Annual Harvest Supper benefits communities, area farmers

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday.

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Volunteer Ashley Randle serves gazpacho at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

Volunteer Ashley Randle serves gazpacho at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

A volunteer serves salad at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

A volunteer serves salad at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday.

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

Volunteers serve food at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

Volunteers serve food at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday.

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday.

Visitors attend the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Volunteers serve food at the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday.

Volunteers serve food at the 18th annual Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Kaia Jackson runs the puppet-making station at Saturday’s Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common.

Kaia Jackson runs the puppet-making station at Saturday’s Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Ashley Kramer, co-director of Stone Soup Café, solicits donations for the Harvest Supper.

Ashley Kramer, co-director of Stone Soup Café, solicits donations for the Harvest Supper. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Annie Hassett sings at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

Annie Hassett sings at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

A volunteer brings food in to serve at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

A volunteer brings food in to serve at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

Volunteers serve food at Saturday’s Harvest Supper.

Volunteers serve food at Saturday’s Harvest Supper. Contributed Photo/Matthew Cavanaugh

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-29-2023 12:15 PM

GREENFIELD — People from across the county and beyond convened on the Greenfield Common on Saturday to enjoy local produce available from farms that are at the peak of their harvest seasons.

The Greenfield-based Stone Soup Café hosted the 18th annual Harvest Supper, providing a free meal for all who partook.

“It is a real collaboration between farmers and businesses; it is a real generous offering,” said Stone Soup Café Board President Whitney Robbins, at the closed-off Court Square on Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of volunteers worked in shifts from Wednesday through Saturday to pull off this endeavor, making a meal with 21 different choices for guests. Visitors arrived Saturday afternoon, with many bringing their own plates to cut down on waste. Guests formed a line that wrapped around the entire common.

While in years past, all the produce used for the event was donated by farms, this year the organizers decided that compensation was in order. In light of the recent devastation of crops from intense weather events, the board of directors chose to pay the farmers to show their support for what has happened. They also made a donation to farm recovery efforts using the money raised from the Harvest Supper.

“My entire gratitude to our state legislative team; they are stepping up for our farmers,” Stone Soup Café Executive Chef and Director Kirsten Levitt said. “Western Massachusetts has a reputation around protecting our farmers and being smart with what land use looks like.”

Levitt noted that she hopes to use this model of paying farmers for produce if needed in the coming years to show continued support.

Notable volunteers included Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, state Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), state Rep. Susannah Whipps (I-Athol), Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Ashley Randle and Jessye Deane, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

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Deane took the task of giving out plates to guests with her young daughter Brady during her volunteer shift.

“It is a great representation of all of Franklin County. It is our farmers and community coming together to enjoy the true essence of community,” Deane said.

The event first took place 20 years ago and was canceled twice due to a hurricane and a lack of volunteers after COVID-19. Founder Juanita Nelson, a local activist and farmer, first organized the event at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market. She found the market was low in attendance and thought if people knew what fresh local produce tasted like, they would be lining up around the block, which led to the founding of the Harvest Supper.

Nelson died shortly before the 11th Harvest Supper, but her vision came true in Greenfield. Now, 20 years later, about 800 people come to the Harvest Supper, and the Greenfield Farmers’ Market is bursting with visitors every Saturday morning in the summer. Stone Soup Café became the sole producer of the event seven years ago.

Levitt noted that this event ran more smoothly than years past, thanks to the cohesive work of the board of directors.

“This year feels like our team is dialed back in. … This event feels easy, breezy and seamless,” she said.

While the meal is the main attraction, tents also lined the common with various activities for guests. Stone Soup Café set up a puppet-making station, a curbside food pantry where people could take extra local produce that was not used for the meals, a music tent, a banner-making table and a hula hooping area.

Stone Soup Café pulls off this event with many regular weekly volunteers for the organization, people who volunteer annually for the Harvest Suppers and newcomers who decided to lend a helping hand for the first time.

Jonathan Byerly, Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School teacher, explained this year was his third time volunteering at the event.

“Greenfield is service-oriented, helpful and compassionate,” he said. “It is great to be of service.”

While helping people sort their garbage, recycling and trash, Pat Spinelli and Philip Coolbeth explained they often volunteer at the weekly meal and free store offered by Stone Soup Café and have been volunteering annually at the Harvest Supper since its inception.

“It is nice getting everyone together and eating local food,” Coolbeth said.

Robbins explained that this is one of her favorite annual events in Greenfield.

“It shows our generosity, willingness to take care of each other and our creativity,” she said.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4570 or blevavi@recorder.com.