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This meal’s the real deal

‘Local’ key ingredient for Harvest Supper

A volunteer serves egg salad at the Free Harvest Supper in Greenfield on Sunday. Recorder/Trish Crapo

A volunteer serves egg salad at the Free Harvest Supper in Greenfield on Sunday. Recorder/Trish Crapo

GREENFIELD — The ninth annual Free Harvest Supper once again transformed Court Square and the Greenfield Town Common into an open-air restaurant with a menu including pork from local pigs, vegetables from local soil and eggs from local chickens, all donated by local people.

The annual meal aims to promote small farmers and local agriculture and support the hungry, with cash donations going to the Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry’s farmers’ market coupon program and a menu packed with locally-grown, raised and donated ingredients.

There can’t be many farms smaller than Firefly Farm in Montague, a perennial contributor to the meal.

“We’re basically, no, literally, backyard chicken owners that got a little crazy,” said part-time farmer Pinnie Sears.

Sears and partner Billye Davis both work full time in the animal science department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and in their off hours oversee a large and varied collection of free-range chickens.

The eggs they sell on the honor system and mainly to a coterie of established customers, out of a refrigerator on the porch of their Dry Hill Road home in Montague Center.

“When Billye first came here she had 38 chickens,” said Sears, who built a backyard enclosure for the birds, but erred on the spacious side. “It can house 75 to 80, so it immediately did,” she said.

Now, the couple has hundreds of chickens and a handful of turkeys wandering around the backyard, doing as they please while prize turkey Ed the Famous Turkey keeps an eye out for hawks.

“Free-range in the truest sense of the word,” Sears said. “(200 chickens) out on the lawn fertilizing away and eating bugs and grubs; and the eggs are fantastic, the way they should be.”

Firefly Farm eggs were among those boiled and chopped by the Hope and Olive restaurant’s staff and volunteers to create an egg salad, one of 15 dishes prepared for the feast.

The Greenfield restaurant closed for the day to cook the meal, turning the donations from 54 farms and businesses, large and small, into dishes including curried chicken salad with paneer, lamb and pepper tagine, kapusta and braised greens.

At the front of a line stretching clear around the common two dozen volunteers ladled out the various dishes while others shuttled food from the prep station in the back of a Foster’s Super Market refrigerated truck.

“Things are going great.There were a lot of little last-minute glitches but everything got ironed out,” said Community Action food pantry coordinator Dino Schnelle, also a member of the eight-member organizing committee. “Lots of great music and even though the farmers are stressed by the (unusual) weather we’ve been having, we have an incredible amount of really incredible food.”

Waiting time in line reached close to an hour for many, but several pointed to the line as the best part.

“It’s very fun to be in line you talk to everyone,” said Christine Ainsworth of Deerfield, seated with daughter April Greene, grandson Carter Greene and several other acquaintances met by chance.

The line offered food praised by all at the table, bubbles and crayons for children and the opportunity to see people she hadn’t seen in a long time, Ainsworth said.

The line circled the musicians’ stage, and plates of cheese and fruit hors d’oeuvres made the rounds while they lasted.

“What’s so much fun is to see everybody, see all your friends, people you wouldn’t see outside of school or work,” said Rachel Masson of Greenfield. “And there’s food.”

Masson sat with a group of three, not counting toddlers, who knew one another through day care.

Asked about the egg salad, Masson pointed out it had been cleaned from all their plates.

For Davis, the Harvest Supper typifies the spirit of the area, where she says everyone chips in when neighbors need it, mostly behind the scenes.

“That’s why we do the eggs, just because it’s a community thing, and how do you have a Free Harvest Supper if no one donates?” Davis said.

Organizers reported that 950 diners were fed at this year’s supper. and that $1,900 was raised by the event but they were still counting the donations.

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