Parenting Green: It’s Not What We Say, It’s What We Do!

Your One Thing

Every day we are challenged to be authentic. Authentic to ourselves, to community, and to our loved ones through our speech or actions. There is a tendency to alter our opinions in hopes that they will match others, or in efforts to not offend, or sometimes its skewed to diffuse tension. The goal is to be expressing honestly and receiving feedback empathetically. I am about to tell a story that touched me so single pointedly around my authentic self and my values. I got a soaring feeling in my heart when it happened and I knew that it aligned with my intentions completely, though I hesitated to share it. I was concerned other people would feel guilty or ashamed if they didn’t care about this one thing to the same degree as I did. I wanted to avoid potentially hurting or alienating myself in the parenting community. What I realized in validating that assumption was that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I was playing party to the ‘what if’s.’ If we are coveted or fear-based about what we truly are and how we express then we are teaching confusion of opinion and identity to our children.

So here it goes… Read the rest of this entry »

Collaborative Consumption: Learning How to be Resilient Supports Community-Based Education

Collaborative Consumption: Supporting Sustainability & Community-Based Education

Farmers’ Markets, both winter and summer, are a terrific opportunity to partake in collaborative consumption… farmers share their knowledge and families absorb the information, learning how to grow a better garden or how to better preserve their foods. The power of collaborative consumption not only supports sustainable efforts, but is a great source for community-based education too!

More and more, communities across western Massachusetts – and around the world! – are working together to create opportunities for pooling knowledge, sharing skills, and increasing each others’ access to useful resources. In creating systems and channels through which to access shared information and materials, communities are building resourceful, resilient foundations upon which to grow. And in addition to the community-sustaining benefits of such systems are a variety of community-based educational opportunities for kids to learn!

Commonly known as collaborative consumption, such practices work to shift emphasis from ownership of goods to access to them, a shift that would decrease the amount of resources necessary for a sustainable way of life. In addition to focusing on goods, communities that practice collaborative consumption often include systems through which to share skills and knowledge with each other, making them even more resilient.

In Western MA, collaborative consumption has manifested in many different ways. The Pittsfield Repair Cafe offers once-a-month events where volunteers share their time and expertise in fixing all manner of items, while Valley Time Trade uses time as a currency, allowing community members to pay for services by putting time and effort into a future endeavor. Projects like the Northfield Tool Lending Library and the Amherst Toy Lending Library allow communities to share sets of items big and small, allowing everyone to have access to tools, toys, and other things regardless of the cost associated with buying them… Read more about collaborative consumption in Western MA…

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five

I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!

With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste…

Parenting Green: Winter Curiosity & Outdoor Play

Winter Nature Play

I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity. It’s how discovery happens! We just have to bring them to the opportunity and they will certainly find it. — What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature within the limits of winter?

I love the adage, ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ especially this time of year when the winter winds and flakes can make you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled. What’s your strategy for getting the kids geared up before the inner heat you’ve created sends your minds to a boiling point!? Sometimes I don’t get the process down so wisely. I feel like if our coat area was set up more like a firehouse station, we might gear up and get out…it’s always a back and forth with finding gloves, the hat, and which door the snow pants are hanging up at. Keeping myself from getting overheated helps me have more patience in that process. Luckily we have a screened in porch so I can send the bundled baby and big kids out once they have their gear on, and they can wait there until I get winterized.

It was really about commitment the other day when the idea to go outside in the falling snow came over the living room where free play was happening. There was no pressure of schedule to follow, we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We knew that the need for physical activity was necessary and that being outside was always welcomed and enjoyed once we got there. Somehow we kept the momentum going even with the resistance voiced by the happily engaged big kids. I think that’s where the commitment came in. We had a vision and we didn’t waver. We wanted to go for a walk in the trails at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. There were plenty of easy trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun… Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Eco-Gift Wrapping Ideas for the Holidays

Reusable & Creative Wrapping Alternatives

Alright, it’s here. We have turned the corner into winter and holiday season is upon us. There is excitement and anticipation and joy ahead (as well as a healthy dose of anxiety and stress). I usually reflect on the previous year’s gift giving and how to come up with original ideas this year that save us money, time, and just feel good. This year I’m focusing on hand-made because I know it feels good for me to get creative. I purchased materials I was excited about (felt fabric) and could create a myriad of projects from (french press cozies, pencil holders, bookmarks, ornaments, pot holders, etc). I also realized that some of the things I make regularly anyway are enjoyed by others and to celebrate that. Are you known for your cooking or baking? Do people love the photos you take? The other year we cut out family pictures and put them into old bottle caps and covered them with epoxy resin, and put a circular magnet on the back as keepsakes. Spending less on tangible things and focusing more on giving hand-made helps us tap back into the idea that it’s about the gesture and not the grandeur.

Wrapping paper is often just used once and then thrown away. I wanted to share some sweet, easy, and achievable ideas I have seen as alternatives to traditional gift wrap…  Read what ideas Angie shares this month…

Parenting Green: Cloth Trumps Paper


In our house, it’s hard to remember how we made it from the days of paper towels by the roll and paper napkins by the stack to the cloth napkins that prevail in our home now.

The adage ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ seemed to move from a motto to a household reality pretty quickly in our home. I’m glad about that. When I talk to my husband’s grandma about some of the projects the artisans and crafters are making around here from repurposed materials she kind of chuckles about how that was just the way things were back when she was young. It’s more of a trend now, she felt, and less out of necessity as it was when she was mothering. Though like me, I believe she was glad to hear people were getting back into that type of reclaiming regardless. Perhaps we are circling back in time a bit. History does tend to repeat itself, and this is one relapse not only worth reliving, but perhaps one we are increasingly unable to do without.

