Guardian Life Supports Local Farmers

CSA veggies

As many of you heard at our Annual Meeting, we’re developing new ways to benefit your organization through our EarthShare at Work program! In Year 2 of our partnership with Guardian Life Insurance, we worked with their Pittsfield, MA Green Team to develop a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and connected them with American Farmland Trust to identify a local farm to support. Now the Guardian CSA program is up and running in Pittsfield from June through October, through Brattle Farms. Learn more in this interview with Brattle Farm owner Donna Chandler, by April Opatik of American Farmland Trust!

Donna Chandler is not your ordinary mother and grandmother— she is a full-time Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer.

“I did not grow up as a farmer, but I grew up in a dense farming neighborhood. I enjoyed all the natural beauty on the land while growing up. As I grew older, my passion for farming became clearer as I noticed all the farms in my neighborhood disappearing,” Donna expressed.

About 15 years ago, Donna first got into aspects of farming by raising sheep on only a few acres of land for wool and her children’s 4-H projects. It started out with only two sheep, but as they started winning competitions their herd became over ten times the original size. 17 acres later, Donna decided to start selling her vegetables, meat, and other goods through her CSA: Brattle Farm.

“I wanted to see if I could get a steady cash flow before I went into CSA farming full-time. During that first year, I had 20 families signed up and it was very successful. Four years later, I now have 90 families! I am amazed that I could do this,” Donna stated.

It hasn’t been an easy road for her. One of the biggest challenges she had to overcome was educating others about what a CSA farm is. For 20-28 weeks, members pay a subscription cost to receive a portion of the farm’s produce—enjoying the flavors and challenges of seasonal eating. Joining a CSA is a powerful investment in your health, community, local economy—and even a possibility to explore new and exciting recipes. Donna is happy to note that Brattle Farm accepts SNAP. Some farms, like Donna’s, also allow members to pay for their share by committing to work a specified number of hours on the farm each week.

Donna’s CSA received around 20 new subscriptions through the Pittsfield Green Team, and Guardian employees learned more about American Farmland Trust’s work to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers like Donna on the land. Guardian employees also plan to support AFT through volunteer projects to create recipe card packets and thank you notes for farmer’s market shoppers.

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