The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 10, 2017, by Richie Davis
As students at Leverett and Erving elementary schools dig into their vegetables this fall, they may be getting a taste of local farms thanks to a new collaboration between two organizations in Hampshire and Franklin counties.
The Hampshire Council of Goverments, through its purchasing cooperative, and the Franklin County Community Development Corp. have announced a Pioneer Valley Vegetable Venture for 16 school cafeterias and organizations around western Massachusetts, one that will offer locally grown fruits and vegetables for their menus.
The co-op links schools and other bulk food buyers as far apart as Williamstown and Petersham with local farms and processors. They are all to be part of a purchasing bid in a contract with Thurston Foods through next July 1. Thurston is a wholesale food distributor in Connecticut that serves the Northeast.
Arranging to sell more local produce to institutional consumers through the bulk flash freezing process provides more business for local farmers, leaders of the organizations said.
With the CDC’s new cold-storage facility now being built at the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield and its individual quick freeze equipment in place, institutions like the Amherst Survival Center, Hampshire Regional High School and elementary schools in Leverett, Erving, Williamstown, Williamsburg, Lanesboro and beyond have become part of the group bid to purchase produce that is harvested and flash frozen at peak freshness from local farms.
Once the new equipment is completed next month, it will more than quadruple the CDC’s capacity and make it more convenient, so peppers, broccoli, squash and other crops won’t have to be brought to an inconvenient outdoor freezer.
John Waite, the CDC’s executive director, said other area school districts, including Frontier and Mohawk Trail, already aggregate their produce purchases from the Food Processing Center through a Collaborative Educational Services bid.
He added, “I think all of Franklin County’s schools are either in one (aggregation) or the other.”
“The addition of new IQF technology allows us to offer fruit and vegetables to schools and local community groups through the … co-op’s bid, which keeps money in our community, preserves family farmers and open space, and adds to a thriving regional economy,” Waite said.
Having Thurston deliver orders for these schools is “a big step over the past year,” Waite said. “It’s a start. Having these aggregation folks involved is wonderful.”
HCOG spokeswoman Catherine Welker said under the contract, the programs are not bound to buy the produce, but may get them at the negotiated bid price for regular use or specific events.
Even before the current expansion of its cold storage and freezing capacity, the Greenfield commercial kitchen has been quick-freezing local produce for area schools and other institutions to extend the sales opportunities for farmers around the region.
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• Having solid product knowledge
• Knowledge of food service regulations
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• Scooping ice cream and preparing food as directed
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Mon-Fri 10-7, Sat 9-5
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The Greenfield Recorder, August 09, 2017, by Aviva Luttrell
GREENFIELD — After a hiatus last year, the town’s Free Harvest Supper has been revived by a group of dedicated residents.
This year’s community event, which features a free meal of locally sourced dishes, will be held Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the Town Common. The supper, now in its 12th year, is an effort by 45 local farms and food producers and more than 100 volunteers.
It will feature live music, children’s activities, informational displays and a “Really, Really Free Market,” to which local farmers and gardeners donate their extra produce that attendees are invited to take home and enjoy.
“First and foremost, we want to keep the vision alive that there is a bountiful harvest to share here in the valley, and when we come together and eat, we create a community, in a way, that attending town functions or rallies doesn’t necessarily do,” said Kirsten Levitt, executive chef at the Stone Soup Café, who helped spearhead this year’s effort. “There’s a reason to come together and just have a good time, and we want to make sure we stop and have those celebrations with one another.”
The Free Harvest Supper was started in 2005 by Juanita Nelson as a way to celebrate the local harvest and encourage people to eat locally grown food.
“We did it for 10 years, and in the winter between 10 and 11, Juanita passed away, so we had the 11th (be a) memorial for her and at the end of that year, all of the old guard said, ‘We just can’t do this anymore,’” Levitt said.
The following year, in 2016, Levitt said she and a few other dedicated people tried to revive the supper, but that didn’t happen. Instead, people were encouraged to bring their own food for a picnic-style, placeholder event on the common.
Beginning in late March of this year, Levitt said the emails started flurrying around again. A group of organizers came together and held three meetings in April, and continued to meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis beginning in May to plan the event.
“We basically searched our souls and tried to get enough people on the committee to see if we could even sustain the planning, and I’m happy to say ‘yes,’” Levitt said.
This year, Levitt plans to do all the cooking for the event and has worked with Maggie Zaccara of Hope & Olive restaurant to develop recipes. Levitt said all the food preparation will be done Saturday evening at All Souls Church, which houses the Stone Soup Café. In past years, food was prepared Sunday morning at Hope & Olive.
Levitt said she’s still looking for volunteers to help with food preparation, as well as at the event itself.
The Free Harvest Supper is also a trash-free event, and attendees are asked to bring their own plates and utensils. Two years ago, Levitt said, more than 800 people came to the supper, and generated less than one full bag of garbage. Martin’s Farm will be composting after this year’s event.