Back are the days of cloth napkins and cotton bags for bringing home groceries! Even the big chain grocery stores are retraining us with posters at their entryway reminding shoppers to get their reusable bags from the car. And before we know it, we end up using these bags for a whole lot more than groceries! Whether they’re used to hold beach towels, kids snow gear for trips, sleepover items, or for on-going projects that live in our shed, it’s no wonder I’ve lost track of them along the way…

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More than Honey: Film Explores Relationship Between Bees & Human

Film & Local Panel Explore
Relationship Between Bees & Humans

Bee pollination is vital to the survival of 80% of the world’s plant species, yet populations of the fuzzy flying insects are declining all around the world. What does the decline in bee populations mean for farmers? Learn about this current and pressing issue at a screening of More Than Honey, a documentary that explores the effects of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon responsible for bees’ recent scarcity.

Amherst Cinema and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) have partnered to offer a special showing of the film More Than Honey at 7pm on Tuesday, October 15th. Along with the screening will be a panel discussion featuring local bee experts Dan Conlon of Warm Colors Apiary and Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms…

Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Repairing and Connecting to Our Communities


There is a sentiment of resiliency and connection to our community when we participate in sustainable practices…

Every time I walk into a home and see the paper cuts of Nikki Mcclure’s work hanging on a wall or a page of her calendar looking back at me, I’m reminded of the sweet work that it is being human. I’m immediately flooded with ideas of repairing, reusing and reclaiming our creative heritage. Inspired to pick up thread and attend to the basket of mending that covers my worktable. Days and weeks go by, and now that basket has been demoted to the closet, almost forgotten about. Within are the possibilities of new outfits, stockings, and pants, so long forgotten when they reappear mended, that it will feel like a new wardrobe. How is it then that I feel the need to go shopping instead?…

Read the rest of this entry »

Debut of Parenting Green: Earth Friendly Ideas for Raising a Family!

No Seat Belts

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)

My nine year old rides the public transit bus to school, with no adult chaperone. Just with some classmates, typically some war vets, and sometimes a doughnut in hand, this is how she experiences the responsibility of being on time. As well as the reward of it: the once a week ‘doughnut day’ is our incentive for getting out of the house on time (or early rather). It helps the kids move through the morning routine without too much derailing. Sure, there might be some bribing (read incentivizing) going on here, but there’s a lot more to our story.

We made the choice to send our child to a charter school. We garden and grow some of the food we eat, and think a lot about where the rest of our food comes from and what’s in it. We’re in the mindset of being purposeful with our decisions. We think a lot about giving our kids the most ‘optimal’ environment to thrive. It’s our natural inclination as parents.  We all have this drive, right? As parents we’ve thought that riding the city bus can provide valuable real world experiences.

But isn’t there some stigma around public transit? We’ve all absorbed the less than stellar conversations between some public transit riders. And now my daughter is among these regulars. She’s been riding this bus route since she was a kindergartener. Didn’t a mom in NYC receive backlash because she sent her similarly aged child onto the subway to commute on his own? Am I in neglect, or putting my child in danger?

I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s un-phased character. She’s not greasing profanities or languishing in any noticeable way. In fact she’s building friendships on the bus, learning about how to get around, recognizing other buses around town (kind of like the car complex we experience when we own a Subaru and we start seeing them everywhere), feeling empowered, and being rewarded with responsibility.

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure. The bus money is a novelty, the driver a chuffer, the steps like floors of a building, the freedom to choose your own seat, big windows….no seatbelts!

We don’t necessarily live right on the bus line. You don’t need to even live in a city in order to ride. We have to get to the stop by car most mornings. However, spring has brought out our bikes again and yesterday we enjoyed a side-by-side ride into town to catch the bus. First her bus arrives, and then mine right after. Life isn’t without coordination and planning and now that these rhythms have become habit we’ve worked through the humps of ‘I have to walk too far after the bus drops us off’ or ‘There was a man on the bus sitting near me that smelled like peppers. And then another man got on the bus, and he smelled like peppers.’

I can’t guarantee there won’t be some kind of altercation or disturbance, but it’s not like the bus is without boundaries. There are other eyes, ears, and helpers (community) on the bus to diffuse and report. That’s the trust I have in us as people and the effort I place in my own heart to do the same. Oh, and did I happen to mention the 45 minutes of driving time it saves us in the mornings…equating to rewards on gas, money, and inevitably our natural resources.

It might not seem like much, but this extra effort to be resourceful has enriched our lives in other unforeseen ways. When we participate in our community we’re building familiarity, safety, and ownership where they didn’t exist before, and raising kids to be engaged in the place they live.

Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture 
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.

Reuse & Recycling Rally in Northampton

Reuse & Recycling Rally Offers 3 Ways to Practice the 3 R’s!

Northampton Reuse & Recycling Rally happens Saturday, April 20th from 9am-12noon at Smith Vocational High School. Find new-to-you toys for the kids at the community tag sale, shred confidential papers, donate old baby equipment, recycle well-loved pants with holes in the knees and t-shirts with juice box stains for the textile drive, and bring by those hotel shampoos and conditioners from your family winter vacation to Florida to donate to the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Northampton Department of Public Works is sponsoring another reuse & recycling rally on Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at the Smith Vocational High School from 9am-12pm, in cooperation with the City’s ReUse Committee, the Salvation Army & ProShred of Wilbraham.  This is the third in a series of events in 2013 to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling of unusual materials.  Once again, it’ll be a three ring circus:  a community tag sale and donation drop off, a shredding event for confidential papers and a textile drive to keep usable goods out of the landfill.


