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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

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.

Growing a Garden City

Growing a Garden City

Sometimes a garden is more than a garden. Sometimes a garden is comfort, safety, job training, real good food for  the hungry and a supportive community.

Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith (Skyhorse Publishing $24.95) has an all inclusive subtitle – How Farmers,  First Graders, Counselors, Troubled Teens, Foodies, A Homeless Shelter Chef, Single Mothers and More are Transforming Themselves and their Neighborhoods Through the Intersection of Local Agriculture and Community and How You Can, Too. Whew! I’m out of breath.

This book also made me breathless with its description of a city learning to feed itself while it involved various groups of people in a new community.  Missoula, Montana has a short growing season, 100 frost free days, and the same kinds of needs any city  does, hunger, homelessness, students who don’t know where their food comes from, and troubled students who don’t know where they are  going. The city also has people with vision, energy and perseverance.

Missoula now has seven neighborhood farms and community gardens that give a whole new meaning to the term Community Supported Agriculture. It didn’t happen overnight. The tale of the growth of this program over 15 years is told through the  voices of those who participated from Josh Slotnick, Director of the PEAS (Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society)  Farm, students at the PEAS Farm, to single mother Kim Markuson, Greg Price, chef  at a homeless shelter, and many others.

This is such an inspiring story that shows what a  community with land and energy can build.  We are fortunate in our region to have new young farmers on small farms, part of a national movement, that is giving all of us healthy food – and healthy community.

Sustainable Living in the Hills

Haynes and Nancy Turkle

Nancy and Haynes Turkle have been concerned about the environment and the ways we affect it for a long time. Nancy’s graphic design company even worked for the Department of Environmental Protection for 15 years creating educational recycling materials.

During their 20 years living in Groton they were involved in many community activities including helping to found a community garden. As the garden thrived so did  cooperation between the members of the garden and the wider community.

They left that garden, and their Groton community with a pang, but have now become members of a new community, Katywil, an eco-village in Colrain, founded by Bill Cole. The Turkles have only been in their passive solar, super-insulated, energy efficient house for two months but as they look down the snow covered hill, between two other houses in  a planned eight house cluster, they can just about see the tops of old Brussels sprout plants in the beginnings of what will be a community garden. They are looking forward to the spring and the excitement of new projects. “We hope to replicate the success of the Groton garden here,” Nancy said.

Katywil is a co-housing development, and can be understood as similar to a condominium project. Each owner has a deed to a house and lot, but the rest of the 112 acre parcel, mostly woodland is shared space. “We have privacy, but we also share resources,” Haynes said.

In addition to sharing the beautiful land, there is a sharing of major tools, a tractor, and wood cutting equipment. All this, as well as the usual garden equipment, will be housed in a proposed garden shed. An arbor and a place to rest in the shade between planting, weeding and harvesting chores will be provided as well.. The planned shed will be of substantial size and will be built to accommodate solar panels that will provide some power for the residents. There is also talk of a micro-hydro power supply.

The governing principles of Katywil  guide decisions so that the community can live as lightly on the land as possible while living a rich and creative life. Growing some of their own food, sharing tools, and working together are some of the ways they will do this. In addition, “We are trying to do things as locally as possible, not only local in terms of Katywil, but the wider local community of Colrain and the surrounding towns,” Haynes said.

Since the Turkles knew that Bill Cole had used students at the Conway School of Landscape Design to help with a master  plan for the property, they turned to the School for a sustainable plan for their own three quarters of an acre. Fortunately the Conway School accepts requests for residential as well as organizational projects for their students to work on. The Turkles had an interesting requirement to accommodate.

The Turkles want to make cheese and have already located a Colrain farm that will sell them raw milk. First, Haynes found he would need training and a permit to move the milk from the farm to his house only a short distance away. I am surprised at the legal requirements that exist in this world – even out here in the country.

Then, once the cheese is made, the whey, amazingly classified as toxic waste, must be disposed of according to regulations. It cannot go into a septic system.  A grass buffer strip could handle some whey, but the Turkles plan to build a drywell to handle the problem.