The meal will feature something for everybody, including vegan and vegetarian dishes. Diemand Farm has donated a “huge” amount of turkey, according to Levitt, who added that attendees will find their old favorites at the supper, including turkey and peach salad.
Although the food is donated, Levitt said the event still costs $1,000 to $2,000 to put on. Expenses include portable restroom rentals, signs, name tags, insurance and more. She said there will be collection jars at the supper, and any proceeds above and beyond the cost of the event will be donated to local agencies that work toward food security.
The Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center also held a benefit for the supper, raising $300.
Levitt said the Free Harvest Supper is something that makes Greenfield unique.
“Other places have food fairs — this is not a food fair, this is like Stone Soup on steroids — this is everybody who, whatever they had in their garden or however big or small their farm is, has donated to the pot that everyone sits down and shares,” she said. “Sharing is hugely important, but people understanding that they have value and worth and that we want to be with them is even more important.”
Those wishing to volunteer can contact volunteer coordinator Shirley Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Greenfield Recorder, August 08, 2017, by Tinky Weisblat
The past few months have brought excitement to Taylor’s Tavern. This restaurant on Main Street in Greenfield, a fixture in the local eating scene for more than three decades, has been shaken up by its new executive chef, JD Fairman.
Fairman, who goes by Chef JD, first came to the restaurant last September. The executive chef at a high-end inn and restaurant in North Carolina at that time, he also ran a part-time consulting business for restaurants around the country.
He was brought in by the Donoghue family, who started the restaurant in 1983. “Taylor’s has been here since Jesus was a baby,” Chef JD told me when photographer Paul Franz and I visited the restaurant recently.
“It was a neighborhood bar and grill for 33 to 34 years. That served them well for a lot of years.”
He added that chain restaurants like Applebee’s, Ninety Nine and Friendly’s have recently begun to bite off “a slice of the same pie.” The owners asked the chef and consultant to offer advice about Taylor’s future.
Eventually, he and the Donoghues decided that his personal touch would offer the best medicine for the business. He started working there full time in the middle of December.
“All I knew about Greenfield was the semi-documentary Anthony Bourdain did about it,” he told me, referring to a 2014 episode of the celebrity chef’s CNN television series “Parts Unknown” that portrayed Franklin County primarily as a poster child for the nation’s heroin crisis.
Chef JD soon concluded that Bourdain’s view of Greenfield was “unfair.”
“The side [Bourdain] didn’t show is an old mill town that’s trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps and reinvent itself,” he observed. “I fell in love with Greenfield. It’s a great place to be and raise my children.”
Over the past few months Chef JD has revamped Taylor’s menu. “I would say my style of cooking at this point is probably global with French influence,” he told me, noting that he was trained by a Le Cordon Bleu mentor and has worked as executive chef at a number of prestigious restaurants.
He emphasizes both local foods and “pristine” ingredients, defining the latter as “the best available product that [he] can find.”
The dish he served to Franz and me typifies this approach. The sockeye salmon fillet at its base comes from a purveyor on the west coast; he places an order and receives it 30 hours after it comes out of the water. Chef JD and his staff cut each whole fish into the parts they need.
The vegetables surrounding the fish hail from Bostrom Farm in Greenfield. The edible flowers used as a garnish come from one of Chef JD’s local foragers. This particular forager also happens to be Taylor’s kitchen manager, Cheryl Johnson, who has worked at the tavern for almost three decades.
Johnson met with JD extensively on his first visit and has helped him implement his vision for the restaurant — which includes such exotic (for Greenfield) ingredients as wild boar and rabbit and a monthly wine-and-food-tasting session. Of course, the tavern still serves many traditional favorites.
Johnson told me that she has learned a lot from the new chef. He countered, “She has taught me just as much.”
The pair are still figuring out their clientele, they told me. The new menu has alienated a few old timers but attracted new diners and suppliers, they noted. For example, film star Sam Elliott had patronized the restaurant the night before our visit.
“We’re doing a lot of cool, exciting things,” concluded Chef JD. “We’re on a really good path.”
Taylor’s wild sockeye salmon with heirloom tomato jam
olive oil and butter as needed for cooking
1 7-ounce fillet of wild sockeye salmon
sea salt as needed
1 handful baby squash with blossoms still attached, sliced in half along the vertical line
1 large handful chopped kale
¼ cup cooked corn kernels
¼ cup finely chopped tomato
⅓ cup heavy cream
finely chopped fresh herbs to taste (parsley, thyme, rosemary)
⅓ cup cooked Arborio rice (cooked “al dente”)
2 generous tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese
1 heaping tablespoon tomato jam
extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction (balsamic vinegar boiled down to reduce it) for drizzling
edible flowers for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan heat a splash of olive oil and a pat of butter. Sprinkle the salmon with sea salt to taste, and pop it into the pan. Cook very briefly, and flip so that the presentation side faces down. Pop the salmon into the oven, and cook until done, about 4 to 4½ minutes.
