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Franklin County Fair – Int’l Year of Family Farm

Roundhouse - Franklin County Fair

Roundhouse – Franklin County Fair

The Franklin County Fair is always a celebration of family farms and gardeners. This view from the balcony gives only a hint of the perfect produce, creativity and business acumen of local farmers and gardeners.

Red Fire Farm at Franklin County Fair

Red Fire Farm at Franklin County Fair

Red Fire Farm is just one of the area’s most successful small farm, a testament to farmer Ryan Voilland’s farming skills, but also his people management and business skills.

Youth cattle judging at Franklin County Fair

Youth cattle judging at Franklin County Fair

The dairy farm is not yet dead in Western Massachusetts and these young people are keeping ideal of the family farm alive. Those are Ayrshire heifers. Beautiful Ayrshires are a rugged cattle breed suitable for our climate, efficient grazers and milk producers.

Youth sheep judging at Franklin County Fair

Youth sheep judging at Franklin County Fair

Sheep have long been a farm crop in this part of Massachusetts. These youngsters are keeping that tradition going. Our farms produce food AND fiber.

The United Nations has named this the International Year of the Family Farm to highlight the importance of the family farm all  around the world. It is easy to understand the importance of local food security, even here in the U.S., because of the vagaries of extreme weather. Family farms are also vital to rural community development. In our own area we are lucky to have CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) supporting family farms


Greenfield Winter Fare 2014

Winter Fare veggies

If I am counting correctly this is the 7th Greenfield Annual Winter Fare which will bring truckloads of fresh local vegetables to Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 1.  Enter from Kent Street off Silver Street. Beyond  vegetables there will be preserved products like pickles and syrup, honey and jams. Frozen meat!  And to keep you shopping from 10 am til 1 pm music will be provided by Last Night’s Fun, and soup provided by The Brass Buckle, Hope and Olive, Wagon Wheel and The Cookie Factory will help you keep up your strength.

At 1 pm there will be a Barter Swap. Anyone with extra home made or home grown food can gather for an informal  trading space where you can make your own swapping deals.

There is more to the Winter Fare than the Farmer’s Market. Open Hearth Cooking Classes on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm at Historic Deerfield.  Contact Claire Carlson  $55 per person.

Screening of Food For Change and discussion with film maker, Wednesday, Feb 5, 6:30 pm at the Sunderland Public Library. Call 43-665-2642 for more info.

Annual Franklin County Cabin Fever Seed Swap Sunday Feb. 9, 1-4 pm Upstairs at Green Fields Market, for more info.

Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb 9, 1 pm at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sponsored by Share the Warmth. More info: Holly Westcott

Winter Fare is obvioulsy about more  than Fare, this is a Fair atmosphere that brings a community together.

My First Book Signing

Book signing at the Heath Fair, The Roses at the End of the Road

The Heath Fair gave me a unique experience this year. In addition to enjoying all the other delights and events, I got to meet and talk to other gardeners who asked me to sign my book, The Roses at the End of the Road, when they bought it.  This was a  thrill for me. The book my family and I had been working on all summer was finally in our hands – and on sale.

Of course, The Roses at the End of the Road has been my project for much more than a few months of summer. The idea of writing a book has been percolating for a long time, but the question was how to focus it. I have no qualifications or interest in writing a how-to book. I saw no benefit to trying to collect The Best of 30 Years of Garden Columns. Nix that. Finally the obvious subject revealed itself, the hardy roses that I have been tending for 30 years.  The subject is not how to grow them, but how I have grown in the company of the roses, with my family and among fascinating neighbors. My chickens play a part, a very small part. Please note – I have had chickens for 30 years — before they were chick. I mean chic!

I will be signing books again on Saturday, August 27 at World Eye Books between 11 am – 1 pm. Actually, my husband Henry who did the wonderful drawings will be with me, adding his signature. Two for the price of one. I am looking forward to meeting more rose lovers, lovers of country living, and hearing their stories.



Another Heath Fair is Past

I spent a lot of time working, one way and another, in the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library Book tent. This book sale and raffle is our big fund raiser of the year.

