Free produce from mobile market for elderly Antrim Village residents

  • Staff photos by Abbe HamiltonResidents Ruth Kachelka, Betty Dishong, and Michael Dupuis talk to Farmsteads farm manager Amelia Gardner. The Farmsteads mobile farmers market stand brings free produce to Antrim Village residents. Staff photos by Abbe Hamilton

  • Antrim Village resident Ruth Kachelka picks out produce. The Farmsteads mobile farmers market stand brings free produce to Antrim Village residents on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Antrim residents Betty Dishong and Ruth Kachelka pick out produce. The Farmsteads mobile farmers market stand brings free produce to Antrim Village residents on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Farmsteads mobile farmers market stand brings free produce to Antrim Village residents on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Farmsteads mobile farmers market stand brings free produce to Antrim Village residents on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/14/2020 4:11:21 PM

Elderly residents of Antrim Village have been receiving free produce this summer from Farmsteads of New England, a working farm and residence for adults with disabilities in Hillsborough.

On a rainy Wednesday at the start of September, residents bantered with Farmsteads farm manager Amelia Gardner and helped one another with their groceries, gleanings and seconds from the farm’s fields in Hillsborough. Return mobile farm stand visitors Michael Dupuis and Betty Dishong said they’d be making ratatouille later, after watching from their windows for Gardner’s arrival. 

“They help each other a lot,” Gardner said of the residents, arranging pickups for neighbors unable to make it outside themselves. Foot traffic was heavy despite the rain: the stand had about 15 visitors in the first half hour she was set up. After an hour at Antrim Village, she’d head to another senior housing development in Henniker. “The goal is to come home with nothing,” she said.

Providing free produce to elderly communities was a long-time goal of Gardner’s and fits neatly into the other activities of Farmsteads, which helps its 20 residents and four day program participants develop life skills and work experience, Operations Manager (and Gardner’s husband) Jon Noble said. The 68 acre campus boasts a four acre garden and livestock, and Farmsteads residents and four staff members grow food for the campus, fill orders for a 30 member CSA, and sell at farmers markets, he said. When there’s too much produce to sell, it goes to food pantries in Hillsborough and Warner, he said, and over the last three years, some of it’s begun to go to senior communities in Antrim and Henniker as well.

The mobile market itself is an ingenious bit of carpentry that Gardner raised funds to build five years ago. It’s labor intensive to set up a stand at a market, and a portable stand could make the experience easier and more comfortable for people with disabilities to run, Gardner said. The stand is towed by a truck and features fold-out shelves for produce, an awning, and a space to sit behind the counter. It takes 15 minutes to set up and break down, and transports produce securely, Gardner said.

It was a longtime goal of Gardner’s to provide the elderly with nutritious food. Years ago, her mother befriended an older woman in Warner who became an adopted grandmother to the family, Gardner said. The woman used a wheelchair and relied on others to shop for her. “It would be so good to have a farmers market here,” Gardner remembers thinking about the woman’s residential community, for elderly residents to have a chance to get outside and access healthy local food typically unaffordable for them, when some can’t even get to their local food pantry. Three years ago, Gardner experimented with distributing the farm’s seconds at senior housing developments at half price. The response was initially lukewarm, but enthusiasm skyrocketed last year when Gardner was able to give away the produce for free.

“Everyone went home and called their neighbor. Holy cow, people need the food. It’s amazing,” she said. There wasn’t much to distribute last year since yields were low, but there’s much more of a surplus this year, Gardner said.




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