Dear Friend and Gardener

CISA Launches Emergency Fund for Farmers

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) has established a revolving loan fund designed to help farmers recover from Hurricane Irene. The Fund will offer quick, zero-interest loans to assist farmers and farm businesses in the aftermath of the storm and flooding. They didn’t do it alone; Whole Foods, Equity Trust and an anonymous donor who gave a $50,000 challenge are all a part of this effort to help the farmers who are so important to all of us.

You can read all about the fund by clicking here. And you can go here and make your own donation and take advantage of this generous challenge. We cannot live without our farmers, and they need our help after all the terrible weather and flooding.


Franklin County Community Development Corporation

There are often news stories in our local press about the business incubator at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation located in Greenfield. Last Friday I had my first opportunity to visit and see some of the work that goes on there.

John Waite

John Waite, the Executive Director of the FCCDC, welcomed me and members of the Herb Society of America to the commercial kitchens of the CDC and introduced us to some of the people who use this important facility which has helped fledgling businesses reach a point where they can fly off to their own spaces. I can’t fit all that we saw in one posting, but I am going to take you on a weeklong tour of what what I saw and learned last Friday.

Fresh horseradish roots

Terry Grinnan of Saw Mill Site Farm uses the commercial kitchen a few times a year to bottle his horseradish products. He buys most of hishigh quality horseradish roots from a Mennonite Farm in Illinois and processes and bottles them here. He gave us a demonstration of the whole process beginning with the fresh roots.

The roots are hand peeled and then washed to USDA specifications before putting into an amazing commercial kind of food processor.

It takes a sharp blade to cut up those roots. They get three minutes to do the job.

None of us were allowed to get too close when Terry Grinnan opened the machine to add some high grade vinegar for a little more processing. Even so, eyes and noses were watering.

After a couple more minutes of grinding, the horseradish was removed from the machine, all ready for adding final flavors like mustard or beets, and then bottling, and refrigeration.  Terry says it takes about four hours to process 1000 jars of his horseradish.

Saw Mill Site Farm Horseradish

Earlier this year I wrote about growing horseradish here, which is how I got to meet Terry and get invited to a wonderful day with Herb Society members.

Three Tours Today

Jerry and Trina Sternstien's veggie garden

A visitor on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour last weekend noted that one of the benefits of local garden tours is they allow us to see what lies hidden behind the beautiful flower beds, fields and forests: creativity, art, industry, history, and strong community. On the weekend of July 9, all of these elements will be in full view as the artisans, conservationists, and creative gardeners of Hawley, Colrain and Greenfield open their worlds to the public.

The Hawley Artisan’s and Garden Tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 9 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. I visited Jerry and Trina Sternstein’s garden, known for its hundreds of rhododendrons, and collections of peonies and lilacs that bloom in the spring, but Jerry is an enthusiastic and skillful cook so it is no surprise that he has a beautiful and productive vegetable garden with well organized blueberries and raspberries. He is able to grow hard to find vegetables like fava beans, or his favorite kinds of tomatoes like ‘Donna.’

Trina works with Jerry in the garden, but she also takes inspiration from the rural landscapes and ever-changing skies, capturing them in her finely worked paintings.

A unique tour site is the ‘Energy Garden’ tended by Lark and Beth Thwing. The green they are looking for is the green they can put in their wallets, and the green that benefits our planet. They have installed a solar hot water system, photovoltaics, a wood boiler, a passive solar porch and a heat recovery ventilation system. This is a chance for visitors to learn about some energy saving conservation measures.

Lunch ($12) will be served at The Grove, opposite the East Hawley Meeting House, where a display of Ashfield stone birdbaths and other items will be on display. For more information or to order tickets ($10) call Cyndie Stetson, 339-4231. Tickets will also be available the day of the tour at the Stetson house, 108 West Hawley Road.

Colrain is celebrating its 250th anniversary with months of events including the whole weekend, Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, filled with free tours of 16 family farms and gardens. A map and information about the various sites is online at

It should be noted that some sites are only open at certain stated times. The Colrain Seed Farm which grows rare and heirloom seeds will be open only Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Mushroom Walk will set off from the Colrain Central School on Sunday at 1 p.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

Foxbrook Iris Farm on Call Road will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Deborah Wheeler and her son Andrew will show off the fields of iris. Right now the Japanese iris are blooming.

Keldaby Farm pergola

I stopped to visit Cynthia Herbert and Bob Ramirez at Keldaby Farm with its flock of angora goats. Bob is the farmer, and Cynthia the artist spinning, dying and weaving the angora wool into beautiful shawls, scarves. throws and other items. Visitors will be able to see her looms and her gorgeous creations. Their farm is open both days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The two magnificent box elders in the garden are worth the trip.

