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Kaliis, Monte, and Jacob visit Reed Farm in Sunderland, where farmers Kat Chang and Peter Laznicka teach them about: 

Published May 11, 2024 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder

Fibers for farmers: Western Massachusetts Fibershed turns local ‘throw away’ wool into fertilizer pellets

Local wool for your wardrobe…and for your garden?  

That’s the idea behind a new project from Western Massachusetts Fibershed, an organization working to strengthen our local fiber economy, right alongside our local food economy.  

Peggy Hart is a core organizer for the group, and a weaver by trade. She owns Bedfellow Blankets in Shelburne Falls, where she uses industrial looms to create beautiful textiles, many of them made with wool from farms in the Northeast. Her work happens at the end of the supply chain, which gives her an intimate view of how the whole thing functions – or sometimes doesn’t.  

Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette photo

Farms in the Valley and Berkshires still produce a fair amount of sheep’s wool – over 21,000 pounds per year, according to the most recent census of agriculture. Some of this wool is processed into ready-to-use yarn, fleece, roving, and other materials for crafters to knit, spin, or felt. But a lot of it, whether it’s just not quite high quality enough for artisanal purposes, or whether it’s a byproduct of meat production, doesn’t have much of a market. This means that a lot of locally produced wool is at risk of going to waste.  

On top of that, commercial-scale infrastructure for cleaning and processing wool has become scarce. Wool mills in Putney, VT, (Green Mountain Spinnery) and one that recently opened in Easthampton (Alchemy Fiber Mill) are rare examples of local facilities, as is Hart’s weaving operation at Bedfellow Blankets. Wool can make the journey from fleece to fabric within the region, but the supply chain is small and fragile. 

Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette photo.

That’s a shame, according to Hart, because when fabric performance and social and environmental costs are considered, wool has a lot going for it.  “Wool is warmer than synthetics,” she says, “and it keeps you warm even if it’s wet. It’s durable. It wicks away moisture and sweat. It’s flame-resistant. And it’s biodegradable, which is a huge reason why it’s more sustainable. You can recycle wool responsibly, but not really a polyester fleece.” 

With that in mind, Western Massachusetts Fibershed is trying to lay the groundwork for a textile economy that supports local farmers and makes wool and other local fibers a viable option for crafters and artisans. Part of that is expanding infrastructure and access to equipment, but at its core, their work is about connecting people.  

Peggy Hart, receives wool from Barbara Goodchild of Barberic Farm in Shelburne. “I think it is a great project, otherwise the wool literally gets thrown away in the woods,” said Goodchild. Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette photo.

A watershed collects all the surface water in a particular region. Similarly, the national organization Fibershed, of which Western Massachusetts Fibershed is a chapter, collects and organizes farmers, business owners and community members who share their vision. Other organizations, like CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), have supported this work too, but Western Mass Fibershed has been a leader, organizing locally and together with other Fibershed chapters.  

One of Western Massachusetts Fibershed’s biggest current projects is buying wool from small farms, pooling it, and sending it through the local processing chain to make yarn and blankets. Hart first got involved with Fibershed when earlier organizers asked her to weave these blankets at her Shelburne Falls shop. Yarn and blankets are currently for sale at their website, westernmassfibershed.org 

Still, “there’s always some wool that’s too dirty, matted, or short to use for yarn or fabrics,” says Hart. “At the national level, one Fibershed working group has been discussing what we can do with this ‘waste’ wool. The idea that grabbed the most attention was making wool fertilizer pellets.” 

Peggy Hart holds wool Pellets used for fertilization and water retention at her home in Shelburne. Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette photo.

This idea makes sense for a lot of reasons. For one, pelletizing wool is simple. It doesn’t need to be washed or sorted, just shredded and compressed into pellets. And while it’s not a lucrative business on its own, farmers can earn some extra cash from material they’d otherwise throw away. 

Meanwhile, it turns out wool is great for garden soil. By weight it’s about half carbon and one-fifth nitrogen, making it a potent source of fertility that releases slowly as it breaks down. Mixing in pellets also aerates soil, and, thanks to wool’s ability to absorb water, helps it retain moisture longer in the root zone. 

To put this idea into practice, Western Massachusetts Fibershed secured three grants to buy machinery. The organization will buy local wool to make and sell wool pellets, and they will custom-process wool for local farms to take back and sell themselves. 