When the salmon is ready, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes.
Heat olive oil and butter in another saucepan and sauté the squash. Add the kale and continue to sauté. Throw in the corn and tomatoes, toss, and remove from the heat. Set aside.
In a third saucepan, heat the cream. Add the herbs and salt to taste. Stir in the cooked rice, and add the cheese. Cook until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds (roughly around a couple of minutes).
Spoon the risotto onto a plate. Put the kale on top, followed by the salmon. Arrange the other vegetables around the plate. Spoon the jam on top of the salmon, and drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction over the plate. Garnish with edible flowers.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 08, 2017, by Rebecca Mullen
Pioneer Valley beekeepers and activists cheered a proposed State House bill limiting the sale of a pesticide class that scientists say is harmful to honey bees and other pollinators.
House Bill 2113, “An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators,” would put stricter parameters on the sale and application of the neonicotinoid (also called neonic) pesticide class. If the bill passes, property owners would need to be made aware of the risks of the pesticide prior to use on the land.
“Neonicotinoids are destroying a lot of the honey bee colonies across the country and here in Massachusetts,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, who filed a Senate version of the bill. “It could have a real damaging effect on the growing of crops and fruits and vegetables in Massachusetts.”
The bill has 130 co-sponsors, including John Scibak, D-South Hadley; Peter Kocot, D-Northampton; Donald Humason, R-Westfield; Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst; and Eric Lesser, D-East Longmeadow.
State Rep. Carolyn C. Dykema, D-Holliston, who proposed the bill, made it clear in an interview with the Gazette that the bill is not a ban, but rather imposes some restrictions on the use of neonics.
Numerous scientific studies have linked neonics to bee death. A multi-year study conducted in Hungary, Germany and the United Kingdom indicated that longterm exposure to neonics led to lower success rates in hives surviving the winter and reproduction in honeybees and wild bees.
According to the June 30 issue of Science Magazine, where the study was published, “These field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions.”
Dykema said that though some neonics are helpful — for example, they can help fight invasive species like the Asian longhorn beetle — that they have “a very damaging effect on bees.” Her goal with the bill is to “make sure that everyone who does use them uses them as sparingly as possible.” Ultimately, she added, “the science clearly supports my bill.”
Ann Rein, president of the Plymouth County Beekeepers Association, said she is worried about the ubiquity of the pesticides. Many seeds are treated with neonic, including some plants sold at commercial garden centers, she said in a phone call with the Gazette Monday.
“They’re all listed on labels, but are you going to know what a neonic is? Not likely,” she said.
Rein owns a small 15-hive apiary in Hanson that she calls her “bit of Earth.” She worries about the impact that neonics have on all pollinators, including other bee species and butterflies.
“We’re affecting the whole environment,” she said. “The honeybee is the canary in the coal mine.”
Rorie Woods, owner of Abundant Harvest Apiary in Hadley, said she is protective of her beehives. She used to rent out her hives to help pollinate commercial farms, but when she saw her bees get sick, she chose to move to a remote location to limit their exposure to the pesticide.
“I’m avoiding farmers and crops, which is ridiculous,” Woods said. “When my hives get exposed, I pick them up and move them.”
Bill Crawford, owner of New England Apiaries and Billy C’s Raw Honey, said that he is less worried about individual usage of neonics than he is about industrial use of the pesticide in Midwestern states. He has bee farms in Massachusetts, Georgia and Ohio, and said he notices differences in bee health depending on how close their hives are to industrial agriculture.
“You can definitely tell the difference between a bee that’s next to a big patch of corn versus one that’s next to forest or hayfields,” he said.
Crawford compared bee neonic poisoning to “having a belly ache.” He said that the pesticide interferes with bees’ immune systems and makes them more susceptible to disease and mites. This makes them less productive. Because the symptoms can take a while to show up, it can be hard for beekeepers to know how bad the situation is, he said.
“It’s kind of scary, because you don’t know the extent of the damage until quite a while down the road,” Crawford said.
He first noticed the issue in the early 2000s and he has not seen it improve. Most beekeepers, he said, lose about 30-40 percent of bees every year due to neonic exposure and other factors.
Even so, Crawford says he does not blame the farmers who use these pesticides.
Industrial farming practices, he said, prioritize high-yield crops — sometimes at the expense of the safety of bees.
“They only have what’s available to them,” he said. “To have things change, things need to be done with legislation — banning neonics. Corn and soybeans seem to be more important in the eyes of the government.”
Currently, Maryland and Connecticut have successfully banned neonicotinoids. The European commission has also recommended their ban in the European Union.
