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HAC in the News

Organic Idea Takes Root

Posted on Mon, Aug 02, 2010

For many people, spending extra money on a diet of fresh, organic, local food isn't on the menu.

However, for the people living at Housing Assistance Corp.'s shelters, a healthy diet of organic food is not out of reach — in fact, it may be just a stroll in the community garden away.

The community garden at the Community Green in Sandwich is bursting with vegetables ready to be harvested and delivered to a number of HAC shelters. Nestled among the 1½-acre community farming land, three garden plots are dedicated to growing these vegetables — among them, lettuce, fennel, cucumbers, beets, herbs and beans.

Kristie Kapp , the agriculture program manager, starts her mornings at dawn to tend to the ripening veggies. She began working on this plot of land in January and is finally seeing the fruits (or, in this case, vegetables) of her labor.

"It's fun to be a part of something from the bottom up. You see the whole process and can really appreciate the product."

The first harvest was distributed to the Angel House in Hyannis on June 29. Other shelters that have received the produce include the Carriage House in Falmouth and the Village at Cataumet.

The harvesting will continue throughout the summer and into the fall, bringing in peppers, eggplants, onions, pumpkins and winter squash.

Kapp said the program has been well-received by the families and individuals — many of whom aren't accustomed to eating much organic produce.

"They're so appreciative," she said. "Low-income people deserve healthy, organic food. ... That's where we're trying to bridge the gap."

HAC is also helping recipients with the preparation process. Volunteers will be running Saturday classes to teach simple and delicious ways to cook the produce — lessons that recipients can take with them after they leave their temporary housing.

Tisha Childs of Mashpee, facility director at the Carriage House, said having the food has been a great benefit for the shelter, since vegetables can be expensive in supermarkets.

"They are just enjoying having somebody come here and help them prepare the vegetables," she said. "They are expanding their palates, so to speak."

The Community Green consists of 45 acres of undeveloped land, save for the acre and a half used for the community garden. However, HAC is currently clearing out 15 of these acres to build low- to moderate-income housing. Along with the housing, there will also be space to continue growing produce for the shelters.

A portion of the vegetables will be sold and the money will go back into the farming process. The goal is to make the garden a self-sustaining project, without the need for outside donors.

When it's complete, Kapp hopes to turn the Community Green into a "mecca of sustainable agriculture on Cape Cod."

"There's this new wave of buying local, fresh and organic," she said. "It's time to jump on the wave."