NORTHAMPTON – Grow Food Northampton recently received $413,000 from Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern to redesign their Community Farm and expand their reach to welcome additional small and beginning farms. The Florence nonprofit – which has spent almost 15 years creating an equitable local food system through programming, land access and education – will use the money to add additional parcels on their Community Farm, as well as additional plots on their Community Garden to increase the number of community members growing food for themselves and their families.
The federal money will also allow Grow Food to construct a barn and create additional gardening and farming spaces for more hands-on educational opportunities for all-age learners.
The Northampton Community Farm sits on the former Bean and Allard Farms and is the largest community farm in the state. According to their website, Grow Food leases most of this land to small farmers in amounts of less than an acre to as much as 90 acres and for time periods of up to 99 years. The community farm’s broad goal is to address land access challenges for farmers.
Meanwhile, the garden offers land plots for lease to community gardeners who want to grow their own food organically.
“Grow Food Northampton knows that now more than ever, we need to create our Community Farm as a central hub for the local food system where more food can be grown by farmers, especially those who come from communities that have been particularly marginalized or harmed by the conventional food system, and by community members in our Organic Community Garden,” said Grow Food Executive Director Alisa Klein, in a statement to Reminder Publishing.
According to Klein, the money from McGovern will allow Grow Food to optimize all its offerings within the Community Farm including how to grow food, maximize biodiversity, promote local pollinators and enrich the soil.
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us more than ever before how broken the national food system is and how important it is for communities to create and strengthen their local food systems,” said Klein. “We need to create our Community Farm as a central hub for the local food system where more food can be grown by farmers.”
Additionally, Grow Food Northampton also received a little more than $398,000 through the state’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA).
The LFPA program, which is spearheaded by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, awarded more than $7 million to 16 organizations across the state. The grants seek to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency through the purchase of domestic food from local and regional producers, by targeting purchases from socially disadvantaged farmers and producers, and the distribution to underserved communities.
With this money, Grow Food is teaming up with River Valley Co-op to provide disadvantaged farmers the ability to achieve commercial viability by purchasing their products, developing marketing plans, introducing them to new customers and including them as vendors in Grow Food’s farmers markets.
“A large proportion of the funding that we are receiving is for the purchase of produce and other locally produced products from new and socially disadvantaged local farmers,” said Klein. “Grow Food Northampton will distribute this food at no cost to community members grappling with food insecurity via our no-cost Mobile Market program. River Valley Co-op will distribute this no-cost local food via their Food For All program to community members on SNAP and WIC.”
According to Klein, this is the first year Grow Food has applied for the LFPA program. Readers can learn more about what Grow food offers on their website: https://www.growfoodnorthampton.org/.