It's that time of year again! The annual summer program FarmShare for Homebound Seniors led by PR Food Center is here. Though seedlings are just being planted, conversations with new customers and last years seniors have been blooming.
FarmShare for Homebound Seniors is a privately funded program that helps seniors who can't leave their home still enjoy fresh local produce by delivering it to their door.
TMak and I had an opportunity to sit down with one of our seniors and ask her what makes being a FSHS customer so special. Here's what she had to say;
"I love it- I love fresh veggies. Especially beet greens- Oh I love them!"
We sat at her kitchen table. Though the day was a bit gray and on the muggy side, it was colorful and comfortable in Robbie's house. We talked about her family, and how she heard about the program FarmShare for Homebound Seniors. Robbie found out about the program when she noticed her mother was receiving deliveries. Her mother had heard about it through a flyer she saw at the chiropractors office in Dover-Foxcroft. Her mother received fresh produce from Stutzman's farm in Sangerville. By signing up herself, Robbie was also able to receive produce from Stutzman's.
We also found out that Robbie used to work for them! Robbie told TMak and I that she used to pick potatoes with her Aunt Shirley. She said the two of them usually got the biggest plots because they were the fastest workers and "knew how to do it." On real hot days Robbie recalls Sid and Rainey giving them sodas.
Many of the FSHS participants are connected in one way or another to local farms outside of the FSHS delivery service. Some folks in the FarmShare for Homebound Seniors program used to be able to participate in the state-funded Maine Senior FarmShare Program. But, because of situations in their lives that made it difficult or impossible to leave their homes, these folks were unable to get to the farms to pick up their produce. It's a wonderful thing to hear of seniors that recall local farms and remember being a part of the farming community or socializing around farms. It's especially great when a program like FSHS can help keep that communal connection alive.
We spoke a little further with Robbie about the specifics of produce selection and her experience with delivery. This will be the second summer Robbie has been signed on as a FarmShare for Homebound Senior customer. There is no doubt for Robbie, that the FarmShare deliveries make an impact, even though "the $50 goes fast!". Like many of the seniors, Robbie likes to save her share for her favorite produce items. "I have to save enough because I wait for the corn!". She also expressed how much she loved the red potatoes, mashed with a little sour cream on top. Robbie also mentioned the large amount of tomatoes- sometimes, there were "too many!". Often the senior customers in FarmShare will express that the abundant produce is more than they can consume. In instances such as this, we emphasize self-advocacy. Each delivery week seniors are given a list of available produce over the phone. From this list they can choose the items they would like delivered. It's in these conversations that seniors can express specific preferences or ask questions about how to prepare an item, make it last longer, or process it so the food is easier to consume.
We are continuing to screen potential FarmShare customers and continue conversations with last year's participants. If you think you know someone who would love fresh veggies but can't leave their home, please get in touch with us! Seniors receive their shares of fresh local veggies because of community-based, private donations. So if you'd like to sponsor a FarmShare for a homebound senior this summer and add to the Farmshare for Homebound Seniors funding, give us a call, shoot an email, or text FARMSHARE to 44-321.