Farming Matters – March 2021


Using SNAP-HIP benefits to address local food insecurity

The Farming Matters Blog is a place to talk about the farm and our mission more deeply – about our hopes for the farm and why we think having a local community-based and organic farm is important.  Feeding our local community great organic produce is our goal and during the pandemic it has become more critical than ever. We are gratified to enroll so many new members in our CSA but find it concerning that food security, due in part to crop failures and severe weather in other parts of the country and interruptions in the supply chain, were part of the motivation for these new members.  Of course, now that they have experienced our wonderful farm & CSA for themselves, we hope they will remain members even after the current crisis is resolved.

Local access to food is a priority for many organizations – local, regional, state, and federal. In Massachusetts, through the Mass Department or Agriculture or MDAR, there is renewed focus on preventing the state’s high quality agricultural lands from being used for anything that “negatively impacts its future agricultural viability.”  This is done through an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) which protects farmland from development while assuring it is affordable for future generations of farmers.  It is an avenue that Yellow Stonehouse Farm is exploring as part of our long-term plan to ensure the farm provides food for the local community in perpetuity.

Another critical focus for YSF is feeding our local community.  We always try to provide our organic produce at a reasonable cost, i.e., our 20 week Every-Week Full Farm share works out to less than $35 per week and we donate to food pantries.  But we want to do more!  So, we applied to and were authorized by the USDA to accept SNAP benefits.  For those who are unfamiliar with the SNAP program, it is the Federal Government’s food assistance program that is administered in the Commonwealth by the Department of Transitional Assistance, or DTA.  DTA serves one in eight citizens of Massachusetts with either direct cash or food assistance as well as worker training programs.

A wonderful complimentary program to SNAP is the Healthy Incentives Program or HIP.  HIP gives SNAP recipients money back when they use their SNAP benefits to buy healthy fruits & vegetable from HIP qualified Farms.  HIP will put the SNAP dollars you spend on HIP produce back onto your EBT card instantly. Once the money has been put back on your EBT card, you can spend it at any SNAP retailer like always.

Even after Yellow Stonehouse Farm was authorized for SNAP in 2019, we still had to apply to MDAR for HIP authorization – and when we were first approved for SNAP, Massachusetts wasn’t accepting new farms into the program.  Bummer!  However, we persevered, and in the Spring of 2020 (at the height of the pandemic and a period of dramatically increasing food insecurity) DTA opened the opportunity for new farms to apply for HIP authorization.  We applied in June, with a focus on providing food insecure elders in Westfield with access to fresh organic produce and were happily approved in September 2020.

Even better, in cooperation with the DTA, some HIP approved farms can develop SNAP-HIP CSA programs.  CSA membership payments are made monthly with SNAP benefits and reimbursed with HIP dollars up to a monthly cap of $40, $60, or $80 dollars – depending on family size.  We are happy to be one of these farms and to welcome SNAP/HIP members to our 2021 Summer CSA. 

Follow this link to our Summer SNAP-HIP CSA membership page:  to apply for membership.  Please email the farm at or call Connie at 413-562-2164 with any questions.

Hunger or food insecurity is sadly becoming an increasing problem in our country and local community.  Whether due to extreme weather events, supply change interruptions, changes in rainfall and drought patterns, impacts on agricultural productivity due to loss of pollinators and fertile soils – we are now in a place where food insecurity and hunger has become all too common. Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s mission includes solving the problem of food insecurity.  We hope by participating in the SNAP/HIP program we help more of our neighbors and friends gain access to our healthy local and organic food.

Farming Matters – FEB 15, 2021


A Great Big Family of Health Nuts!

This is my first Farming Matter’s blog of 2021.  I apologize for being absent so long but … COVID.  We’ve done OK this past year and are proud of how well Yellow Stonehouse Farm dealt with the pandemic – implementing distancing and sanitation protocols, adding washing stations and then, silver lining, getting to know all the many new CSA members who joined our farm.  It’s been challenging but rewarding and an unexpected joy to welcome so many new families and children as they discover the delights of Yellow Stonehouse Farm. 

Rather than rehash the past, let’s explore the thing that’s obliterated all other issues for me:  Health. Humanity spent an entire year as a planet focusing on it.  We’ve all learned that health is at the core of it all.  We all need to be healthy; we want our loved ones to be healthy, families & friends included and we are willing to do what has to be done to keep ourselves healthy!  Plus – we’ve learned that a lot of us are willing to sacrifice, inconvenience ourselves, consider others, try new things and collaborate to be healthy.  We’ve become a great big human family of health nuts!

This is great news – for me the organic farmer and the budding herbalist, the healthy chef and owner of a vibrant and growing organic farm, and also the environmentalist, citizen, and aspiring humanitarian.