The bill will reach a public hearing in late September.
“We’re far from a vote on the floor,” Dykema said, but she’s “hoping to get it done by this session,” by the end of July 2018.
Although the proposed State House bill would not totally ban neonics in Massachusetts, some activists are still optimistic.
“We think this is a pretty good step,” said Peggy MacLeod, a Western Mass Pollinator Network member. “It’s sort of like recycling. After a while, it just caught on and a lot of people started doing it.”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 08, 2017, by Laurel Demkovich
WESTHAMPTON — Rick Tracy, owner of Intervale Farm, worked Tuesday afternoon to spray his tomato plants with a fungicide known as OxiDate, something he rarely likes to do. He considers himself a low-spray guy, but after he noticed a few gray spots on his tomatoes’ foliage last Thursday, he knew he needed to try something.
Farmers across the Pioneer Valley have been forced to get rid of plants hit with late blight, a disease that destroys tomato and potato crops by spreading spores in the air.
When it hits, it works fast, often destroying plants within a week. Many farmers try to stay ahead of the disease by spraying fungicides. For those already facing it, however, it seems the only option left is to destroy the infected plants.
“I’m going to spend every minute from now until it’s too late spraying,” Tracy said. “But, if it’s here already, there’s not much you can really do to try to stay ahead of it.”
First signs of late blight are generally gray or brown lesions on stems, discolored leaves and a white fungal growth, sometimes on the underside of leaves.
Tracy predicts that if the disease continues to grow, about a quarter of his crop could be destroyed in one of his fields. In the other, about three-fourths could be gone.
“Once late blight goes into a plant, there’s nothing holding it back,” Tracy said. “The plants will be gone in a week.”
Late blight, the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, travels quickly from one garden to another. Cool, damp conditions allow it to grow and spread, making the recent rainy, cool weather in western Massachusetts perfect for the disease.
Northeast farms saw a major late blight outbreak in 2009, causing significant losses in both tomato and potato fields, according to the UMass Extension website. Since then, it has continued to show up in New England farms.
Dan Pratt, farm manager at Astarte Farm in Hadley, said this has been a rough season for his tomatoes, which have suffered from fungal disease. Most tomato diseases are fungal and destroy the foliage. This makes it difficult for tomatoes to get the sweet taste most people are used to, Pratt said.
Pratt said his farm is only going to be able to grow about one-third of the tomatoes it has in the past. Since half of the farm’s income last year came from tomatoes, this is a big hit.
“We were expecting to have an excess this year, but we definitely won’t have enough,” Pratt said.
At this point in the season, there is not much that can be done to reverse the shortage. Pratt tries not to spray anything on his crops. However, he said he wished he would have been more aggressive this season.
“We’re extremely reluctant to spray anything,” Pratt said. “This was not a good year for that philosophy. If I could turn back the clock, I’d have done it differently.”
Many other farms in the area have not yet experienced the disease. But, they are preparing.
Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield said he has not seen any signs of late blight in his tomatoes, yet.
His tomatoes have experienced other diseases and neglect due to the cool, wet weather. With the looming late blight, Robertson-Goldberg is worried he might not have any tomatoes.
He doesn’t use any sprays, so there is not much to do to prevent the disease. He said he just has to be looking for signs and try to get rid of the plant before it spreads. The farm has an advantage of being in Chesterfield, away from other farms in the Valley. It takes a while for the disease to spread.
“Oftentimes, I’ll hear about late blight in the Valley, and it’ll hit us two or three weeks later,” Robertson-Goldberg said.
Crabapple Farm is a diversified farm, he added, so losing tomatoes during a few months in the summer doesn’t affect their sales in the winter.
Anna Meyer of Hart Farm in Conway said she also hasn’t seen any late blight yet, but the crop will mostly likely get it at some point.
“It is pretty inevitable once you hear about it in one place,” Meyer said.
She said the best thing for the tomatoes is to keep them indoors, such as in a greenhouse. Hart Farm does an outdoor and indoor crop every year, hoping that at least the indoor crop won’t be affected by disease.
However, not every farm can grow in a greenhouse, especially farms with bigger crops. Another option to prevent the disease is growing disease-resistant types of tomatoes. However, many farmers, Tracy and Robertson-Goldberg included, don’t like them.
For now, Pratt and Tracy are going to move their focus to fall crops.
Tracy said when late blight hits, there’s not much else to do except start focusing on the fall. He said thinking about losing this much of his tomato crop is scary, but he has lost tomatoes in past years and they have survived.
“It’s scary to think about,” Tracy said. “Tomatoes are a big crop for us, but we’ve found out we can survive without it.”
Pratt urged home growers to educate themselves on late blight and other diseases, since the spores can move quickly from one garden to another.
“This affects the whole community,” Pratt said. “Don’t allow plants to keep growing if they’re diseased.”
