Back the basics: Just Roots Festival Glorifies Food-Farm Connection

The Recorder, October 09, 2017, by Miranda Davis

At the Just Roots Fall Festival, new and old events brought crowds to a local farm for a day of education and fun.

Just Roots, which is a community farm and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program, hosted the event Sunday in conjunction with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, or CISA, and The People’s Pint.

Just Roots Executive Director Jessica Van Steensburg said it was the first year for several additions, including the food and drinks from the People’s Pint and an Olympics event for farmers.

While the festival has had live music in the past, this year was the first time it had a dedicated area with musical artists scheduled for five hours of the six-hour event.

Artists included Annie Stevenson from Annie and The Beekeepers, Izy Coffey and Marcy Gregoire.

Van Steensburg said the festival serves as a way to get people to the farm and to connect them to the source of their food.

“It’s a good way to explain how far we reach with our food, but also bring people here to see what’s grown, meet the people that are growing it and just get a sense for what is happening on this land,” she said.

The Community Health Center of Franklin County also sponsored the event and offered a free shuttle from the three public housing complexes in Greenfield, insuring that those who live there without transportation could attend the event.

Rain dampened some of the festivities, with several of the vendors canceling, but most of the event was not deterred by the weather. A raffle, workshops, crafts and children’s events went on as planned.

It was also the first year for the Farm Olympics, which Van Steensburg said included teams from farms all over the area. The event consisted of farm challenges like vegetable tossing and relays using farm tools, but goofy outfits and best spirit were also categories.

Workshops included fermentation, bird watching, intro to bees, a wild plant walk and radical seed saving.

Danny Botkin, owner of Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, taught the radical seed saving workshop. He said it’s part of his “Guerilla Gardening” technique that uses existing opportunities to plant, as opposed to planning a specific type of farm.

His system is one he said could be used by gardeners and smaller farms to create sustainable agriculture. His farm is less retail-based and now focuses more on education and mentoring other farmers. He said his approach uses the dead seed heads on plants instead of purchasing seeds, making the approach free and acquiring more seeds in the process.

“It’s amazing how much you can grow with so little,” he said.

Reach Miranda Davis at 413-772-0261, ext. 280 or