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News & Notes from Massaro Community Farm September 2020

For many people, Labor Day represents the end of one season and the beginning of another. But here at Massaro Community Farm we are only about halfway through  our growing season. Soon, farm manager Steve Munno will be planting more crops under the protection of our six high tunnels, extending the harvest well into winter.

New Workshops: Beekeeping and Creating a more biodiverse yard

Registration is open for two virtual workshops coming up on Saturday, September 12. The last beekeeping workshop of the season providing instruction on winter hive management will begin at 9:30am.   A workshop on reducing your lawn and planting a living/edible landscape begins at 10:00am. Registration for both workshops can be made at Eventbrite.com.  Both workshops will be recorded for later viewing.

Education kits donated

Thanks to a grant from the Valley Community Foundation, the farm delivered 200 free educational activity kits to families in Ansonia and Derby last month. The kits – distributed over two weeks –  included supplies for children ages 6-10 to plant mini terrariums, build a bug hotel, press flowers and dissect roots.  Kits were distributed to families receiving free summer meals at Mead, Prendergast and Irving Elementary Schools. Many thanks to the food service staff at Ansonia High School who distributed the kits with free meals.

Food donations increase in time of crisis

Fulfilling a primary part of our mission, Massaro Farm donated 3,500 pounds of produce to hunger relief between June and mid-August. The Connecticut Food Bank reported a nearly 50% increase in demand for food in 2020; the hunger relief agencies Massaro supports reported about half of the people needing food are new clients. In order to meet this increased need, we are  diverting fresh vegetables from our Learning Garden – a spot typically devoted to youth education on the farm – and donating excess  produce harvested from 13 community gardens across the Valley to hunger relief agencies. In addition to increasing the amount of produce we give, we have sought out new donation partners this year, including  St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry (Derby), Loaves & Fishes (New Haven), Seymour Oxford Food Bank (Seymour), Spooner House (Shelton) and Katherine Samela Food Pantry at Christ Episcopal Church (Ansonia).

Demand for local food means more jobs for local people

One side effect of the pandemic has been an increased demand for locally grown food. This increase is a welcome recognition of the value of local producers in a year when national supply chains experienced disruption. Our CSA program, in which customers purchase a seasonal share for pickup each week, grew by 20% this year, so we needed more workers to grow and harvest more vegetables. Other employers were forced to furlough or let go of staff due to the economic impacts of Covid-19. However, at peak in July, Massaro Farm had 21 people on our payroll, made up of year-round farm and administrative staff, several summer crew members and six youth staff. This represented a 30% increase over previous years. About half of the individuals worked part-time staggered hours spread out across the week to maintain safety protocols. Additionally, employees wore masks, gloves and ate lunch separately to avoid unnecessary risk. Thankfully, we did not have any reported incidences of Covid-19 illness this summer.

You may purchase our Massaro Farm organic vegetables, along with products from other small local farmers, at our online store: MassaroFarm.Square.site. Order each week by 4:00pm on Wednesday for curbside, contactless pickup on Friday afternoon.

Massaro Community Farm is a non-profit, certified organic community farm on 57 acres of land whose mission is to keep farming, feed people, and build community. In addition to growing vegetables for seasonal subscribers, the farm donates thousands of pounds each year to hunger relief.  The farm serves as a hub of education for all ages and shares its space with the community. The farm’s nature trail is open to the public 365 days a year. For more information visit our website at www.MassaroFarm.org  or contact Executive Director Caty Poole at 203-736-8618.

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