ServiceNet farm in Hatfield gets $600K grant to create kitchen, carpentry program




HATFIELD — ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm, where individuals with developmental disabilities and autism can work year-round and get vocational training, is receiving significant state investment to create a commercial kitchen and a fully equipped carpentry workshop.

The $595,000 Social Enterprise Capital Grant going to the farm was one of nine grants totaling $3 million announced by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in the inaugural round of the program.

“This will really position us for several decades of success,” said Shawn Robinson, Prospect Meadow Farm’s director who oversees its two farm locations in Hatfield, both the original 11.5-acre site and a second 8-acre site.

Annually, the farm, established 11 years ago, has 75 to 80 farmhands on site for six hours a day, doing paid work for half of their days and spending the other half of their time developing various skills that will allow them to move on to other employment in the future.

Robinson said the project can start immediately, though ServiceNet will be launching a fundraising campaign to bring in another $100,000 that will be used for equipping the woodworking space, and providing new furnishings in the 1970s-era farmhouse.

“Our hope is to have the project done by the end of December, or early January, Robinson said.

There are several aspects to it. One is the complete renovation of the farmhouse so that it can be used as a training center. This includes building out the commercial kitchen to produce and package products grown on site.

“We can use the kitchen to produce our pickles and our soups using shiitake mushrooms,” Robinson said.

Currently, Prospect Meadow Farm offers Community Supported Agriculture shares to the community, with customers coming to the site to pick up produce, eggs and mushrooms, with the lone deliveries made to Chicopee and weekly to ServiceNet sites throughout the region.

Combined, the new workspace should add 10 to 12 new jobs for people with disabilities, Robinson said.

Another piece of the project is the carpentry workshop that will become a place for adults and students to enhance carpentry skills. Teenagers who might not be able to attend Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton, but still want to do such work, could use this workshop.

“We want to be a place for these students who can’t access Smith Voke,” Robinson said.

Finally, an outdoor pavilion will go up to provide much-needed shelter for the workers, especially during the cold weather months, Robinson said.

Robinson said the state grant continues the significant investment being made in the farm, such as last year’s purchase and installation of a walk-in freezer, and acquisition of a farm tractor.

Meantime, the state program is making a total of $3 million in investments toward social enterprises that contribute to economic growth in low-income communities through buying or renovating buildings and acquiring equipment. The announcement of the awards was made in Peabody at Northeast Arc’s ArcWorks by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.

“From providing on-the-job skills training for young people to ensuring meaningful job opportunities for individuals facing barriers to employment, this funding will amplify the work of community-based organizations creating economic opportunities for the people of our commonwealth,” Kennealy said.

“Our administration is pleased to support social enterprises working to provide individuals of all backgrounds with the skills and economic opportunities they need to be successful,” Baker said in a statement.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at [email protected].

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