The Book Tent is a good place to read, and eat homemade pie a la mode, and to visit. But there is a lot to see at the Fair.

Food preservation is a hot topic in the general culture these days, but canning is a traditional Heath skill.

The Exhibit Hall is full of wonderful entries, artistic, agricultural,  and natural history. This ball gown made of egg crates welcomed visitors to the Hall.

There was only one entry is the perfect breakfast category, but no question that it would be a prize winner any time.

My garlic guru naturally won first prize. Mine looked almost as good.

The Heath School was only one of several organizations that put up big exhibits. The garden is doing beautifully.

Of course, we wanted to see the grandsons’ exhibits.  Anthony won a First for his duct tape mosaic.

His brother Drew won Third for his Not So Perfect House Sculpture. I think he’s been taking notes while staying at our house.

There are lots of things to DO at the Fair. Blueberry and whipped cream eating contests, Firemen’s BBQ to eat, a ladies skillet toss, gymkanas, ox  and horse pulls, tractor pull, too.  Tricia went down to the new barn building. This year they had a goat show for the first time. This goat was not entered.

At the Historical Society’s barn master weaver Sue Gruen was showing us all how to weave. Rory caught on fast.

His brother Tynan was equally quick to learn.

I took a turn, too.

There are several parades over the course of the Fair including the  Oxen Parade, and an antique tractor parade. This was the final ‘big’ parade which included a couple of floats, fancy old cars, fire engines and more tractors. Most of these tractors are still in use and remind us that although the dairy farms are gone, fields are being tended for hay, sunflowers, and corn. We treasure our agricultural history . . .

and look forward to a new generation carrying on.

Signature Quilt

The Ladies Aid exhibit in the Hall featured another important historical artifact.  One of the ladies found a half made signature quilt in the back of a closet. Not her closet. The signature quilt had been started many years ago, and included the signatures of a generation that has passed. They decided to finish the quilt adding their own signatures. What a treasure this quilt is.  A treasure that reflects the richness of our life here in Heath. We are blessed.


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.

There Be Giants

Art Kaczenski's winner in 2009

Did you know that growing and exhibiting giant vegetables is a popular competitive sport?  I don’t have photos of Art Kaczenski’s 2010 Second Place Winner at the Big E’s Giant Pumpkin competition, but once again he took second place with a giant pumpkin weighing 993 pounds. His wife Amanda Kaczenski took third place this year with a giant pumpkin weighing 927 pounds.  The First Prize winner was Daniel Boyce of Vermont with a giant pumpkin weighing 1,254 pounds, a new record.

The Giant Pumpkin Club of Franklin County was well represented at the Big E. Lou Chadwick’s giant pumpkin weighed 793 pounds, 100 pounds more than they estimated.  Larry French of Phillipston had a pumpkin weighing 731 pounds, and Tom Brouillet ‘s pumpkin weighed 549 pounds.

Giant Pumpkin growers are really interested in other giant vegetables and the Big E is the place to show off. The Franklin County Club took First, Second and Third prizes in the Giant Squash competition. Sue Chadwick’s giant squash weighed 445 pounds, Denis Brennan’s weighed 298 pounds and Ken Magdycz’s weighed 221 pounds. Congratulations to them all.

Their prize winning prowess would not have been a surprise to those who attended the Franklin County Fair because they took First, Second and Third prizes for giant pumpkins there. Art had the biggest giant pumpkin at 781 pounds, Larry French’s pumpkin weighed 744 pounds and Ken Magdycz’s pumpkin weighed  649 pounds. Lu and Sue Chadwick’s pumpkins weighed  645 and 587 respectively.

Now it’s on to Topsfield where the biggies (pun intended) compete. Stay tuned.

Click here to read about the time I attended a Club meeting and got some good tips about growing giant vegetables. If you are interested in joining the club give Lu and Sue Chadwick a call, 413-773-3283. They’ll keep you apprised of giant pumpkin regattas and how to prepare your pumpkin for the race – and all the other kinds of fun you can have with vegetables.