Practically next door to Keldaby Farm is The Old Barrel Shop where Tony Palumbo and Mike Collins have created a series of beautiful gardens, at the same time that they have operated The Green Emporium. Their gardens will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The West County Winery on North Catamount Road has been added to the tour, but it is not on the map. It will be open to visitors on Saturday, July 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Nine private gardens in Greenfield will be on the Greenfield Garden Club’s 19th self guided tour on Saturday, July 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of Greenfield’s finest gardens are included each year on the tour. This year’s tour includes a variety of annual and perennial gardens, vegetable and herb gardens and even a worm composting display.

I finally found out what lies beyond the elegant lions on High Street. Joyce and Steven Lanciani bought this property from the Lyon family six years ago. Since then they have taken down trees, put up fences, weeded a small woodland, and laid out a stone stream in a shade garden.

Because the gardens are at the top of a steep hill they are invisible to those passing by, but there is enormous variety in what is still an in-town lot. Joyce says now that she is retired she is teetering on the fine line between garden passion and obsession.

“There were good bones in the garden,” Joyce said, “but there was a lot of clearing out work to do.”

Arborvitae hedge

They have trimmed an arborvitae hedge in a curving manner to give it interest, and added a pergola by the slightly enlarged perennial borders. The power and beauty of simplicity is a lesson I have to learn again and again; it is made clear in the use of repetition of a row of hemlocks underplanted with hostas.

Tickets ($12) will be on sale the day of the tour from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. at the Trap Plain club garden on the corner of Silver and Federal Streets in Greenfield. All proceeds from the tour go to community service projects including grants for area schools.

Between the Rows   July 2, 2011

Wheat Conference

Bread is called the staff of life and bread means wheat. With our huge wheatfields in the midwest we take wheat for granted. We don’t think about the possibility of the supply diminishing or about the changing nutritional value of the wheat.

Eli Rogosa and the Heritage Wheat Conservancy,which she founded is collaborating with the Northeast Organic Wheat and UMass Extension to hold a Grain Conference on July 14 and 15. The first day will be held at the University of Massachusetts farm in South Deerfield. There will be talks about grain biodiversity and culinary art; building a local grain system; and wheat sysstems for community vitality. There will be a tour of the heritage wheat trials and several afternoon sessions for growers, and for those like me who want to know more the value of these old grains.

The July 15th session will be held at Eli Rogosa’s farm in Colrain to allow more informal exchanges.

For full information about the program and registration log onto Pre-registration is suggested.

Local Farm-Hers

L-R Suzette Snow-Cobb, Caroline Pam, Sorrel Hatch, Deb Habib

We live in a fortunate part of the world. Recently my husband and I were counting our local blessings: good neighbors, relatively benign bureaucracies, easy traffic, and beautiful landscapes with hills and streams, woodlands and meadows.

Those landscapes have changed in a major but subtle way over the 30 years since we moved to Heath. The dairy farms that were here in Heath have all disappeared as have many dairy operations in other towns. A few farm stands sold sweet corn in season, but it seemed that agriculture was in decline.

Nowadays I am very aware of a resurgence of local agriculture marked by a proliferation of new small farms with farm stands, the birth of farmers markets in various towns, and programs like Farm to School that are bringing fresh healthy food to more people. At the same time the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement arrived making it easier for farmers because customers share the risks of farming.

Earlier this week I attended a presentation co-sponsored by Greenfield Community College (GCC) and the Conway School of Landscape Design titled Things Are Looking Up Down on the Farm. It was a logical collaboration because GCC is always reacting to community needs for education and training, and the Conway School curriculum looks at land use in its broadest terms which certainly includes the agriculture that keeps us fed.

This particular talk included moderator  Suzette Snow-Cobb of the Franklin County Community Cooperative, and three farm-hers Caroline Pam of The Kitchen Garden in Sunderland, Deb Habib of Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Orange, and Sorrel Hatch of Upinngil Farm in Gill. Each of those farms is different and each farm-her told her story with  lively passion, enthusiasm, and honest humor about life on the farm.

Caroline Pam is the newest farmer. With her husband, Tim Wilcox, Pam has been farming here in the valley since 2005. They both spent time in Italy and she is a serious cook. The farm reflects their interests in beautiful and interesting vegetables. Their growing has another aspect. They now have a very young daughter and son.

Pam says that it is hard to separate the work they do on the farm and their life. “Farming is more a lifestyle than a job,” she said.  They were always working to maintain a balance that would allow them to make a living without burning out. They have made the decision to stay small. The Kitchen Garden is only 7 acres but they are growing the capabilities of the farm by succession planting and adding greenhouses that will extend their season.

