New soup for you: Just Roots farm’s new product line to hit stores by fall

GREENFIELD — Sometimes, all you want is just soup.

But not just any soup from a can. You want good soup like a vegetable minestrone made from locally grown kidney beans, fresh onions, zucchini, minced garlic, chopped carrots and spinach that steams from your kitchen. Or that spicy black bean soup consisting of garlic, oregano, dried cumin powder and poblano peppers.

Soon, Greenfield residents will find that fresh local soup on store shelves.

Through its new Just Soup Project, Just Roots, the nonprofit community farm, is working to cook up and provide local soup for the community over the next two months.

Just Roots is starting its own local soup line with the advice of the community and the support of a $100,000, two-year grant from the Community Benefits Advisory Council at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

It will involve tastings at the Greenfield Farmers Market, the Franklin County jail, and other institutions throughout Greenfield in April and May for the community to weigh in on the five best soups. Eventually, the project will grow to 10 soups.

In June, Just Roots will finalize its five soups and begin producing 80 gallons of each soup and then expand it to 200 gallons each.

By the fall, the five top soups will be available at local retail stores, food pantries and institutions. The soups will be frozen in pint bags or containers and cost about $3 per pint. The pricing for the container is not final yet. It would be cheaper for institutions that buy in bulk.

The soup will be low-sodium, leaving the option to people to add salt, and be gluten-free.

The nonprofit is having its first community soup tasting tonight at 7 at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield as part of its annual meeting.

Community members can expect to taste potato leak, butternut apple ginger, mushroom barley, vegetable minestrone and black bean soups.

Just in time for the annual meeting, Liz Buxton, the operations manager at the Western Mass. Food Processing Center at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, on Wednesday, put the final touches on the last two soups — vegetable minestrone and black bean. She will be cooking all of the soups for the project.

“It’s great. Soups are healthy,” Buxton said. “We’re going to get as much local foods as we can.”

From a social justice perspective, Jay Lord, director of program development at Just Roots, sees soup as a democratic food. It spans all ages and class levels. It’s affordable and creates an opportunity for people to eat healthy foods they might not have otherwise.

“Research has shown the more vegetables you eat, the better your health,” said Lord. “It’s a very proactive way to create good health in our country. It’s investing money in health rather than disease.”

The nonprofit had the idea four years ago, but it had to figure out how to do it.

“We were trying to figure out how to develop a $50 CSA share that would feed a person year round. We thought about people with different ethnicity and tastes and thought how can we get what everyone likes? Then, we thought about soup. Soup is everything good in a jar,” Lord said.

Just Roots received funding to launch the project in January from the Community Benefits Advisory Council. Baystate Franklin has set aside $1.1 million to fund community health initiatives over the next five years. The advisory council oversees the funds.

“The Just Soup project is exceptionally sustainable and innovative,” said Amy Swisher, co-director of the council. “It addresses food security in a way that is economically viable over time. It’s getting local produce into the hands of people who may not be able to afford it.”