A bright light in our community

The Recorder, August 26, 2020. By DOMENIC POLI, Staff Writer

Each Tuesday sees volunteers come together at the Quabbin Harvest Food Coop to pack CSA-style farm shares, filling roughly 90 bags and crates with produce harvested from local farms.

Some of these farm shares are ordered by local shoppers, while others go to residents participating in the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which fully reimburses Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients for a biweekly fruit or vegetable share.

This year, longtime partner Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, which is based in Orange, secured money through an Orange Community Development Block Grant for additional farm shares. Additionally, the Heywood Healthcare Charitable Foundation supplied funding for 25 farm shares for senior citizens in collaboration with the Orange Council on Aging. The senior farm share program of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) also partially funds the delivery of bags of food to the Athol Council on Aging every week.

Deb Habib, who cofounded Seeds of Solidarity with her husband, Ricky Baruc, in 1999, said Quabbin Harvest has been a valued partner for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic only confirmed that. “Quabbin Harvest has been a bright light in our comm unity,” Habib said last week at the member-owned food store at 12 North Main St., a renovated former bank building owned by Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and rented to Quabbin Harvest.

At this time, which is the height of the season, roughly 90 crates and bags are filled each week. Habib said people are trying to find ways to eat fresh fruits and vegetables on a budget recently tightened by the strain the pandemic has put on the economy.

Volunteers Marielena Lima and MaryEllen Kennedy could be found last Tuesday filling brown paper bags with fresh produce from The Farm School in Athol to be delivered that afternoon to the Orange Senior Center. Each bag, on one of two folding tables in the front of the store, was labeled with the date and a list of the contained produce, which included potatoes, lettuce and Swiss chard.

“The feedback from the senior shares is always extremely positive,” said Julie Davis, team coordinator at Quabbin Harvest, and one of its founders.

In addition to its role in the farm share program, Seeds of Solidarity is extending education this season through the creation and distribution of a Recipes for Wellness booklet that can be picked up at the Quabbin Harvest. The booklet contains recipes for each season of the year and some gardening ideas. Last week’s farm share recipients were also invited to create their own adobo seasoning, often used in Filipino and Latin American cooking. Using paper cups, Habib measured out precise amounts of garlic powder, salt, dried oregano, turmeric powder, onion powder, white or black pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin. Recipients poured the measurements into a mason jar to bring home.

“It’s quite pretty,” Habib said of the layered concoction. Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.