Rain Didn’t Dampen Free Harvest Supper

The Recorder, August 23rd, 2015, by Chris Curtis

The 11th annual Free Harvest Supper was a little smaller and a little wetter in its first year without founder Juanita Nelson, but volunteers called it a success.

Evelyn Wulfkuhle, a part-owner of Hope and Olive restaurant, a perennial contributor to the event and one of the main cooking locations, said there were fewer people this year but also somewhat less food donated.

“So it all kind of worked out, the way it always does,” Wulfkuhle said.

Community Action food pantry coordinator and harvest supper organizing committee member Dino Schnelle counted 700 to 725 diners, a little short of last year’s initial count of about 850, thanks to rain. Schnelle said the event was different without Nelson.

“It’s hard, but since this was a real pivotal year and we went out to the community and we said if you want to make this happen, you’ve got to put something into it. They showed up, so that says to me that even though she wasn’t here in the flesh, she’s still with us in spirit; she’s still a part of it,” Schnelle said. Schnelle said there was probably a record number of volunteers, and the four or five crucial players organizers needed to take over roles in the kitchen and coordination.
Andy Grant of community garden Just Roots said the cutouts of Juanita and Wally Nelson standing on the Town Common gave him a sense of their presence, and that they left a legacy worth continuing of providing access to healthy local food.

Suzette Snow-Cobb of the Franklin Community Co-op brought the nearly life-sized paper and wood cutouts, left over from a 2003 event honoring the couple and other activists. Snow-Cobb said the event was different in the sense that Nelson was not there, but the same in that people were having fun and raising money for farmers market food vouchers, which she said is what Nelson would have wanted.

Light rain came and went throughout the event, held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the common and Court Square.

Eight-year-old Ryah Evernow, a first-time attendee, was pleased with the pickles and the wave-like pattern of wrinkles left on the sodden paper tablecloths. Mother Iris Evernow said they came from Amherst with a group of eight.

“We heard there were so many farms serving food that I wanted to try all of that at once,” Iris Evernow said.

Greenfield residents Terry Arlin and Barbara Wait were first in line this year. Arlin said she has lived in town since 1974 or ’75, well before the Free Harvest Supper began, but didn’t attend until two years ago.

“I had heard about it, but you know what it’s like, you never know, does that mean me? I can go? So finally one day I said, ‘I’ll go up there and see what it’s like,’ and I came up by myself and I’ve been telling everybody about it,” Arlin said. This year she brought Wait as a first-time attendee and both were pleased. “The food, the entertainment … you watch people. It’s just fun. Everything’s nice here. Everybody’s being friendly and getting out in the air. Even if it’s raining, it still was a nice day,” Arlin said.

Charles Soucy and Erin Rodgers of Bernardston, with their 19-day-old daughter Alice, and Soucy’s grandmother, father and father’s girlfriend, visiting from Maine, kept out of the rain on the nearby church steps.

“I think it’s great. It’s a great way to get community together and get everyone aware of local food and local farms, things like that,” Rodgers said. Soucy said it’s also a good place to look for home-cooking ideas.

“It’s a great way to find out how you can make an entire meal pretty much from veggies,” Soucy said. The turkey peach salad was a family favorite.