Web Extras

Web Extra: The Poughkeepsie Farm Project

By Peter Bronski

Founded in 1999, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP)—located at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve—is a community farm committed to more than just growing fruits and vegetables. It’s also about community education and food justice, issues especially important to the city of Poughkeepsie, where many socioeconomically disadvantaged residents lack access to affordable, fresh, local, nutritious produce.

For as long as the nonprofit organization has been around, the Vassar community has had a presence there. Miriam Latzer ’97 and Pablo Elliott ’00 (above, left) both have worked with PFP (as assistant grower and education coordinator; and intern respectively). So have Caroline Fanning ’04 (of Restoration Farm in Bethpage, New York), Jessica Clark ’02 (of South Pine Street City Farm in Kingston, New York), and most recently, Community Fellow Carlos Ignacio Hernandez ’14. The farm has proven an incubator of sorts, a profound and transformative experience that has compelled many a Vassar grad to use his or her liberal arts education to go back to the land, to build community, and to help drive a shift toward local, sustainable farms and food systems.

One of the largest components of PFP is the CSA (community-supported agriculture) program, through which area residents buy a share of the farm’s weekly harvest. More than 400 families take home some 75 percent of the 60 tons of naturally grown produce harvested each year from PFP’s 10 acres. The remaining 25 percent of the harvest is distributed through PFP’s Food Share program, sold at the Poughkeepsie Farmer’s Market, donated to local emergency food providers, and distributed via sponsored CSA shares, where low-income neighbors pay what they can for a share.

Then there’s PFP’s Building Bridges to a Hunger-Free Poughkeepsie, which sponsors community forums meant to build a metaphorical bridge between city of Poughkeepsie residents and the farm. Earlier this year, the USDA awarded PFP’s Building Bridges a $100,000 two-year grant through its Hunger-Free Communities initiative. In the first phase of grant activity, currently under way, Vassar sociology professor Leonard Nevarez and students in his Community Development course are conducting a community assessment of city residents’ food security and dietary preferences.