Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) first launched their Senior Farm Share Program in 2004. The program helps low-income seniors access fresh, local produce at a reasonable price.  

Thanks to additional grant money from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, this year CISA was able to invite more farms into the fold. Connecting Point‘s Brian Sullivan visited Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby, MA one of the local farms who took part in the ten-week program for the first time this year. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Since 2004, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, or CISA, has run their Senior Farm Share program, which helps provide fresh local produce to low income seniors.

With additional grant money this year from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, they were able to invite more farms into the fold, and Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited one local farm who took part in the 10-week program for the first time this year.

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Drivers passing by 35 Amherst Street in Granby, Massachusetts, may only see this quaint farm stand, a winding country road visual staple here in New England. What they don’t see are the twenty five acres of land stretched out behind the farmhouse, where there are fields and greenhouses loaded with organically grown produce and flowers.

What they may not know is, while owner Dave Kaskeski unloads some leafy greens off the gator and field supervisor Meghan Hastings unleashes three geese a little after 7:00 a.m, that the two of them have already been on the job for over two hours and will likely be at it for another 11 or 12 hours.

Now,  twenty five acres may sound like a lot of land to the average city dweller like me, but it’s actually a small farm, and this is the early part to a typical 14 hour day toiling the soil.

Meghan Hastings, Dave’s Natural Garden: We are a small farm. We have a small crew here, and so, we have people who work in the field and we have people who work in the store. But for the most part, the people who work in the field also work in the washroom, they also plant stuff, they weed stuff.

Pretty much everybody does everything around here. You know, we do all the planting, the picking, all of that stuff. Dave and I work along with whoever is working for us at the time. We don’t have…you know, we don’t, we don’t send our employees out to do work and just, you know, hang back here. It’s kind of a hands on job for everyone.

Brian Sullivan: Regardless of the size of the farm, it’s the reputation here that was big enough for it to be chosen in 2021 as one of 13 local farms across Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties to take part in the Senior Farm Share program.

That’s a program that’s helped provide fresh produce for low income seniors since 2004 and is run by the CISA organization, or Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture. This year, their grant money was increased to seventy five thousand dollars, which allowed them to expand their outreach.

Meghan Hastings: They chose South Hadley. South Hadley had applied and asked to be part of the program, and they chose South Hadley as one of their expansion sites. And when they asked the South Hadley Council on Aging if there were any farms that they wanted to work with, they…there aren’t really a lot of produce farms. There’s nobody that does CSA is in South Hadley.

But several of the South Hadley Council on Aging people knew about our farm and said that they would be interested in working with us.

Brian Sullivan: The program, which runs for 10 weeks from late summer to early fall, had just wrapped up about a week before our visit there. But it was nice getting a chance to see that even a small operation like this farm can have such a big impact on the community.

When I was growing up, the idea that my grandparents, or people my grandparents age, could ever be in need of some of life’s basic necessities was never a thought in my head. Now, as an adult, I realize it’s just one of life’s harsh realities. But with this program and help from local farms like Dave’s Natural Garden here in Granby, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Meghan Hastings: You know, I never really thought that my grandparents would be people who would need help buying food either, and they weren’t.

But you know, there are a lot of seniors in the area. They have a really limited income. Social Security doesn’t provide enough for them to be able to pay their bills, and it’s not right for people have to choose between food and paying other bills.

Brian Sullivan: While 2021 was the first year of their involvement in the Senior Farm Share program, the folks here at Dave’s Natural Garden are no strangers to community supported agriculture, and it was a positive experience for everyone involved.

So now, they can set their sights on making this an annual tradition.

Meghan Hastings: It was a great partnership and we really enjoyed participating in it. It was awesome to be able to get feedback from the people who were part of it and to see how much they enjoyed participating. When they came here at the farm, they really had great things to say about it, so it was awesome for us. We’re totally hoping to do it next year.