The Community Tag Sale is a flea market with a twist.  Fifty-four sellers will load up their trunks and sell stuff from the back of their vehicles in the Vocational School’s back lot at 80 Locust Street (Route 9, Northampton, MA).  Each will be given two parking spaces- one to park in and the other for sales (note: pre-registration is required for vendors through the Northampton DPW.   Yard sale devotees will be delighted with bargains at this huge multi-family tag sale!

The Salvation Army will be on site to accept donations of small household goods, including but not limited to kitchen ware, fireplace sets, lamps, wall decorations, board games, books, DVD’s/CD’s, tools, sporting goods, luggage, radios, umbrellas… practically anything in good condition except mattresses, upholstered furniture, and baby equipment.

Voluntary donations for the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter will be gratefully accepted in exchange for this service (hotel-sized shampoos, conditioners & hand soaps, men’s and women’s socks & underwear, small deodorants, toothbrushes & small toothpastes, razors & shaving cream, combs & brushes, women’s hygiene products, gloves & mittens, etc.


The Salvation Army will also be accepting clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles.  Textiles that are unsuitable for reuse or resale will be reprocessed into polishing cloths for industrial use, fibers for insulation, soundproofing, carpet padding and building materials.  Acceptable textiles can be worn, torn, stained or missing buttons- but they must be clean and dry.


Concurrently, a free regional shredding event for confidential papers will be offered to residents and small businesses.  ProShred’s mobile shredding unit will provide confidential destruction of documents on site.  Participants can deliver up to two recycling bins to be safely recycled, and pre-registration is not required.

For more information contact Karen at 413-587-1059 or at, find them Facebook (“Northampton ReUse”) or go to the DPW’s website at

Kids Swap Meet In Northampton

Northampton’s Free Kid’s Stuff Exchange
Smith Vocational High School Cafeteria
Saturday March 9 from 8am-12pm

Upcycle Artist, MaryLynne Boisvert, will lead an art activity for families to create fun, wearable garments form upcycled clothing.

The Northampton DPW’s ReUse Committee is sponsoring a free “Kid’s Stuff Exchange” at Smith Vocational High School this coming Saturday March 9th, 2013.  Pre-registration is required to participate from 8-11am, opening up to the general public from 11am-12noon.

This swap meet will allow local families to exchange clothing, toys, books and sporting goods in good condition at no cost.  Participants might find almost anything for kids ages 0-12 except baby gear (car seats, strollers, cribs), stuff with parts missing (puzzles, games), items with possible cutting/choking/lead hazards or over-sized items (play structures).  From 11am-12noon, the general public is welcome to come and take whatever they can use.  At noon, any remaining items will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Kids will be welcome.  Childcare will not be provided, but representatives from the Artisans of WMASS, Northampton’s Early Childhood Program, and  other local reuse & craft artists will offer free “make & take” art activities for ages 4+ (with adult) at the Kid’s Stuff Exchange from 9am–12Noon:

  • Lou Leelyn: Transform plastic trash into flowers & accessories
  • Aviva Sieber & daughter Tali: Create sculptures from household recyclables
  • Jenny Lisa Kass: Melt old crayons into fun, new shapes
  • Zoe Ma: Make personal creations from First Night buttons
  • MaryLynne Boisvert: Create fun, wearable garments from up-cycled clothing

Space is limited, and participants will receive more information when they register.  Signing up is easy!  Just provide a full name, mailing address, daytime phone number and email address by phone: 413-587-1059; or by email:  No dealers, please.  More info is available on Facebook and on the DPW’s website

Repair Café in the Berkshires

Pittsfield Resilience Circle Host a Repair Café
Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Repair Café concept was formulated in 2009 in the Netherlands by journalist and publicist Martine Postma and sustainability accelerator Peter van Vliet. Since January 2011, the Repair Café Foundation has provided support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own Repair Cafe ( [Image: First Repair Café held in Brussels.]

Janet Henderson writes:

What do you do with a broken toaster? Or with a bike that needs repair? Or with a pair of pants when a seam rips? Or a partially dysfunctional umbrella? Throw it away? Certainly not!

The Pittsfield Resilience Circle is organizing the Berkshires’ first ever Repair Café. It will be held in Pittsfield on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the St. Stephen’s Church basement at 67 East St. The event is entirely free.

[The  Repair Café] involves people in the community giving to other people in the community, making needed repairs of all kinds. Various repair persons will be available to fix small appliances, clothing and other fabric items, bicycles, toys, small furniture items, computers, and so on. Anyone with a broken item in need of repair may bring it to the Repair Café between 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 19th. We will fix as many articles as we can during that time. We’re also offering free refreshments for those waiting in line.

The Pittsfield Resilience Circle could use more volunteers for the Repair Cafe. Persons with experience in any kind of repair craft or who would like to provide general help, please call Tom Harter at 413-212-8589 or email Janet Henderson at The Repair Café is looking for more sponsors (those who donate $20 or more). We are thankful for our sponsors, including the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), who is contributing both money and time!

By holding a Repair Café, the Pittsfield Resilience Circle wants to help reduce waste, promote repair skills, teach us all to be more self-sufficient, have fun, come together in a non-consumerist way, forge bonds of friendship through mutual dependency, and make Pittsfield a better place to live.


Members of the Pittsfield Resilience Circle meet twice a month to learn together and become better friends through doing things for and with each other. The Resilience Circle is based on information available at The group also has an informal Gift Circle. Information about Gift Circles can be found on the OpenCollaboration’s Blog.

