Farming program brings ‘land of opportunities’
By Lori Szepelaklori@thereminder.com
HOLYOKE – As the harvest season comes to a close for farmers at Nuestras Raices Farms off Main Street, the last of the fresh produce was available for sale outside of Rosary Towers on Oct. 24.
Despite the windy and cool temperatures, Diego Angarita, assistant executive director of Nuestras Raices, and Karen Grossi, mobile market coordinator, and a farmer who owns a plot of land at the farm, were out with a mobile farm stand – selling a multitude of produce ranging from tomatoes, eggplant, leeks, zucchini, celery, carrots and Swiss chard, to specialty crops including Cubanelle peppers, Aji Dulce sweet peppers, and pinto beans.
“Throughout the growing season we targeted the Puerto Rican community,” Angarita said, noting that the mobile farm stand also visited other apartment complexes and the new senior center.
Nuestras Raices is a grassroots nonprofit organization that was started in 1992 by community members in South Holyoke who wanted to make a change in their community. Nuestras Raices, which means “Our Roots,” represents the strong agricultural ties and history that the Puerto Rican community has in the city. More than 10 years later, the farm runs a successful farmers project, allowing local residents to not only grow food for themselves, but to grow food for a market stand, and to begin an agricultural business.
A Beginning Farmers Training Program called Land of Opportunities allows farmers to rent small plots of land (1/8 acre up to a full acre) and provides them with small loan connections, training, shared resources, market assistance, and community support. Grossi is among those farmers who are enthusiastic about the program.
Grossi noted that she “loves to be outside,” so her passion for growing food in the city where she lives is a perfect complement to wanting to provide “produce to my neighbors.”
Grossi isn’t alone in her love for the land as there are currently more than 100 member families involved in 10 community gardens on site.
“I love tending to the plants,” she added.
Angarita echoed the sentiments of Grossi.
“Nuestras Raices supports our farmers and encourages growing produce using organic methods,” he said. “We also track data from all of our projects to ensure we have good program outcomes.”
When the mobile farm stand is in the community, Grossi and Angarita can also assist those with SNAP and WIC benefits, and seniors who have vouchers.
“We are finishing our first year of the mobile farm stand and it has been well received,” Grossi said.
For more information on the farm, located at 24 Jones Ferry Road, visit www.nuestras-raices.org
or call 531-2767.