Thunder Country Ag & Garden Report interviews Megan VanGorden, Hope Farm Head Farmer


Speaker 1 (00:00):

Good morning and welcome to the Thunder Country Ag and Garden Report. I’m Mike Sakell, and with me is Megan VanGordon this morning she is the manager at New Hope’s Farm, New Hope Community and Megan welcome. Good morning. Welcome to the Thunder Country Ag and Garden Report. Good to have you here. 

Speaker 2 (00:16):

Hi Mike. Thank you for having me. 

Speaker 1 (00:17):

So well let’s start off with the basics. I don’t know if a lot of our listeners would be aware of New Hope Community Farm, although you’ve been running a farm operation there for, for quite a while. Tell me a little bit about it.

Speaker 2 (00:31):

Yeah, sure. So, Hope Farm is an extension of New Hope Community’s Greenhouse Program, and the farm was started in 2015 as a collaboration between New Hope Community and SUNY Sullivan. So the farm is about three acres. It’s located on the SUNY Sullivan campus in Lock Sheldrake. And we grow about 40 different types of fruits and vegetables, several varieties of each kind. We’re completely using organic methods to grow. So that means that we use a lot of organic compost. We handpick our bugs. We don’t use any pesticides or herbicides. And we harvested about 11,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables this year. Wow. And most of that goes to New Hope Community’s residential homes.

Speaker 1 (01:22):

Now, are these actually used within the, the program that is like the New Hope Kitchen and, and to make meals and things like that?

Speaker 2 (01:29):

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yep. So the homes used them to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we also donated about 2000 pounds to local emergency food providers this year as well.

Speaker 1 (01:40):

Wow, that’s terrific. It really is. So, so how did that partnership work and did, did that work through SUNY Sullivan as well? As far as getting out into the community and and getting that product to those people in need?

Speaker 2 (01:54):

Yeah, so the New Hope Community Day Programs, the Without Walls Program, actually did most of our deliveries for us to the food pantries. So they would come to the farm and pick up pretty much every Friday through the season and then deliver to the local food pantries.

Speaker 1 (02:15):

So you mentioned the season. Talk to me a little bit about the season, because I know you do have a greenhouse and is this a year-round operation depending on what products are available?

Speaker 2 (02:26):

Yes, we are. So we are currently back in the greenhouse after about two feet of snow this week.

Speaker 1 (02:32):

Yeah, definitely

Speaker 2 (02:33):

<Laugh>. Yeah, so in the winter we’re in the greenhouse. We do microgreens all winter. We grow some lettuces and pots and things like that, and we’re still delivering those to New Hope’s residential homes, and as well as the Community Cafe, which is on the main campus here at New Hope. And then we will start all of our vegetable transplants in the greenhouse in the spring, which we’ll then bring over to the farm. And we’re on the farm from about April to October, November, depending on weather.

Speaker 1 (03:07):

So tell me a little bit about the workings, of the greenhouse, the, the staff operation there, there are residents and volunteers involved that that do some of the work at the Hope Farm.

Speaker 2 (03:19):

Yeah, absolutely. So some of the folks that are employed at the farm are a part of the New Hope Supported Employment Program, so that the Supported Employment Program provides opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to work and to set and achieve goals as well as becoming a part of the community. And of course, obviously earn a paycheck as well.

Speaker 1 (03:43):

Yeah, no, that, that’s a terrific endeavor. And, and how many people are actually employed overall at Hope Farm?

Speaker 2 (03:51):

So we have a crew of four at the moment. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, including myself.

Speaker 1 (03:54):

And again, it’s a, it’s a year-round operation, so you, you have to keep busy during the winter season and of course also plan for the spring and beyond. Now, do you see more of those partnerships with food banks and such taking place? I mean, the, the need certainly has not ended and unfortunately, we, we still have the COVID situation here in our community. How do you, how do you see that working over the course of the near future?

Speaker 2 (04:23):

Yeah, so the food pantries that we had worked with this season both reported that they’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of people coming through their doors. And just the need is, is huge right now. So we tried to donate as much as we could. Unfortunately, now that the farming season is over, we don’t have really an excess anymore, but next season we definitely plan to, especially talk to our partners that are emergency food providers and see what items they, they really need as far as produce and we can actually tailor what we’re growing so that we’re able to have donations that they can use.

Speaker 1 (05:03):

Is there are there any plans to expand you? You said you currently have about three acres, but do you look at expanding Hope Farm and, and providing additional product?

Speaker 2 (05:14):

Yeah, so we, last year we planted a few fruit trees, so we’re definitely moving in the direction of getting some more fruit growing at the farm, which will be great. And then there, there also is some space for us to make new beds and expand a little bit on the farm as well to grow a little bit more.

Speaker 1 (05:34):

Well, that is terrific. Now, is there any opportunity for the general public to get produce from Hope Farm or no?

Speaker 2 (05:42):

At the moment we aren’t selling to the public, but however, our community volunteers definitely always take produce home once they’re done helping us out. So that’s an opportunity that is open to the public for sure.

Speaker 1 (05:56):

Well, it, it is quite an operation and just a great something to have here within our local community and, and, you know, New Hope community and overall has been not only great employer, but also just an important part of the Sullivan County community. So this is just another, another aspect of it and wonderful to hear about Megan VanGordon. Thank you so much. Manager of Hope Farm with the New Hope Community. You’re listening to the Thunder Country Ag and Gardener Reportoard. I’m Mike Sakell. We’re gonna take that quick break again, and yes, Michelle Prosha on the other side with numbers as we wind down 2020 here on the Thunder Country Ag and Garden Report on Thunder 102 and 1045.