Helping Hands: The Farm Collaborative

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Amy Hadden Marsh

Food Insecurity often impacts a family’s ability to put fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables on the dinner table. However, initiatives created to bring Farm-to-Table options to low-income families are working to change this.

Community Partnerships 

The Farm Collaborative, a nonprofit farm and education center at Cozy Point Ranch near Aspen, is helping low-income local families to get fresh foods. Ben Armstrong is the production manager for the Collaborative, where he ran three need-based programs this year. One was selling bulk kale and cabbage to Lift-Up and connecting with other small-scale growers who were doing the same thing. The farm also sold food shares to Carbondale-based Senior Matters through a Garfield County program that distributed the food from Parachute to Carbondale.

Low-Income C.S.A.

The third program involved selling low-income food shares through the Town of Carbondale and Live Well Colorado to ten families in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. “Each family received a box of veggies from us each week,” explained Armstrong.

First, the families toured the farm to get an idea about where the food came from. Armstrong said they lingered an hour longer than expected – a good thing.

“When you have a group of young kids and they’re all there getting excited about their shares, it makes the whole atmosphere feel a little bit different,” he said. “Instead of just giving something away, it’s more of a teaching and learning experience that everyone can get excited about.”

Farm to Table meets Food Insecurity

For Thanksgiving, The Farm Collaborative offered free C.S.A boxes to everyone in the community who requested one. They accepted donations of any amount to help raise funds for the nonprofit’s initiatives, which include several programs that provide fresh produce for low-income families. The boxes were filled with winter storage crops – beets, carrots, turnips, garlic, onions and apples. Before industrialization, these storage crops were nutritional mainstays during times of scarcity. Now they can be hard to find in a food-insecure household.

Building Community

Armstrong delivered the shares once a week for seven weeks. He said the program benefited local farmers and families. Not only did the families receive fresh food, they learned how to cook items they weren’t familiar with. Boxes of produce included recipes provided by Cooking Matters, a national organization with a network in Colorado that offers cooking classes focused on nutrition.

Half of the families were qualified for the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program and half were not, but no one knew who was getting assistance and who was not. This helped create equity within the group. “The equity part is really important,” Armstrong explained. “Since no one knew who was low-income, learning together helped remove the stigma of food insecurity.”

Amy Hadden Marsh is a freelance reporter living in the Roaring Fork Valley.

LEARN MORE about THE FARM COLLABORATIVE

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