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Growing Food So Neighbors Can Eat

That’s the point of a community farm that feeds people of all ages in need

Signage indicating what type of produce is available at the Jamestown Community Farm

Photo by John Martin, AARP Rhode Island

Interesting Farm Fact: The Jamestown Community Farm does not grow corn. "Corn rbs the soil of nutrients at a level that's difficult to replace organically," explains Bob Sutton, the farm's manager.


In Jamestown, Rhode Island, residents of all ages pour time and energy into a 17-acre Conanicut Island expanse of land called the Jamestown Community Farm. Located just over the bridge from Newport — long a playground for sailing, yachting and the wealthy (especially during the Gilded Age) — the seasonal farm stand is a popular stop for island residents.

While many small farms don’t turn a profit, this one is intentionally a nonprofit, created, explains its website, “in response to an idea that there is both individual and community value in helping those in need and that one of the most fundamental needs is good food. Growing fresh produce and distributing it to those less fortunate meets a fundamental human need and is also a valued project defining our Island community.”


Volunteers from AARP Rhode Island harvest crops at the Jamestown Community Farm

Photo by John Martin, AARP Rhode Island

Volunteers from AARP Rhode Island take a turn working in the fields. "For whatever the reasons, our volunteers get most excited about a good tomato harvest," observes Sutton.


Since its founding in 2000, the donor-supported, volunteer-led and -worked farm has grown more than 160,000 pounds of fresh produce and distributed it at no cost to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the state, including in Providence, Peace Dale and Warwick, as well as in neighboring Newport and right at home in Jamestown.

More than 100 volunteers show up regularly or occasionally during the growing season. (The farm is a beneficiary of student as well as court-mandated adult community service hours.) Even the official farm manager, Bob Sutton, is a volunteer. Bob’s wife, Lynda, is a farm volunteer as well.

She has developed a large raised-bed herb garden and runs a Saturday morning cooking demonstration using fresh farm vegetables. Lynda also established an arrangement with the Jamestown food market to pick up and recycle (to the farm’s chickens) the market’s discarded greens and bread.

When one of the farm’s produce recipients, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport, applied for a 2017 AARP Community Challenge grant, the Jamestown Community Farm sent a letter of support and agreed to provide farm-raised ingredients for cooking classes (and a cookbook, titled, simply, Community Cookbook) promoting locally grown fresh produce.

A chapter called “Cooking for One,” presents a black bean breakfast bowl and a garlic chicken stir-fry, from which we can share the following tip:

“Need to use your veggies before they go bad? Make a stir fry … but only cook until veggies are slightly tender and still a bit crunchy. Then, freeze in an airtight container. Freezing will preserve your veggies and when you reheat, on the stove or in the microwave, they’ll soften a little bit more!”

The “Using Fall Produce” chapter includes a recipe, shared below, for zucchini pancakes.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

Ingredients: 2 cups zucchini, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons onion, 6-8 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation: (1) Grate the zucchini  (peeled or not, your choice) using a cheese grater or mince by using a knife (2) Beat the eggs with an egg beater or fork (3) Chop onion

Directions: (1) Mix all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, together (2) Saute about 1/4 cup of batter in olive oil until slightly brown on each side (3) Serve with grated cheese, butter or syrup


Bob Sutton, manager of the Jamestown Community Farm

Photo by John Martin, AARP Rhode Island

Before becoming a farmer, Sutton was the chief of planning and development for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Before that, he was the town administrator in Jamestown.


This article is an excerpt from the "Support Health and Wellness" chapter of the AARP book Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Examples From America’s Community Leaders. Download or order your free copy.

Article by John M. Martin, AARP Rhode Island | Book published June 2018 


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