Growing With a Mission: Meet Whistle Down Farm

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File 1545"Eating good food is a right," says Eileen Wallding of Whistle Down Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Hudson, NY. The farm, run by Eileen and her partner Nicholas Pandjiris, had been distributing the majority of their produce through CSA and farmers' markets until this year when Eileen's belief in everyone's right to good food led Whistle Down Farm to join Local Produce Link, Just Food's farm-to-food pantry program.  

In 2006, Just Food and United Way of NYC began the Local Produce Link partnership to help food pantries make fresh, locally-grown food available to families and individuals in need. The program is partially funded by the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) at the New York State Department of Health, and currently connects 9 local farms to 48 food pantries and soup kitchens in NYC. Local Produce Link is similar to CSA in that farmers are paid for the produce before the growing season.

“The fact that Local Produce Link is CSA-style and pays us upfront is a benefit because we need the money at the beginning of the season,” Eileen says of the program’s model. “Also, it’s been great to have another source for crop planning. Farmers’ markets are great because we get top dollar for what we grow, but some days we don’t even sell half of what we’ve sent to the market. We can really plan for Local Produce Link.”

Local Produce Link ensures that the farm's produce is put to good use. Eileen believes that feeding people different from their average customer is exciting, too. The farm is providing fresh, locally-grown produce to families who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. This fall, Whistle Down Farm is distributing a wide variety of veggies to the pantries, including winter squash, carrots, beets, kale, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, cabbage, leeks, turnips, and rutabagas.

In addition to providing fresh food, many of the farms that supply Local Produce Link host farm visits for clients, volunteers, and pantry staff to provide an opportunity for them to learn about where their vegetables come from. This is Whistle Down’s first season of Local Produce Link, and they have yet to host a farm visit for the pantry, but have hosted farm visits in the past for their CSA members. Eileen and Nicholas are looking forward to hosting Local Produce Link visits next year.

 “We love to see people be excited about the food, how it’s harvested, and really make the connection. We’re excited to offer that connection,” says Eileen.