A bumper crop of goodwill: CISA’s farm-fresh food program for seniors building community 

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  • Dave’s Natural Garden business manager Meghan Hastings, right, talks about growing cucumbers in a greenhouse during a tour of the Granby farm for about 20 people, including state representatives Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Dan Carey on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Dave’s is one of 13 local farms taking part in the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture Senior FarmShare program. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Kaskeski, right, owner of Dave's Natural Garden in Granby, chats with Pamela Toohey, left, and Ann Andras picking out produce after a tour on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, highlighting the farm's participation in the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture Senior FarmShare program. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Paul Catalano of South Hadley picks out some celery at Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby as part of his weekly share in the CISA’s Senior FarmShare program on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Zoey Sloate, program coordinator at Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, speaks at a tour of Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby to highlight CISA’s Senior FarmShare program on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Behind her are Rep. Dan Carey, center, and farm owner, Dave Kaskeski. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, talks about advocating for the recent increase in state funding for the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture Senior FarmShare program from $50,000 to $75,000. Carey spoke during a tour of Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby given by farm owner Dave Kaskeski, center, and the farm’s business manager Meghan Hastings, right, to highlight the CISA program on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, listens as Kelly Coleman, program director for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, speaks at a tour of Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby to highlight CISA’s Senior FarmShare program on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave’s Natural Garden business manager Meghan Hastings, second from right, leads a tour of the Granby farm, which takes part in the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture Senior FarmShare program, on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 9/10/2021 10:56:50 AM

GRANBY — A program that provides locally grown, farm-fresh produce to low-income elderly residents — for free — also is boosting the income of area farmers and building community. What’s not to love?

A gathering at Dave’s Natural Garden Thursday gave growers, consumers, organizers, and legislators an opportunity to share the love.

“It’s a win-win for the Valley,” said state Rep. Daniel R. Carey, D-Easthampton, the program’s head cheerleader in the Legislature.

Carey was referring to the Senior FarmShare Program overseen by the organization known as CISA — Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture. CISA’s program provides produce from 13 area farms to more than 500 seniors with low incomes across Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties. The funding to purchase the fresh produce — $75,000 this year — comes from the state’s Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

As it has since 2004, CISA’s program provides low-income seniors with 10 weeks of seasonal, fresh vegetables purchased directly from local farms. Seniors with a demonstrated need sign up in the spring to receive weekly shares of freshly harvested produce that is distributed through senior centers, councils on aging and service agencies throughout Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties. Participants commit to the program for the duration, paying $10 towards the total market value of $135. This year, FarmShare will supply seniors through 17 distribution sites. Since 2004, FarmShare has paid $735,700 to local farmers for their produce.

The occasion for Thursday’s gathering at the Amherst Road farm of Dave Kaskeski was the announcement that Dave’s Natural Garden and two other farms have recently joined the program. Carey, who successfully advocated for a state funding increase for the program from $50,000 to $75,000, said he hopes to see the program expand throughout Massachusetts.

Kaskeski and Program Director Kelly Coleman noted that many of the elderly participants have related that they either grew up on a farm or grew up next to one. The connection to the farmers — who personally deliver their produce to the senior distribution centers — has enriched a sense of community, they reported. Several program participants were on hand for the gathering. They were given a tour of Dave’s Natural Garden by the farm’s business manager, Meghan Hastings, reinforcing that community connection.

Also present at Thursday’s event were members of the western Massachusetts legislative delegation, all supporters of the program: Rep. Lindsay N. Sabadosa, Rep. Jake Olivera, Rep. Patricia A. Duffy and a member of Sen. Eric P. Lesser’s staff.




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