The Chester Housing Authority (CHA) has won a prestigious Bellamy Award for its unique Bennett Farm marketing partnership with a local grocery store.The Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies (PAHRA) determined that the farm-to-store arrangement was the top community development project from among all entries, including those from much larger housing agencies around the state."The farm is a really great thing that brings promise to a city that has been down for a long time," CHA Executive Director Steven A. Fischer told a statewide audience in Lancaster.
"We have a thriving community farm and a great relationship with Fair & Square to prominently display and sell our locally grown produce."CHA's farm manager Natania Schaumburg, Operations Director Norman Wise and executive assistant Quineice Harris were joined by Fair & Square General Manager Mike Basher and community relations manager Andre Dixon in accepting the honors.The food and flowers that are grown by CHA residents and sold at Fair & Square and now at Swarthmore Co-Op have engaged community members, helped residents live healthier lifestyles and developed the program into a self-sustaining model.Bennett Farm has also led to lessons in agriculture for young children at CHA's summer food program and to part-time employment for CHA residents.A big factor in CHA winning the award is that the model represents a standard for other housing authorities to replicate.
"All one needs is a passion for the idea and the ability to sell the idea to the community at large," Fischer said. "For CHA, because we had two unused acres of land readily available and are situated in a 'food desert,' it made sense to start a community farm. Ultimately, in order to replicate CHA's self-sustaining program, whether through a community farm or other initiative, housing authorities need to identify a major need of their residents, utilize what resources and tools may be available to them and then keep working until the program becomes successful.
"The real big difference is in the price only – and the pharmaceutical companies are very keen that their margins will not shrink.Days after the award presentation, CHA hosted a farm-to-table event at the farm to welcome and thank those who have contributed funding to the farm operation. Most of the donors are property owners who serve residents in CHA's Housing Choice Voucher Program.