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Local Heroes Honored

My bumper sticker

I was so pleased to get this notice from CISA, an organization I support and applaud – not to mention all the Local Heroes in the region, those noted, and those who labor devotedly without applause.  At least not so far.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) is pleased to announce that it has selected Belle Rita Novak of Springfield, J & J Farms in Amherst, and Dan Rosenberg of Real Pickles in Greenfield, to receive its prestigious Local Hero Awards for 2010.

“We applaud our 2010 Local Hero Award recipients and we honor their efforts to sustain local agriculture and enhance the unique character of their communities,” says Philip Korman, executive director of CISA. “Our Local Hero awardees are individuals who can serve as role models for all of us and can help us to create and nourish long term change.”

Background on 2010 Local Hero Awardees

BELLE RITA NOVAK (The Farmer’s Market at the X, Springfield):  As market manager of the Farmer’s Market at the X in Forest Park, a busy urban Springfield neighborhood, Belle Rita Novak’s job includes planning and promotion, writing the weekly newsletter, selling tokens to customers, as well as cooking and serving food samples.  Novak’s passion for fresh local food is no doubt key to the market’s success. “It’s a labor of love,” says Novak.  With the support of friends and help from the Department of Agriculture, Novak organized the market in the fall of 1997 opened it in June 1998 with five vendors. At the time, there were a total of ninety-eight farmers’ markets in Massachusetts; that number has since doubled to more than 200. Considered the largest urban market in western Massachusetts, the Farmer’s Market at the X attracts a diverse customer base, including many shoppers who pay with their electronic benefit cards. “Farmers’ markets have become popular because the food is so fresh,” says Novak. “People love the vendors and every single week someone thanks me for having the market – it’s so important to them.”

JOE WASKIEWICZ (J & J Farms, Amherst):  When Joe Waskiewicz was growing up on Meadow Street in Amherst in the 1930s, every household on the street farmed the land. Today, Joe’s farm is one of just two that remain. Joe’s grandfather, Dimitriou, began the farm in 1909. These days, most of the farm work is done by Joe’s sons, Mike and Butch (Joe Jr.), though Joe can still usually be reached in the barn during chore time. The farm grows top quality sweet corn and other vegetables; equally important is its dairy operation, the only one remaining in Amherst today. The farm sells to wholesalers and retail stands, and they have their own farm stand by the road. J & J Farms has a reputation for diligence, quality, and innovation, and were early supporters of integrated pest management.  Reflecting on his farm’s celebration of its 100th anniversary last year, Joe commented that it’s hard to imagine another period in history when farming changed so much — there have been great improvements in the variety of seeds available, as well as crop yields, and mechanization has made farming much more efficient. At the same time, he recognizes that farmers face new challenges and expresses pride that he was able to see the family farm over the century mark.  J & J Farms cultivates their own eighty acres, and rents an additional eighty from neighbors. “It’s important to keep the land productive,” says Joe, “I think it will be essential to food production in the future.”

Dan Rosenberg

DAN ROSENBERG (Real Pickles, Greenfield):  How does a 24-year old from northern New Jersey get into the business of making pickles? For Dan Rosenberg, it started with his interests in social change, ecology, and the food system, and his experience on an organic farm. A workshop at a farming conference inspired Rosenberg to try lactic acid fermentation, which is considered the original pickling method. Rosenberg launched Real Pickles in 2001. “It was another way to put up local food so that the harvest could be enjoyed during the winter, and to make available a traditional food that has kept people healthy for thousands of years,” says Rosenberg.  The company’s products, including dill pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi, have quickly gained a loyal customer base throughout the region. Real Pickles uses only organic vegetables, which it purchases from seven farms within fifty miles of Greenfield. Last year, Real Pickles purchased and renovated a century-old industrial building in Greenfield to accommodate its growing success.  Rosenberg credits his business success to staying true to his principles: investing in the local food system, promoting minimally-processed healthy foods, and being as ecologically conscious as possible, and is proud that Real Pickles has proven to be economically viable, while finding and filling a niche in the local food structure.

The Local Hero Award is given to individuals, institutions and businesses that are committed to promoting and strengthening local agriculture, and have demonstrated long-term vision, social responsibility, and/or an environmental ethic in their work. Past recipients include: John LaSalle/LaSalle Florist in Whately; The People’s Pint in Greenfield; Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Orange; writer/activist Mary McClintock; Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski of Sidehill Farm in Ashfield; Gardening the Community, a youth-centered community-based urban gardening project in Springfield; Cooley Dickinson Hospital; Joe Czajkowski of Czajkowski Farms in Hadley; the Franklin County Community Development Corporation; Nuestras Raíces in Holyoke; Doug Coldwell and Dewitt Thomson of Full Bloom Market Garden; Dan Kaplan from Brookfield Farm in Amherst; and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

To learn more about CISA and become a member click here or call (413) 665-7100.


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