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.

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.

Dressing up as a farmer

Dressing up as a farmer for Halloween

Today is Halloween – amazing what a big event it’s become. thanksgiving-costume-picture

It’s a great excuse to dress up as your favorite character – whether it’s a super hero or future vocation. I expect we’ll see a few of each tonight – superman, wonder woman, fireman, ballerina, various celebrities and sports figures. And it’s not just the kids who get into dressing up – as I can attest to after attending a costume party last weekend and dressing up as a 1920’s flapper – great fun!

What I don’t expect to see is a child dressed up as a farmer – much to my sorrow. I don’t know many kids today who want to be a farmer when they grow up – or parents who chose farming as a career for their children. This is a problem for us all – especially in New England where we are losing our family farms at an alarming rate. If the farms disappear and there aren’t any new, young farmers who want to get into the business – who is going to grow our food in the future?

One of the major barriers to entering farming, is the cost of acquiring the farm. Very low commodity prices also make it hard to earn a decent living to support a family on farms less than 1000 acres. Not to mention the physical hard work farming requires – not attractive to many nowadays – though our physical health might benefit. A more recent problem is the industrialization of farming dependent on expensive chemicals and GMO seed that lock farmers into methods of farming susceptible to plant diseases and invasive insects. Changing weather patterns make our lovely temperate New England climate dryer and hotter – increasing the risk and cost of farming even more, and pushing more farmers out of business.

A positive farming trend is the growth of CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) which connects community members and local farms. Community members buy shares in their local farm for a set price and then enjoy the bounty of the farm for a season: The Summer Share from June to October and/or the Winter Share from November to February. CSA’s work by providing the farmer with a reasonable & reliable income source and the ability to plan how much to grow based on the number of members, and in turn provides shareholders with reasonably priced, delicious, abundant, fresh, and in our case, certified organic produce. Yellow Stonehouse Farm is Hamden County’s only USDA Certified organic CSA and has a growing membership in Westfield and the surrounding area in the Pioneer Valley.

An organic CSA is our way to keep Yellow Stonehouse Farm an agricultural property so we don’t have to cash it in for commercial development. We also are more resistant to drought, pests, and diseases and importantly, we aren’t afraid of poisoning ourselves, the local flora and fauna, or our shareholders with pesticides and harmful chemicals. Kids picking cherry tomatoes can sample them off the vine in the field without worry!

There are other less tangible benefits of CSAs. First, many of our shareholders have children and we are exposing those children to the farm, our joy in sustainable farming, and the glories of nature. Maybe we can inspire a child or two to consider farming as a future career. Second, we are working hard to establish the farm as a self-sustaining business. Capable of earning enough income to support a farm family – so that someday, we can sell the farm to a new farm family and make sure the farm stays a farm.

In the meantime, maybe one of our trick-or-treaters will come dressed up as a farmer.

If you’d like to get your own Winter CSA Share so you can enjoy our certified organic produce, we have a few remaining winter shares available. Check out our website at Call us at 413-562-2164 or email us at