The Chester Housing Authority and Fare & Square, the city's only full-service grocery store, have partnered to make fruits and vegetables grown at CHA's community farm available to Chester. "The plan from the outset was to expand but the partnership with Fare & Square will yield revenue that will allow us to sustain the farm and to continue to offer it as an important educational resource to the community shoppers," said CHA Executive Director Steven A. Fischer.
The first products will be available this spring.CHA's Bennett Farm started from humble beginnings a decade ago as a community garden and has grown to a full-fledged two-acre, year-round farm. Providing food and farming education to CHA participants, the farm now produces enough food to be able to sell a portion, paying for the farm's ongoing operation and providing affordable produce to Chester residents. In the early years the farm produced food simply for the immediate community.
Prior to Fare & Square's opening in 2013, Chester was a food desert -- a place where nutritious food is difficult to conveniently find and afford. Providing healthy food is one of the main missions of Fare & Square as the country's first non-profit grocery store of its kind. The partnership allows CHA to join in that mission of providing fresh food around the corner for Chester."We are excited to be the exclusive retailer at which to find CHA-grown farm products," said Fare & Square Vice President for Retail Operations, Mike Basher.
"We know that CHA, like Fare & Square, is dedicated to providing fresh, healthy food grown in the community to the community. This partnership is aligned with our desire to improve the health of Chester residents and we're confident that it will."The farm is managed by a full-time CHA employee but residents, most notably those of Ruth L. Bennett Homes, help plant and raise the crops. Children join adults in the activity, learning about nutrition and how food is produced. Now in mid-winter, the farm is growing broccoli and collard greens among other crops in two greenhouses constructed in the past two years. The farm's expansion has also led to the creation of some part-time paid positions.
"We hope to learn more about the food business by understanding what it's like to display products in a mainstream supermarket," Fischer said. "We think that Chester consumers will appreciate finding locally grown produce in their store – knowing that they're supporting the local economy and people they know who've grown the food."