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Eating fresh is easy in East Somerville

Posted by Marjorie Nesin  April 14, 2011 10:00 AM

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food.jpgThe "locavore" or eat local movement is sometimes considered elitist and expensive. But starting this year, East Somerville residents will get a cheaper shot at fresh, local produce. For its fourth year in the neighborhood, Farmer Dave's community supported agriculture program will offer subsidized shares and payment plans that accept EBT/SNAP, better known as food stamps.

In a CSA or "farm share," farms bring vegetables to a central drop-off point for weekly pickup. Participants must sign up and usually pay in full before the season starts.

Last year, the East Somerville site sold out of all its shares, said Farmer Dave's CSA manager Bethany Bellingham. But not everyone in the city could afford to participate. Hence the more-affordable options.

The Dracut-based farm started its Share-a-Share option in 2008 through its partner Groundwork Lawrence, Bellingham said. This year it's expanded to all Farmer Dave's pickup locations. That includes not only East Somerville but Beverly, Boston, Burlington, Dracut, Gloucester, Jamaica Plain, Malden, and Tewksbury. The farm has also added a pickup site in Union Square.

For 2011, unsubsidized 20-week Somerville shares cost $375 small, $525 regular, $925 huge.

"We have offered a sliding scale in the past in East Somerville [but] it wasn't really wide enough to help," Bellingham said. "To widen the scale would really put the farm at risk."

Enter eaters like you. When people sign up for Farmer Dave's, they will now have the option to donate additional funds for Share-a-Share. Up to 50% subsidies will be available for families who need it.

Typically CSAs require members to pay in full up front. "For a lot of people who are on very fixed budgets it's not feasible," Bellingham said. So the farm will also now allow shareholders to apply for an installment plan. She cited the example of a woman who ended up not needing a subsidized share because she could pay week to week from her EBT card.  

To compare to some of the other Somerville CSA options, Parker Farm in Davis Square costs $375 small share/$550 large for 24 weeks; Red Fire Farm in Union Square costs $580-$720, sliding scale, for 24 weeks; Enterprise Farm in Davis costs $500 small/$700 large for 25 weeks.

Check nofamass.org for a full list of farms with Somerville drop-offs.

A coalition of Somerville community groups is currently working with Tufts on ways to decrease obesity and increase fresh vegetable consumption in Somerville's immigrant communities, which are more populous in East Somerville. In fact, community organizations solicited the farm to have a program in the neighborhood.

Groundwork Lawrence will continue to handle donations for all sites; its sister organization, Groundwork Somerville, may help with outreach to potential customers, Bellingham said.

Among its 100-plus crops are several that specifically appeal to various immigrant groups, including aji peppers and the eggplant-like Brazilian jil. Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish speakers usually staff the East Somerville site, Bellingham said. In 2010, produce left at the end of each dropoff went to the Elizabeth Peabody House food pantry in Winter Hill.

"We really think it's important to feed the whole community," Bellingham said.

Learn more at farmerdaves.net.

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