Highlights from the Network: An Interview with Andrea Cadwell

Jessica Newnan

Seeds of Community is a program based in Peterborough, NH focused on community development and farmer training.  Andrea Cadwell is the catalyst of this endeavor, connecting community resources and creating partnerships to design a collaborative and impactful program. NH Food Alliance fellow, Jessica Newnan, recently sat down to talk to Andrea about her work in the food system.

The Beginning

Seeds of Community grew out of a fortuitous meeting between Andrea and Chub Whitten, the owner of the Vose Farm Business Park, in Peterborough, NH in early 2015. Chub was looking for someone who could help convert a plot of land in the business park to a farm. Andrea, the chair of the Peterborough Agricultural Commission, was asked to help in the search.

After a fruitless search, Andrea proposed an idea to use the land to help feed families who would not normally be able to afford CSA shares or to go to farmers markets. During the development phase of the program, Andrea reached out to ConVal High School across the street from the business park. She asked the prinicipal, “Look, if I create a non-profit entity across the street, could you send students over to work for it?” His answer: “If you did that, we could send students tomorrow." 

Program Details

As Seeds of Community began to take shape, the idea of an educational program in sustainable agriculture came into view. Starting next semester, students will be able to take a class in sustainable agriculture and gain practical skills by working at the farm through a partnership with the Applied Technology Center at ConVal High School. Students who successfully complete the program will graduate with a certificate in agriculture.

The food grown at the farm will be sold as CSA shares that help feed low-income families. This aspect is a vital part of the program- farmer's markets and CSA shares can sometimes be considered as elite food choices and can be off-putting for low-income people. Andrea is working to break down that barrier, saying "Allowing somebody to own and participate in [the food system] in this way really changes the paradigm."  Additionally, Seeds of Community is also working with the Peterborough Town Library to catalog and save seeds to ensure a diverse array of crops for the future. 

This unique program touches on all of the opportunity areas of the NH Food Alliance Viability Initiative: Education, Land and Sea Resources, Market Development, and Food Access.

Vital Partnerships

Seeds of Community relies on partnerships to make it all possible, with Andrea stating that, “We are one hundred percent alive because of our partnerships." 

Her partnerships include: Vose Farm Business Park, Conval Regional High School, The River Center (an agency that works with low-income families in the area), Farmer John's Plot, and the Peterborough Town Library, the Gaia Educational Outreach Institute and the Hillsborough County Gleaners.

Looking to the Future

Spring 2016 will usher in the first class of students as well as the first CSA membership.  In the future, the program will be expanded one class at a time and with an additional 25 CSA memberships each year. This program has the capability to serve as a great model for other communities to adopt.

Towards the end of the interview, Andrea stated,"I was really trying to make a space where people, through owning something, would develop a sense of belonging". We think that Seeds of Community is well on its way to making that happen.

To learn more about Seeds of Community, please visit their Facebook page or email Andrea.