Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s first storytelling performance planned in Northampton

MassLive, November 14, 2018, by Cori Urban

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s first storytelling performance will take root in downtown Northampton on Sunday as “Field Notes” debuts at the Academy of Music. Farmers, chefs and community members will take to the stage to share true stories from their life experiences.

“Local agriculture is such an important piece of life here in the valley, both in ways that are very visible, like the landscape itself, and in ways that are very personal and varied, like the way an individual family feeds themselves or the experiences of any one farmer,” says Claire Morenon, communications manager for CISA. “We wanted to create a platform that would allow some of those personal stories to be shared broadly, and people from across our region have come forward with all sorts of stories from their own lives.”

Those due to participate include Meg Bantle, of Full Well Farm, Alden Booth, of the People’s Pint in Greenfield, Kasey Corsello, of Corsello Butcheria in Easthampton, Laurie Cuevas, of Thomas Farm in Sunderland, Sandy D’Amato, of Good Stock Farm and Cooking School in Hatfield, Isis Feliciano, a community activist, Ed Malinowski Jr. of Malinowski Farms in Hatfield, Rebecca Martin a community member and organizer, Nan Parati, former owner of Elmer’s Store and Restaurant in Ashfield, and Dave Wissemann, of Warner Farm in Sunderlan.

“The selected storytellers will be putting a human face to some major issues like hunger and serious losses on farms by sharing their own experiences,” Morenon says. “And, of course, there are funny stories and sweet stories. It’s really a way for our broader community to take a peek at how local food and farms have shaped the lives of some of our neighbors.”

Much of CISA’s work is about building community around local food and farms, and this event is really an extension of that work. “I hope that people will leave with some more insight about other peoples’ experiences and a feeling of engagement and curiosity,” she adds.

Morenon grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, with no farming connections, but in middle school she read “The Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing about a couple’s experiences building a self-sufficient farm in the Northeast from the 1930s on. Their story captured her imagination, and she pictured herself growing her own food, building her own house and making her own clothes “despite having absolutely no idea how to do any of those things or any concept of how much work it would be,” she says.

Her parents encouraged this interest and drove her to a summer farm job 40 minutes away when she was a preteen, and she worked on farms in Rhode Island and Massachusetts during all of my summers in high school and college. “I loved the work, but I really couldn’t imagine that interest turning into an career, until I landed in Western Massachusetts after college and learned about CISA. I’ve been here since 2006 and it’s been a gift,” she says.

CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members and advocates working together to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. Working in Western Massachusetts and the region for 25 years, CISA offers technical assistance to farmers, works to make local food more accessible to more people and runs the nation’s oldest agricultural “buy local” campaign, “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown(r).”

This year, CISA is celebrating 25 years of building connections between Pioneer Valley farmers and the local community. “These relationships have impacted the culture of our region and profoundly shaped the lives and experiences of many our neighbors, and we wanted to share these stories with the larger community (through Field Notes),” says Philip Korman, CISA’s executive director.

Ten storytellers were selected from a pool of submissions, all centered on the theme of local food and farms. The resulting performances include a hilarious lesson on how not to steal a pumpkin, the struggles of a cosmopolitan restaurant owner hoping to gain the trust of a rural town, an educator confronting the reality of hunger in the classroom and a heartbreaking remembrance of losing the family dairy farm.

Monte Belmonte, of WRSI radio, will host and share a story of his own.

All proceeds from Field Notes will support CISA’s Local Food For All initiatives, which in-crease access to local food for low-income members of the community.

Tickets for Field Notes are $15 and available at the Academy of Music box office and online at aomtheatre.com.

Find more information here or call 413-665-7100.

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