MassLive, August 8, 2017, by Mary Serreze
EASTHAMPTON — A curated, biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition and festival returns to Park Hill Orchard this year, with an opening celebration set for Aug. 12.
It’s the fourth iteration of Art in the Orchard, an innovative artwalk open dawn-to-dusk on the grounds of a classic hilltop New England apple orchard from Aug. 13 through Thanksgiving.
“We have been excitedly anticipating this year’s exhibit ever since we started receiving submissions this spring,” said Jean-Pierre Pasche, owner of the Elusie Gallery and an original co-founder of Art in the Orchard.
The concept was launched in 2011 when Alane Hartley and Russell Braen joined forces with Pasche. Hartley and Braen wanted their apple farm to play a part in the cultural economy, and Pasche had long dreamed of creating an outdoor sculpture garden like one set in meadows near his hometown in Switzerland.
Response to the inaugural show was strong, and “AiO” quickly became a popular New England destination. Thousands of visitors have since walked through the orchard to marvel at the range of sculpture on display.
This year promises to be especially exciting, said Pasche, with around 30 new pieces and site-specific installations. Special events will be held most weekends, including a Full Moon Poetry Walk, music, theater, puppetry and other performances.
Admission to the sculpture garden is free, but donations are invited and encouraged. The weeks-long event is made possible by a host of volunteers and through financial support from Easthampton City Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Those who attend Saturday’s opening event are invited to stay in town for Art Walk Easthampton, a festive downtown monthly gallery walk. And Park Hill Orchard, known for its cider slushies, opens its “pick your own apples” program on Sept. 13.
If you go:
What: AiO17 opening celebration Where: Park Hill Orchard, Park Hill Road, Easthampton When: Sat. Aug. 12, noon-3 p.m.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 05, 2017, by Laurel Demkovich
AMHERST — Evan Chakrin, 33, spends his summer afternoons harvesting plants, mostly lettuce, at a hydroponic food farm.
He worked Friday afternoon, harvesting 10 pounds of lettuce that he was planning to donate to the Amherst Survival Center. He picked a head, doused it in insect soap and packaged it in a clam-shaped container.
The hydroponic farm grows food without using soil. Started in the winter of last year, it is the first of its kind on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The farm provides food for on-campus restaurants such as Earthfoods Cafe.
Chakrin, a junior studying horticulture, co-leads the farm with Dana Lucas, 21, a senior studying Sustainable Food and Farming, using techniques that they say will revolutionize the future of farming.
“It’s basically just using chemistry to grow plants,” Chakrin said.
The farm grows everything from strawberries and tomatoes to lettuce and kale. It is housed in an underutilized greenhouse on the UMass Amherst campus. Chakrin and Lucas use the most common hydroponic techniques to grow their plants: raft systems and nutrient film technique channels.
The basic idea behind hydroponic farming is growing plants without soil, Chakrin said. Nutrients get dissolved into water surrounding the plants’ roots. This allows the system to be up to 90 percent more water- and nutrient-efficient than other types of farming. The system uses less water than an irrigated field. There is also no nutrient runoff into local water sources.
“We can totally control whatever we waste,” Chakrin said.
Lucas started working on the idea of creating a hydroponic farm in 2015, but she and Chakrin were not able to secure a grant until last December. The two received $5,000 and a previously underused greenhouse from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.
“We were expecting a little space on campus, basically just a closet,” Chakrin said. “Then they surprised us with this.”
As soon as they got the space, they started working right away. They started germinating seeds, and by the middle of February, all of the systems were up and running. They then started selling their food to places on campus. The money from the sales goes into a fund that they can use to purchase more equipment or seeds.
Chakrin said selling the products allows them to be financially stable and gives the business a fresh, locally produced food option.
The farm will continue to grow in the years to come. In the fall, the two are teaching 12 undergraduate students in a one-credit practicum course about hydroponic farming.
The university offers many courses on the theories and science behind farming but not many on hydroponic techniques. Allowing other students to work in the farm gives them hands-on experience, Chakrin said.
“The techniques we use here are the main hydroponic techniques used,” Chakrin said. “This work is directly applicable to any of their food production goals.”
Chakrin said he hopes any students who are involved in urban food production get involved, even those not involved in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.
The two also want to scale up their sales. Chakrin said he is hoping to start selling to bigger dining halls and other places on campus.
One of the benefits of hydroponic farms is that they can be used to grow food locally, even in urban areas. The lettuce grown at the UMass farm doesn’t come from some giant farm in California, Chakrin said. This reduces shipping costs and carbon costs for interstate shipping.
“I think it is a major loss that the average bite of food travels extremely far to get to our plates, and this is the solution to the problem,” Lucas said.
Lucas and Chakrin have started a consulting service for the future of farming, called Farmable. Lucas said the idea behind it is that any space, even small urban areas, can be made into a green space.
