Farm will supply fresh fruits and vegetables
Fifteen years ago, Dennis Derryck began to dream about a community-owned farm that would provide freshly-harvested food to city neighborhoods that now have no control over what is available, where it comes from or how it is grown.
In January of 2009, he purchased the farm.
This summer, Corbin Hill Road Farm will begin delivering its harvest to Hunts Point residents.
A professor at the New School’s Milano School of Management and Urban Policy, Derryck, who sits on the board of SoBRO, the South Bronx Economic Development Corporation, is teaming up with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children to start the Hunts Point Farmshare.
For 22 weeks, beginning on June 14, local residents, along with residents of Mott Haven who buy shares, will receive enough fruits and vegetables to feed a family of four. Derryck is confident that he can make a dent by providing fresh food options to residents faced with the burden of living in what is widely regarded as a food desert.
“If ever there was a place to make a difference, that’s the place to do it,” he declares.
The plan that will bring food from Schoharie County, 200 miles north of the Bronx, is called a community supported agriculture project, or CSA. It connects farmers directly to consumers, bypassing middle men and stores, so that farmers earn more while customers pay less.
A share will bring up to 14 pounds food a week in the peak summer season, and will cost a total of $400 over the 22-week period of the harvest, with discounts offered on a sliding scale (see accompanying story).
Derryck has partnered with local organizations to recruit members and to ensure that the farmshare will be a success. Among the non-profits that will offer shares to their employees are SoBRO, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, the South Bronx Food Co-op and Cooperative Home Care Associates.
But Hunts Point Alliance for Children will have a special relationship to Corbin Hill Road Farm. Not only will it be the face of the CSA in Hunts Point, but it is raising funds in order to invest in the venture.
The positive response to HPAC’s deliveries of fruits and vegetables to local schools and community organizations led it to partner with the farm and CSA, said Jill Roche, HPAC’s director of operations and community advocacy. The organization plans not only to reach out to residents to join the CSA, but, in keeping with its educational mission, to take children and families on visits to the farm.
Late last year, HPAC joined forces with Tanya Fields, CEO of the BLK ProjeK, who at the time was looking to start the first CSA in Hunts Point. Together, HPAC and The BLK ProjeK have been working to recruit residents to join the farmshare. They are committed to filling 50 slots.
Fields, a mother of four, spends a third of her paycheck on groceries. Saying she wants to provide the best and freshest food for her family, she plans to purchase two shares. She says she is confident that a “small number of people can set an example for the rest of the community” by buying shares, adding, “The slots are affordable and priced lower than they should be.”
While Hunts Point does not have a history of farm-to-table programs, in Mott Haven, the South Bronx CSA is entering its seventh year. According to Jackie Davis, its coordinator, the success of any type of community supported agriculture project depends on the quality of the food, the quantity that members receive and the variety of vegetables and fruits it can provide.
Derryck says the food from his farm will be delivered within a day or two of being picked. By contrast, produce found in stores travels an average of 2,000 miles and spends days in storage or refrigerators before landing on store shelves.
Over the next five–10 years, Derryck hopes to be able to provide locally grown food for as many as 4,000 people. To accomplish this ambitious goal, which would make the enterprise one of the nation’s largest, farm shares will include fruits and vegetable from other farms in Scoharie County, in addition to food grown at Corbin Hill Road Farm.
Once the business is no longer a risky investment, shareholders will have the opportunity to purchase the stock owned by HPAC.
The project, said Stu Schneider, business development manager at Cooperative Home Care Associates presents an opportunity to be the start of “long lasting changes in the community.”
A version of this story appeared in the May issue of The Hunts Point Express.