Between the Rows: Counting our blessings for local food

  • Cindy Efinger, right, from Windsor Jambs Farm sells a handful of garlic to Jaimye Bartak during the recent Greenfield winter farmers market at the Four Corners School. Recorder file photo

  • Mushrooms for sale from Mycoterra Farm during the recent Greenfield winter farmers market. Recorder file photo


For The Recorder
Friday, November 17, 2017

There has been a lot of emailing and telephoning among the women in my family as we plan our Thanksgiving dinner. This year — for the first time — it will be granddaughter Tracy and her husband hosting the feast.

I got to thinking about where the makings of our holiday meal had come from over the years. When I was very young, we lived on my Uncle Wally’s farm and much of our food was produced on the farm. Aunt Ruth had charge of the vegetable garden and the chickens. Most of the chickens were sold as broilers, and eggs were sold, as well, but the family took its own share.

Over the summer and fall, shelves in the basement filled with shining jars of vegetables, jam and pickles that Aunt Ruth put by.

But from fourth grade on, ours was a suburban life and our food came from the supermarket.

I remember putting all the canned vegetables — corn, peas, beets and more — onto a large shelf along the cellar stairs. Supermarket fruit and vegetables came bagged or wrapped up. There was no picking and choosing from a grocery store bin.

In the early 1950s, there weren’t even many frozen vegetables. Remember when refrigerators had just a little frosty box that held two or three ice cube trays?

We have all watched the frozen food coolers get larger and larger to hold frozen vegetables, frozen snacks and whole frozen meals. Nowadays, women and men both come home at the end of a busy work day and it can be a challenge to start cooking a big meal, especially if there are meetings and events to attend after dinner.

But, my food sources started to change in 1971 when I moved to Greenfield, joined a tiny food co-op and planted my first very small vegetable garden. I also met Henry, the man who would become my husband, and he had his own ideas about food. Gone for good were the days of canned vegetables and cake mixes.

After sojourns in Maine and New York City, we returned to Massachusetts. Life in Heath gave us vegetable gardens, berry bushes, chickens and for several years, we raised pigs and turkeys. I was grateful to have all the makings of a Thanksgiving dinner right at hand.

I continue to be grateful for the produce and products that are grown and made locally. I am grateful for all the farms and orchards that add so much to our tables — and to our local economy.

I am grateful for Green Fields Market and to be a member. I am grateful for Greenfield Farmers Market, which opened in 1975 selling local produce and now includes meat, fish, mushrooms and items like bread, maple syrup and jams from May through October.

When the Greenfield winter farmers market was created in 2008, farmers learned to grow crops that could be sold throughout the winter. This year, the successful market is being held at Four Corners School today, as well as Dec. 2, Jan. 6, Feb. 3 and March 3. Once you have fresh produce, you want it all year.

I am grateful for the celebratory Harvest Dinner on Court Square, for the Stone Soup Café and for all the community meals that are served up throughout the year. We all deserve to be fed — to be free from hunger.

I am grateful for the Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) organization. It only became official in 1999, by which time there were already CSA farms selling weekly shares of their produce. For those of us who can’t have, or no longer enjoy the work of a vegetable garden, we can still get freshly harvested edibles, vegetables, fruits or meats and flowers. We can be a “local hero.”

The number of farm stands throughout the county has grown over the years, and Hager’s Farm Market on Route 2 has taken the farm stand to a whole new, delicious level.

I’m grateful for the farmers who have a creative sense of humor. There autumnal corn mazes — and Hager’s has an annual Pumpkin Smash, plus, there are so many other events all year.

I am grateful for the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, which has a growing food processing center where entrepreneurs can start up new businesses, like Katalyst Kombucha, and produce can be canned, frozen or turned into salsa among other things. The CDC also helps find local institutional markets, like schools, to buy those products.

I am grateful for Mary McClintock who showed me — all of us — how to “savor the seasons,” introducing us to local farmers and gardeners over the past 10 years. I will miss her enthusiasm and the recipes she shared.

I am grateful for my family for putting its own twist on the Thanksgiving celebration. We begin with dessert night, the night before Thanksgiving, with pies, cookies and pumpkin roll. Our thinking is that we can’t possibly eat and savor all the desserts after a huge turkey dinner, so we need to get a head start. As the great-grandmother, now, I can claim the smallest assignment this year — bringing homemade cranberry sauce. And, I promised to bring the canned cranberry sauce, as well.

My daughters may still be fighting over who gets to bring the 1950s green bean casserole, but Diane, Betsy, Tricia, Caitlin, Carissa, Connie and Tracy have it all under control.

Pat Leuchtman has written and gardened since 1980. She lives in Greenfield. Readers can leave comments at her website: www.commonweeder.com