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Greenfield Community Farm on Blog Action Day

Greenfield Community Farm – New Shed

Accessible healthy food is a basic human right. The Greenfield Community Farm helps insure this right to the Greenfield Community.

The Greenfield Community Farm out on Glenbrook Road is actually comprised of four gardens. First, there is a production market garden, operated by grant-funded David Paysnick and his assistant Daniel Berry, that grows produce for sale through the Just Roots CSA, at the Farmers Market, and Green Fields Coop. This garden includes a greenhouse where seeds are started in the spring, and a high-tunnel greenhouse that extends the season for tomatoes, and exotic crops like ginger. Extra vegetable starts, and seeds, are given to the Food for All Garden.

The market garden makes use of interns, from high school and college students to older people who sign up for a season. There are spring chores including working in the greenhouse and soil prep, summer chores including weeding, succession planting, and preparing produce for sale, and fall chores include marketing, farm upkeep, and mentoring a younger person. A full description of these internships is on the website.

A second garden, unpoetically named The Education Site, is a currently colorful demonstration garden created by students, parents and educators where students from 8-18 can engage in meaningful and creative work on the land.

Community Garden

Shelly Beck

Shelly Beck, Community Garden Coordinator, oversees the final two gardens. These are the community garden plots tended by their gardeners, and the Food For All Garden that grows produce for the Stone Soup Café and the Center for Self Reliance food pantry. I visited with Beck to see how the first growing season and harvest went.

“Pretty well!” she said with joyful enthusiasm. I could see that the better part of the harvest had been gathered in, but cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale were still growing as were a few squash plants. Bright nasturtiums and marigolds bloomed here and there. Even hard core vegetable gardeners can’t resist a few brilliant flowers. It looked like a productive season to me.

The 50 community garden plots come in two sizes, 20×20 feet, and 20×10 feet. These plots were cultivated by experienced gardeners, novices, people who were interested in vegetables, some who only wanted flowers, and some who were particularly passionate about herbs. A Daisy troop took possession of one plot and inmates from the Kimball House, the Franklin County Jail’s Re-entry program cultivated another.

Volunteers built a handsome garden shed to hold tools (they can use more tools and wheelbarrows), and there is a drilled well to supply that all important garden element – water. Soil amendments are also available for plot holders. For those with the need there are also high raised beds to plant. More raised beds are in the planning.

Raised bed

Food For All Garden

“The Food for All plot has really been my plot this year,” Beck said, “but I’ve had lots of volunteers helping. Kimball House guys spend two mornings a week here, and community groups call and come. We even had a ‘weed-dating’ session!”

For those who are not part of the dating scene, speed-dating is an event where attendees spend a very few minutes talking to each other, exchanging cards, and then moving on to the next. “It’s more fun to chat over the weeds,” Beck said. “We’ll probably do it again, and we’d like more men to come.”

Beck had to explain to me that the Stone Soup Café is the pay-what-you-can café that is held every Saturday at noon at All Soul’s Church. Volunteers cook and serve up a great delicious and nutritious lunch. Those who can leave a donation. Even those who cannot attend, can send a donation to help cover costs.

Beck has taken an interesting road to bring her to the Greenfield Community Farm. She grew up in Massachusetts, but it was at Evergreen College in Washington State that she began taking eco-agricultural courses. “Evergreen immersed me in the world of growing things and sustainability. I never dreamed that organic would one day be so much of our culture so that you can buy organic produce at the Stop and Shop.”

In 1996 she moved back to Massachusetts and found a real home in Greenfield. She was a single mother with a child but she found housing at Leyden Woods where she started her first community garden. She began working Green Fields Market and said she really felt the community taking care of her.  She worked as a science teacher at the middle school, and  at Enterprise Farm. “It was a great place to see what farmers are doing on a big scale.” While she was there she helped put together the Mobile Market that brought fresh produce food deserts from Somerville to Northampton, senior centers, a YMCA and housing projects.