“We hope to be able to pay farmers a dollar per pound for their wool,” Hart says. “For most farms that will come close to covering the cost of shearing, depending on the size of their flock.” 

Peggy Hart holding wool Pellets. Carol Lollis/Daily Hampshire Gazette photo.

The group is still waiting on one piece of equipment, but hopes to start selling wool pellet fertilizer at the annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Festival, held Memorial Day weekend at the Cummington Fairgrounds. Hart will also be tabling for Fibershed at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in Shelburne Falls on Saturday May 11, and encourages anyone interested in connecting with the group to visit her there or contact them via email at westernmassfibershed@gmail.com. 

Western Massachusetts Fibershed is an all-volunteer run organization structured around quarterly meetings and working groups focused on specific tasks, like publicizing the organization, coordinating events, and special projects like the wool pelletizing idea. Quarterly meetings are held in-person at rotating locations and include updates and time for socializing and skill-sharing.  

“Overall, we’re trying to create a sense of community,” says Hart, “because we know that’s what people want.” 

Western Massachusetts has a vibrant local food economy, in large part because people make an effort to support it. Western Massachusetts Fibershed is betting that support will extend to the local fiber economy too. After all, local farms are at the root of both.  

Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farms growing food, fiber, flowers and more, visit buylocalfood.org. 

Photo by Sandra Thomas, Marty’s Local.

Nick Martinelli, CEO of Marty’s Local, began his career with a stint at the Farm School, in consideration of how he might participate in the local agricultural economy. While conducting market research in 2015, he recognized there was a lot of demand for local food, yet many farms were not equipped to distribute it themselves.

Martinelli recalls, “I saw farmers driving past each other to deliver to customers, and I thought a business dedicated to consolidation, marketing, and delivery could be more efficient. That kind of work requires a whole day’s effort and is hard to do on the margins of the day.”

In that realization, Marty’s Local was born. Strong relationships with over 100 farmers and food producers in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, the Hudson Valley of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine are the foundation for the business. These supplier partnerships are located mostly on the same routes as their customers, allowing them to be nimble and maintain freshness.

The distributor connects farms to restaurants, small retailers, farm stands, and food co-ops in our region. As a small business themselves, Marty’s Local offers small buyers a lower minimum order than large distributors. Martinelli explains, “Our values align with the values of small buyers; yet working with larger buyers, like colleges, is an exciting opportunity to connect farms to a larger market.”

Leaning into relationships, instead of contracts, the Marty’s team talks with farmers in advance about what they’ll be able to supply, while they also talk with produce buyers and grocery buyers to ask about purchasing goals for the year. Martinelli says, “Then we do our best to meet these goals. We want the growers to set their pricing at a level that is going to earn them a living. We have to get it out to the market at a competitive price and make money, but our approach is different. The whole thing doesn’t work if our partners are going to be driven out of business.”

In 2019, Marty’s Local combined operations with Squash, Inc., adding more institutional customers, including local colleges

Driver Kevin Aloisi makes a delivery of local foods to Marty’s Local customer. Photo by Sandra Thomas.

and K-12 public schools, into the fold. Since that time, Marty’s has grown upon that foundation to serve over 30 schools and school districts in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Worcester, and Berkshire counties.

Sandra Thomas, Director of Marketing & Customer Support for Marty’s Local, explains that the company began by attending workshops to learn the needs of school nutrition directors, then continued to grow those relationships. Thomas says, “The question is, ‘How can we support those relationships to get more local food onto student plates?’ We listen and are attentive to the requests of the schools.”

For Massachusetts public schools, ordering anything from pencils to pizza crust follows a procurement process. Thomas credits Massachusetts Farm to School for helping to connect farmers, distributors, and school nutrition staff to deliver local food to school meals. Thomas continues, “They’re a great organization in terms of navigating the path for getting more local food into the school cafeterias. When school districts were awarded funding to spend specifically on minimally processed local foods, they were instrumental in walking us through the process to become an approved vendor for the program.”

For the 2023-2024 school year, Massachusetts received $3.5 million for the Northeast Food for Schools program. This one-time, federal grant supports schools in starting or expanding purchase of local food for their cafeterias and directly expanded access for local farms to supply local schools. Martinelli notes, “K-12 is a very different animal, and food service directors have a very hard job. The Northeast Food for Schools grant program makes it exciting to think about what’s possible, but school budgets remain a big challenge.”

