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News Release

Contact: Molly McDonough

(717) 237-2208


Harrisburg Farm Supports Local Community

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HARRISBURG, PA, March 9, 2012 � USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is embracing a national initiative to bring farmers and the community closer together. The “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” program represents USDA support for local, affordable food resources. One such effort is Joshua Farm. Located in the heart of a “food desert” in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Joshua Farm is providing increased access to fresh produce for residents through the use of a seasonal high tunnel, supported by NRCS. The high tunnel (also known as a “hoop house”) makes urban farming possible on small acreage and supplies fresh produce for longer periods to a large city population.

The Joshua Farm is a unique one-acre farm managed by Harrisburg residents Kirsten Reinford and Joshua Mortiz that grows over 40 varieties of fresh produce for over 45 families. Within just seven years of operation, Joshua Farm has made a substantial impact on the community. The farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business, where members share in the cost of the operation in exchange for a portion of the harvest. Joshua Farm also allows members to provide volunteer labor as payment for CSA shares.

The high tunnel, funded through NRCS's Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program, is providing a longer growing season, allowing both the farm and its shareholders to benefit from higher crop productivity. Denise Coleman, NRCS State Conservationist, supports the “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” initiative stating that, “fresh and local produce should be available to everyone and this is a needed addition for the city.” The result is that Joshua Farm has fresh fruits and vegetables from May through October. Shareholders receive a harvest selection on a weekly basis during the 22-week growing season. When asked how Reinford’s experience has been with NRCS, her response was, “Amazing!” She claims, “Without the help of NRCS, Joshua Farm wouldn’t be as successful as it is today.”

Joshua Farm is part of the Joshua Group, a non-profit group offering tutoring, mentoring, and scholarships to underprivileged students. Joshua Farm provides an opportunistic way to teach inner-city students where food comes from and the hard work it takes to grow and harvest produce. As an added bonus, Joshua Farm can employ up to six students, demonstrating the responsibility of working the land along with the rewards of the harvest.

In addition to learning about growing produce and caring for the land, Kirsten asserts that Joshua Group also teaches students about cooking with fresh ingredients by providing small cooking classes. Thanks to a separate USDA grant, Joshua Farm also sells organic produce to local residents using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps, through the use of a swipe card machine. This enables the farm to bring fruits and vegetables to lower income families and make fresh produce more accessible to the entire city neighborhood.

The future looks bright for Joshua Farm, and the need for local and regional food distribution is in great demand in the area. Strengthening communities by promoting healthy eating and protecting natural resources is the wave of the future. It is important that local citizens are aware of their connection to the land and youth are educated about the benefits of agriculture in all communities, which is exactly what Joshua Farm and the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative embodies. Making fresh and local produce available to everyone is of value to every community. For more information about high tunnels or the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, check out the website at www.usda.gov or call (717) 237-2100 to find a local USDA-NRCS office near you.

You can also learn more about USDA's support of local and regional food through the new Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Compass. The compass is an online multi-media narrative with stories, pictures and video about USDA's support for local and regional food systems and an interactive map of USDA-supported activities in all 50 states. With the Compass, you can navigate USDA resources for food; meet farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities in your state that are participating in local food chains; and learn about local and regional food projects across the country.

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