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Businesswoman helps sustainable farming program thrive

Trisha Pérez Kennealy and Nasrin Morovaty come to the farm-to-table movement from different directions, but they share a mission: providing locally sourced, environmentally sustainable produce to Massachusetts diners.

“My connection with Tufts is through the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project,” says Kennealy, who opened the Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington, Mass., last winter.

New Entry is a joint project of Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Community Teamwork Inc., based in Lowell, Mass. The program works with people of limited resources who are interested in small-scale commercial agriculture. The organization provides a range of training, from marketing to land access to crop management, and runs a community-supported agriculture program (CSA) to distribute the farmers’ products.

For the past three years, Kennealy has helped organize a spring fundraiser for Tufts’ New Entry that highlights locally grown food. This year, she donated a one-night stay and dinner at her new inn to be auctioned at the event. All money raised supports the organization’s Farm Fresh Food for All initiatives, including one that enables people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, often referred to as food stamps, to purchase a CSA share at half price.

Kennealy, who spent her early childhood in Puerto Rico before moving to Lexington, has an M.B.A. from Harvard. She left a successful career as an investment banker to train at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in London. As a chef and a mother of three, she is committed to knowing where the food she serves comes from.

“I’m Puerto Rican,” she says. “In their backyard, my grandmother and grandfather had avocados, coffee, guavas and bananas. It was a moveable feast.” She wants everyone to have a similarly direct connection with the food on their table.

Groups like New Entry have led to a renaissance of interest in agriculture, Kennealy says. New Entry is working nationally to get other farm incubator programs started.

“In New England, we have such a vibrant history related to agriculture,” she says. “I’m trying to support local farmers. What I admire most about New Entry is that they really understand the science and the art of agriculture.”

Kennealy and executive chef Matthew Molloy have been connecting with New Entry as they develop menus for the inn’s restaurant, Artistry on the Green. That means meeting local farmers like Nasrin Morovaty, who came to the United States from Iran with her husband on a student visa in 1977. After the revolution in their country, they remained in the U.S. and have raised their daughter here.

Having completed New Entry’s farm business planning course, Morovaty does small-scale farming at the organization’s incubator training farm in Dracut, Mass. She grows herbs, such as Thai basil, sage, mint, oregano and summer savory, as well as beets, salad greens, eggplant and other crops. “There are so many edible things that can be grown sustainably,” she says. “I want to teach people that there is more to eat than lettuce.”

Through supporting New Entry, both as a business owner and a donor, Kennealy says, “I want to make a commitment to people who are developing the agricultural skills that are so needed in our community.”