Through listening and being responsive, Marty’s supports school teams in navigating local food purchases. Thomas says, “We try to keep it realistic in terms of what a school might actually buy. We’ve learned that schools sometimes face challenges with staffing, and so we offer products that are local and are minimally processed. For example, we provide schools with apples from Pine Hill Orchards, diced butternut from Plainville Farm, and shredded carrots, carrot sticks and carrot coins from Joe Czajkowski Farm.”

Taco made with Mi Tierra Tortillas delivered by Marty's Local to the Greenfield Public Schools. Photo credit: Photo Credit: Greenfield Public Schools Food Service

Tacos for school lunch using Mi Tierra Tortillas delivered by Marty’s Local to the Greenfield Public Schools. Photo Credit: Greenfield Public Schools Food Service

Over time, the requests and challenges from schools have become more creative. Thomas continues, “If schools come to us with an idea, we can help source what they need. We are a one stop shop and can provide lettuce for the salad bar, along with carrots, tomatoes, cottage cheese, salad dressing, and more.”

School meals are very different from generations past, while there are still very specific nutrition guidelines in place. School nutrition directors across our region, from Greenfield to Northampton to Springfield incorporate food tastings into the rotation. These introduce students to seasonal produce, culinary treats from around the globe, and nutritious proteins. On occasion, schools may order products from Marty’s for these tastings. Those may range from snack-sized Cabot cheese and Sidehill Farm’s yogurt to kimchi from Real Pickles or Mi Tierra tortillas. Some of the items tested become staples in the cafeteria’s lineup.

For all the ways that Marty’s Local supports local farms, small food purveyors, retailers, restaurants, and markets, the company was a recipient of this year’s Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Local Hero award. This award reflects how Marty’s Local has built a complex, technical, logistics business that also retains their commitment to deep relationships with serious heart.

Thomas concludes, “I enjoy the fact that students have the opportunity to learn that flavorful food is grown and made by people in their community. They have the chance to learn about what it takes to grow food, and that there is good food all around us year-round.”

Lisa Goodrich is Communications Coordinator for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, (CISA). To learn more about Marty’s Local, check out their website at www.martyslocal.com or for ordering information, email orders@martyslocal.com.

This August 2-4, the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust community will converge on the campus of Smith College for an extraordinary conference called   We the Land!  A Gathering for Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, SWANA & PoC Earth Workers, Land Stewards, and Farmers.

Whether or not you are attending, as local allies and advocates for this community, we can support the gathering in two meaningful ways:

1) Make a financial contribution to NEFOC LT to support an equitable fee structure for conference participants.   The sliding scale for the three-day event is $15-550.   You can help create more capacity by offsetting conference costs.

2) Offer housing and carpooling!    Whether or not you are a person of color, the conference organizers welcome offers of homestays or ridesharing for conference goers.    Click here to access a spreadsheet where you can describe yourself and the resources you can offer.

For more information about the conference, you can reach the organizers at wetheland@northeastfarmersofcolor.org.    For more information about how to support or engage with NEFOC LT during the convergence, email Gaby Immerman at the Smith College Botanic Garden, which is serving as the on-campus partner for the gathering, at gimmerma@smith.edu.

Sue and Elisa Kosinski from Kosinski Farms in Westfield visit Monte and Kaliis on this week’s Fabulous 413 on NEPM. Listen in on farming as a family, being a female trailblazer in local farming, and how being a teacher applies to farming. There’s more on Pick-Your-Own strawberries, fueling the farm with corn, Raven Hollow Winery, and C

SA options for this season. The farm stand is now open for mother’s day plants and starts, pies and donuts from the bakery, and more!

Published April 20, 2024 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

As garden season gets underway, Whately farm provides ‘black gold’ to many

“Compost is not soil, but it makes your soil better,” says Mike Mahar, owner of Bear Path Compost in Whately. “It adds life to it. If you’re going to take something out of the soil by harvesting, you should put something back in, and compost is perfect for that.”

Bear Path Compost takes waste materials from other farms and turns them into compost that’s certified for organic use. They sell to local farmers and landscapers, but most of their customers are home gardeners looking to give their plants a nutrient boost.