Of  course, livestock could also handle the whey problem. Pigs and chickens could make good use of whey. I was not surprised that livestock is on the list of future projects.

“We have a lot of projects, because Katywil is just beginning,” Haynes said. Nancy is looking forward to the garden. “I’m not an expert or very experienced gardener”, she said, “but I love being in the garden, and the social aspect.”

Katywil has a homeowners association, as do regular condominium projects, but as an intentional community their decisions are always made with an eye towards sustainability.  Haynes explained that they follow a decision making process called sociocracy at their meetings to come to a consensus. As he talked about future plans it seemed that there will be many projects with the social aspects that Nancy treasures.

Later this spring they plan to build an earthen community oven with the help of trainers from Yestermorrow, a design and build school in Vermont.

As I prepared to leave, I took a final look down the snowy hill with the Turkles. They pointed out the old apple trees that they hoped to renovate, and said more fruit trees will be planted.

As we all deal with rising prices of heating fuels, and gas for our cars – and the fear that these fuels will not be available forever – we are all trying to find ways to conserve energy. The residents of Katywil find that there is an infrastructure for sustainable living, but the creation of this community will be an ongoing commitment by each family for the benefit for all.

The view from the Turkle's south windows

Mark Your Calendars

October 19 CISA‘s own Margaret Christie will host Preserving Food: Canning, Freezing, Drying, Storage on Tuesday, October 19 from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the Greenfield Community College’s Downtown Center. Register with Greenfield Community College by email or phone at 413-775-1803.

October 22-23 Tower Hill Botanic Garden is proud to host the Garden Club Federation (GCF) of Massachusetts’ “A New England Journey” Flower Show.  This floral homage to New England’s literary and cultural traditions will be sure to generate feelings of nostalgia and regional pride! The Show opens Friday, October 22, and continues through Sunday, October 24; 10am-5pm each day. The Show is included with regular admission: $10 for Adults, $7 for Seniors, $5 for Youth, and free for members and children under 6.

Presented by the Central North & South Districts of the GCF of Massachusetts, visitors will be inspired by a spectacular exhibit of arrangements, both fresh & dried, that reflect New England’s social and cultural history since 1620. Some of the region’s most innovative arrangers will build breath-taking designs, incorporating the ideas of New England traditions and poets with ingenious combinations. The main part of the show features displays using a variety of standards, such as a foliage design on a pedestal, or making use of fruits and or vegetables in a design. The Divisions include “The Maine Woods,” “The China Trade,” and “The Road Not Taken.”–an homage to poet Robert Frost. Distinctive sections include table settings suitable for “An Afternoon at Tanglewood,” and “Dinner at the Union Oyster House,” and “A Tailgate Party” as but a few examples.

November 7 Just Roots, a local citizens’ group, will host a public forum on Sunday, November 7th at 2pm at the Greenfield High School, to help define the highest and best use of theGreenfield Town Farm as a community resource.

Pleasant Street Community Garden

There was substantial discussion about the demise of the lawn on Garden Rant recently. One question was what will replace lawns, especially on municipal sites. I’m not against all lawns, but some municipal space could very well be used for community gardens. This one in Greenfield (MA) is right in the center of town. It occupies part of the lawn surrounding an old elementary school that now houses the school systems’ administrative offices.

Eveline MacDougall found the site, originally a school playground with sandy compacted soil. Through her persistance and work with town departments the garden was born. Nine years of cultivation by all kinds of energetic gardeners with lots of compost have resulted in beautiful, lush and productive plots. In addition to personal plots, some of which have been important to new immigrants, there is a plot for the local food pantry, a communal herb plot, an experimental permaculture plot and a kids plot that are all tended communally.

It is not only the gardeners who benefit. Many local people find the community garden a pleasant place to walk, or to sit in the shade of a temporary pavillion to visit with friends. community for everyone!

It’s amazing to see what 9 years of conscientious cultivation will accomplish!