Lean, Green Learning Machine: Winter Farmers’ Market Hosts Sustainability Workshops

The Recorder, February 7th, 2016, by Rachel Rapkin

The annual Greenfield Winter Fare event at the indoor Farmers Market offered much more than fresh, local foods Saturday.

Visitors from all over the Pioneer Valley flocked to the newly renovated Greenfield High School for the event. Upon arrival, guests were immediately greeted with an aroma of fresh herbs and spices and an inviting showcase of numerous vendors selling everything from organic fruits and vegetables to handmade products including soaps, wool blankets, hats and mittens. Visitors were also encouraged to put their wallets aside and attend some free workshops, which enticed Jake Krain to make the drive from Ashfield.

“I heard this was a really great community event and I wanted to witness it for myself,” he said. “A huge plus about the winter market is that the workshops are free and they are hands-on. I don’t know where else I would have found a place to learn these skills.”

Winter Vegetables: Full of Color and Flavor

Krain participated in a 10:30 a.m. cooking workshop with Cooking from Scratch instructor Deborah Christakos. Krain said he spends a significant amount of time experimenting with new foods and trying out new recipes in the kitchen and appreciated learning new salad recipes from Christakos, who used seasonable root vegetables that she bought from the market.

Within one hour, Christakos demonstrated how to make four recipes by carefully following each step in the directions and serving samples to her small audience, described how and why she used certain tools and stated the benefits of buying from local farmers rather than big box grocery stores.

One salad dressing recipe that Christakos demonstrated called for a raw egg, which spurred a conversation about salmonella food poisoning. She advised the group to buy eggs from farmers markets instead of chain stores that sell eggs from industrial farms that keep chickens in confined spaces. She said another option to ensure that the eggs are safe to consume is to gently heat the yolk to pasteurize the product.

“Salmonella is really rampant in major industrial farms because the chickens are confined in a small space because they are sitting in what they shouldn’t be and are eating what they shouldn’t be. It’s pretty appalling that we have this problem with salmonella and nobody has thought about the source of it.

“I want people to know how to cook from scratch and not think it’s hugely time consuming and very expensive,” she added. “It’s better for you obviously, and if you have dietary restrictions or want to know what’s in your food, this is the only way to be sure.”

Felting: Wet and Dry

At 11:30 a.m., Krain changed gears from learning cooking techniques to wool production, where he spent the next hour in a felting workshop with Jim Lyons and Jill Horton-Lyons of Winterberry Farm in Colrain. He learned the history and the difference between wet and dry needle felting and even tried his hand at wet felting techniques. Jill Horton-Lyons said wet felting has been around for centuries and makes structurally sound material, adding that it’s often worn or used as a blanket due to its thickness. Dry felt has a much shorter history. It was discovered about 30 years ago and is mostly used for crafts due to its fragility.

Krain lived in Philadelphia for the past three years and recently moved back to New England to reacquaint himself with the rural lifestyle of his past. He works at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, an educational center for children who want to learn sustainable farming methods. He wanted to learn introductory felting techniques so he can teach those skills to interested students at the camp.

“I’ve never done this before, but I know my camp does and it’s a lot of fun,” he said while pouring water over his wool, which is one of the steps in wet felting. “These workshops are a really good way to get your feet wet.”

Overall, Krain said he was very pleased with his first visit to the market and said the variety of vendors really demonstrated what local products the area has to offer and plans to attend again in the future.

“This is a great opportunity for families who are looking for something to do in the winter,” he said.

The Winter Farmers Market is held once a month from November to March. For more information about next month’s market, visit the website.