Bear Path Compost owners Mark Melnik, from left, Mike Mahar and Peter Melnik. Gazette/Dan Little photo.

Mahar didn’t grow up in the compost business, but he did grow up next door to it. “Bill Obear, the previous owner of Bear Path Compost, was our neighbor,” he explains. “Since my brother Pete and I grew up on dairy farm, we knew how to operate farm equipment, so he used to pay us a little cash to come help out.”

When Obear wanted to get out of the business, Mahar was a natural successor. The two ran things together for a year, then Mahar took over. All the while, Mahar never stopped raising cows. He and his brother still run Poplar Hill Farm on his family’s land, where instead of a dairy herd, they now raise beef cattle. This year he’s also taken on new business partners for Bear Path: Peter and Mark Melnik, who also own and operate Bar-Way Farm, a dairy farm in Deerfield.

In the farm and garden world, compost is like WD40 or a flathead screwdriver – one simple tool that’s good for a lot of things. The main reason compost is so useful and versatile is its high amounts of organic matter, meaning materials that are or once were alive.

Windrows of compost at Bear Path Compost in Whately. Gazette/Dan Little photo.

Most organic matter in compost is already decomposing, gently releasing nutrients back into the soil. Usually, this infusion of fertility isn’t as potent as adding fertilizer, but the nutrients stay in the soil longer and are less likely to wash away.

Compost also supports a rich community of soil organisms, the benefits of which include better soil structure, nutrient cycling, and aeration, which allows plants to root deep and still give their roots access to oxygen. Adding compost also helps the soil absorb more water and release it more slowly. In dry years, this sponge effect helps farmers and gardeners water more efficiently. In wet years, more absorption capacity means less soil erosion or drowned roots.

As a soil amendment for farm and garden beds, Mahar suggests a baseline mix of 1 part compost to 3 parts soil. Compost can also be spread as topdressing on lawns or garden beds for an added nutrient boost, and it can even be used as mulch.

Mark Melnik adds a load of compost into a screening machine on at Bear Path Compost in Whately. Gazette/Dan Little photo

“Bark mulch is a better weed suppressor than compost, but as microbes break it down, they use up nitrogen,” Mahar explains. “Basically, bark mulch robs your garden of nutrients, whereas compost mulches and adds them back. We’ve started selling blends of bark mulch and compost, which allow you to have the best of both worlds.”

Mulch and compost mixes of 3:1 or 1:1 are available now. Starting soon, Bear Path Compost will also offer loam and compost blends in the same proportions.

At the most basic level, compost is made by mixing high nitrogen materials with high carbon materials and ensuring there’s enough moisture and oxygen for the composting process to occur.  For high nitrogen ingredients, Bear Path mostly uses manure from the Melnik’s cows at Bar-Way Farm. For high carbon ingredients, they turn to spent shavings from horse shows at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton.

Mark Melnik delivers a load of compost into a customer’s truck bed. Gazette/Dan Little photo.

“Bar-Way manure is a natural fit (because of the Melnik’s involvement), and the fairgrounds generates a tremendous amount of bedding,” says Mahar. “Both work great for us because they’re very clean – hardly any trash or other contamination.”

Technically, it’s microbes that transform the mixture into finished compost. The farmer’s job is to create conditions where these microbes thrive. Getting the ratio of nitrogen to carbon is important, as is aerating piles, which they do by turning them by tractor every few weeks.

One sign of composting success is heat, generated by microbial activity, which speeds up decomposition and denatures most pathogens. As an added precaution, Bear Path also adds high carbon wood ash to bind and neutralize anything not denatured by the heat. After about nine months of turning, they’re ready to call it compost.

On average, Bear Path makes almost 3,000 cubic yards per year – about the volume of an Olympic sized swimming pool. They sell it by the cubic yard ($70 each) and other increments as small as a five-gallon bucket ($3.50 each).

From left, Mark Melnik, Mike Mahar and Peter Melnik. Gazette/Dan Little photo

“Since so many of our customers are home gardeners, we probably sell 100 to 150 yards through five-gallon buckets,” says Mahar. “That is a lot of five-gallon buckets.”

