Dartmouth YMCA and the Sharing the Harvest Farm Project

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The Sharing the Harvest Community Farm Project is a collaboration between the Dartmouth YCMA and the Greater New Bedford Hunger Commission of Southeastern Massachusetts, a program of the United Way. Derek Heim, Executive Director of the Dartmouth YMCA, signed on as a part of the summer service initiative which President Obama announced in June in an effort to get more volunteers for this effort. In these tough economic times, the demand on local food pantries is greater than ever. Their efforts to produce high quality produce that they donate to help the emergency hunger relief effort on the Southcoast is just one way that Y is taking action to increase food security in Southeastern Massachusetts.

This season they are hoping to grow 20,000lbs. of fresh fruit and vegetables including: beets, carrots, chard, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, melons, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. They will also be growing broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, radishes, spinach, and winter squash. It's quite a list...

When Daniel, the Farm Project Coordinator, is asked what they are growing at the Y, he often responds, if it grows well around here, we'll grow some of it. They try to focus on crops that are popular, have high nutritional value, and don't require a lot of special preparation to enjoy. This diversity in our fields is one of the steps the program is taking to increase community food security; by planting a diverse array of crops, they provide themselves with insurance against the vagaries of New England weather. Some seasons might see abundant heat, which would be tough on the greens and lettuce, but reward them with bountiful tomatoes--others may be on the cool side, and kale and other greens will excel throughout the summer.

Another step they are taking at Sharing the Harvest is using farming practices which will build up our soil quality and health, including planting cover crops to add organic matter to the soil and ensuring that the mineral balance in the soil is well-suited to stabilizing this organic matter. These practices help their soils become stronger as we move forward, enabling them to better handle extreme weather events; Y fields will better absorb heavy downpours and hold more moisture during times of drought

Food security can come from healthy soils, but it can also come from a return to regional food systems. As oil prices continue to rise on the global markets, food that is shipped from the other side of the country, or even the world, will become more and more expensive. Localized production will be better able to handle the increase in transportation costs simply because the food doesn't have to travel as far. The Y’s little farm will hopefully serve as a reminder to the community of the abundance of food than can be grown in Southern New England.

Everyone can help, and our busy season at the farm begins in early spring and lasts well into the fall. Opportunities to volunteer at the farm are available during the “off-season” as well. By serving this summer, we hope more individuals, families and groups will make an ongoing commitment to volunteering throughout the year.

You can sign up to volunteer at the Sharing the Harvest Farm at the Dartmouth YCMA on the Serve.gov website, and individuals or groups can contact the Farm Volunteer Coordinator at 508-993-3371, or by email at sharingtheharvest@ymcasouthcoast.org

For more information, you can also visit: http://www.ymcasouthcoast.org

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