Celebrating Sustainability and Local Food at the 7th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival

7th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival
Sunday, September 23rd

Have you ever made your own cornmeal, or dyed your own fabric using wildflowers?  Families can do all of these things and more at the North Amherst Harvest Festival on Sun, Sept 23rd from 12noon-5pm at the North Amherst Community Farm at 1089 N. Pleasant Street in North Amherst. This is a free rain or shine event (>$ parking). (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

When was the last time that you enjoyed a bike-power-blended smoothie?  Have you ever made your own cornmeal, or dyed your own fabric using wildflowers?  Families can do all of these things and more at the North Amherst Harvest Festival!

The harvest festival takes place on Sunday, September 23rd from 12noon-5pm at the North Amherst Community Farm (NACF), a farm run as a grassroots project to provide affordable, locally and sustainably grown food to the community.  The festival will include seasonal activities like hayrides and cider pressing, along with live music, local food, face painting, games, and other family activities.

A range of fun children’s activities will be offered throughout the day, including pumpkin bowling, face painting, operating a cider press and making your own smoothie using a kid-sized blender bike! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In addition, the festival offers a plethora of hands-on opportunities!  Kids can participate in pumpkin bowling, cider pressing, using fresh local apples and a manual press to extract delicious juice.  Hayrides offer an opportunity to tour the farm fields – families can see the fields and animals, and learn about the farm’s biodiversity soil-rejuvenating practices.  There will also be hand-crank food mills on hand for families to try out making their own homemade cornmeal – kids can hand-pluck dried kernels from the cob and use their own muscle power to grind the kernels into meal… and after all of that hard work, they can enjoy a smoothie blended using bike power!

Each activity is sure to be fun and exciting for kids of nearly any age, and each offers a unique learning opportunity.  By participating in food processing, kids can become more aware of how food products are created and the amount of effort that is necessary to produce them.  In touring the farm, they can become familiarized with farm machinery, farm practices, and farm animals, and can begin to develop a deeper connection to their food.  Bring learning full circle by enjoying a local dinner together after the festival!  For more information, visit

This year, NACF is collaborating with Amherst Community Connections (ACC) and Craig’s Doors, two local non-profits offering services to those in the community who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. Hwei-Ling Greeney of ACC will oversee the food production for the Festival utilizing volunteers recruited from NACF, ACC, Craig’s Doors and The Amherst Survival Center. In return, a portion of NACF’s Festival proceeds will be shared between these agencies. The organizational missions of these groups all share a common concern for the issue of local food security.

Beyond Sustainability: UMass Leads the Way!

Growing a Model Sustainable Campus:
UMass Permaculture Documentary Series

UMass Permaculture Committee writes, “Together, we have the unique ability to create huge positive global transformation, and inspire more colleges and universities, towns and cities, and all communities to adopt permaculture and sustainable design principles into their Master Planning. A powerful video can sometimes be a catalyst for this kind of big change, and the goal of this entire project is to inspire direct action.”

With your help, several Western MA elementary schools could be the recipients of a UMass funded, designed and installed permaculture garden!

UMass Permaculture Committee writes, “Please help us to make this video (above) “go viral” and thus, furthering the UMass Amherst and global sustainability movement. Consider posting this video link on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and e-mailing it to family, friends and colleagues. – If we achieve 50,000 views by September 15, 2012, UMass Permaculture and sponsors will donate fruit and nut trees to 4 local schools, which is part of our vision to co-create more edible, ecological, and educational landscapes throughout the community!”

To see the UMass Permaculture Documentary Series in it’s entirety, follow these links.  Each video is approximately 5mins:

Pioneer Valley Transition Towns Film Festival Seeks Submissions

Pioneer Valley Transition Towns Film Festival
Call for Films

Transition Film Festival

Local area cable access centers in the upper Pioneer Valley are co-sponsoring and can help with equipment and training.

Western Massachusetts is home to many towns in which there is an incredibly strong sense of community – it has helped to shape the culture of the area for generations!  The Pioneer Valley Institute and Pioneer Valley Transition Towns are sponsoring a film festival this fall – made up entirely of local films created by community members that address the idea of community resilience despite the unknown future that we face.

The festival will take place on October 16th, 2012, and community members are encouraged to create their own short films to submit.  Families, teens, and adults can all participate!  All that’s required is a locally made film about building community resilience in an uncertain future.  Younger kiddos can work with older family members to piece together their ideas about community resiliency, then get help executing their work.  Teens can use the festival as an opportunity to learn about and have a hands-on experience with filmmaking – perhaps a new software or type of camera can be learned in the process! Submissions to the festival must be submitted by September 28th.  For more information and an application, visit

Students Invited to Create Wind Turbines & Sustainable Dollhouses for Expo

KidWind & Green Dollhouse Challenge at the
Western MA Science & Sustainability Expo

This May, Greenfield Community College will be hosting the first annual Western Massachusetts Science and Sustainability Exposition. The expo is an opportunity for educators and students to share and showcase their projects, initiatives, services, and resources surrounding the topic of sustainability.

The exposition also includes two exciting learning opportunities for students- the KidWind Challenge and the Green Dollhouse Challenge. Each of the challenges calls for students to design and build a realistic, working model.  KidWind calls for a wind turbine, and Green Dollhouse requires students to create a dollhouse that uses renewable energy sources and features sustainable materials and design.

KIDWIND ♦ For KidWind, the turbines will be judged based on a few different criteria, including energy harnessing efficiency and cost to create. More information is available at

GREEN DOLLHOUSE ♦ In the Green DollHouse challenge, students will have to get creative to come up with as many different sustainable aspects as they can to incorporate into their house! From each challenge, students will learn about sustainably building, renewable energy, and architecture/design. Both projects can be tied in with studies of physics, environmental science, and/or architecture.