When buying compost, Mahar encourages customers to first use the calculator on their website, which shows how many cubic yards are needed for their project. From there, anyone buying smaller amounts can come fill their own buckets any time at Bear Path’s facility at 134 Webber Road in Whatley. From 9am to 12pm on Saturdays, anyone purchasing larger amounts can also have their trucks and trailers loaded up free of charge, or they can call to request another pick up time. Bear Path will also deliver any order, no matter how small. The delivery fee is hourly, based on travel time.

Bear Path Compost’s address, contact details, prices, and self-serve instructions are all available on their website: bearpathcompost.com. Their website also has a considerable amount of information on the science and uses of compost, in general and for their products specifically.

Typically, Bear Path runs out of finished compost by mid-June as most farmers and gardeners move from prep to plant care. Until then, they are a source of “black gold” for many a green thumb around the Valley.

Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). As the growing season begins, visit buylocalfood.org to learn more about local farms and garden centers near you.

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This week on the #LocalHeroSpotlight, Kaliis, Monte, and Phil visit The Zuzgos at Twenty Acres Farm and Greenhouses, a hidden gem of a farm stand on River Rd in Hadley. They raise tons of plants perfect for your flower or veggie garden. And they’ve been doing it a while, so they know a thing or two about quality!

 

Published Saturday April 13, 2024 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Gwydyr Farm turns grass into great local food

Every piece of farmland has its strengths and weaknesses. Often, the most successful farmers are those that learn to see their land’s potential clearly and build a business around it.  

Steven Cowley, owner of Gwydyr Farm in Southampton

Gwydyr Farm in Southampton doesn’t have the kind of fertile floodplain soil best for growing vegetables, but their land can grow one thing really well: grass.  

“People can’t eat grass,” says Steven Cowley, one of Gwydyr’s current farmers, “but cows can, and people like to eat cows. And our locally raised meat complements all the produce other farms in the Valley can grow.” 

Cowley has been farming for 10 years on his family’s land, which he recently bought from the elder generation. At the start, he was literally just farming grass, cutting and selling hay for livestock and horse farms. Then 3 years ago Gwydyr Farm started raising beef cattle, and now are adding pasture-raised lamb and chicken to what they sell. 

The farm’s slow and steady expansion comes as Cowley and his farming partner Caroline Holladay experiment with new farming projects while maintaining the old. All the while, both are still working full-time off the farm at Libertas Academy Charter School in Springfield, where Cowley teaches history and Holladay teaches math.   

“Every school break is farm time, and many nights and weekends too,” says Cowley. It’s a lot of work, but breaks in the academic calendar make it manageable. Meanwhile, teaching provides a stable income alongside the farm.  

Says Holladay, “we realized that owning a livestock farm wasn’t something I could jump right into financially, so for a while teaching has helped pay the bills. But we’re both looking forward to expanding the farm until it isn’t just something we do for summers and breaks.” 

Caroline Holladay of Gwydyr Farm with Luna, their Norwegian Fjord horse (Peter Camyre photo)

Gwydyr Farm was originally named by Cowley’s father, a large animal vet whose expertise still comes in handy. Gwydyr is a Welsh word meaning “wild land,” which Cowley thinks is a fitting description.  

“We go from really heavy soils to lighter stony soils,” he says. Some pastures have remained open for years, others are in various stages of returning to forest.  

As farming operations expand, some of the wilder areas are getting tamed. Cowley and Holladay are orchestrating it, the animals do most of the heavy lifting. 

“They’re our own army of land clearing tools,” says Cowley, “and they love to eat.” 

The beef cattle make the first pass, the farmers rotating them through the landscape using a mobile electric fence. They clear brush as they eat and fertilize the soil with their droppings, encouraging the grassland species that are best for grazing and haying to grow back stronger. This improves the productivity of the very land that feeds them and sustains the hay business. 

Gwydyr Farm photo

Cowley started his herd with different breeds but has since fallen in love with Devon cattle, one of the original breeds introduced to North America by European settlers. They’re a hardy, dual purpose breed sometimes raised for meat or for milk, and they aren’t picky about what they eat.  

“Often with newer breeds, people are trying to breed them back towards eating grass instead of grain,” he explains. “But Devons have always thrived on grass. And as a history teacher, having a breed used here back in the 1600s means a lot to me.” 

After the cattle, chickens follow in mobile coops. Says Holladay, “chickens are omnivores, eating grass, bugs and grubs and turning that into a source of fertility with their manure. We use them to target areas that need more fertility while creating another delicious product for us to sell.” 

