BRATTLEBORO — The harvest is exceeding expectations at SUSU commUNITY Farm, which provides free food and supplies to many families in the BIPOC community.
“It’s been going very well in spite of some very strange weather,” said Naomi Doe Moody, co-founder and co-executive director of SUSU. “It’s a testament to the abundance of the land.”
Box of Resilience, SUSU’s community supported agriculture or CSA program, which is in its 10th week and will run until Oct. 13, is reaching about 40 families each week, with extra supplies going to migrant workers. SUSU works the soil at the Retreat Farm land next to Retreat Meadows at the Wantastegok, the Abenaki name for where the West and Connecticut rivers meet.
The pilot program provides BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) families in Southern Vermont with “a free box of organically grown, culturally relevant veggies, medicinal herbs and other goodies from local Vermont businesses,” states susucommunityfarm.org. “You will also have access to free cooking, harvesting, medicine making classes and commUNITY gardening rituals.”
The original goal had been to get 26 boxes weekly to BIPOC families within a 20-mile radius of Brattleboro, according to the website. Volunteer drivers drop off food each week, and families also come pick up their food.
Boxes go out to every Wednesday.
“It’s been very successful and abundant in what we’ve been able to get out to the community,” said Jarmal Arnold, CSA administrator and youth coordinator.
Jarmal has worked with youth with emotional dysregulation and learning challenges. Previously, he was employed at Kindle Farm School in Newfane.
BIPOC youth and other community members have volunteered at SUSU’s CSA program, Jarmal said. The plan is to have more youth programs in the future.
“They’re ready to come for sure,” Jarmal said.
Farmers were getting kale, sage and callaloo ready to go into boxes during a recent Wednesday.
Amber Arnold, co-founder and co-executive director who is married to Jarmal, said lots of African vegetables are being harvested, and lots of farms are contributing to the program. Donated items for the boxes include mugs from ZPots in Brookline, books from Antidote Books in Putney, coffee from Duchess Coffee in Brattleboro, art bags from River Gallery School in Brattleboro, and menstrual supplies from Planned Parenthood in Brattleboro.
The boxes serve as a way to show recipients “you matter, and people care about you,” Amber Arnold said. Moody noted there’s been a lot of mutual aid, citing an example where a person who received a box also contributed items to other boxes.
SUSU is planning to move to a bigger spot in the West River Valley soon and expand its offerings.
“This is more of a practice run,” Jarmal said. “The Retreat Farm is helping us out.”
Retreat Farm is a fiscal sponsor, helping with fundraising and business planning. Jarmal Arnold called the organization “very supportive.”
“Community support has been so integral to this field of vision,” Moody said, expressing gratitude and a desire to continue connecting with the community in the future.
Jarmal Arnold estimated the property being purchased by SUSU is 30 acres or more. He described the projects being undertaken by SUSU as a collective dream of the group’s.
“We’re all of like mind,” he said.
Fundraising efforts are underway and anticipated to ramp up in coming weeks. Donations can be made by visiting susucommunityfarm.org/support-us.
Other programs seek to provide healing and address systemic racism, as well as white supremacy, with a focus on education and herbalism. In the future, SUSU plans to launch Youth to Liberation Pipeline, which aims to keep BIPOC youth out of jail and mental health systems through different activities and mentorships.