Today, Wednesday, August 5, The Sanctuary staff met up with Justine of Denison Farms at The Stepping Stones Center in North Troy. Denison Farms is the supplier of the organic vegetables for sale in Farm to Preschool Program and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The Farm to preschool program provides affordable organic vegetables, free samples, and free literature (recipes and tips) to the people living in the community and the families of the students at The Stepping Stones.
While we there we say kids really excited about fresh vegetables and fruit. It was a joy to watch the children showing off their favorite vegetables and watching them display an understand of the value of money as they used money to purchase their favorite items. Everything available, from corn and carrots, to melons was under $5.
Justine took a moment to speak with us, she is the manager of Denison Farms but advised “it takes a community to run a farm.” She and her husband do the farm and have much help from community members including Sanctuary volunteer Ellie.
Denison Farms is an expansive 164 acre farm which includes 2-3 streams, the Tom Hannock Creek with is used for irrigation. Approximately 30 acres are open for farming and between 22-25 are actually cultivated. Justine said “[As a farmer] you have to find that sweet spot.” She went on to explain that it can be difficult to be so diverse, as Dension farms grows around 60 different types of vegetables and she finds that diversity isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to farm.
Many new farmers are failing because there is so much competition and it would be far better to raise 6-8 crops really well, versus growing many things adequately. “[My husband] would be happier if he could hone it in and do a better job.” There are also many concerns to think of when farming including disease and blight, which can make things very complicated when growing many different types of crops.
Justine advised that one future model that might work well would be something of a farmers co-op where farmers each specialize in a small handful of types of vegetables and people can buy directly from that group of farmers instead of through a distrubuitor. “[I’d like to see farmers work harmoniously together.]”
As it is Dension Farms grows just about everything- including ocra. Denison Farm is located about a mile away from Malta and is a large organic farm. They see a lot of wildlife including deer, bobcaats, bears…”You name it,” Justine said. “We’re not in the middle of nowhere.”
Mary Haley Center Manager of CEO, who was also with us at Price Chopper last week shopping with local families and helping them make healthy choices and teaching them how to shop cheaply and efficiently, also made an appearance. She advised that after we left last week all the moms received a $10 gift card to Price Chopper and each purchased ingredients for a meal in which they bought something in each of the 5 food groups.
Since it’s inception the farm to preschool program has grown dramatically. One worker advised that initially people were skeptical and avoided eye contact but now families of students stop by frequently, as well as neighbors and even people just driving by. The farm to preschool progam and the CSA are helping grow stronger healthy communities by providing affordable organic options locally.