A Farm, a Bus, and a Mission
After 25-years selling wholesale organic produce largely outside the region, Dave Jackson, owner of the Whately-based Enterprise Farm decided go local. In 2008, Jackson set up a year-round C.S.A. share with pick-up available directly from the farm and in the Metro Boston area. Efforts to feed more people healthy food didn’t stop there. Together with employee Shelly Beck, he started a direct buying club and within the last month launched a mobile market initiative a.k.a. the bus project to get food into urban communities. “We can grow fresh organic cabbage for less money than they’re going to sell conventional cabbage for in most supermarkets and people can get it right off the bus,” said Jackson. Even when the Farm focused on the wholesale market, their mission stayed the same: to get healthy food to everyone, regardless of their budget. It was through the support of food pantries that Jackson got the inspiration to change his distribution channels and to connect directly with the customer. For years, Food for Free, the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry, the Western Mass Food Bank, the Survival Center, and other food pantries came to the Farm after hours to pick up leftover produce or overruns, which meant second-rate produce for many individuals and families. “The CSA model shouldn’t just be accessible to people who can afford drive to out to the farm on a Tuesday afternoon,” Jackson said, “I felt we needed to set up distribution points in areas of Boston to give people who may work during the day or who may not have the money for the full C.S.A. experience.” Jackson then wondered if 100 acres could feed 1,000 people and how could he ensure that a percentage of that food went to people who are income challenged or who are located in food deserts (areas without grocery stores or access to healthy food). “The thing that adds cost to food is the distribution system, not the production,” said Jackson, “If food was so expensive and farmers were getting paid its value, they wouldn’t be going out of business all the time. So every time we sell a dollar’s worth of food, someone else sells it for two. They have no cost of production whereas we do.” To bypass large distribution channels, Jackson and Beck started the bus project to bring the fresh market culture directly to the people who need it most. Inspiration for the project came from “Farm to Family” Mark Lilly who encouraged Enterprise Farm’s initiative. Jackson bought a ’95 Chevy Bluebird x-military bus online. They removed seats and plan to outfit the bus with a refrigerator and produce stands to make it as compact and modular as possible before it hits the road in Holyoke on September 1. In partnership with Nuestras Raices, a grassroots organization in Holyoke that promotes economic, human, and community development, the Farm will distribute produce into urban neighborhoods. “Almost every town could use something like the bus project,” said Beck, “because there are food deserts everywhere, even in rural areas. Any place that has farms can use this model. It’s like a C.S.A. One C.S.A. isn’t going to supply enough food to feed an entire state. You need lots of smaller regional support to make a difference.” Look for Enterprise Farm’s market bus at the Boston Local Food Festival on October 2. Visit their website to learn more about their year-round farm share. This post written by Nikki Gardner, a featured festival blogger. Check out her blog Art and Lemons.