Volunteers pick produce at Island Harvest Food Bank’s Healthy Harvest Farm on a 1.8-acre parcel at Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood. (Photo by David Conn)
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Healthy Harvest Farm introduces new crops to help food-insecure Long Islanders

Island Harvest Food Bank recently previewed new varieties of produce it is growing at its 1.8-acre Healthy Harvest Farm in Brentwood, which is part of a 212-acre parcel owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Healthy Harvest Farm, a community garden established in 2018 to address the nutritional needs of people who don’t always have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, aims to serve Long Island’s diverse population by planting fruits and vegetables that reflect the needs of the changing demographics among people who are food insecure. Last year, 10,541 pounds of produce was grown at the farm.

The new plants, which include tomatillo, amaranth, jalapeno, collards, okra, garlic and mushrooms, will round out the farm’s current crop of staples like beans, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and more.

Island Harvest conducted surveys at food banks operated by its member agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties in order to curate its new produce selection.

“We wanted to offer culturally diverse produce for Long Islanders who are food-insecure from different backgrounds who may live in food deserts and often don’t have access to products they are used to cooking with,” explains Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest. “As part of our holistic approach to addressing hunger and food insecurity on Long Island, we also teach people how to cultivate and grow their own fruits, herbs and vegetables.”

Presented along with the new selection was Healthy Harvest Farm’s regenerative approach to cultivating crops. “Regenerative agriculture techniques include composting, which improves the soil’s health and drainage, and crop rotation, which helps prevent diseases, insects and weeds while building healthy soil,” said Cassidy Kirch, Farm & Gardens supervisor, Island Harvest. “Other regenerative agriculture practices include reducing soil disturbance by minimizing tilling and covering the soil with vegetation or organic matter.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph, which promotes responsibility to the earth through its education, spirituality and justice ministry, provided 27 new fruit trees and bushes to the farm, including Asian pear, nectarine, and blueberry bushes, through a donation it received.

To learn more about Island Harvest Food Bank, visit www.islandharvest.org. For more information on starting a home or community giving garden, contact Cassidy Kirch, Farm & Gardens, at [email protected].

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