Fork & Spade with Francie Lin: New ways to invest in the local food system

  • The flexibility of a PVGrows Investment Fund bridge loan allowed Crimson & Clover farmer Nate Frigard to accept a Massachusetts Food Security Infrastructure Grant to insulate his barn for year-round use as a farm store, and to build a washing and packing building attached to the barn. CONTRIBUTED

For the Gazette
Published: 10/27/2022 4:00:46 PM
Modified: 10/27/2022 4:00:31 PM

October always feels like the tipping point in the season, when the fields wind down and thoughts turn to both the joys and challenges of colder weather. This month’s Fork and Spade includes many things to look forward to as well as new and thoughtful ways to invest in food access and the local food system.

Grow Food Northampton

Tuesday Market has just a few more weeks until the final market on November 8th. Fall crops are filling the stalls and fall vibes are in the air! Stock up on squash and root veggies, apples, meat, honey, maple syrup, cheese and so much more. Stay to listen to some music and watch the yellow leaves rain from the locust trees. Grow Food Northampton will transition to the Winter Market on November 19. Dates for Winter Market are: November 19, December 3, December 17, January 14, January 28, February 11, February 25, March 11, and March 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Northampton Senior Center. We’ll be offering a $10 SNAP bonus at the Winter Market and several vendors will accept payment with HIP (Healthy Incentives Program for SNAP).

On the education front, this October, all 5th graders in the Northampton Public Schools will be taking a field trip to Florence to go on a historical tour hosted by Grow Food and the David Ruggles Center. Students will go on a walking tour to learn about the Abolitionist history of Florence, including a stop at the Lydia Maria Child Garden at the Grow Food Community Farm to learn how sugar beets were grown as a tool of resistance to slave labor in the early-to-mid 19th century. If you know a Northampton 5th grader, ask them what they learned!

One issue of great importance to Grow Food on the statewide ballot this November 8th is Question 4, which asks Massachusetts voters to support or reject the Family Mobility Act. This act would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license regardless of immigration status. A large proportion of farm workers in our region are undocumented; allowing our agricultural workforce to drive to work, take their children to school, buy groceries, and seek out medical care would change lives in so many meaningful ways, besides also providing our food-insecure community members with a better chance at accessing healthy foods. The bill has bipartisan support, and you can read about the many benefits of voting Yes on 4 here:

And finally, if you are looking for hands-on ways to get involved in the community, Grow Food’s current volunteer needs include produce deliveries to Northampton neighborhoods with the Winter Mobile Market (our new iteration of the Community Food Distribution Project) on Wednesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. We also need help putting the Community Farm Giving Garden to bed on Wednesday mornings from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and Thursday evenings from 5pm until sunset; as well as help with garlic planting on Saturday November 12th from 12 to 2 p.m. For all volunteer needs, visit

Franklin County Community Development Corporation

Those looking to support the local economy in a different and mutually impactful way will want to check out the PVGrows Investment Fund (PVGIF), a program of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, which has provided financing and business assistance to 55 farms and local food system entrepreneurs since 2015. PVGIF recently launched a new Social Impact Pool, allowing community members to go beyond buying local by giving them an opportunity for grassroots investment in the local food system.

The new Social Impact Pool minimum investment is $500 with two percent interest and a three-year term, making it possible for those without major assets to still participate. (Previously, the minimum investment was $1,000 with a longer term.) And, as Seeds of Solidarity farmer and PVGIF investor Deb Habib notes, money invested in PVGIF does more heavy lifting than funds in a more traditional investment situation. “The PVGrows Investment Fund has made it easy and welcoming for everyone to feel they can invest in our local food system,” she says. “As farmers as well as first-time investors without significant funds, my partner and I continue to feel how much it matters, and it feels more proactive than a CD or savings account.”

On the farmers’ end, PVGIF provides local farms and food producers with important financing that can be hard to access elsewhere. The flexibility of a PVGIF bridge loan allowed Crimson & Clover farmer Nate Frigard to accept a Massachusetts Food Security Infrastructure Grant to insulate his barn for year-round use as a farm store, and to build a washing and packing building attached to the barn.

“Getting that grant felt life-changing,” Frigard says, “and securing a bridge loan from PVGrows made me feel like anything was possible.”

Check out to learn more or contact Rebecca Busansky at

Manna Community Kitchen

As winter approaches, the need for community support at Manna Community Kitchen continues to grow. Lately Manna has been providing record numbers of meals to their guests — approximately 1500 meals a week — and is seeking sponsors to help keep nourishing the community with their fresh, healthy, delicious lunches and dinners. (Recent menus have included warm butternut squash and chickpea salad and chicken sausage gumbo!) If you and your friends, you and your neighbors, or you and your business would be interested in sponsoring a day of meals for $500 or a week of meals for $3000, please contact Kaitlyn Ferrari at All sponsors will receive a social media post and story plus a very grateful mention on Manna’s website and in their newsletter.

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