Sheep recently joined the grazing rotation too, creating yet another source of income from their fields. They’ve been careful to only introduce animals who can graze on land less suitable for haying and who tend to eat different species. That protects their haying revenue and makes sure pastures don’t get depleted. Yet from a business standpoint, offering more variety is good for them and their customers, since fans of local grass-fed beef are often interested in other pasture-raised meat too.  

Gwydyr Farm photo

“From my experience, raising animals on pasture really affects the quality and taste of the meat,” Cowley says. “Grass-fed beef cattle are raised longer than those in a feedlot, which means better marbling and richer color. And our beef is also vacuum-sealed and frozen immediately after it’s butchered, which is great for quality and convenience.”  

Plus, as Holladay points out, “because we’re a small farm, we can really customize orders to exactly what people want. We can sell you the exact cut of lamb you want as the centerpiece for your fancy dinner party, or have your steaks cut a specific way.” 

In the future, Cowley and Holladay hope to sell through local stores and farmers markets, but for now, all sales are straight from the farm. Pricing and availability are updated often on Gwydyr Farm’s Facebook page, and customers can contact them via the phone and email listed there.  

Cuts of beef and lamb are available now, and whole chickens will be available again later this summer. Beef prices are set to encourage larger orders, including 20% off orders over $100 and an even bigger discount for buying over 10 pounds of ground beef. 

Gwydyr Farm photo

Cowley and Holladay farm for a lot of reasons. On a day-to-day basis, they both love working with animals and seeing the tangible results of their work. On a deeper level, Cowley says Gwydyr Farm helps root him in this moment in time as well as the local history that precedes him.  

“The way I farm, I’m not someone who buys all new equipment,” he says. “I love taking old farm equipment and making it work again. I love rehabilitating overgrown land and making it productive again. And I love restoring the connection between land, food and people.” 

“The sense of community and meaning that comes from the Valley feeding itself are both valuable things,” he adds. “We had a stronger sense of community and more local food in the past, and I think both are something we’re trying to get back to.” 

Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farms and where to buy local food near you, visit buylocalfood.org. 

General manager Spencer Gowan of Great Falls Aquaculture

This week, Jacob takes Monte and Kaliis to visit Great Falls Aquaculture and the 180,000 barramundi raised there. They talk with general manager Spencer Gowan and hatchery manager Walker Wright-Moore about:

Terry Ragasa and CISA Board Member German Alvarado. Steph Craig photo

Terry and Susan Ragasa opened Sutter Meats, a whole-animal butcher shop located in Northampton, 10 years ago. They both had unrelated careers in New York before Terry started developing his interest in the culinary world and found himself wowed by what local farms were producing. After apprenticing and working in various butcher shops, the couple decided to start their own business, and they looked around for a place that had lots of excellent local farms and a customer base that cared enough about local farms and quality food to support the butcher shop they envisioned. They chose the Valley (a true compliment!).

It sounds simple – Sutter Meats buys whole animals from local farms, their expert butchers process them, and customers come and buy the meat – win for the farms and the customers they serve! But whole animal butchery is kind of a puzzle, and it requires a lot of careful planning, and an ongoing commitment to education and good communication with customers. Here’s an example: one cow has 2 tenderloins, 16 strip steaks, 1 hanger steak (which their neighbor at Ernie’s garage has dibs on), and 200 pounds of ground beef. Or another: chickens usually only have 2 wings – that makes it hard for them to capitalize on Super Bowl weekend.

But these challenges aren’t a deficit — they’re what make Sutter Meats what it is, and all of it results in a lot of delicious creativity: coming up with recipes for unique hamburger patties, skewers, sausages, deli meats, turning offal into dog treats, rendering fat, making bone broth, selling truly delicious daily sandwiches and, most importantly, showing customers other equally tasty options and cuts of meat that they may not be familiar with. They recently started offering a butcher club, a monthly box featuring a variety of cuts along with information about the meat and recipes.

Talking with Terry, the thing that comes through is excitement about sharing everything behind the meat with their customers: the story of the farms they source from, how the animals are cared for there, the many wonderful cuts of meat and preparations that are not as well-known, how all of this contributes to keeping farm systems intact and in place. They’re bursting with new ideas and possibilities, and completely dedicated to the daily work of making high-quality, carefully raised local meat available to their community – so for that, CISA is pleased to present Sutter Meats with a 2024 Local Hero Award.

