operates a monthly Farm-to-Table distribution of fresh vegetables for children and their families facing food insecurity at two Springfield elementary schools.
Funding and Preservation
Both farms are under Agricultural Preservations Restrictions thanks to important funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. The Kestrel Land Trust secured this funding as well as a significant grant from the Town of Hadley, and used a bridge loan from The Conservation Fund, to purchase this second farm and sell it to the Food Bank. Similarly, the Food Bank secured the other half of funds to purchase the farm with grants from the H.P. Kendall Foundation and 1772 Foundation, and significant donations from several anonymous local donors.
Kendall Foundation executive director Andy Kendall says, “this purchase demonstrates the power of collaboration of local groups committed to food security, open space, and creating opportunities for young and expanding farmers. An especially exciting aspect of this collaboration is between the Food Bank and Springfield Public Schools.” The Kendall Foundation’s focus is to strengthen the food system of Western Massachusetts and New England by helping local farmers gain market access to schools.
The Kestrel Land Trust retains a trail easement for public walking on designated farm roads that link to the conservation lands on the Amherst side.
Our First Food Bank Farm
The Food Bank Farm is a 60-acre parcel of land near the Connecticut River in Hadley, protected from any development. It operates as a production farm in partnership with Mountain View Farm which leases it from the Food Bank in exchange for a share of fresh, local, USDA Certified Organic produce. We distribute this local bounty to our members as well as through our Mobile Food Bank and Brown Bag: Food for Elders sites.
Learn more about our partner Mountain View Farm
Daily Hampshire Gazette: Second Food Bank Farm coming online in North Hadley
John Deere Furrow: Food Bank Farm – Sharing Fresh, local bounty
Food Bank News: Covid-19 Crisis Deepens Farm-to-Food Bank Connections