Nowadays, Beck’s day job is as Pantry coordinator at the Amherst Survival Center which offers free health care, and a free store in addition to a free lunch and regular pantry food distribution. She worked with local farmers and made sure that the food pantry offered fresh produce as well as the regular non-perishable foods.

Fall Festival at the Greenfield Community Farm

If you have a garden you must celebrate the harvest. This is doubly true if you have a big garden, with many gardeners big and small. Sunday, October 27 the Greenfield Community Farm is hosting a Fall Festival with workshops, a farm tour, garlic planting and a pot luck meal. All are invited to come and learn more about the gardens, and celebrate this first of many harvests. The website has full information about the Fall Festival and all the gardens. ###

Between the Rows   October 12, 2013

CISA -The Power of We on Blog Action Day 2012


On this Blog Action Day where many bloggers are describing and celebrating “The Power of We” I give thanks for our local Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture – CISA. I live in a rural area and like many people I have become more and more concerned about the food my family and I eat. About 20 years ago, farmers producing vegetables, fruit, fiber, maple syrup and dairy, businesses, politicians, and consumers got together to talk about how to create a sustainable agricultural system that would benefit all. The result was CISA, of which I am a dues paying member.

Over the years I have watched the demise of dairy farms but I have watiched the arrival and growth of many small scale diversified vegetable farms. Along with these farms and the young farmers have come more farm stands, farmers markets that operate for five months of the year, as well as that new fangled system, the CSA farms. CSA farms are Communityn Supported Agriculture farms that allow the consumer to share the risks of the farmers, of drought or flood, of insect damage or disease. By buying a share in a CSA the shareholder gets to pick up a basket of what ever is being harvested that week – and often a little bouquet of flowers as well. In addition to CSAs that primarily supply a weekly load of vegetables, there are also specialty CSAs.  Goldthread Herb Farm offers Community Supported Medicine which offers twice a season helping of medicinal herbs to help maintain good health. Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA has a once a season share of a variety of unmilled grains.

CISA helps publicize the bounty available from local farms through their Local Foods Guide which is available on line, as well as in hard copy that is widely distributed every spring. It has also helped farmers sell their produce to local schools and hospitals, those places where  good healthy food is especially  important.

CISA also helps farmers with business training. If they are going to be successful farmers they have to be good farmers in the field, and they need to know how to make a sustainable  living.

A big thank you is to CISA, Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture. This organization supports local farmers with growing marketable crops and handling the business aspect of farming more efficiently. They have helped farmers AND consumers. They have helped to create more markets for produce,: and bringing healthful produce to more people.

Of course, we eaters like to have this good food all year long, not just in the main growing season. So what are we all doing about it? Getting Wintermarkets.

Wintermarket Pears in January

Wintermarket root crops

Real Pickles at the Wintermaarket

To all the other kinds of action this day click here.

We Love to Eat – Blog Action Day 2011

Heath Schoolhouse Museum

I live in a ruraltown of 750 souls in the western corner of Massachusetts that sits on the Vermont border. On the Fourth of July in 1981 I happened to meet two other friends at the spinning wheel in the town museum. We were celebrating the holiday, but got to complaining that we never went out to dinner, we  couldn’t afford to, and besides there were no good restaurants closer than 40 miles. Actually there were no restaurants  at all closer than 25 miles. So, on the spot, we invented the Heath Gourmet Club that has been meeting ten times a year ever since, beginning that September. We don’t meet in August because we are all too busy with the Heath Fair, and we collapse the November/December dinners into one.

Gourmet Club Anniversary

Here we are celebrating again. Each month the host picks a theme and lets the other four couples know the entree. Then, Sheila, our record keeper, assigns us each a course, appetizers, bread and soup, side, salad, and dessert, or whatever combination suits the meal. Hosting and courses rotate so we all get a chance to do everything.  This keeps down the individual labor and cost for each meal, some of which have been really spectacular. Salmon Coulibiac, Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourginnone, Mock Turtle Soup (made with muskrat), Peking Duck, and many many more. Spanish, Italian, British, African, Japanese, Indonesian and more, especially French. I love French. Sometimes we have Guest Eaters who feel themselves really lucky to be invited.

