Savoring the Seasons: Juanita Nelson

The Recorder. March 18 2015. Mary McClintock
I’ve been thinking a lot about Juanita Nelson since she died on March 9. I’ve laughed, remembering fun times with Juanita, and cried, realizing I won’t be able to laugh with her again. I know I’m only one of many people here and across the U.S. who are laughing and crying as they remember Juanita.

And, I know that what runs through all of our laughter and the tears is immense gratitude for having known Juanita. I got to know her during her last decade, starting in 2005, when I worked with her and many other community members to create the Free Harvest Supper of Locally Grown Food, and, starting in 2008, Winter Fare.

Last summer, after the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Greenfield Farmers’ Market that she helped found, Juanita and I spent time visiting with folks at the market and on the Town Common. As we started back to my car, Annie Hassett walked up and joined us, singing. The three of us walked through the center of the Farmers’ Market singing “We Shall Overcome” as farmers and shoppers joined in and applauded.

It is one of my favorite memories of Juanita, combining her passions for community, please, justice, and locally grown food.

What are your favorite memories of Juanita?

Here’s something she wrote for the Recorder before the 2008 Free harvest Supper about these passion:

One thing leads to another, I hope
By Juanita Nelson

The Free Harvest Supper has become a remarkable event, bringing neighbors together for a joyous time of eating together the food grown, prepared, and served by the neighbors.
But the Supper will be truly successful only if it leads us further. Obviously, the next step is to prepare local foods in our homes, in restaurants, for church suppers. This would be healthier than transporting produce from around the globe, save energy, support local farmers, and encourage young people to take up farming and gardening. It could free land in other countries for raising food for their own populations. (I dream that the local food initiative might lead to a more equitable distribution of land.)
It is also possible that an emphasis on eating locally could help usher us to a more peaceful world, in which there would be less greed, less exploitation, more equality, certainly no more hunger. Maybe even no more war. A tall order to get from here to there, but, as the saying goes, the longest journey begins with one step.
I hope you’ll take that first step by savoring the food and camaraderie of the Fourth Annual Free Harvest Supper. Though not an end in itself, it’s fun and may get you prepped for going a step further: preparing local food meals at home all year, perhaps using a part of your lawn for a colorful vegetable garden.

(This originally appeared on the Aug. 13, 2008 Recorder Food Page)

This week I’m eating and looking forward to… Two of Juanita’s Favorites
By Mary McClintock, Conway

A favorite memory of Juanita is the smile on her face as she savored Bart’s ice cream at the Free Harvest Supper. This week, I’m going to eat some Bart’s ice cream and think of Juanita.

Another memory is of a spring evening, when I arrived at Juanita’s cabin on Woolman Hill in Deerfield to give her a ride to a Free Harvest Supper planning meeting. She had a LARGE bag of garlic greens ready to give to folks at the meeting. She loved to make pesto from early garlic greens. It’s really simple- just puree the greens (which are the straight spear-like early leaves of garlic that was planted last fall) with olive oil and whatever nuts and cheese you add to a basil pesto recipe (or make the pesto without nuts and cheese and add nuts and cheese when you serve it).