Deepening roots in the Pioneer Valley

Aerial view of Food Bank Famr

Aerial view of the new Food Bank Farm (Google Maps)

After years of searching with the support of the Kestrel Land Trust, The Food Bank is now the proud owner of 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—especially during these difficult times.

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 will sell most of their share of the harvest 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. A small portion of this farm (about 3 acres) has become a model “no till” farm where The Food Bank, volunteers, and school groups work together to grow and harvest crops while learning about sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, and food access for all. The Kestrel Land Trust retains a trail easement over the farm for walking on designated farm roads that link to the conservation lands on the Amherst side.

Funding and preservation

Megan Edson (Hubbard) of Sunnier Days Construction, standing in front of one of the two greenhouses they donated to the New Food Bank Farm.

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 the 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.

Becca Feidelson, TerraCorps Member with Kestrel Land Trust, teaches young volunteers how to collect soil samples on one of the many trails surrounding the farm.

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.

Innovative farm-to-school partnerships

Farm Coordinator Al Driscoll (left) giving a tour of the no-till Community Engagement Farm to representatives from Springfield Public Schools.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, The Food Bank now partners with the Springfield and Holyoke Public Schools to:

  1. Increase the amount of locally-grown vegetables that are served in school meals
  2. Teach students about the farms and farmers who grow it, and
  3. The benefits of eating fresh (organic) vegetables

Springfield FoodCorps filmed two videos of Food Bank Farm employees describing the 3-acre model farm:

Food Bank Farm Fall Virtual Field Trip

Winter Virtual Field Trip to the Food Bank Farm

This year, The Food Bank is piloting a monthly Farm-to-Table distribution of fresh vegetables for children and their families facing food insecurity at two Springfield elementary schools. Our plan is to make this a permanent food distribution much like our Mobile Food Banks.

About our first Food Bank Farm

First Food Bank Farm, Hadley MA

The First Food Bank Farm, Hadley, MA

The Food Bank Farm is a 60-acre parcel of land on the Connecticut River in Hadley, protected from any development. It operates as a production farm in partnership with Mountain View Farm which leases from The Food Bank in exchange for providing us at least 112,000 pounds annually of fresh, local, USDA Certified Organic produce. This local bounty is distributed by us to our members, as well as through our Mobile Food Bank and Brown Bag: Food for Elders sites.

Mountain View Farm Learn more about our partner
Mountain View Farm

 

More Articles

WBUR.org: Organic Farms And A Food Bank Partner To Feed Thousands In Western Mass.

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