Obviously we all love to cook and try new things, but we also like to use local produce. Long before we heard of the 100 mile diet we raised our own pork and chickens and eggs, bought good Heath blueberries, apples and milk. We gardened and grew and put up our own vegetables.


We don’t think every meal has to be fancy, but anything made with good healthy ingredients is a pleasure and delight.

Seeds of Solidarity Farm

We have all been able to buy fresh produce at local farms and orchards, but over the past years the number of small farms has increased selling their produce at farmstands and through this new thing called a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture which allows all of us to share in the risk of farming, the unpredictability of weather and pestilence, and farmer’s markets. This increase in the production of local food is good for the farmers, good for the environments, good for the community and good for us of us eaters.

Seeds of Solidarity Farm is a working farm, specializing in greens and garlic, but Ricky also teaches garden workshops and his wife Deb works to create school gardens, and get fresh produce into institutions like schools and hospitals.

Garlic and Arts Festival - The Festival that Stinks

Along with neighbors, Deb and Ricky founded the Garlic and Arts Festival that takes place the first weekend in October. This is a solar powered, grease mobile run, festival. Who cares if it stinks? After the 10,000 people leave and the field is cleaned up, there is only three bags of trash to dispose of. Everything else is composted or recycled. They have proved that we can live more lightly on the land that we usually do. Then they sell some of the compost at the next Festival.

Organizations like CISA have grown up to help farmers be better businessmen and involve all of us in supporting local agriculture.

Annual Harvest Meal in Greenfield, MA

Every year our larger community celebrates the bounty of our area with a giant FREE Harvest Meal. Farmers donate the produce, restauranteurs donate their labor, musicians come and play and we all celebrate. You can make a donation of course, and that money goes to fund vouchers that are given out at the food pantry, to be used at the farmers market. Everyone deserves fresh healthy food. This year 800 people gathered for this feast, some making generous contributions, and others enjoying the meal freely. $4000 was collected for food vouchers.

And everyone deserves to grow their own healthy food. Just Roots is the new Community Farm that has been form on the site of the Greenfield Poor Farm. This is a wonderful opportunity for many people who don’t own land and who like working with others – who can be a real help with advice.

We are fortunate in our area to have Greenfield Community College which is offering a new course this fall on food systems. It is oversubscribed! Read about that here. It is a joy to see the support given to potential farmers.

We wish our good food fortune to everyone. Bon appetit!

For more about Blog Action Day click here.

Water and Livestock – Blog Action Day 2010

Our Frog Pond

Water is beautiful. Our Frog Pond is beautiful. We can’t drink this water, but in July of 1990 it helped keep our house from burning down. The previous owners of our house used Conservation funds to enlarge the pond enough to qualify as a Fire Pond. We are so glad they did. Mostly, though we just use it for fun, swimming, catching (and releasing) newts, and ice skating in the winter.

Water is essential. Out here in the  country most of us depend on wells for our water. Some of us have a gravity feed spring.  This year I nearly ran our drilled well dry. No more watering the garden. I have never watered a lawn. We have become even more careful of our water.

Many people are now aware of how they use water, for economic reasons as well as for environmental reasons. We don’t water our lawns. We have low flow shower heads. We have low flow toilets. I admit that ever since my friend Kari Huus Kaill ranted about people who leave the faucet on when they brush their teeth, I always turn the faucet off. Mostly. Many gardeners are now building rain gardens to keep rain water on  site, and to prevent dirty water from overwhelming storm sewers and polluting our streams and other waterways.

But huge amounts of water are wasted, and cause serious environmental problems in ways we never imagined. I first became aware of the lakes of manure slurry in 1991 when I read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.  I was horrified but even then did not realize the full implications of this type of farming.