“Anywhere is farmable and this concept will revolutionize how urbanites are able to access food,” Lucas said.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 03, 2017, by Mickey Rathbun
On a sultry Thursday morning in mid-July, Emily Endris greets a couple of mothers with young children on the farmhouse porch at Bird Haven Blueberry Farm in Southampton. Endris, who owns the farm with her husband, Andrew, chats with the moms while the children play with the Endrises’ dog, Sadie, a friendly husky mix. Andrew is working in the berry field with Emily’s parents, Ann and Roger Walaszek, who have come from Cape Cod to help for the day.
Several more customers are out picking berries in the long rows of bushes whose branches are heavy with fruit. As the children head out to fill their colorful pails with blueberries, two men from ServiceNet Farm in Hatfield arrive to pick up a 20-pound box of berries.
The days at Bird Haven Blueberry Farm are so busy it’s hard to believe that the Endrises are new to the business and that the farm has only been open to the public for two weeks. But the farm has been in operation for more than 30 years, and the Endrises are discovering, to their delight, that running the farm is a family, and community, affair.
“Everyone has been so welcoming and supporting,” Emily says. “We feel so lucky to be here.”
Passing the torch
The Endrises bought the farm two years ago from John and Silvija Pipiras, who started it in 1984, eventually adding raspberries, gooseberries, black currants and Asian pears. The Pipirases sold the couple nine acres of farmland and kept one acre for themselves with their house on the property. The Bird Haven farm store operates out of a first-floor room in the house that opens onto the porch. It sells flowers, berries, and a variety of produce from nearby farms.
The farm’s main business is pick-your-own berries. “We couldn’t possibly pick all those berries ourselves,” Emily says. “It’s a great activity for families with little ones.” Some people just fill a pail, others pick 20 or 30 pounds and freeze them.”
The Endrises will eventually build their own house on the farm, but in the meantime, they live in Hatfield with their 2-year-old son, Liam. Emily teaches fifth grade at the Smith College Campus School in Northampton. Andrew is on leave from Beyond Green Construction in Easthampton, where he manages the solar division, designing and installing solar panels.
The couple had been looking for farmland to buy for several years. “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to have a farm,” Andrew says. They were not specifically in the market for a berry farm, but Andrew wanted to become involved in sustainable farming and local food production. When they saw the blueberry farm, they fell in love with it.
The gravel driveway winds through the woods to the farmhouse, which is surrounded by flower gardens. A horse and sheep share a paddock behind the house. Beyond that are the berry field and Asian pear orchard. The property feels very secluded but is close to the centers of Easthampton and Southampton.
John Pipiras is thrilled to have passed on his business to the Endrises. “You can see the smile on my face,” he says. “I do love it, but there was a freedom in passing it along to someone we knew would take care of it.”
Getting a toehold
And the Endrises are eager to continuing doing that. “We thought it was a good thing for the community to keep the farm going,” Andrew says. “It would have been sad to see it disappear. The community has really embraced us. I had no idea so many people would come.”
Being part of the community is important to the Endrises. They are happy to see many of the Pipirases’ loyal customers return to Bird Haven this summer. The farm supplies berries to several local businesses, including Crooked Stick Pops in Easthampton and Café Evolution in Florence. “It’s nice to be supporting independent businesses,” Emily says.
They belong to CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), an organization that assists and promotes local farms.
Pipiras stands by as an enthusiastic mentor, offering advice and help when needed. “I told the young people I’d be happy to do some work, but don’t even think of paying me! I’m like a granddad. Think of me as family.”
The Endrises say they are grateful for his help. Emily admits that it’s been a steep learning curve. “Anticipating the opening on July 4 weekend was very stressful,” she says. “But now that we’re full on, it’s really fun. We’re happy with how it’s going. The customers are so friendly. We really enjoy being here. And Liam loves it. He just wants to ride on the tractor and look at the horse!”
Although the farm does not yet have its official organic certification, it has been chemical-free for many years. “The first year we had the farm, the birds wiped us out,” Pipiras says. “That’s why we named it Bird Haven. We sprayed the fruit with pesticides for a few years, but it didn’t feel right. I had to put on a protective suit so I could spray. We stopped doing that and put up netting to keep the birds away.”
The Pipirases also stopped using chemical fertilizer. “We realized we didn’t need it. The grass itself is a fertilizer if you keep mowing it. Since we stopped using chemicals, the farm is so much healthier. We didn’t have any earthworms when we started and now there are lots of them. Worms mean the soil is recycling itself. Now, there’s a good biosystem. You don’t want to disturb it.”
The Endrises are planning to install a cable-supported net system when they can afford it. They estimate that they lose 10 percent of their berry crop to the birds. Pipiras points out that growing without nets has advantages. “They’re a lot of work to keep patched up. And nets keep out helpful insects like dragonflies that eat pests that hurt the berries.” All things considered, though, he agrees nets are worth the trouble.
