CISA’s tips on local holiday shopping

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 27, 2013. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay was written by staff of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, and made possible by what they termed “the hard work of the over 350 local hero farms and food–related businesses.”

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Eating, drinking and merriment are big themes for the holiday season. Whether you have someone on your gift list obsessed with all things food, or are looking for a unique gift for a teacher, neighbor or host, we invite you to think local by going to

According to a recent Gallup poll, American shoppers expect to spend just over $700 on holiday gifts this year. If every household in the three counties of Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire shifted just $70 — or 10 percent — of this toward gifts from local farms and artisan producers, the economic impact would equate to $14.8 million more dollars in our local economy, supporting up to 267 jobs.

The good news is that the Pioneer Valley is rich in local food, farm products and agricultural experiences.

Here are ideas to inspire you in your gift-giving.

Several farms sell gift certificates good for purchases at farmstands or farmers’ markets, including Atlas Farm, Old Friends Farm, The Kitchen Garden, Blossoming Acres, Diemand Farm, Outlook Farm, North Hadley Sugar Shack, Red Fire Farm, Enterprise Farm, Upinngil Farm and more.

You can also gift a farm share from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. The recipient would receive a share of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, grains, or other farm produce each week or month throughout the winter or summer season.

A perfect gift for the parent who has everything could be a flower or egg share. Farmers’ market tokens and market merchandise like shopping bags are a great way to offer your giftee the opportunity to purchase from farms they like and choose items they want most.

With gift baskets, the possibilities are endless. Whether you pre-order them from your neighborhood farm or specialty shop, or you are someone who likes to create their own masterpiece, they can be filled with a wide variety of local farm products.

While edible gift ideas abound, you need not stop there. Sources of local food and non-food farm products like fiber, wood, soap and beeswax can be found by visiting CISA’s online guide at

Here is a taste of the varied gift options available from local farms…

• Share the season’s harvest through the winter by gifting savory and sweet preserves, dips, mustards, pesto, salad dressing, salsa, relish, sauces, apple butter, honey, maple products, pickles, smoked meats and more. Many farmers and specialty producers make value-added items that use local ingredients and these can be found at farmstands or local retailers throughout the Valley.

• We have a fantastic selection of cheeses hand-crafted from local ingredients. If you have a cheese connoisseur on your list, this is the perfect gift. Pick up creamy goat chevre or hard cheese to have with some local wine and crackers.

• For those who love to entertain, give them a bottle of local wine, mead, hard cider or cordial. For beer enthusiasts, look for local brews or malts.

• Everybody loves baked goods such as bread, pies and granola.

• Don’t forget dry goods such as popcorn, maple-coated nuts, flour/cornmeal or dried beans and specialty tea mixes from Goldthread Apothecary.

• There are beautiful local fiber products available, such as scarves, hats, mittens, socks, yarn, blankets, sheepskins and other handmade knitted items.

Look for the local health and beauty items, such as lip balms made with local beeswax, handmade goat soap and lotions from Potash Hill Farm, which also makes beautiful peacock feather art.

• There are even chocolates made with local cream from Richardson’s Candy Kitchen, and goat milk truffles from Sangha Farm.

Of course, at this time of year many people are decorating their homes with wreaths, swags and Christmas trees. We have many local farms and retailers that offer local evergreens to make your home smell as fresh as the forest!

Check out CISA’s website to find a local tree farm near you.

Many Valley farmers open their field gates and barn doors to those looking to understand more about local farms and the food on their plate. Opportunities to experience farms firsthand abound, whether through a farm tour, at a petting zoo, or on the cross-country ski trails at Maple Corner Farm. Give the gift of time and discovery together and visit your local farm.

Going to a potluck or party, but don’t have time to make something to bring to your host? Get a lovely piece of gourmet cheese and a loaf of local artisan bread from Hungry Ghost or Wheatberry Bakery & Café, or bring an assortment of fresh apples and pears for a beautiful winter fruit bowl.

Don’t forget to set your own holiday table with food from the local farm. Valley farmers offer great selections of sustainably raised meats and poultry, salad and braising greens, all kinds of root vegetables (including potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, onions and more), winter squash, eggs and dairy, apples, pears and other seasonal farm products.

Donating to a good cause is a great gift for anyone who supports local farms, but doesn’t want more “stuff.” Donating to CISA is one option; go to to find out how.

Finally, here are four steps to buying local:

• Research: See CISA’s website for a listing of local markets; then visit your local grocer or farmers’ market, or make a day out of it, bundle the kids up and let them experience life on the farm!

• Read labels: Look for the Local Hero logo when making your local food and farm product purchases.

• Stay committed: Sometimes you have to dig a bit to find them, but most of the foods we eat have a local source. Just ask your grocery store produce manager where the local products are, and let them know you want them as an option.

• Spread the wealth: Try serving locally sourced, in-season foodstuffs at your office party, or ordering menu items with farm-fresh ingredients at restaurants.

Eat local this holiday and remember to share the gift of local food and agricultural products … they build community!