Deb Habib and her husband Ricky Baruc were experienced farmers when they came to Orange in1996. Because they had rough recently timbered land they decided to begin with cardboard and compost. Nowadays they continue to farm with cardboard and compost, often under hoop houses to extend the season, but they also teach their techniques.  They give workshops at Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Habib also teaches at their own Seeds of Leadership (SOL) program for teens. SOL has its own garden that donates food to the low income community.. For Habib and Baruc farming is about helping to make sure everyone has access to healthy food, and building community.  Habib also said, “It is important to make room for celebration.”

Seeds of Solidarity was one of the major organizers of the now famous North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in October which brings 60 vendors of produce, local handcrafts, and good eats as well as performances on the Solar Powered Stage to Forsters Farm to thousands of people who are ready to learn and celebrate.

Sorrel Hatch is the only one of the farmers who grew up on a farm. Her father, Cliff Hatch, surprised his father and grandfather who were farmers by coming back to farming after a short time away. Hatch studied entomology at Cornell and came back to work side by side with her father and now her brother at the Upinngil Farm where I pick strawberries every year.. They maintain a small dairy herd of Ayrshire cows and sell raw milk at their Farm Store, as well as cheeses, wheat, and goodies from Hatch’s own Little Red Hen Bakery. Hatch said, “We grew the wheat, we ground it and baked it — but I did have a lot of help.”

The Farm Stand is open seasonally and the Farm Store is open every day year round. Not everything at the Store or the Farm Stand is from their farm. “Bring me stuff and I’ll sell it. I can’t grow everything so it is wonderful to have great stuff for customers from other local farms,” Hatch said.

Hatch said their wheat is certified organic, but like Pam and Habib she said the record keeping required makes it almost impossible for a multi-crop farm.  Pam also said that their farm, surrounded by conventional farms is too narrow to provide the required buffers. All agree that their customers know they farm sustainably and trust the safety of their produce.

Although each has unique aspects, these three farms are typical of many of the other small farms in the area in the sense that they not only provide good food, they add jobs, by hiring people on the farm, and by supplying new businesses like Real Pickles with what they need. What they all need is more infrastructure that will help them provide food over a longer season.

Clearly things are looking up for those of us who want to eat good, fresh local food.

Each of the farms has a handsome informative website:; and

The final program of this series Farm Land: Sustaining Farms and Farm Land for the Future with Cris Coffin, New England Director, American Farmland Trust will be held on Thursday, May 19, 6:30-8 pm, Conway School of Landscape Design, 332 South Deerfield Rd, Conway, MA 01341  ###

Earth Day 2011

Greenfield Farmer's Market

On this Earth Day I don’t want to lecture about what we all should be doing to protect the environment. I want to celebrate some of the actions I know about in my community that are being done right now, many of which will grow.

I am thrilled with the school gardens that are being planted, tended and harvested. They not only supply food, but many lessons that connect with work in the classroom.  Heath school has had its garden for several years, but other schools also have gardens. I just learned that Mohawk Trail District Nutrition Director Elizabeth Buxton’s dream is for every school in the District to have its own garden. Buckland Shelburne Elementary will set up its garden on April 30.

I rejoice in the number of small farms that have started up in the last few years, making their produce available through their own farmstands, the farmer’s markets and local supermarkets.  Monday evening I am going to be at the Greenfield Community College Down Town campus at 6:30 to hear three Farm-hers, Deb Habib of Seeds of Solidarity in Orange, Sorrel Hatch of Upinngil Farm in Gill, and and Caroline Pam of the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland talk about their life and farms.

I give thanks that CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) is helping farmers and helping us find more and more local food all year round.

I applaud every time I see solar panels, or windmills as I drive along my country roads.

Of course I have my own part to play. We’ve tightened the house, got a new heating system, use FCLs, carry canvas shopping bags with us, bundle our errands to save gas, grow some of our own food and we are about to plant a windbreak that will help save on our  heating bills.

What do you celebrate in your area?  Do you have an energy saving project coming up?

Leave a comment on my Give Away post and maybe you will win Starter Vegetable Gardens. Deadline is midnight tonight.

The Grange – Then and Now

Sawyer Hall - Heath

Sawyer Hall is our Heath Post Office, Police Office, and Town Library with Town Offices for  the Selectbord, Administrator, Tax Collector, Assessors, etc. upstairs, but  for for many years a good portion of Sawyer Hall was used by the Grange for suppers, and even for dramatic productions.  I remember when we moved here in 1979 the Library was closed because the building was being renovated.  Someone gave me a tour of the large open upstairs where a small raised platform acted as a stage was set in  the ‘bay windows,’  and a Glenbrook wood burning parlor stove was placed on another wall.

I could picture Grange suppers serving all kinds of wonderful home grown and home cooked meals, but I couldn’t imagine what kind of plays were were put on UNTIL one of Heath’s Great Ladies gave me a box of plays and books of recitations.  The plays were mimeographed  and  given a green paper cover. One marked Very Good is Holloway’s Hired Hand – a play in one act by Earlene Day Benson of Groton, NY. It won First Prize in the New York State Plays Project in 1952 and was distributed for .35 a copy through the American Agriculturist Magazine.

