by Devin Ingersoll
Editor’s Note: Devin is the Food Access Facilitator Americorps VISTA for New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. While articles are typically written by Friedman students, The Sprout will occasionally feature stories from partner organizations. New Entry was launched by Friedman in 1998 to strengthen local food systems by supporting new farmers. Every year, Friedman students have the opportunity to work with New Entry on a variety of projects.
What does it take to be a farmer? Be prepared to put in long, physically-demanding hours, take huge risks, understand ecological systems, have savvy business skills, and be willing to do all of that for very little profit return. In Massachusetts, the average age of a farmer is over 57 years old, and less than 9% of farmers in the state are under 35 years old. A young person interested in farming faces huge barriers such as high cost of land, large capital start-up costs, and essential training time. The state has some of the most expensive farmland in the country valued at about $12,000 an acre. Service providers and organizations such as New Entry Sustainable Farming Project are working to flip the status quo and grow new farmers in our region to support a robust and sustainable local food system.
New Entry provides critical training, career development, and economic opportunities to beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers in the state. New Entry’s core services cover farm business planning courses, land access through its incubator farm and independent farmland matching service, on-going training and production workshops, market access, and more. One of the largest challenges of turning a profit for small-scale farmers is actually marketing and selling their crops. This is where New Entry’s World PEAS Food Hub steps in.
World PEAS aggregates produce from the 30+ beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers in the New Entry program, distributing the produce to individual CSA customers and wholesale accounts in the greater Boston area. The farmer is able to reach a stable, high-paying market to support his or her family, and the consumer gains to access fresh, locally grown produce. World PEAS also works with over a dozen organizations serving low-income and food insecure clientele to ensure that local fresh produce reaches the table of those that need it most. Our food access partners range from childcare agencies who provide healthy snacks for low-income children, to senior centers supplying home-bound seniors with fresh, nutritious produce.
Interested in purchasing fresh, local produce this growing season? Look no further than the World PEAS CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a weekly farm “share” delivered to 18 drop-off locations in the greater Boston area including both the Tuft’s Medford campus and the Jaharis building at the Friedman School. Unlike a single farm’s CSA, purchasing a World PEAS CSA share supports over 30 beginning farmers who may not be able to sell their produce elsewhere. World PEAS CSA shares are also available at a reduced price to low-income individuals using SNAP (Food Stamps). Learn more at www.worldpeascsa.org.
New Entry farmers are folks like Phalla, owner and operator of Phalla’s Produce who grows on about an acre of land on two sites in Andover and Boxborough. After her family came to the states from Cambodia as refugees, her father found New Entry and started his farm as a way to feel at home. After his death, Phalla continued the business and now is one of our most successful growers, excelling with crops native to her home in Cambodia. A World PEAS CSA customer can find Phalla’s bok choy and mustard greens among other farmers’ pumpkins, apples, and more throughout the season.