Share the Harvest is a project developed by College of the Atlantic's <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/" target="_blank">Beech Hill Farm</a>, a <a href="http://www.mofga.org/" target="_blank">MOFGA-certified</a> organic operation. Pictured above are three of its coordinators, (from left) Jenna Farineau ’16, Ivy Enoch ’18, and Rayna Joyce ’20.Share the Harvest is a project developed by College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm, a MOFGA-certified organic operation. Pictured above are three of its coordinators, (from left) Jenna Farineau ’16, Ivy Enoch ’18, and Rayna Joyce ’20. Credit: Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20

College of the Atlantic’s philosophy of “life changing, world changing” isn’t just a motto; it is regularly manifested into impactful projects in the real world. One such project is COA’s Share the Harvest (STH) program.  Since its creation in 2007, the program has helped scores of low-income families and individuals access fresh, organic produce.  It is managed by COA students and farm managers from the College’s own Beech Hill Farm, independent of any classes offered at the school.

“A lot of education is about learning about issues and trying to understand, comprehend, and synthesize them. A lot of what we are pushed to do at COA is to put that into action, to experience that education,” Jenna Farineau ’16 said. The current leader of STH, Farineau has studied food systems at COA and has increasingly worked with food access issues. Other STH team members include Rayna Joyce ’20, Ana Maria Zabala ’20, Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20, and Ivy Enoch ’18.
Central to the College of the Atlantic's farm-based food access program <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/share-the-harvest/" target="_blank">Share the Harvest</a>'s mission is not only securing access to food regardless of income, but assuring that food is fresh, local, and healthy as well.Central to the College of the Atlantic's farm-based food access program Share the Harvest's mission is not only securing access to food regardless of income, but assuring that food is fresh, local, and healthy as well. Credit: Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20

The team recently delivered the last harvest packages of the fall season. Elderly recipients eagerly greeted the students at their doors. The deliveries included a variety of fall vegetables, beets, squash, carrots, onions, and garlic, many of which will keep a few months into winter.

“When I was up and able, I used to have gardens of my own, but I can’t do anything like that anymore… I used to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, corn,” recalled Kathleen, a STH beneficiary. At 87 years old, she now resides in a senior citizens community in Southwest Harbor.

Share the Harvest offers two types of programs to receive fresh produce: farm stand vouchers and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes. They differ to accommodate the needs of larger or smaller families, and ability or inability to access the farm. Many of STH’s recipients are no longer physically able to pick up their groceries; many CSA deliveries are made directly to the homes of recipients.

“It wasn’t my idea to end up with the illnesses that I’ve had, I thought I would still be working when I was 67. It gives me hope to know that there are programs like this, and younger people that care if others are hungry or not,” said Brenda, a STH beneficiary and a painter for 47 years who has recently began to go blind in her left eye.“To me, this is really wonderful - being able to have food. Things are very tight on $700 a month.”

One in six households in Maine receive food aid, making it the most food insecure state in New England. In Hancock County, where College of the Atlantic is located, half of the residents do not earn a living wage.

<a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/share-the-harvest/" target="_blank">Share the Harvest</a> is a food access program operated by College of the Atlantic's <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/" target="_blank">Beech Hill Farm</a>. The activities involved with its implementation - harvesting and delivering, operation of the farmstand, development of communication materials, etc.- are all performed by students outside of time devoted to schoolwork.Share the Harvest is a food access program operated by College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm. The activities involved with its implementation - harvesting and delivering, operation of the farmstand, development of communication materials, etc.- are all performed by students outside of time devoted to schoolwork. Credit: Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20

“This whole system that we exist in creates inequality, and that inequality leads to poverty,” Farineau said. “Share the Harvest is not a solution to the problem, it exists as kind of a Band-Aid.”

“It’s not just about giving people vegetables, it’s about creating community around food. Share the Harvest opens the door to have those broader community discussions: Why does hunger exist?” Enoch added, “There’s this misconception that MDI is so socio-economically sound - that no one is hungry and everyone is living comfortably. That’s absolutely not the case, and the divide is staggering.”

Food insecurity plagues Maine not because there is a lack of food, but because there is a lack of access to it. College of the Atlantic's farm-based food security program <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/share-the-harvest/" target="_blank">Share the Harvest</a> aims to fix that.Food insecurity plagues Maine not because there is a lack of food, but because there is a lack of access to it. College of the Atlantic's farm-based food security program Share the Harvest aims to fix that. Credit: Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20Though farm share deliveries are over for the season, the student organizers will need to work through the upcoming terms to prepare for next year’s deliveries. Winter and spring work includes writing up resources and reading materials, assisting sign-ups at local food pantries, and fundraising to cover every participant in the next year. They are currently making plans for a fundraising dinner for the middle of COA’s winter term.

“As a young person, a lot of us can feel very bogged down in the converging issues of our generation,” said Joyce. “For me, it’s really important to have STH so that I can channel some of my energy and desire to change things in a concrete way. I think it’s really important for young people to be involved in change and action-based solutions.”

Farineau is currently revamping the program through an Independent Study focused on Share the Harvest. She will run it through COA’s sustainable business incubator, the Hatchery, in the spring of 2017 to solidify changes and possibly expand to other Mount Desert Island farms.

Until then, the students continue to investigate how their program can develop, and how they can begin to make Share the Harvest an unnecessary part of their community.

“I think it’s great that we as COA students have the energy, drive, and privilege to ask the question: What are the components standing between people and food?” Enoch said. “Continuing to question the system and its faults. How can we change it, and how can we improve it?”

<a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/share-the-harvest/" target="_blank">Share the Harvest</a> is a food access program implemented by College of the Atlantic's <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/" target="_blank">Beech Hill Farm</a>, a <a href="http://www.mofga.org/" target="_blank">MOFGA-certified</a> organic operation. The program is completely run by the farm's managers and a selection of student coordinators. It aims to secure Mount Desert Island inhabitants' access to fresh, local, and healthy foods, regardless of income.Share the Harvest is a food access program implemented by College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm, a MOFGA-certified organic operation. The program is completely run by the farm's managers and a selection of student coordinators. It aims to secure Mount Desert Island inhabitants' access to fresh, local, and healthy foods, regardless of income. Credit: Aubrielle Hvolboll ’20