According to Pipiras, this year has brought a bumper crop of blueberries, thanks to the cool spring weather and plentiful rain. “Last year was difficult because of the drought,” he says. “The birds ate the berries just to get the moisture. We lost 30 percent of our crop to the birds last year.”
A learning experience
Keeping the farm up and running is a lot of work, as Emily and Andrew have discovered. There are around 1,100 blueberry bushes, with 12 varieties of berries that ripen throughout the season, including Rubelles, Jerseys and Bluerays. “Customers like different types. Some like big, juicy ones; others like them smaller and sweeter,” Andrew says. As he talks, he pops ripe berries into his mouth. “I could eat blueberries all day.”
Andrew says he loves working outdoors. “Every day I get to go out here I feel it’s a blessing. I’m learning as I go.”
For their first season, the couple decided to work the farm by themselves without hiring employees. “I want to dig in deep, to be involved in all aspects of the business,” says Andrew. “I want to have an intimate relationship with the bushes so that when I hire someone I can tell them what to do.”
“We wanted to see what it takes to run the farm,” adds Emily. “Now we definitely know where we need help.”
The gooseberry and black currant season finished in mid-July. Raspberries are still available for picking. After the berry season ends in late August, the Asian pear business begins. The farm has a dozen or so trees and looks forward to a busy pick-your-own season that will wrap up in October.
Looking into the future, Andrew says the Manhan Rail Trail extension will run right past the farm. The Endrises plan to make Bird Haven accessible to bicyclists. “It’s years away,” he says. “We’ll have lots to do in the meantime.”
The Boston Globe, , by Laura Krantz and Sara Salinas
When the Princeton Review eats at University of Massachusetts Amherst dining halls, it comes back for seconds.
The college has topped the company’s list of the best campus dining for the second year in a row.
Two university chefs appeared on NBC-TV’s “Today” show on Tuesday morning to revel in the recognition. And back in Amherst, chefs cooked up a supper menu Tuesday night that featured baked salmon with guava rice, barbecue beef brisket, Parmesan red pepper pesto polenta, and local sautéed kale. There were also stuffed mushrooms with beans, tomato and avocado, and linguine with saffron clam sauce. Dessert? New England maple almond pudding.
The $69 million dining program at UMass Amherst is a national model for sourcing local foods and preparing dishes from around the world to satisfy the palates of its diverse student body of about 22,000 undergraduates. Students love the food, though some say they wish it wasn’t so expensive.
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UMass has been among the top three schools on the list for several years, according to a spokesman for the university. Last year, the school’s Minuteman mascot appeared on the “Today” show following the release of the rankings.
The Princeton Review provides test prep materials and tutoring, and compiles college rankings. The new report ranked Bowdoin College in Maine second, followed by Washington University in St. Louis and St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
UMass Amherst claims its campus dining operations are the largest in the country, serving 45,000 meals a day and 5.5 million meals a year. The program is run by the university, not a third-party vendor like at many colleges, and funded entirely by student boarding fees. Third-party companies run the dining programs at the other four UMass campuses.
Garett DiStefano, director of residential dining services auxiliary enterprises, said the dining hall has relationships with local farmers and sources up to 30 percent of its produce locally.
He met recently with local poultry farmers to work on buying more chicken nearby. Currently, about 6 percent is local, he said. The school also buys underutilized types of seafood from local vendors, like dogfish or hake. Those are cheaper and often just as tasty.
“You’re supporting the local economy by supporting the local fisherman as well as reducing some of your costs,” he said.
A student served fish curry, made with locally sourced red fish, in the Hampshire Dining Commons at UMASS Amherst.
One challenge is bringing in fresh, local food during the cold months, when the dining hall is busiest. The school works with Little Leaf Farms in Devens, which grows greens year-round in greenhouses, DiStefano said.
Many of the fresh foods are simply a response to student requests, he said. Students now eat more plant-based proteins and have asked for more fruits and vegetables. DiStefano said the student body at UMass Amherst has become more diverse over the years, meaning students are used to eating different types of cuisine.
The dining halls have accommodated, even going so far as to ask parents to submit family recipes, which they re-create on campus. They publish a cookbook of the home recipes.
The dining hall also has a smartphone app where students can view the menus at the four dining halls and filter out foods that could irritate any allergies they have.
On Tuesday, the Hampshire Dining Commons on the UMass campus was serving chicken with kiwi relish, lemon quinoa with Craisins and thyme, local roasted sweet potatoes, and roasted eggplant with goat cheese and pine nuts. Also available: sushi, steamed mussels, house-made corn tortillas, Korean barbecue chicken, and a salad with strawberries, fennel, and oranges.
