Jennifer Hartley, a Northampton resident, is one of the founding board members of the non-profit group Grow Food Northampton. Jennifer’s interest in the project grew from her interest in food and the power of community agriculture in bringing people together, as well as her concern for food shortages and the state of modern commercial farming.
In 2010, GFN, driven by the commitment and energy of its fanatic members, waged a grassroots campaign to purchase 121 acres in Florence (formerly the Bean and Allard Farms) and start a community farm. The group set out to educate Northampton residents about their cause to rally support and raise funds, eventually reaching their goal and purchasing the land. The project was funded primarily by individual donations and received grant funding as well. The City of Northampton pre-paid a 198-year-lease for the Florence Organic Community Garden portion of the site, which enabled that parcel to be purchased.
In the community garden, which will have its first growing season in spring 2012, individuals will pay a reasonable fee for a small plot of farm land. GFN will not only supply this land for public use, but also will work to educate individuals on how to successfully manage their plot.
GFN leases land to community-minded organic farmers on long term leases. These long leases allow new farmers to make substantial investments in the land, making them feel truly connected to the land and promoting the development of operations that are accessible and educational to the public.
Grow Food Northampton is working to break down the barriers between consumers and farmers. Their commitment and values have driven them so far as a young organization, and with no sign of slowing efforts, GFN should prove to be a staple in the Pioneer Valley’s community food movement well into the future.