Clarkdale Fruit Farms receives $44K grant for refrigerated delivery van
The Recorder, July 25, 2020. By ZACK DeLUCA, Staff Writer
DEERFIELD — As part of an initial round of state grants distributed to address food insecurity during the pandemic, Clarkdale Fruit Farms has received $44,327 to buy a refrigerated delivery van.
On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced nearly $3 million in grants will be distributed in the first round. The funding is part of a $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program designed to ensure statewide access to healthy, local food.
Clarkdale Fruit Farms owner Ben Clark said the farm will be “keeping it local” and will use the funding to buy a van from Ford of Greenfield. An outside vendor will then retrofit the van with a cooling system so that the farm’s produce can be distributed safely over a farther distance and reach new customers.
“It’s twofold,” Clark said. “In terms of food safety, we’ll have a safer and more reliable way to deliver our product. And, in the past, it’s limited our delivery range and we could only go within a small radius because we d i d n’t have the right vehicle.”
Clark, whose farm recently reopened for the season, said the timing of the pandemic was “fortuitous” as the Deerfield farm typically ends its season at the beginning of March and d o e s n’t reopen until the summer. Clark said the main product right now is peaches, and the farm is open for drive-thru sales, but does not allow foot traffic.
“That’s been our biggest adjustment,” he said of the drive-thru sales. “We’ve been successful at farmers markets and with our farm stand. During COVID, more people have been interested in buying fresh, local food.”
Clarkdale Fruit Farms, at 303 Upper Road in Deerfield, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Depending on the season, the farm sells apples, nectarines, plums, pears, concord grapes and peaches.
Among the other grant recipients is the South Deerfield- based Pioneer Valley Growers Association, a collaboration of Western Massachusetts farmers who work together to deliver their products to supermarkets. The association will receive $439,707 to be used for construction of a new cold storage facility, to upgrade its computer tracking system and to provide technical support to employees. Zack DeLuca can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4579.