2016-08-04 / News

Senior Home offers fresh produce stand

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

SACO – The Paul Hazelton House in Saco, a Volunteers of America property, has organized a weekly farm stand that is open to the public. Patti Ellsworth, resident service coordinator for the independent housing complex for low-income seniors, said residents requested easier access to locally grown fresh produce.

“We arranged it as a benefit for seniors living here at Hazelton because oftentimes they’re not driving,” Ellsworth said.

The farm stand is located under the pine trees at 7 Smith Lane, where it is visible but under the shade to protect the produce, she said. Linda Fenderson of Fenderson’s Farm in Saco agreed to set up the stand every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon, from July through Sept. 27.

Ellsworth said many seniors participate in Senior Farm Share, a program of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which is funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seniors in the program sign up with a farm and then get a $50 voucher toward food from that farm.

Fenderson said even though Fenderson’s Farm has its own farm stand open every day of the week at 97 New County Road, seniors from Hazelton House who had signed up with the Senior Farm Share program at Fenderson’s Farm had mentioned to her that they were having difficulty getting to the farm to use their vouchers.

“We had been looking for another place (to set up a farm stand), and then I was talking to seniors about how inconvenient it is to come all the way up here,” Fenderson said. “Seniors that were on the program wanted me to come down there.”

Ellsworth said if the vouchers aren’t used, the farmers, as well as the seniors, lose out.

“The problem is, if they don’t use the voucher, it doesn’t help the seniors, but it also doesn’t help the farmer because the money is printed up and if it’s not used, the farmer ends up giving it back to the government,” Ellsworth said.

Fenderson said she has brought corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, spinach, peppers, beans, “big beautiful onions,” and leeks to the senior farm stand.

Ellsworth said seniors can’t change farms in the middle of the year if they signed up for the program with another farm, and those seniors that prefer other farms will still frequent other farms as they wish.

“There’s a lot of loyalty here also for Harris Farm (at 280 Buzzell Road in Biddeford),” Ellsworth said. “This doesn’t take away from that, but for seniors who can’t (travel to a farm), this can continue to benefit seniors. So as our seniors age, they don’t have to worry about getting to the farmer’s market because their right here on site.”

Fenderson said the stand at Hazelton House will only be profitable if other clientele from the public also stop by for some produce, but she expects more seniors might sign up with Fenderson Farm next year as a result of her being available once a week.

“Several of them wish they hadn’t signed up with other farms first,” she said.

Even those who are enrolled with other farms for senior farm share are stopping by the stand and buying items with cash, she added.

Ellsworth said although it’s an unusual place for a farm stand, the public is starting to notice it and the seniors are appreciating it.

“They’re loving having it right here,” Ellsworth said. “It’s so convenient for a lot of them because they don’t drive. We even had a UPS guy stopping by looking for a snack.”

For more information about Fenderson Farm, call Fenderson at 468-9315.

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