by Buki Owoputi
How many times in the last year have you eaten a fruit and/or a vegetable? Hundreds? Thousands? (We Freidman students sure do love our fruits and veggies!) How many times in the last year did you eat a fruit or a veggie grown on a local farm? If you are like most of us, it is not nearly as often. In an increasingly globalized conventional food system, there is a huge disconnect between local food production and local eaters. That’s where New Entry Sustainable Farming Project comes in!
The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (New Entry) is an initiative of the Friedman School based in Lowell, Massachusetts whose mission is “to improve local and regional food systems by training the next generation of farmers to produce food that is sustainable, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate.” New Entry trains aspiring farmers by providing opportunities for advancement and business training, access to farm equipment and farmland, technical assistance training on organic farming practices, and marketing assistance.
The World PEAS (People Enhancing Agricultural Sustainability) Food Hub, a program of New Entry, works to empower farmers to obtain long-term economic self-reliance and success by helping beginning, immigrant and refugee farmers sell their produce. By providing year-round marketing assistance, World PEAS connects farmers to customers in the greater Boston area through the World PEAS CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and other institutional/wholesale sales. As a result, World PEAS is a valuable tool for limited-resource farmers who benefit from a broader, more diverse customer base and increased farm incomes.
Many farmers trained by New Entry are immigrants or refugees with aspirations to make a living and support their families through careers in agriculture. These farmers often have limited English-speaking skills, and limited knowledge, time, or available transportation to thrive in local food markets on their own. The World PEAS Food Hub actively markets multicultural crop varieties grown by these farmers, ensuring that growers can sell healthy foods representative of their distinct cultures (i.e., Amaranth: a grain similar in taste and texture to Quinoa that is popular in certain West African countries).
Take it from one of our farmers, Seona Ban Ngufor. Seona emigrated from Cameroon and wished to farm in the U.S. as she had done in her native country. However, she faced numerous challenges like finding affordable, arable farmland and learning to grow produce in the New England climate. Seona credits New Entry with helping her to become a successful farmer.
New Entry helped her with crop planning, business planning, and marketing. Seona graduated from New Entry’s Farm Business Planning Course in 2007, farmed on our incubator farm site for several years, and now leases farmland in Stowe, MA. She sells her produce to World PEAS, to immigrant communities in Lowell, and at farmer’s markets in Lowell, Lynn, and Mattapan. She grows a variety of produce including amaranth, sweet potatoes, greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and cabbage. She continues to participate in the World PEAS program because she enjoys supplying her healthy, organic produce to the community.
The World PEAS CSA is the largest sales outlet for our farmers, accounting for 75% of gross revenue in 2014. Started in 2005, the World PEAS CSA is a community of individuals who support World PEAS farmers by pledging in advance to cover farm operation costs. In return, these shareholders receive fresh produce throughout the season.
Although CSAs are a popular outlet to connect to local farmers and the local food movement, World PEAS is not just any CSA program. World PEAS also increases availability of fresh fruits and veggies to those at risk for food insecurity through its Share-a-Share Program. The Share-a-Share program offers low-cost fruits and vegetables to low-income communities around Boston. World PEAS partners with community groups to provide reduced-cost CSA shares and bulk produce to families, seniors, school-aged children, and other at-risk groups. By making produce affordable in low-income communities, World PEAS increases food access in limited-resource communities while helping our farmers earn extra income in broader and more diverse markets.
The World PEAS program offers yummy local fruit and veggie farm shares from mid-June through October to communities in the Boston area, including the Tufts’ Medford and Boston campuses. If you are interested in purchasing a share this summer or helping to cover the cost for shares in low-income communities, contact the World PEAS Food Hub and Food Access Coordinator Mary Alice Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-654-6745. Or, if you simply want to learn more about New Entry or World PEAS, visit the website at http://nesfp.org/. Happy Eating!
Buki Owoputi is a first year FPAN and MPH-Epi/Bio student. She is currently a World PEAS intern, and in her spare time she likes to invent new recipes.