For more information about the expo or either of the challenges, contact Susan Reyes at 413-259-1658.

Video: Solar Power

Robert Krampf’s Experiment of the Week:

Visiting the world’s largest solar power plants to explore reflection and refraction.

Video:  Solar Power

Green Tip: Composting

Green Tip: January 2012

Did You Know?

Food waste, including uneaten food and food preparation scraps from residences, restaurants, and grocery stores, makes up a large portion (up to 40 percent) of the municipal solid waste stream. As a result, diverting organic wastes from final disposal is an important waste reduction strategy that can help extend the useful life of our region’s landfills.

Green Tip:

If you work in the food industry, see if your company is interested in participating in a region-wide commercial composting program that offers free technical assistance, signage, and training to help set up composting programs at businesses and institutional facilities. For more information, contact the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission at 413-781-6045.

Meanwhile, at home, consider adding backyard composting to your spring cleaning list this year. Visit the Greenscapes Guide at to learn how to start. If you are not able to compost at home, contact your municipality and ask if your town’s waste drop-off facility collects food waste.

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Citizen Scientists Discover Effects of Hurricane Irene on Local River Ecology

As You’d Expect, Hurricane Irene Drastically Altered Local River Ecology

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes:

The past Wednesday afternoon, Biocitizen teamed up with Hilltown Families to do our annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River downstream of the Route 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Thank you volunteer citizen scientists!

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Before we began, our hosts Sienna, Jim and Persephone described how scarily high the river rose during Hurricane Irene. Not only did beautiful farmland across the river crumble—old barn and antique garbage dump included—into the torrent; but they also heard giant boulders rolling, bumping, crashing below the surface. In fact, they could feel the vibrations of the boulders in the foundation of their house (Face it amigos; we’re all on jello.).

A first view revealed just how drastic the re-ordering of the river, and riparian corridor, was. Tree branches high on the bank held fist-sized clumps of leaves and debris, proof the flood crested around 15 feet above its present level, which is itself abnormally high. Down at the river, Persephone (9yo)—and Rowan (9yo), Owen (8yo) and Cyril (8y0)—showed me where her fort used to be (on a sedimentary sand bank). Then we saw all the flotsam she’s collecting to build a new one, on higher ground. I was relieved to see our sampling area was basically intact, and marveled with grim fascination at the look of the whole river course, which appears to have been bulldozed.

We did 6 invertebrate collections, 2 each at 3 sites that are within 20-30 feet of each other. Our first sampling shocked us, because we couldn’t find a single invertebrate; last year, each sample teemed with writhing, boisterous bugs. Below are RBA data sheets for 2011 and 2010 for your comparison. Look at the top row of each to get the basic idea: we didn’t find any large stoneflies this year, only tiny ones. (“The meek shall inherit the earth”…?) As we might expect, we found plenty of worms that build cases and glue themselves to large stones.

So: it was a “bad’ year, if we consider “good” to be finding lots of big juicy stoneflies. But for the purposes of cold-hearted science, the drastic alteration of the riverbed and reduction of the number of bugs is “great” because the bug population will definitely rebound (“no empty places in nature”). The biotic resurgence will be cyclical, though, and might take a year or more. The benthic invertebrates we collect live their short adult life next spring and summer (some live under water for more than one year); the reproductive cycle takes at least a year. There will probably be a lot of hungry trout next summer and perhaps less osprey 2 years from now, as a result.

We look forward to next year’s RBA with anticipation—it will show us how the river is a superorganism whose health changes in response to climatic influences.

And we are pleased to report that, notwithstanding the trauma it has endured, the Westfield @ Rt 143 is a river of “excellent quality” water!

Green Tip: Community Supported Agriculture

Green Tip: September 2011

Click on the photo to read "CSA Farms Are Like Family," by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Dana Pilson.(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Did You Know?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a new and growing model of farming that allows people to directly support local farmers and receive a diverse variety of local food crops from their farmer every week during the growing season. Most CSA farms provide vegetables, fruits, and herbs to their members, and some CSA farms produce meat and dairy products.

Green Tip:

’Tis the season to…purchase your share from a Community Supported Agriculture farm for next summer! CSA farms then know how many members they are growing for and spend the winter planning next season’s crops. In addition, many CSAs offer winter shares for sale in the fall so that you can eat local throughout the winter, too. For a list of CSA farms in our region, visit

Read the rest of this entry »

Families in Western MA Offer Earth Day Eco-Tips

Earth Day Eco-Tips from Western MA Families

"Eat food from the earth not from a box to reduce the amount of packaging thrown into landfills." - Cheli Mennella of Colrain, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“Egg cartons make great seed starters! Windows sills are wonderful places to grow the tiny seeds! Kids love to watch life happen inside and outside their world!” – Elizabeth Jensen (Leeds, MA)

“Toilet paper rolls become trumpets in our house.” – Jessica Morris (Northampton, MA)

“My daughter Kacia, age 8, is fanatical about litter. We recently went to the Energy Park clean up and Kacia was very disappointed to be weeding instead of picking up trash! She grabs it everywhere we go; on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, on the grass. She tells people not to drop it on the ground and really notices when others do so. Give a hoot, don’t pollute!” – Pam and Kacia Kinsmith (Greenfield, MA)

“Stop buying bottled water! There are so many beautiful water bottles you can buy and re use. Our tap water is great, give it a try! Also, unplug your phone charger when you are not using it (all chargers). And don’t let the water run when you are brushing your teeth or doing dishes.” – Anna

