Senior Farm Share Program

What is the Senior Farm Share Program?

The Senior Farm Share Program helps limited-income seniors purchase fresh locally-grown fruits and vegetables from their local farmer. Each week a Senior Farm Share member receives a portion of the harvest from the farm. In addition to receiving vegetables, seniors are given the opportunity to connect with other seniors within their residence through food distribution and preparation, learn from ways to cook and preserve their produce, meet other community members who are associated with the farm, and develop a relationship with the farmer who grows the food they eat each week. In 2010, there were over 900 senior farm share members throughout Vermont!

Who is eligible?

The VT Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (VDAIL) and NOFA-VT have identified a number of areas in Vermont that will be served through this program. These residences have been chosen based on a variety of factors including eligibility, number of interested participants, proximity to the farm, and availability and willingness of a residential coordinator to take on responsibilities for pick up and distribution.  Each year, the program is able to expand to a limited number of additional sites that meet the above criteria.

To participate in the program, seniors must be 60 or older, although younger adults with a disability may qualify if they also meet the financial criteria. Eligibility is based on 185% of the federal poverty income limit.  For instance, in 2010 families with a monthly income at or below $1,670 for a family of one and $2,247 for a family of two were eligible.

What are the benefits?

The Senior Farm Share Program connects seniors to the farm through what is called, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - a means of food distribution where community members purchase a "share" of the seasonal harvest. Senior shares are subsidized through the program, so eligible seniors do not need to pay to participate. Each senior is eligible to receive about $50 worth of fruits and vegetables over the course of 5-10 weeks of the summer.

About how many vegetables will a senior receive each week?

Each senior will receive enough vegetables to supplement their diet. This program will not provide all of the vegetables you eat during the summer since you will be receiving about $5 in vegetables every week. You may or may not get to choose the kinds of vegetables that are distributed to you.  However, many farmers are open to adjusting their shares to suit your preferences, so be sure to let them know what you like and don’t like.  

What kinds of vegetables are distributed?

Each farm is different and the farm plan reflects these differences. Many farmers grow for up to 100 families and choose a variety of vegetables for those families based on their soil, the location of the farm, the elevation, the customer desires, and the crops they enjoy growing. Be open to trying new vegetables, but communicate with your coordinator if you are unable to eat certain kinds of vegetables because of dietary restrictions.

When does the program begin and end?

Farmers generally begin distribution in mid July. At this time, Senior Farm Share members should expect early summer vegetables, like spinach, beets, greens, broccoli, and some other early vegetables. By late July and early August, seniors should expect a wider variety of vegetables, like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, squashes, cucumbers, and peppers. The fall harvest brings winter squash, root vegetables, carrots, and greens. Delivery to members will end some time in October.

How will each senior get his/her vegetables each week?

Each week, on a designated day, the housing coordinator will either pick up the vegetables at the farm or have them delivered to a common kitchen or community space at the senior residence. The housing coordinator will be responsible for the distribution of vegetables to all members, but will be requesting assistance from interested seniors. It will be important to find a small group of seniors willing to take on some leadership for the distribution of vegetables to all. Examples of possible distribution methods include:

Situation 1

- At one senior residence, the housing coordinator took a different senior to the farm each week for the pickup. They would then help divide the harvest up among all members.

Situation 2

- The farmer delivered the vegetables to the residence and informed the seniors of the kinds and numbers of vegetables each participant was entitled to. Participants would then go through the line and take their vegetables.

Who is administering the program?

The VDAIL and the NOFA Vermont are administrators of the program.

Further Information

For questions about senior eligibility, residence eligibility, or nutrition education, the farm, the vegetables, nutrition education, or distribution, please call: Mike Good, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

(802) 434-4122 ext. 26