New Entry helping to increase fresh food access to university students

Thursday, June 20, 2019 // Food for Thought

New Entry Farmer Alex leads a crop production class on seed planting.

Winters can be rather fluky in New England and have a significant impact on the farmers who have a brief window each year to grow, and profit from, their crops. As a result, school cafeterias often suffer a drought of fresh local food available to their students.

But a new effort sponsored by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation hopes to change all that by supporting local farmers and improving the fresh food infrastructure for year-round growing. Ultimately for the region this means more land dedicated to farming and less farmland lost to development. As a result, New England farmers will be incentivized to expand acres of farmland in production and campus consumers will be able to enjoy more of the region’s bounty during every season.

Led by Harvard University, Boston College, and Tufts University, the new program incentivizes local farmers to take on new land and new forms of growing and storing for several high-volume crops that the schools incorporate into their dining hall menus.

This is where New Entry Sustainable Farming Project comes in.  We’ll be collaborating with the three institutions and Costa Fruit & Produce to help move this program forward in the areas of farmer recruitment, farmer training, and overall program training.

New Entry’s extensive alumni network will help us identify farmers who are interested in accessing wholesale markets through season extension and/or by expanding land in production.  We will also assist farmers around strategic investments to enable their wholesale readiness.

To build the capacity of farmers entering this and other wholesale markets, New Entry will provide training through workshops and individual one-on-one technical assistance. On-site workshops and trainings delivered throughout the 2019 growing season will position farmers for success in meeting wholesale market goals in 2020.

With extended operations, farmers will also get assistance navigating the food safety requirements of the Commonwealth Quality Program, and the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This will be done, in part, by working towards compliance with each of these programs on New Entry’s own Food Hub. Trainings with MDAR and the Produce Safety Alliance will also be coordinated.

In addition to on-site workshops, New Entry will conduct one-on-one technical assistance with Kendall grant recipients off-site. This technical assistance will help farmers identify costs and pricing required to make these wholesale arrangements profitable, in addition to building their capacity to address food safety and post-harvest storage and packing requirements.