Hilltop Hanover Farm spotlight
A Partner in Food Justice and Hunger Relief
A historic working farm, that also works hard to reduce waste and create sustainable food systems.
Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center is dedicated to developing and advancing sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, community education, and accessible food systems for all! For several years, Hilltop has been one of our incredible partners in food justice, donating produce and creating regular gleaning opportunities for volunteers to rescue even more food directly from their fields. In 2022, they donated 3,094 pounds of produce to our organization. The food we glean and receive from Hilltop is delicious and filled with nutrients. We especially love Hilltop’s salad greens. Volunteers enjoy harvesting them and knowing these tasty and tender greens will be a special treat for our recipients.
More about Hilltop Hanover Farm
Hilltop has been a working farm since the 1700s, with a significant portion of that time as a prize-winning dairy farm! Because of this history of grazing animals and years of good farming practices, Hilltop has incredibly fertile soil that doesn’t need a lot of nutrients to make it perfect for growing organic vegetables. Visit them at the farm which is open to the public Monday-Friday 9 am – 4 pm or at the Seasonal Farm Stand to taste their delicious produce yourself!
"In part, that makes donating this food even more special; it's grown in incredible soil and using the best practices for sustainability. It's the best version of fresh food that you could want - and I think it makes it even tastier." -Cynthia, Volunteer Coordinator
Gleaning with Second Chance Foods.
Last week we looked at how gleaning reduces waste at the farm production level and why waste happens. Because Hilltop is passionate about sustainable farming and accessible food systems, they were more than welcoming to Second Chance Foods gleaning weekly. Gleaning at Hilltop is a wonderful activity to get you outside for a few hours and give back to both Hilltop and Second Chance Foods! Knowing that we’ll be there every Monday during harvest season also helps the farmers plan how best to use their time and resources. Gleaning helps some crops that ripen daily stay healthy, like tomatoes, increasing the amount of food that feeds people like the farm intended.
We’re grateful for Hilltop’s partnership and trust in having us in their fields! That’s why volunteers take special care to correctly pick veggies so they don’t accidentally damage the plant. Stay tuned to sign up for these Monday shifts -coming soon!
Hilltop’s Donation Program.
It’s Hilltop’s goal to donate at least 10% of its produce to hunger relief organizations like Second Chance Foods. It’s also always Hilltop’s goal that people have the option of fresh food. They even donate extra vegetable seedlings to school or community gardens so that nothing goes to compost that could have been turned into food. However, one challenge they experience is that some of their available produce is trickier for people to use- like beets! It takes time (and energy) to learn how to cook with a new vegetable and sometimes additional ingredients. Unfortunately, those are obstacles for many people who visit food pantries. That’s why Hilltop loves partnering with Second Chance Foods! Items like beets that need extra TLC (at Second Chance Foods, that stands for tender-loving cooking) get transformed by kitchen volunteers into something delicious and nutritious, like pickled beets or even roasted beets with sugar and spices.
The donation program at Hilltop also helps them reduce food waste. For example, some vegetables, like sweet potatoes, can’t be sold because they get marred or dinged up during harvest. As a producer, they can’t alter produce other than rinsing it off, so minor imperfections can stop a whole sweet potato from going to market. Instead of the entire vegetable being composted, Hilltop can pass those items along, and the Second Chance Foods kitchen will cut off the slight imperfections and roast, bake, puree, and season the rest. It’s a truly beneficial solution for both organizations and a great community collaboration
"My favorite thing about the farm is the early summer mornings, its cooler in the morning and can be hard to get started but ultimately everyone here wants to be here because they have a passion for growing food, and feeding the community." - Cynthia
More Hilltop Volunteer Opportunities
Hilltop has so many opportunities to get involved and is always open to making unique offerings to fit your schedule! It takes a lot of hands to run a farm so they have volunteer opportunities to fit any interest and ability. For example, you can help weed on Tuesdays- an essential part of ensuring good crop production and even helps make more food available for gleaning! If being outdoors (or kneeling on the dirt) isn’t for you, consider helping on Wednesdays when Hilltop volunteers wash and pack produce for the market.
They also have special volunteer days once a month on Saturday mornings where any age and ability can help the farm achieve a larger project. So if you’re looking for a way to volunteer as a family on the weekend or see new parts of the farm, this is for you! In April, they planted potatoes, giving some enthusiastic young farmers a chance to get their hands dirty and have fun with their families. The next Saturday opportunity is next weekend, June 10th, and will be the first Native Plant Community Work Day of the year! Another special opportunity is the Friday Flower Appreciation; it’s a perfect fit for anyone looking to get hands-on experience gardening and caring for plants.
Plus, hands-on experience working with experts is always a bonus when volunteering at Hilltop. Unlike their education programs which are single occurrences, many of Hilltops volunteers give back multiple times and have the opportunity to make friends at the farm and build on their knowledge as plants grow or the seasons change. For example, Hilltop’s Volunteer Coordinator, Cynthia, said the other week, they were clearing out the pollinator garden and, after finding an odd plant, worked together to identify the species and talk about the proper disposal of an invasive species, which led them to discuss compost and the whole day ended at the compost pile bringing the impromptu lesson full circle. Cynthia says volunteering is always “work first, but it’s hard not to learn when working closely together – it just happens!”
Learn more and sign up to volunteer here. Opportunities are still being added for the season, so if you’re interested in staying up to date on the offerings – Cynthia recommends you sign up for the volunteer newsletter. Hilltop is also open to welcoming groups or creating independent volunteer events that fit your schedule. So, if you’re interested in working outside the hours of their regular offerings, contact Cynthia or sign up for a listed shift to start the conversation.
Hilltop offers education programs for school groups or other education groups. They even have specific programs for home school youth to learn together in the outdoor classroom. Public education classes bring the farm to the table – literally! You’ll learn about the organic growing process, harvest ingredients, and prepare a meal in Hilltop’s farm kitchen! The farm is also excited to announce that its Beekeeping Series has returned for a second season this year. Take a look at the calendar here for more details and events coming up!