“We unplug electronics when we are not using them. We also reuse plastic bags!” – Kristy Dyer (Hatfield, MA)

“Eat food from the earth not from a box to reduce the amount of packaging thrown into landfills.” – Cheli Mennella (Colrain, MA)

“Reuse bread bags and produce bags to wrap food items, everything from cheese to sandwiches to leftovers. no need to buy ziplocs, ever.” – Sandra Dias (Holyoke, MA)

“We line dry our clothes almost all year long. They smell great and the sun works as a natural sanitizer. This is especially useful for cloth diapers and towels.” – Robyn

“Recycling is a great thing, my son Joseph and I spread the word and help people learn what items go in what recycle bin. We have fun doing it .” – Lynda Medina

“We put our wireless router and all those miscellaneous computer appliances all on 2 easy to reach power strips. When we leave the house or go to bed, we turn the power off. There was a noticeable drop in our electric bills when we started this and we’re not wasting energy to power things we’re not using.” – Beth Caissi (Greenfield, MA)

“Here are my daughter Zoe’s environmental tips: No paper cups (she holds me to this one); No plastic spoons forks or knives; No plastic bags; Compost; Recycle; Repurpose; and Plant trees.” – Zoe and Tony(a) in Ashfield MA

Planting Seeds: Music that Celebrates Gardening

Maria & Friends: Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds - Must Hear Music Monday Column

One of our favorite artists, Maria Sangiolo, has gotten a bunch of her friends together to create a new album all about farms and gardens.

The resulting project, Planting Seeds, is an amazing compilation of songs about the earth, gardening, and eating right.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD is also going to benefit the good work of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

This album is both beautiful and fun and not at all preachy. Maria and her friends (including Rani Arbo, Alastair Moock, and SteveSongs) teach kids all about nature and growing your own food. My favorite song on the album, Didn’t Know What I Was Missing, a duet between Alastair and Lori McKenna, really gets to the point. Until you’ve had a tomato you’ve grown yourself, you just don’t know how good a tomato can be. And I can attest to that since we planted our first vegetable garden last year!

We’ve got plans for a HUGE garden this year. We’re planting tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, radishes, spinach, zucchini… and what ever else we can fit! This could be a great project for your family, too. Listen to the songs on the album and begin planning your garden now. By the time you’re ready to get your hands dirty in May you’ll know all the songs by heart!

Here’s to a prolific garden Dancin’ in the Breeze!


Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Earth Hour Concert & Kids’ Dance Party in the Hilltowns

Sarah Stockwell-Arethen of Cummington, MA writes:

Earth Hour celebrates a worldwide commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of our home. Along with millions of others around the planet, we will douse the lights (at 8:30 pm) for one hour. Please bring a candle IN A JAR if you have one!

In these uncertain times of volatility in the climate, the economy, and politics world-wide, our local communities are ever more important to our well-being and to our future.  On Saturday, March 26th, we will celebrate local community and local food in a truly embracing Hilltown event.  Come to one or all: Kid’s dance (5pm), Potluck (6pm) and Concert (7:30pm) at the Cummington Community House. 33 Main St. Cummington, MA

We will dance!  We will eat and talk!  We will make music!  We will hear plain talk about our food supply — both the disturbing realities and also the actions we can all take that will improve our community’s food resilience and make us less reliant on distant, and ultimately uncertain, commodities.  Foods that are sometimes needed right where they are grown.

5pm – KID’S DANCE PARTY: Radio Free Earth and Maureen Shea. Radio Free Earth dubs its style Crossover Music because it’s paradoxically acoustic and electric, rootsy and innovative, funny and serious, and politicaland spiritual. Josh and Rob provide the music, Grasshoppa Maureen Shea leads the dance scores. All ages! (>$)

6pm – POTLUCK/NETWORKING: Bring food to share — all welcome.

7:30pm – EARTH HOUR CONCERT: Sarah Stockwell-Arthen with Josh Wachtel, Sean Kimball and Heather Cupo. Sarah sings songs which are rooted in the land, ancestors and our deepening connections to the Earth (oh, and you will also laugh). Join us for music and some vital food for thought from Kathy Harrison (on strengthening our food resiliency) and Sarah Fournier-Scanlon (on creating a local “foodshed” — land to table — in the Hilltowns). For the networking table, please bring fliers or info about what’s happening with sustainability and community in your corner of the Hilltowns. Children in quiet mood are welcome to the concert (there may even be a back room space for quiet play). For more info email: or go to (>$)

8:30pm – EARTH HOUR: Earth Hour celebrates a worldwide commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of our home. Along with millions of others around the planet, we will douse the lights (at 8:30 pm) for one hour. Please bring a candle IN A JAR if you have one!

This program is supported in part by grants from the Cummington, Windsor, Worthington, and Chesterfield Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

(Photo credit: (ccl) theqspeaks)

Morris Dancers, May Pole & Solar Powered Music on 3 Stages at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival!

Update: Joining the festival this year will be the Juggler Meadow Morris Men and the lovely ladies from the Wake Robin Morris Dancers!
Seth Isman, Economic Development Director at the Hilltown CDC in Chesterfield, MA writes:

Morris dancers, maypole, solar powered music on 3 stages, local food, family activities, and much more! Find it all at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival on May 14th at the Cummington Fairgrounds. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Please join us on May 14th, 2011 at the Cummington Fairgrounds for the Hilltown Spring Festival! There will be music on 3 stages, healthy local food, children’s activities all day long, displays by businesses and artists, a Focus on Sustainability, dancing around the Maypole at 12:30 with Morris dancers.