My experience has been most of us don’t think about our health until it’s threatened or we find ourselves unhealthy.  And for many of us, the unhealthy habits we are practicing, often for convenience alone – don’t have an immediate impact, so we ignore it.  This is unfortunate, because negative health impacts are cumulative and create the real life experience of the boiling frog – we persevere in unhealthy behavior in an increasingly toxic environment until it boils over and we die from it.  This is the cause of so many of our lifestyle diseases – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease worsened by environmental stressors such as air & water pollution, plastics, toxic chemicals, industrial and processed food.  The cumulative effects push many of us into poor health, but so gradually that until we hit a crisis, we find them easy to ignore.

But during COVID, we experienced a health crisis that didn’t make most of us sick (though the numbers infected are atrocious), yet many of us made immediate and wise decisions proactively to change our lives to protect our health.  We interrupted our lives, WOW – amazing – before we were sick to stay HEALTHY.  Let’s do it some more!!!

Let’s make positive life-style changes that keep us healthy but will also address some of the dangerous health threats that are harder to see.  Lets:

  1. Eat more vegetables and grains to balance our diet and help maintain our weight and blood sugar.  Join a CSA, become a vegetarian or eat a meatless meal once or twice a week, avoid processed food, additives and industrially produced animal products.
  2. Go a step further and eliminate the pesticides and herbicides that impact the quality of the food we eat and kill off pollinators and other beneficial insects, soil microbes, wild plants, birds and amphibians.  Eat organically, reduce plastic use, recycle, don’t use herbicides or pesticides at home.
  3. Exercise – walk, hike, play a sport, garden, do yoga, whatever gets you moving.
  4. Work with, advocate and convince Industry that toxic, cancer causing, endocrine interrupting chemicals are bad for all of us and that it’s better to reduce profits than sacrifice health.
  5. Reduce our carbon footprint – support local farms, drive less, reduce petroleum consumption, install solar, walk more.  Recycle, reduce plastic use, support a carbon tax,
  6. Protect our water – clean water is becoming more precious and scarce.  Rather than ignore the long-term damage we are causing by careless regulation, excessive extraction, inefficient usage – often for short term financial gain – let’s treat it like the scare resource it is.  Maintain open space, parks and forests, irrigate using drip, water at night, don’t buy water in plastic bottles, lobby your local government to keep your town green and preserve the environment.
  7. Protect our air – so many industries and careless developers allow pollutants that seep into the air, increasing greenhouse gases, and exacerbate the warming of the planet.  Support climate change mitigation, maintain forests and farmland, reduce impervious surfaces that increase the concentration of pollutants in run-off.

The idealistic environmentalist is writing this now, but the pragmatist in me has seen what we can do if we understand threats to our health.  The entire world, the planet, needs to be healthy if humanity is to be healthy.  Let’s all work together to make it so.

Happy National CSA Day

Friday, February 23rd is National CSA Day!  This holiday always falls on the last Friday of February and is meant to publicize CSA’s and their benefits to the community.

First, let’s define what a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is:  It’s a farming model that creates a partnership between a local farmer and local community members who purchase a seasonal crop-share, and essentially eliminates the middleman. CSA shareholders or members receive an abundant allotment of fresh, locally grown produce from their farmer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in exchange for their pre-paid membership. This arrangement provides the farmer with predetermined number of customers to grow for which makes planning and growing the proper amount of vegetables more efficient.

CSA’s vary from farm-to-farm – there are flower CSAs, meat CSAs, even mushroom CSAs – but the most common is a Vegetable CSA, which is what Yellow Stonehouse Farm offers.  Within the Vegetable CSA category there are differences as well – the most obvious one being those that grow their vegetables conventionally and those that chose to use USDA certified organic growing practices. 

CSA’s also differ in how they distribute their produce – do you get to personally select your produce from a market-style CSA or is a pre-packaged box provided to you?  Other CSA variables to consider are location, the size of the CSA, pick-up day choices and hours, the variety and specialties unique to a specific CSA, and other features such as whether you get special items such as recipes, herbs, or Pick-Your-Own (PYO) vegetables, flowers and herbs.

The benefits of being a CSA member are many – both for the members and their community.  We have found that there are three primary reasons that our members join Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s Organic CSA:

