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Poughkeepsie Farm Project Donations Hit A High

Courtesy of Poughkeepsie Farm Project

A community-based agriculture cooperative in the Hudson Valley hit new highs for last year’s harvest and donations — including the amounts donated to low-income residents and community groups.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project Executive Director Lee Anne Albritton says the farm yielded a harvest of more than 122,000 pounds last year – a jump of more than 24 percent over 2013 totals. Of the total, more than 27,000 pounds of food worth an estimated $75,000 was donated to community groups and low-income families and individuals throughout the mid-Hudson Valley, up 42 percent over 2013. Albritton says the farm responded to increased need and requests, and sees those requests growing.

“We actually had three local churches submit applications requesting to become partners. And they have their own soup kitchens,” says Albritton. “And so that’s already a bigger request from Poughkeepsie.”

She says the growth in requests is twofold. There are families who want to be part of a subsidized, or sponsored share of the CSA, or community-supported agriculture, and then there are the partners, or community groups to which Poughkeepsie Farm Project donates. Albritton says she has applied for three grants requesting $25,000 each to help support the farm’s donation effort. She talks more about area groups’ requests.

“And then last year also with our partners - so those would be the Lunch Box or Salvation Army or  Hudson River Housing - those are places who also have requested more food for this season, if possible,” says Albritton.

Michele Pollock Rich is executive director of Poughkeepsie-based Grace Smith House, which has two domestic violence shelters in Dutchess County with 30 beds. She says last year, Grace Smith House provided 178 adults and 83 children with emergency beds, and provided three meals a day.

“The Poughkeepsie Farm Project, when they donate to the Grace Smith House, helps to keep our families healthy,” says Pollack Rich. “And it also helps us to cut our food budget, which is a large line item in our budget, by providing us the produce directly.”

She says produce can eat away at the bottom line, so donations help a lot.

“We expect to serve the same numbers of domestic violence victims in shelter, but we also see cuts in our budget, says Pollock Rich. “So as our budget and funding sources are reduced, the donations become more and more important to us.”

Leon Vehaba is farm manager for Poughkeepsie Farm Project. He says they donate a lot of greens, and some other versatile and healthy items.

“Everyone always wants more potatoes and more carrots, things that they can use in a lot of different dishes. One of our biggest partners is Dutchess Outreach; they have The Lunch Box program. It’s really nice to have partners that both cook for their participants and then also distribute produce. So they do both,” says Vahaba. “We donate food to them. They use what they’re going to use in the kitchen and then they also put it out for people to take home.”

Poughkeepsie Farm Project makes about 25 percent of its annual harvest available to low-income families and operates educational programs on nutrition and other agriculture-related topics for at-risk teens and other youth throughout the region.