Find them here!

Marty’s Local, owned by Nick Martinelli, is a food distribution company with a dedicated focus on local and regional sourcing.

Steph Craig photo

Marty’s functions in a part of our local food system that is absolutely essential but largely invisible to the general public (except inasmuch as we might see a truck making deliveries). We’re lucky to have thriving farmers’ markets, farm stands, and CSAs in our region, but the reality is that direct sales from farm to consumer make up only about 10% of Massachusetts farm sales. That means that 90% of the food grown by Massachusetts farms is winding its way through more complex channels from farm to table – and Marty’s Local smooths that complexity out, bridging the gaps and getting more local food onto more local peoples’ plates.

In 2015, Nick Martinelli loaded a station wagon with carrots from Kitchen Garden Farm and einkorn flour from upstate New York and made his very first deliveries. He saw that there was a gap to fill in connecting local farms with local buyers, sourcing super fresh, high quality farm products and then making it effortless for wholesale buyers to choose those products.

Today, Marty’s Local sources from over 100 local farms and specialty food producers, and sells to customers in about a 100 mile radius of their warehouse in South Deerfield. They buy from farms of all sizes, taking over the administrative, marketing, and delivery work that farmers are otherwise doing on top of their daily labors of growing food. They keep order minimums low so their customers include small farm stands, grocers, and restaurants whose order volumes might otherwise exclude them from being able to get delivery from individual farms or from large distributors – many of which are important sources of food for their communities. And they have set up systems that enable them to sell to schools, with all the specific needs that school purchasers have.

Everything they offer is source-identified so buyers, like Smith College Dining, can choose the Winter Moon Roots or Our Family Farms milk when ordering and then be sure that that is what they are getting. Most distribution companies don’t do that, and the biggest ones really can’t – it just requires too complex and too closely managed a system. This transparency is a form of built-in accountability to their farm partners, to the buyers who rely on them, and ultimately the eaters who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the thread connecting their plate to the origin farm.

Nick emphasizes the relationships that are the foundation of Marty’s Local – the trust and long-term commitments that go both ways with the farmers they buy from and the purchasers they sell to. So for building a complicated, technical, logistics business that also has deep commitments and serious heart, CISA is proud to present a 2024 Local Hero Award to Marty’s Local.

Find them here!

Diane and Rob Rollins, 2024 Local Hero Awardees. Steph Craig photo.

D & R Farm is owned by Rob and Diane Rollins. Rob grew up on a turkey farm in East Longmeadow, and Diane grew up on a self-sustaining farm in Canada. They both had other careers, and then decided to return to their farming roots on their couple of acres in Hampden in 2009. Today they are farming that small patch at home along with 108 additional rented acres in town, and with that land, they do A LOT: vegetables, corn, eggs, meat chickens and turkeys, greenhouse crops, baked goods, and various prepared foods like soup and meat pies. And until this year, they’ve being doing it all on their own, except for occasional help from friends and family!

Still, that big a range of products isn’t uncommon for farms in our region. What really makes D & R Farm stand out is the way they approach getting all that food to peoples’ tables, and making it available for people of all income levels. D & R Farm was an early adopter of HIP, the Healthy Incentives Program, and they serve as the anchor produce farm at multiple Hampden County farmers’ markets – this winter, for example at, the Holyoke Winter Farmers’ market, and they’ll be at 4 markets this summer in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield. They are farm partners on CISA’s Senior FarmShare program, providing fresh produce throughout each summer to low-income seniors through the Palmer and Hampden Senior Centers. And they set up a mobile farmstand at the housing authority-owned facilities in Brimfield and Munson, largely reaching seniors and people with limited mobility who live there.

This all reflects a real commitment to meeting the needs of their customers and their larger communities, and a willingness to try out different markets. The depth of these relationships, and their importance, is reflected in the fact that a number of people who represent various markets and community connections came to see Rob and Diane receive this award and cheer them on.

Talking with Rob and Diane, it’s clear that they take a lot of pride in growing and high-quality food that will bring customers back to them, and in meeting customers where they are – helping to bridge mobility and financial barriers to make food more available to everyone. For all of this, CISA is honored to present a 2024 Local Hero award to D & R Farm.

Find them here!