Organizer Hopes Free Harvest Supper Can be Revived for 2017

The Recorder, July 10th, 2016, by Diane Broncaccio. If enough volunteers want to keep the tradition of Greenfield’s annual Free Harvest Supper alive, it’s possible the town could host this event again next August. But it’s unlikely for this year, says Mary McClintock, one of the organizers of this 11-year-old annual event.

After announcing that the dinner on the Town Common would not take place this year because of too few volunteers, McClintock has started receiving offers from people who are willing to help. But producing a meal that serves a thousand people from donated farm crops and locally produced foods requires several months of planning and far more people than the 100 or so volunteers who work on the day of the meal.

“Sad, but true,” McClintock remarked on The Recorder Facebook page. “It takes a LOT of work to organize a meal for 1,000 people with food donated by 50-plus farms/food producers! There have always been enough folks to help out on the day of the supper, but this year there weren’t enough people to spend four to five months organizing it,” she explained.

The volunteers who work on the day of the meal set up tables and chairs, prepare and serve food, clean up, run the composting and recycling station, and run the food from the refrigerated truck to the servers.

They staff the “Really Really Free Market,” which is a type of farmers market of fresh donated garden produce that people can take home free. Volunteers also serve as emcees, coordinate entertainment, hand out appetizers to people waiting in line, or make signs for educational exhibits about local food. Other volunteers might help the staffs Hope & Olive, the Stone Soup Cafe and other community restaurants to prepare a large amount of the food, she said, since everything is prepared in commercial kitchens.

But the many volunteer jobs that must be done well in advance include contacting local farms and other food donors, picking up the food, arranging for enough tables, chairs and other provisions for such a large public event.

“It’s a fabulous, fabulous event that takes a huge amount of energy,” said McClintock. “There is a huge amount of work to do in the background, organizing it. A lot of people really worked hard to make this happen over the years.”

Also, she noted no one from the Free Harvest Supper has contacted the food donors this year, “So presumably they’re just doing their regular business and we’re not one of the groups asking for a donation,” she said.

The Free Harvest Supper was started by the late Juanita Nelson as a way to celebrate the local harvest and encourage people to eat local food. In 2005, Nelson remarked that the Greenfield Farmers Market used to host a free dinner at the end of the harvest season, in the 1980s, and that we should do it again.

McClintock said there is no formal Free Harvest Supper organization — just a group of volunteers that came together to produce the dinner.

“If there are people who care strongly about it, and want to start planning for next year, we have all kinds of information to pass on,” she said. “But it takes committing to do that much work. We were fortunate there were a varying group of people who were willing to do it for that many years.”