I just finished reading Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind by Gene Logsdon.  Logsdon has many concerns in this book, from the decline in soil fertility because manure is wasted, to how much money is spent to handle animal and human manure, and how animal and human health is affected by the way manure is handled.  There is a push to get humans to use low flow toilets, but before this book I never heard anyone talk about the amount of water wasted when a barn floor is turned into a flush  toilet. Logsdon, who has visited large farms, described how dairy barns are hosed  out twice a day with hundreds of gallons of water, flushing all the manure into a slurry lagoon. The manure loses up to 70% of its fertilizer value,  and when sprayed on the fields it does not help maintain the loamy structure of fertile soil the way composted manure does.

The United States is known for producing state of the art systems, but there is a price when these are copied in very different parts of the world.  Logsdon talks about farms in Saudi Arabia being patterned on California farms.  A desert country? No problem. They dig a mile deep well.  The well does dry. No problem. They dig a two mile deep well. Saudi Arabia is a rich country, but is this the way to build a sustainable agriculture?

We cannot live without water, to drink, to water food crops, and for cleanliness and health. We need to consider well how we get, use and protect our water supply. For more about water logon to Blog Action Day 2010.

Whittemore Spring - a Heath Emergency Water Supply

Blog Action Day – Water Here and Where

Our Frog Pond

Our Frog Pond

Our Frog Pond is beautiful. And useful. When our dilapidated barn was struck by lightning in the middle of the night, July 5, 1990, the volunteer fire department was able to pump water to help put out the fire. In fact, the previous owners had enlarged the pond which is stream and spring fed to make it a fire pond. The frogs like it, and so do the grandchildren. So do we. It’s good for swimming and catching newts. Catch and release, of course. We never manage to catch frogs.

Dug Well

Dug Well

We actually have a lot of water on our hill. Some of it we located the day after we moved in right after Thanksgiving 1979. The minute we arrived in Massachusetts from NYC, the temperature plummeted. The pipes in our new old farmhouse froze. We had no water. Our three daughters who were still living at home were not best pleased. The first thing Henry had to do when we woke up was go out and locate the dug well we had been told was in back of the house. It had been covered over and looked like wintry lawn. Henry dug, found it and uncovered it. We admired the well, a miracle of engineering and labor thirty feet deep with beautiful fieldstone walls. We hauled water by hand for several days until we thawed the pipes and got the drilled well in operation. A few years ago we put a concrete tile and cover to top the dug well, making access easier when we used it for irrigation by letting out sump pump down into the well. We never wanted to use water from the drilled well for irrigation. There are enough people in Heath who have had their wells go dry that we are aware of the dangers.

Pasture well

Pasture well

There is also a dug well out in the pasture, about 100 yards from the house. There was a gravity feed pipe that carried water from the well to the house, but it was separate from water from the drilled well that was the main water supply that we continue to use. We used that water for irrigation until it started smelling really really bad.  Henry girded his loins, took a ladder and climbed down the 15 food deep well – and brought up a couple of dead skunks  that managed to get in even though a large stone covered the well. Henry disconnected the line to the house, and we buried the skunks under the Applejack rose. Applejack thrives.

Lawn Bed Well

Lawn Bed Well

Ten years ago we created the two Lawn Beds and had our five toddler and infant grandsons plant gingko trees. Those boys are now 13 and 11 years old; the beds have been filled in with shrubs and perennials. One day, about four years ago Henry was helping me dig so I could put in an Alma Potschke aster. He hit a rock. He was always hitting a rock, but this rock slipped and skittered – and went SPLASH!  Upon closer inspection Henry saw that a large flat stone covered another well!  This one was smaller in diameter and only about 10 feet deep.  Again, it was lined with stone. We wondered if it was the first well, dug when the original house was built in the middle of the 19th century. I had great plans for turning it into a fountain, but it only collects ground water and the level varies radically over the course of the year. 

Drilled well

Drilled well

Last year when we had the drilled well in back of the house repaired and added an above ground wellhead to bring it up to code and make it legal, we took the circular cement block that had covered it (and then been covered with sod) and used that to  cover the Lawn Bed Well, that had been much more informally covered. The wellhead is not a thing of beauty, but we haven’t come up with a disguise yet. I do remember my friend Cindy Fisher of Big Bang Mosaics who built a beautiful mosaic bird bath to cover her wellhead.  Hmmmmm.