The food is not cheap, however. The unlimited dining plan cost $2,891 per semester last year ($5,782 for the year). Those prices are similar to many of the dining plans at major private universities in Boston.
At UMass Dartmouth, an unlimited dining plan costs $4,746 for the year. It costs $4,832 at UMass Lowell.
UMass Dining staff discussed menu offerings with a student.
Tuition for in-state students at UMass Amherst is about $15,000, or about $28,000 with room and board. For out-of-state and foreign students, the total cost for a year is about $46,000.
DiStefano said it can be more expensive to buy local, but the school tries to offset that by using the ingredients efficiently. For example, a chicken could be roasted, the carcass used for a soup stock, and the oil to make a sauce.
“Then you’re spreading the cost out per plate,” DiStefano said.
Students said the dining hall is amazing but not always affordable. Rising senior Lily Wallace canceled her plan for next year because of the cost. She said many of her classmates also love the dining hall, but not all can afford it. Many who move off campus to save money find creative ways to afford food, such as attending campus events that offer free pizza.
“It’s a question on a lot of students’ minds. Like, ‘How am I going to eat?’ ” said Wallace, a political science and civic engagement major from Belchertown.
Rising senior Kenny Fairneny is moving off campus next year but will keep his food plan. He said he isn’t a very good cook.
He also appreciates the high quality food but is concerned that the university spends too much on such a luxury. He sees lots of new building on campus and worries about rising tuition prices.
“I think there’s better ways that they could spend the money, but I do enjoy having nice food,” said the sociology major from Weymouth.
The Valley Advocate, Jul 31, 2017
I live in Springfield, and am the manager of the farmers market at Forest Park. (Tuesday afternoons from 12:30-6 p.m., May through October); I am very familiar with the farm to table movement [“Can Western Mass Support Farm-To-Table For Everyone?” July 27-31, 2017]. We live in an area that is blessed with some rich farmland, and we still have many people who are willing to do the hard work of farming. However, when I hear someone say that farmers markets are expensive, I will say that they are confusing price and value. Also we have accepted EBT/SNAP benefits since 2008. We also accept WIC and elder coupons as well as the new HIP benefits.
Produce purchased at a farmers market (for the most part) is often fresher than in a store, and it will last longer. Just the other day a customer told me that they had purchased bok choi at our market two weeks earlier and had just used it; it was still perfect. You often have varieties at a farmers market that you don’t find in stores because it might be unusual, or not something that will travel the many hundreds of miles that most produce travels to get to us.
I suggest that if anyone reading this has a neighbor or friend who needs a ride to any farmers market, that you offer them one. Not only will you be helping them, you will be helping the farmers and other market vendors, all of whom are local, to earn a living.
— Belle Rita Novak, Springfield
We’re hiring! If you enjoy interacting with people, an outside workspace and great farm fresh produce, we want to meet you. Keep reading to see if you are a good fit for our job opportunities.
Warner Farm is a 10th generation diversified fruit and vegetable farm located in Sunderland, MA. We grow over 150 acres of both IPM (125 ac.) and certified organic (25 ac.) crops for wholesale throughout the Pioneer Valley as well as operate a CSA, attend farmers markets and host a seasonal farm stand. Warner Farm always hires with an eye on our core values of respect, integrity, sustainability and family. We seek motivated, energetic, hard working individuals who can grow our business and grow with our farm family.
Part-Time CSA and Farmers’ Market Staff
Job Description: Warner Farm is seeking individuals to join our farmers’ market and CSA distribution team. We attend 2 weekly farmer’s markets located in Amherst and Winchester as well as manage multiple drop-off sites for our 400-member CSA program. Market staff is responsible for direct selling of our farm produce and must be comfortable regularly interacting with the public. While market and CSA drop off days can be demanding, sometimes requiring 10-hour days, management does its best to ensure time off in between long days. Market and CSA Staff report directly to the Direct Market Manager.
Duties include: Packing produce and box shares, load trucks for markets and csa distribution; filling out market logs accurately; driving to, setting up, and breaking down market displays; creating an attractive produce display; facilitating sales; answering customer questions about our farm and produce; driving to weekly CSA drop off in the greater Boston area; attending weekly check-in meetings with management; providing management with feedback regarding markets and drop-offs; all duties are to be performed in a manner to promote a positive image of Warner Farm and ensure customer satisfaction.
1-2 years customer service experience
An outgoing personality
Ability to drive 16 ft box truck
Availability on Monday through Thursday and some Saturdays
Previous farm experience
Previous retail experience
Interesting in cooking and fresh food
This is a seasonal, part-time position requiring up to 25 hours per week from now through the end of October with the chance of some shifts in November. Pay starting at $11/hr. Benefits include access to lots of delicious, fresh produce. To apply, please email a cover letter and resume to email@example.com. Multiple positions are available. We will accept applications on a rolling basis and positions are open until filled.