JOIN US! There are still opportunities to display your work, promote your business, or volunteer to help out. Some businesses are signing up to sponsor the event, others are signing up to display their products and services, and many are offering raffle prizes. And volunteers are signing up to help us build stages, direct vendor traffic during morning setup, and encourage recycling during the day. Last year, we reduced our waste stream by 30% by recycling paper, plastic, metal, and compost. This year, with your help, we can do even better.

Performers who are already scheduled include: The Nields (kids show), Tony Vacca (world music percussionist), Swing Caravan (alt-jazz quartet), Gaia Roots (vocals and percussion), string band Appalachian Still, singer/songwriter Laura Wetzler, Misty Blues (blues you can groove to), the Dave Bartley Trio, Pat and Tex LaMountain, Boxcar Lilies, and popular children’s performers Mister G, and Ben Rudnick & Friends. One of the three music stages will be devoted to family music all day long, but families and children will enjoy all the music being performed.

Local food highlights confirmed so far include: fresh wood-fired pizza from The Baker’s Oven of Colrain, fried rice, lo mein and spring rolls from the Goshen Snack Bar, bratwurst and hot dogs from Elke’s Catering of Worthington, and Bart’s Ice Cream.

For more information, or to participate, go to, email Seth Isman at, or call Seth at 413-296-4536 ext. 112. We look forward to seeing you at the Hilltown Spring Festival on May 14th, 2011, at the Cummington Fairgrounds!

Farm Film Fest in the Berkshires

Farm Film Fest: A Day of Film and Food
Sunday, March 13th in the Berkshires

In celebration of Spring and the upcoming growing season, the Williams College Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program, Storey Publishing and Images Cinema will present Farm Film Fest: A Day of Film and Food on Sunday afternoon, March 13. Hosted by Images Cinema at 50 Spring Street in Williamstown, two screenings and five films about food and farming will be presented beginning at 1 p.m. Mezze Catering will present a cheese tasting between screenings featuring local cheeses from Massachusetts, Vermont and New York State.

“The Berkshire region is truly a leader in the ‘honest food’ movement – most of the issues play out here, and in the Berkshires we’ve found solutions that have often had national significance,” said Deborah Burns, acquiring editor at Storey Publishing. “The Farm Film Fest is an opportunity for our local community to connect with global issues surrounding the food movement.”

This is the second year for Farm Film Fest, which originated from the surging interest in food and farm issues and the many films that are addressing various aspects of this urgent subject.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown 24-Hour Bagshare Sewing Marathon this Spring!

Sewing Marathon: Sew Bags for the Ten Bagshare Locations in the Valley, Hilltowns and Berkshire County

Leni Fried of Cummington, MA writes:

threading the needle

24-Hour Bagshare Sewing Marathon begins Saturday, April 16th at 7:30am. Sign up to participate or organize a marathon in your area!

The Hilltown 24-hour sewing marathon will be at The Village Church and Hilltown Sewing Center on Main Street in Cummington, MA on April 16th—17th from 7:30am to 7:30am the following day. There will be six 4-hour shifts with at least one experienced bag sewer to head up each shift. Please let me know if you can head up a shift.

The idea is to sew as many strong and quality bags as possible in the time allotted.  • No rules. • Sew tags on existing bags. • Make kits ahead of time. • Just use scrap fabric is the main thing. • Sign up for a shift. • You don’t have to stay for the whole shift. • No sewing experience is necessary.

Here are the shifts:

  • 7:30am—11:30am
  • 11:30am—3:30pm
  • 3:30pm—7:30pm
  • 7:30pm—11:30pm
  • 11:30pm—3:30am
  • 3:30am—7:30am (Insomniac shift! This is a very popular shift. Barbara and I are already signed up for it. Bring your jammies! The Creamery will be supplying Rattlesnake Brew coffee to keep the sewers going.)

The Creamery will open early for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 17th to feed the bag sewers!


We invite you to organize your own marathon in any increment so people travel shorter distances to participate. The marathon can be organized as a 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, or 24-hour marathon. We encourage ride sharing, car filling, carpooling, bike driven and human power to get to the marathon!

For now e-mail me to sign up and let me know if you are organizing a marathon in your area. Remember yours can be any amount of time you want. I hope that they all can be on the Saturday/Sunday before Earth Day so the bags can re-supply the 10 locations as an Earth Day action.

Let me know your thoughts. This is a FUN thing!

Photo credit: (ccl) Leia Barker

Bullitt Reservation Grand Opening in Ashfield

The Trustees Encourage Visitors to Dream Big about Making Small Impacts on Local Land

Farm that Once Swirled Near the Center of History Returns to Community as The Trustees of Reservations’ Newest Property in Ashfield, MA.

When globe-trotting Ambassador William Bullitt needed a place to ponder the world and relax with family, he retreated to the woods and fields of his farm in Western Massachusetts on the Ashfield-Conway border. Now, visitors can enjoy those same pursuits on a property that once hosted diplomats and dignitaries, as The Trustees of Reservations welcomes the public to the grand opening of its new Bullitt Reservation on Saturday, October 23rd. Festivities begin at 3PM.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009. Although most recently part of the estate of Ambassador William C. Bullitt, Jr. —best known for his role as the first U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and for his service as the Ambassador to France at the dawn of World War II— the land has deep community roots. The farm even served as Ashfield’s town poor farm from 1839 to 1874.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009.

