Farm sustainability through improved food access
The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which provides access to local produce for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) recipients, has transformed farms as well as families. For Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport, one of the oldest farms in the country, participating in HIP has not only increased their sales and production, it has also dramatically changed how they see their place in the food system.
The farm sells vegetables, fruit, berries, beef, and pork direct to consumers through their CSA program and at more than a dozen farmers markets. They signed up to participate in HIP in the spring of 2017 and saw their sales at each market increase. They were able to expand to selling at 15 farmers markets a week, including some city markets. “These were markets we wanted to go to but could never justify—suddenly we could. We could decide where to go based on what community needed the food the most, not just where we could make the most money,” says Justin Chase, the 12th-generation owner of the farm.
Arrowhead Farm increased production over the past year to meet the demand generated through HIP. They cleared five acres that had gone to brush, improved the soil and planted it, and built an additional hoop house. They also planted faster-growing vegetables so they could increase the number of harvests per year.
The farm has also begun growing new varieties of vegetables in response to the increasing diversity of customers at farmers markets. “We grew red bok choy instead of romaine and various winter squashes instead of butternut,” says Justin. “It’s been fun to learn about new foods to grow—and new recipes.”
Participating in HIP has also provided intangible benefits. “It has been enlightening for all of us. We knew there were hungry people, but to see it first-hand has been an overwhelming experience. I had no idea there was such a need in the veterans’ community,” says Justin. “It made us appreciate what we do all over again—we see that we are feeding people who need it most. That’s been pretty awesome.”