  1.  Our members want to eat a Healthy Diet that is:
    • Chemical, herbicide and pesticide free USDA certified organic produce – the chemicals used in conventional farming have been shown to be carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors and are particularly bad for children and pregnant women.
    • Freshly picked and locally grown – fresh produce tastes better and lasts longer, especially if it isn’t being transported cross-country and refrigerated for weeks.  Plus, organic produce is grown in organic soil and the natural microbes and other attributes of the soil boost both nutrition and flavor.
    • Seasonal – eating seasonally means that we are eating what we need when we need it, and provides a mix of tastes, textures and nutrition. YSF grows a great assortment of vegetables, field fruits, aromatics such as garlic and gingers plus herbs that changes weekly.  We grow a combination of new cultivars and unusual varieties, plus heirloom and native vegetables to provide a fun and interesting selection for our members. 
    • Delicious – not only are the vegetables fresh, they are delicious! A lot of conventional produce has been bred to look good not taste good, many wonderful varieties aren’t grown for the supermarket because they may not last as long or are more fragile.  AT YSF, we pride ourselves on the number of different varieties and types of vegetables we grow – and on the wonderful taste and flavors.  We also provide weekly recipes with every share so members can prepare delicious dishes from the produce they receive.
  2. Our members want to be Environmentally Responsible by
    • Supporting farming and maintaining open space for agriculture and recreational use today and into the future.
    • Decreasing CO2 emissions due to decreased energy used in transporting and refrigerating produce across long distances.
    • Eliminating herbicides, pesticides and chemicals that are polluting our environment and decreasing important populations of pollinators, amphibians, birds and other species.
    • Maintaining water quality by eliminating herbicides, pesticide and fertilizer run-off into local water courses and aquifers.
    • Sharing the farm experience with children and creating life-long health by teaching them about where their food comes from, better nutrition, and benefits of fresh and locally grown produce.
  3. Our members are looking for a Good Value – better food at a reasonable price
    • CSA’s are surprisingly affordable compared to supermarket prices for organic produce.  Research conducted at Cornell University in New York estimates the costs savings to be approximately 20% over the cost for a comparable amount of conventional vegetables purchased in a supermarket – and the savings are even more for organic produce.
    • Knowing your farmer and the farm where your vegetables are grown provides the extra reassurance you need to know that you are providing the best possible food and nutrition for your family.
    • Reaping the bounty of the harvest when the vegetables are at their peak is truly a joyous experience and one that YSF is dedicated to sharing with every mem
    • Yellow Stonehouse Farm believes in providing a great experience for our members.  We enjoy getting to know our members individually and providing a level of customer service that makes membership in our CSA a special experience. Growing someone’s favorite vegetable is just one way we cater to our membership.

Hopefully this edition of Farming Matter’s has helped you to better understand how CSA’s work and how membership can contribute to your family’s health & enjoyment through eating fresh, organic vegetables.  Check out Yellow Stonehouse Farm Organic’s Facebook Page or email the farm at for more information.

Being a Locavore in 2018

As we enjoy yet another snowstorm this winter of 2018, thoughts of Spring are starting to sneak into my mind.  It started when I noticed it was still light outside as I started dinner the other night, and then I noticed that the sun was up when the alarm went off this morning.

I must admit I like winter. I am an active hibernater. I like dressing in cozy layers, soft sweaters and wide wale corduroys. I like how clean everything on the farm looks when it is blanketed in a layer of pristine white snow and I just love the hearty stews, soups and roasts centered on the hearty root vegetables and brassicas available to us locavores.

Being a locavore – someone who eats what is locally grown and in season — is mandatory for us.  As owners of Yellow Stonehouse Farm, John and I must “walk the talk”.  After all – we expect our CSA members to eat what we grow when it’s harvested, or in the case of our Winter Share, when we distribute from winter storage. So of course, we do the same. Thankfully, it’s a pleasure because these vegetables are the basis for the warm and comforting dishes we love to eat when its’ cold and blustery outside.  As I write this, I have a delicious stew of veal, onions and carrots simmering away for dinner tonight.

I enjoy knowing we are eating vegetables that are grown locally, organically and are good for us because these are the vegetables that are meant to sustain us during the cold times – as our ancestors did back before commercial growers starting shipping vegetables around the globe.  I think it’s healthier to eat what’s available to us based on the calendar – during winter, we eat carrots and potatoes, turnips and Brussel sprouts which contain the nutrients we need now to stay healthy.

Eating healthy foods, specifically vegetables, is one way to maintain our health and well-being.  Processed food have so many chemicals, additives, salt and sugar that they aren’t healthy for us. We’re not vegetarians but we eat lots of fresh produce and strive to make sure that at least two thirds of every plate are vegetables or fruit.  How?  Well, by adding vegetables to sandwiches, eggs and other dishes, and it’s easy to cook extra’s to add cold later to a salad.  I also harvest and dry herbs to make herb mixtures to add to recipes and even a healthy salt free salad dressing mix for homemade salad dressings.  All of these spice mixes and salad dressing mixes are offered to our CSA members so they can experiment as well.

Sharing recipes and ideas on how to cook the many vegetables we offer CSA members is an integral part of what we do at Yellow Stonehouse Farm.  We know many of our members aren’t familiar with some of our produce, so we provide them the help they need to take full delicious advantage of their farm-share.

But still, we entertain ourselves with thoughts of Spring and what we are going to grow next season. Reading seed catalogs is fun – we peruse seed catalogs and learn about new varieties of vegetables to offer our 2018 CSA members.  We look for new varieties that offer different colors and tastes as well as new hybrids that are bred to be more drought pest, and disease resistant – so that we can continue our organic practices of avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides and continue to offer the highest quality organic fruits and vegetables to our CSA members.  Just a reminder – membership applications for Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s CSA 2018 Summer share are now available.