Today, the Bullitt Reservation looks largely as it did in centuries past. A quintessential New England agricultural landscape, it abounds with a mix of forests, fields and streams, which provide natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and a diversity of species. It was the wish of Ambassador Bullitt’s daughter, Anne Bullitt, that the property be conserved and the legacy of her father be carried on at the site for the community and future generations to enjoy.

After guidance from local residents and a year of planning, the Bullitt Reservation will now offer a place for the community and visitors to meet, hike, stargaze, and connect with family and friends, providing opportunities for both people and wildlife to interact with and be enriched by the land. In keeping with Ambassador Bullitts’ legacy of looking outward, the Bullitt Reservation will also serve as a resource for learning about ways to lighten our individual and collective impact on land, and to significantly reduce our contribution to the indelible marks that a warming climate will etch on the nature and culture of our local hills and valleys.

The 18th century farmhouse on the property receives a complete renovation and "deep energy retrofit."

At the center of those efforts, The Trustees have nearly completed renovation and a “deep energy retrofit” of the 18th century farmhouse on the property, thanks to a gift from the Bullitt Foundation and a recent $100,000 stimulus grant received from the Patrick Administration’s Department of Energy Resources. Slated as the future offices of the Highland Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust, the renovated farmhouse will combine readily-available electric heat pump technology (with plans to add solar power as funds are available) and super-insulation to increase energy efficiency, cutting energy consumption by more than 50%. Thanks to the creative energy of general contractor Mary Quigley of Quigley Builders in Ashfield, nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

Nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

When complete, The Trustees hope the new Bullitt structure will have earned Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a building rating system established by the United States Green Building Council to measure the “greenness” of buildings), and showcase a viable selection of energy conservation strategies for area homeowners and businesses.

The grand opening of the Bullitt Reservation will be on Saturday, October 23rd with family activities, pumpkin decorating, cider pressing, live music and potluck. Festivities begin at 3PM.

Guests are welcome to attend the grand opening of the new Bullitt Reservation on October 23rd and explore The Trustees of Reservations’ newest special place, take a tour, and enjoy the views over a potluck dinner with friends and neighbors. The day will begin at 3PM with tours of the ongoing green transformation of the old farmhouse, a guided hike on the new scenic Pebble Trail (moderately difficult), leisurely strolls through the wildlife meadow, and family activities including pumpkin decorating and cider-making demonstrations. At 4:30PM there will be live music, a potluck dinner, and toasts to the new reservation. The Trustees will provide hot soup and fresh bread. Guests are asked to bring a dish, snack, or beverage to share. The event is free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

For more information and to RSVP, please call 413.268.8219 or email

More About The Trustees in Ashfield

In addition to owning 262 acres of conservation land, The Trustees hold a conservation restriction on the majority of the remaining Bullitt estate land, comprising approximately 103 acres on the northern side of Bullitt Road, which was sold with the main Bullitt house and barn to a private buyer late last year. Together, these complete an important missing piece in a large puzzle of connected conservation land in the area. The Trustees also own and manage two other properties in Ashfield – Bear Swamp and Chapel Brook Reservations – both popular community recreational sites and important ecological habitats. The new reservation will add to The Trustees’ diversity of program and property offerings in this corner of the Pioneer Valley.

Grow Food Northampton

Meg Taylor of Williamsburg, MA writes:

Grow Food Northampton envisions a community farm to include CSA's, microdairy, farming microenterprises, farm store, community garden plots, apprentice trainings, workshops, community celebrations, school programs and camps right in Northampton, MA. You can help to make this happen!

Some of you may already know about the local nonprofit, Grow Food Northampton, and their plan to purchase 117 acres of prime farmland in Florence (walking distance from town center, near Meadow and Spring Sts.). If you read the Gazette, it is starting to get some press and you will see more in the upcoming months. The vision is to create the Northampton Community Farm on this land which will include a vegetable/flower CSA (which plans to sell shares for spring 2011), potentially a grain and meat CSA, microdairy, other farming microenterprises, a farm store with local products, and community garden plots. The vision also includes a farmer apprentice training program, adult workshops, community food celebrations, school programs, and future farm camp site. In addition, the abutting land will have hiking/biking trails along the Mill River connecting to Look Park and recreation fields for youth sports. This new public space will have a significant positive impact on the Northampton community as well as throughout the region.

I have been involved with Grow Food Northampton since last fall and I am writing to encourage you all – but especially those folks who live in Florence, Northampton, Leeds, or Williamsburg/Haydenville to make a donation (of any size!) towards the purchase of this agriculturally and historically rich land. Grow Food Northampton is 1/3 of the way to reaching their fundraising goal of $461,000 by January 31, 2011. If the remaining funds are not raised, the Northampton Community Farm and its programming will not happen as envisioned. Every donation counts! It’s easy to donate on their website.

Opportunities like this do not come around too often for a town and this is one you can be sure will leave a lasting impression on the food, farming, and community landscape of Northampton. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like more info or would like to become involved with the exciting work of Grow Food Northampton. Volunteers for upcoming events are always welcome! And please forward to anyone you think might be interested.

Learn more at:

Old Creamery Co-Op Welcomes Founding Member-Owners!

On behalf of the Old Creamery Co-op Steering Committee, Kimberly Longey of Plainfield, MA, writes:

Greetings: Just 6 months ago we gathered in Cummington to launch the effort to transition the Old Creamery (Cummington, MA) into a community owned cooperative. Today we’ve reach a major milestone – we are now welcoming founding member-owners to join the Co-op!

By joining now you will help us keep the momentum building and move us closer to the goal of purchasing the Old Creamery store from Alice and Amy. Your support will ensure that our vibrant local store remains in service to this community for years to come.

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