As a community event the Friends of Library once put on a reading of this play which got a lot of laughs.  Harry Holloway is a farmer whose hired hand has just quit, Laura is his wife, Jim is the ex-hired hand and Jerry is the new hired hand. Lovesickness is the cause of the hired hand’s leaving, but before the  curtain falls the new hand Jerry, is revealed to be none other than a ‘college girl’ and the object of Jim’s affections who wanted experience on a farm. It all ends happily, of course, because the point of these plays was to encourage farmers.

The Grange was disbanded in Heath as in so many rural towns because the number of farms dwindled so. But out in Corvallis, Oregon, as perhaps in other places, the Grange is enjoying a resurgence as new young farmers meet over delicious Grange dinners for advice,  information and encouragement from the old timers.  How do I know this? I read all about it in the New York Times yesterday,  New Food Culture A Young Generation of Farmers Emerges.  A new generation of enthusiastic foodies can take credit for helping revive The Grange.

Winterfare and Ice

4th Annual Greenfield Winterfare

Saturday dawn cold with another storm promised. I dashed right out to the Greenfield Winterfare to stock up, and I wasn’t the only one. Every booth was busy. These young women from Wheatberry Farm and Bakery were selling the wheatberries AND delicious muffins. Ben and Adrie Lester, the founders of Wheatberry are also founders of The Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA.

Simple Gifts Farm

At the Simple Gifts booth I bought lots of roots – and make a shredded vegetable slaw when I got home. Perfect accompaniment to casserole roasted pork. Brooke Werley and Emily Adams say they do everything!  at the farm. They have a brand new tractor at Simple Gifts and they are very excited.

Sunrise Farm

I not only found the Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup I had been looking for I found out that the sugar house I pass when I drive from Heath to Colrain is called Sunrise Farm and is operated by a branch of the locally famous Lively family. It is wonderful to have so much Lively-ness in our area. Rocky’s family has been on this farm for over 100 years.

Most of these farms are already signing people up for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. For a full list of CSA farms visit CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.

One thing I have noticed is that there are more farms selling meat locally. I am buying lamb from a neighbor, and I found out that the new Pen and Plow Farm in Hawley is selling beef – and it doesn’t have to be a whole quarter of an animal.  Hmmmm. Oxtail soup and osso bucco may be in my husband’s future.

I stopped at the library on my way home from Winterfare, but a ‘wintry mix’ was already falling out of the sky.  By suppertime everything was encased in ice. This is the view when we woke on Sunday morning. Beautiful but dangerous.

No lounging in the Cottage Ornee today.

Maybe I’ll be able to finish up my seed orders.

Winterfares Coming Up

Winterfare Northampton 2010

Have you been longing for fresh greens and the chance to meet the farmers in our area?  Long no more. It is time for Winterfares!  This Saturday the winter farmer’s market will be held at the Smith Vocational School in Northampton on January 15 from 10 am to 2 pm.  Fresh greens, apples, honey, yogurt, root veggies, local grain, bread, the Soup Cafe (bring your own cup) and workshops.  This is a delicious and healthy event – pure delight.  Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags.

Also, mark your calendars for the 4th Annual Winterfare at Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 5, again from 10 am – 2pm.  More fresh food, more workshops, more fun.

Cindy’s Mosaics

Shelburne Mosaic

Saturday was a big day in Shelburne Falls, home of the Bridge of Flowers. There had been events at the Buckland Shelburne Community Hall for Cider Day but there was also a dedication of the 12 vitreous glass mosaics created by Cynthia Fisher of Big Bang Mosaics in cooperation with students from the elementary and high schools, as well as members of the community. Ten of the 3 x 3 foot mosaics depict iconographic aspects of the ten towns in our area. Two slightly larger mosaics honor the Native Americans who lived here, and the Deerfield River which tumbles over Salmon Falls in the middle of the town.

Cindy and Jayden of BSE school

Three towns supplied the full amount of requested funding and so as the students worked on the main mosaic they  also made a smaller one that will remain in the school. The Buckland Shelburne School was presented with their mosaic at the dedication. The sturdy frames that hold the mosaics were designed and fabricated by the students at Franklin Technical High School.

Ideas for each mosaic were generated by the third graders in each town. With students’ help Cindy drew the template and then older students during art classses cut (nipped) the glass tiles and glued them in place.  Heath is famous for its lowbush blueberries, the acres of sunflowers being grown for fuel to run farm machinery, historic farms, and, of course, the Heath Fair. We have a drawerful of Heath Fair t-shirts, a different design each year.

You can see all the mosaics, and learn more about the project by clicking here.

That’s my Three for Thursday.  Check out Cindy MCOK at My Corner of Katy and see what other trios abound.