Nov 1, 2017
Located on the Vassar College campus, in the heart of the Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) is a non-profit organization that works toward promoting a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley by operating a member supported farm, providing education about food and farming and improving access to healthy locally grown food.
Located on the Vassar College campus, in the heart of the Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) is a non-profit organization that works toward promoting a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley by operating a member supported farm, providing education about food and farming and improving access to healthy locally grown food. The project began in 1999 with 15 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shareholders on three acres of farmland leased from Vassar College. A CSA is a locally-based food distribution method where growers and shareholders share both the risks and benefits of a growing season. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront, taking their ‘share’ typically weekly throughout a season. This early bulk payment enables a farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more. Now 18 years later PFP has over 12 acres, and more than 550 households take part in their CSA membership program. PFP’s CSA allows shareholders to not only benefit from fresh local food – 23 weeks of fresh in-season vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers or pick-your-own berries, tomatoes and more – but it allows them to connect with their farmers and neighbors. For winter 2017, PFP has announced a 16 week winter CSA option as well, beginning December 2. And there’s more to PFP beyond its flourishing CSA. Their mission is “to cultivate a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley, growing fresh fruit and vegetables for their CSA, train future farmers, provide hands on educational programs, and improve access to healthy locally-grown food,” and they have the programs to support this goal.
PFP is a strong advocate for food justice. “Food justice” is an international effort that empathizes both sustainability and justice in the food system. A just food system ensures access to quality food for all, regardless of income level. A sustainable food system ensures food is produced in ways that protect the health of the land, those who work it and the families and communities who consume its bounty. Substantiating that premise: while PFP has harvested over 183,366 pounds of produce, it has donated over 34,555 pounds of it to those in need. PFP works regionally but is focused primarily on the city of Poughkeepsie, giving the city's residents access to healthy food and fully engaging them in the food system from planting, to harvesting to consumption. All of the work PFP does, from using earth-friendly farming practices to providing subsidized CSA shares to low-income families to educating youth seed-saving, supports this movement. They prioritize the idea of food justice in all of their programs.
Part of that community engagement includes a 2013 Farm to School collaborative project, funded by the USDA, Local Economies Project and the Dyson Foundation; and in partnership with Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, Poughkeepsie City School District, and Upstream Advisors, among others. This project successfully introduced more fresh local produce into the district’s school meals, and provided for educational programming through the PFP. Students visited the PFP farm for field trips followed by PFP staff going into the classroom and cafeterias to expose students to fresh local foods that they experienced being grown on the farm. The students learned more about healthy eating through cooking workshops and gardening lessons.
PFP has had a long-term relationship with the Poughkeepsie City School district and they continue to provide programming beyond the Farm to School grant work. Their educational programs aren’t just for the students. There is an annual summer program for educators to help them use gardens to teach everything from literacy, social studies, science and math to nutrition, food systems, social justice and ecological gardening practices.
According to Jamie Lovato, the Education Director at PFP, the collaboration between HVADC and PFP is crucial because it provides assistance to the School Nutrition Directors, helping them procure local foods as replacements for some of the ingredients that they already purchase. HVADC is also able to help them identify farmers who could supply local products to be purchased by the schools. Equally for HVADC, the PFP is an important partner because the program on the ground doing work in the community and in the classroom that can only help further the HVADC’s vision of a prosperous Hudson Valley community consciously investing in resilient agriculture and viable local food systems.
PFP and HVADC, among other partners, most recently collaborated on the second Feeding the Hudson Valley event. While HVADC worked with farms to provide gleaning opportunities for the event, PFP held a workshop on the practice of “gleaning” to train volunteers prior to several scheduled gleaning sessions taking place for the Feeding the Hudson Valley fall event at the Walkway Over the Hudson. Participants were educated on how gleaning is vital for the improvement of food security. Gleaning is the practice of collecting leftover, excess, overlooked, or not commercially viable crops from farmers to feed the needy. Nationally one in seven people are food insecure. According to poughkeepsieplenty.org, one in four households in the City of Poughkeepsie is food insecure. ReFED, a collaboration of over 30 business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the U.S. reports that 62 million tons of food are wasted in the U.S. every year, including 10 million tons of food left unharvested on farms. Gleaning provides solutions for both waste reduction and feeding neighbors in need.
The success of PFP depends not only on collaborations with local partners, such as HVADC, but also on the shared resources of the community. Donations and volunteers are always welcome. Donors can choose to contribute to the organization as a whole or specify a program area. Contributors can choose what program the donation goes toward. If a specific program is not selected, the donation, in the form of a membership, will go toward the organizational operating budget and help further the mission as a whole.
For more information about PFP’s ongoing and upcoming projects or for how to sign up for the CSA or donate please visit http://farmproject.org