Officials from Chester Housing Authority and the Fare & Square grocery store have formed a produce partnership that features items grown at agency's Ruth L. Bennett Homes community farm."We're excited to partner with the Chester Housing Authority," Mike Basher, Fare & Square's vice president for retail operations, said in a news release.
"When they first approached us about the concept of us purchasing their produce we thought it was a win-win, not only for us and the housing authority but for sustainability," he said.On June 6, officials held a ribbon-cutting event for the new produce section in the store in Chester. The partnership will provide revenue to help CHA sustain its two-acre farm and continue to offer it as an educational resource."This very happy day has been a long time in coming, maybe even 10 years," said CHA Executive Director Steven A. Fischer."I believe this may be the first deal of its kind in the nation.
If there are other housing authorities and grocery stores that have done the same we would love to hear from them, hear about their best practices and compare notes," he said."This is a great example of two non-profits in a city getting together, combining resources, coming up with a creative idea which betters business in the community and is also good for the residents — and along the way we're going to promote a healthier lifestyle, which is important to both organizations," Fischer added.Fare & Square at 3117 W. 9th St. is currently carrying a selection of collard greens, mustard greens and kale grown organically on the community farm.
Next season, the selection is expected to include tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.Natania Schaumberg, the farm manager, says having the produce available at Fare & Square is convenient for area residents."It's so nice to have such a flexible partnership with grocery store," Schaumberg said. "A lot of times grocery stores normally work with large-scale producers so it is prohibitive for small producers."Bennett Farm started as a small community garden, providing food and farming education to CHA participants.
The farm now produces enough food to sell off a portion to pay for its ongoing operation and providing affordable produce as well as some part-time jobs to Chester residents.