I have a lot of water on my hill. I am aware of how blessed we are, because wells do run dry, even here in Heath. Even here in Heath we sometimes have to haul water by hand. Even so, we don’t have to carry it far, or we can carry it by car from Whittemore Spring, every Heathan’s emergency water supply.

Snapshot of a Kenya snapshot

Snapshot of a Kenya snapshot

I can’t help remembering  when we visited our Peace Corps daughter Betsy on her Kenyan hill town where the women had to carry water from a spring a mile away. One of Betsy’s jobs was to repair a water storage tank at an old British colonial farm house for the villagers to use. She also supervised the laying of a gravity feed line from a spring to a new large water storage tank that she and villagers  built. We were fortunate enough to be visiting in July of 1989 when water was finally available from that tank. Great Celebration! Both tanks brought clean water much closer to the village.

 When we lived in Beijing, the capital city of China, we knew that many families had to share a single tap. The old houses had no running water. Which means no bathrooms. Which means chamber pots or a trip to the public bathroom on the corner. And this was in a modern city in 1989. We have seen how much more work it takes to get enough water for household use in the third world, but where you can at least have your own choo (outhouse).

We have hauled water ourselves, but worse than having to go to a lot of trouble to have water, is living where water is so scarce that the crops have dried up, where the desert has moved in, where people have had to leave their land and where water has to be trucked in their temporary camps.

The talk is all about Global Warming or Climate Change, but I think a more accurate description of what is happening is Climate Disruption.  There are more storms and destructive floods in some places. Too much water. And there are more long droughts in other places. Too little water. Here in Heath we talk about Climate Disruption causing a July with 23 days of heavy rains, breaking weather records, and a very dry September. Local farmers as well as local gardeners suffer. We feel the necessity of slowing and stopping the production of greenhouse gases that cause this problem. We hope our efforts, and efforts around the world, will not be too late.

To see what other over 8000 bloggers around the world have to say about Climate Change logon to the BLOG ACTION DAY site and take your pick. Three of the postings I’ve found valuable are Girl With Pen, Water Is Life and Lil Fish Studios News.

Blog Action Day – Plant a Row for the Hungry

When I go to the Farmer’s Market I see all the abundance that our rocky New England soil can produce. What is not so obvious to the public is all the abundance of our home gardens. Some of us like to concentrate on a small plot with everything we like to put in our salads, a mix of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. Some of us are lucky enough to have the space, not to mention energy and time to grow a major part of the produce we’ll eat over the course of the year.

Unfortunately, it is also not obvious to the public that there are many people in our communities who do not share in this abundance. We can see it if we visit local food pantries and soup kitchens. I’ve talked to our local Salvation Army program, the Center for Self Reliance and the Survival Center. All of them report that many new families are signing up for the food pantry, people who never imagined their life would reach this point. The Salvation Army says they have very limited budget for fresh produce, yet they routinely have more than 100 people show up for lunch, often working people who get their lunch there so they will have more money to feed their children supper. And they have to hurry and eat to get back to work at a low paying job.

I am a member of the Garden Writers of America. A number of years ago this organization started the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. Recognizing the importance of food banks and food pantries, and also recognizing the large number of gardeners in our country, they encouraged people to plant and dedicate a row of garden produce to the hungry. The latest statistics on the GWA website show that over 27,000 volunteers have donated 10 million TONS of produce to hunger organizations.

Whether or not we hook up with a Plant a Row group, all of us could dedicate a row of our garden to a local food organization. No donation is too small. I have been assured that no head of broccoli or single squash will be turned away. There is no reason to let our excess harvest go to waste when there are hungry people in our community.

The harvest is pretty well done for the year in our area, but we can plan for next year. In the meantime, maybe we can drop off a bag of potatoes or local apples that we have purchased.

To find out what other bloggers have to say about Poverty and what we might be able to do, go to Blog Action