The HVADC Cultivator
FeedHV Partnership with Scenic Hudson Prioritizes Equity
When HVADC received a phone call from its generous partners at Scenic Hudson to build on three previous collaborations—which, to that point, had provided 80,750 pounds of food to food assistance programs, HVADC was eager to support the effort through its FeedHV program. Scenic Hudson indicated that it had wanted to help procure and distribute locally grown produce to local food pantries, and HVADC knew it could identify needs within its farmer network to match purchases to the needs of FeedHV receiving agencies.
Make hay when the sun shines. Recognizing the impact of social and racial inequities on the sustainability of local farming, FeedHV used this opportunity to buy in bulk from BIPOC-owned farms. This decision expresses one aspect of HVADC’s commitment to increase and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout its programs.
Seizing the moment, the FeedHV program team quickly engaged BIPOC-owned farms across the Hudson Valley. Nine farms were selected to provide a range of products, from staples like leafy greens to holiday fixtures like potatoes and apples. With the support of Scenic Hudson, the network purchased and distributed more than 6,300 pounds of healthy, local products to over 20 feeding agencies.
R & R Produce Farm provided over 1,800 pounds of potatoes and onions grown in the beautiful black dirt region of Orange County. As founder and owner Rogelio Bautista shared, “we’re a first-generation family farm. It’s just me, my wife, and our kids – working hard to set the family future in farming. We usually can’t offer free products to those who need them. So when we got the call, we were amazed and so grateful. We never expected something this major, and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to give back together.”
Immigrant-owned Ever-Growing Family Farm in Ulster County sold and delivered nearly 30 pounds of rare local rice. Grown with traditional techniques of the West African Jola people, this coveted offering went to People’s Place in Kingston. Dawn Hoyte from Ever-Growing Farm said, “in the Jola culture, 10% of the rice that’s grown is given back to the community, to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access. In recent years, limited yields due to climate change have kept us from honoring this important tradition. With the support of Scenic Hudson and FeedHV, we were able to give back. I so enjoyed seeing people’s enthusiasm for local rice that I sign up to volunteer when I can. It’s exciting to connect people with real, local food!”
Making connections, meeting needs. Bounty from these BIPOC-owned farms went to agencies in, Ulster, Orange, and Sullivan Counties. Recipients immediately witnessed the positive effects of this fresh, healthy food. Suzanne Flaum, Assistant Program Director, Farm to Food Pantry Collaborative at Family of Woodstock shared, “this time of year can be extremely difficult for families who can’t afford to put together seasonal holiday meals. When local organizations purchase produce from farms for donation, or when farms donate their extra produce through our program, it directly translates to food on someone’s plate. We are grateful to Scenic Hudson and Feed HV for helping us get more local, fresh, and healthy food to folks who need it most.”
Indeed, one in ten Hudson Valley neighbors struggles=, as Flaum described. Given the economic challenges of recent years, local feeding programs have experienced sharp increases in demand. Throughout the pandemic, the FeedHV food harvesting and rescue network has worked diligently to meet these rising needs.
At the onset, FeedHV rescued food from restaurants and milk cartons from schools facing shutdowns. As weeks turned to months, new opportunities to address challenged farm segments became clear. It was one such opportunity that initiated the Scenic Hudson partnership.
In August 2020, at the height of the pandemic and with surplus challenges facing local dairy farmers, Scenic Hudson and FeedHV partnered to purchase milk, yogurt, and butter from Hudson Valley Fresh and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy. Through that effort, nearly 75,000 pounds of dairy products were directed to community assistance programs in Dutchess, Ulster, and Columbia counties.
In September 2021, HVADC connected Scenic Hudson and FeedHV with Hudson Valley Fisheries of Hudson, New York, to procure approximately 1,200 pounds of locally grown steelhead trout for distribution to six agencies with food assistance programs in Greene and Columbia counties. This distribution provided the community with often needed, but elusive, protein.
At the end of 2021, the partnership purchased frozen products from Hudson Harvest at a reduced cost to distribute to area agencies with food assistance programs. That effort, which alleviated a shortage of cold storage for local farmers, benefited nine agencies, with donations of more than 4,550 pounds of locally produced frozen protein, produce, and baked goods.
These donation-enabled procurement opportunities have invested in the health and well-being of farms and communities alike. As the latest initiative within a series, this holiday partnership directed its purchasing power toward the historic underfunding of BIPOC-owned farms. HVADC intends to continue extending this work throughout its programmatic and resource offerings.
"Equity is not just a buzzword at HVADC, it's a practice that requires our steady cultivation,” said Mary Ann Johnson, Deputy Director of HVADC. "If we are to realize our vision for a prosperous Hudson Valley, then our investments, programs, and resources must stay rooted in an awareness of social and racial inequities. With conscious tending, we can help to grow resilient agriculture and viable food systems that benefit all. We appreciate the continued partnership of Scenic Hudson in making this possible.”
To learn more about FeedHV, its donor and volunteer programs, visit www.feedhv.org. To become a food donor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a monetary donation to FeedHV, visit https://www.feedhv.org/donate-today.