Local farmers honored at first Farmer of the Year ceremony

The Food Bank celebrated local farmers at a special Farmer of the Year awards ceremony on Friday, February 12 (made possible by a donation from event sponsors Bob and Barbara Carroll). Farmers throughout Western Massachusetts were invited to the event to be honored for their contributions to The Food Bank this year, and to celebrate their commitment to supporting our community.

 Gideon Porth of Atlas Farm in Deerfield was named the 2015 Farmer of the Year by The Food Bank.

Gideon Porth of Atlas Farm in Deerfield named 2015 Farmer of the Year

This harvest season, local farms donated more than 452,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to The Food Bank. This healthy food was distributed to our member agencies as well as directly to people in need through our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program (which served 7,893 seniors last year) and our Mobile Food Bank (providing food to more than 22,000 people).

Gideon Porth of Atlas Farm in Deerfield received the Farmer of the Year award for his dedication to helping feed Western Massachusetts. Atlas Farm’s donation of 111,792 pounds of food in 2015 provided more than 93,160 meals to families in our community struggling to make ends meet. During his acceptance speech, he highlighted how the strong partnership between The Food Bank and local farmers ensures that fresh food, which might otherwise go to waste, reaches those who need it most.

“It’s a total win for all of us,” said Gideon. “We’re receiving all of the thanks here but it’s just a great fit for farms. The supply is there, and the need is there, and you guys are the ones filling that gap. I think we need to say thank you to you, and we are so happy to participate in this program every year.”

David Cheney of Cheney Orchards in Brimfield was the runner up, for donating 83,783 pounds of food in 2015, providing more than 69,800 meals.

Wally Czajkowski of Plainville Farm in Hadley was the second runner up, for donating 52,040 pounds of food in 2015, providing more than 43,300 meals.

The morning’s festivities included a tour of The Food Bank, allowing the farmers to see, first hand, how their nutritious fruits and vegetables move through our warehouse and into the homes of our neighbors in need.

Our new cooler, made possible through support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, was a highlight of the tour. It has doubled our warehouse’s capacity for perishable food, allowing us to receive and distribute more local produce. Scott Soares, Director Southern New England at USDA was on-hand to commend the farmers for their important partnership with The Food Bank and their continued support of our community.

Working together with our local farms, we will continue to strengthen the roots of our emergency food network and ensure that everyone has access to healthy food, regardless of their circumstances.

Top Ten Local Farm Donors in 2015 (by pounds of food donated)
Atlas Farms 111 792 lbs.
Cheney Orchard 83 783 lbs.
Plainville Farm 52 040 lbs.
Red Fire Farm 23 766 lbs.
Maple Row Farm 20 469 lbs.
Szawlowski Potato Farms Inc. 20 000 lbs.
Riverland Farm 10 494 lbs.
Enterprise Farm 8 960 lbs.
Cecchi & Sons Inc. 8 370 lbs.
Wendolowski Farm 7 480 lbs.