Food on the Farm: Nurturing a Sense of Place with Local Food

Grow, Cook, Eat: Trustees Offer Fall Food on the Farm Workshop Series in Holyoke

Workshop series at Land of Providence in Holyoke, MA with the Trustees of Reservations will focus on practical ways to grow and prepare seasonal cuisine.

Teaching our children to connect with their surroundings can help them to learn and grow in countless (and perhaps endless) ways. Children who understand their local landscape are much more likely to value environmental conservation as adults. Building an awareness of local culture and the cultures represented within a community can help children to appreciate and understand the place that they come from, and allowing them to use their knowledge, skills, and time for the benefit of their community helps them to grow deep roots and develop a strong sense of belonging.

However, there is a difference between teaching these things and living them. It is one thing to share ideas, and quite another to live in a way that allows our children to discover these ideas themselves by experiencing them. One way in which to practice a strong understanding of place at home is by using local and seasonal foods into your family’s meals. Committing to eating locally can seem challenging, as the New England climate’s guidelines for growing seasons are strict. However, building a connection between local soil, the seasons, and your dinner plate doesn’t mean that you have to endure tomato-free winters and salad-filled summers; incorporating local foods into your family’s diet can be as simple as tossing greens into basic cheese-and-pasta meals, growing some herbs in your kitchen, and learning to substitute ingredients in your favorite recipes.

This fall, the Trustees of Reservations offer a host of opportunities for families to learn about growing and eating local foods simply and deliciously…

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Mark Earth Hour in Ashfield with a Celestial Light Show

Earth Hour at the Trustees’ Bullitt Reservation
Saturday, March 31st from 7-10pm

Arunah Hill Natural Science Center will have their telescopes set up, and experts on hand, to guide guests through the bejeweled skies.

Mark Wamsley, Program & Outreach Coordinator at The Trustees of Reservations’ Highland Communities Initiative writes:

Turn out your lights and come see our stars! Join people around the world in marking Earth Hour, a time to reflect on energy use and the future of our planet.

With several planets putting on a spectacular nighttime display over western Massachusetts, the natural theatre provided by the dark skies and spacious fields of the Bullitt Reservation (332 Bullitt Rd.) in Ashfield will be a prime viewing spot. On Saturday, March 31st, from 7-10pm, The Trustees of Reservations will turn off the lights in our own restored, energy-efficient farmhouse for Earth Hour and invite the public to view the natural lighting above. Arunah Hill Natural Science Center will have their telescopes set up, and experts on hand, to guide guests through the bejeweled skies. Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all expected to be in view, and a crescent moon will provide opportunities to ponder its craters and other features.

Warming facilities will be available, but dress for nighttime temperatures in the outdoors. Guests must pre-register by phone or email to allow for notice of rescheduling due to weather. Call Wendy Sweetser at 413-628-4485 x1 or email wsweetser@ttor.org to let us know you’re coming. The event is free and appropriate for the whole family.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Steve Crane]

Hilltown Families In the News: The Highland Communities Intiative

Reprinted with permission from
The Trustees of Reservations: The Highland Communities Initiative,
Winter 2008 Newsletter, Highland Happenings



STRENGTHENING HILLTOWN FAMILIES IN THE LAND OF DIAL-UP

While the highlands may enjoy reliable high-speed Internet access in the near future, local parents cannot wait to meet the needs of their growing children. For Sienna Wildfield, the Internet’s potential for connecting families led her to believe that it could become an invaluable resource for parents in this region, and in the life of her own daughter. With that in mind, Wildfield decided to brave the Highlands’ infamously slow Internet access to create the weblog, Hilltown Families (www.HilltownFamilies.org). Judging by the site’s growth in one year, with more than 33,000 visitors and 150 families subscribing to its newsfeed and email list serve, the need was real.

Wildfield felt isolated when she moved to West Chesterfield five years ago, and worried that her daughter might not have easy access to the physical, social, educational, and creative outlets that are available, but are spread across the sparsely populated area. Luckily, it was all a matter of connecting with those around her. She soon became the Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Cummington Family Center and organized summer and weekend activities. She also brought together families to host information-sharing events. “I must have held 20 pancake breakfasts at my own home alone,” Wildfield recalls. Within three years, 80 families were participating in Family Center events.

When her daughter became school-aged, her mother found few centralized resources available to meet the needs of grade-school children, Sienna started her Hilltown Families blog to fill that void, and it has flourished.

Currently, the Hilltown Families blog coordinates five distinct services. The blog allows users to register for a list serve where families can privately discuss any and all relevant issues, ranging from school choice to health to fun activities. users can also subscribe to a newsfeed where they receive information posted to the site. On the blog site itself, Sienna and guest writers maintain an updated list of family-friendly local events, as well as links page of Internet resources. Podcasts of the Hilltown Family Variety Show, hosted by Sienna and her daughter on Valley Free Radio (every Tuesday at 7PM on 103.3 FM), are also available for residents who miss the show or can’t receive the station’s signal.

Hilltown Families aims to be inclusive, welcoming families of all compositions and philosophies, and highlighting events in both the Highlands as well as he Pioneer Valley. Families without computers are encouraged to access the site at their local libraries.

Wildfield feels strongly about connecting families with local communities, economies, and landscapes. Every year, the group’s craft bazaar introduces children to local artists and businesses. Recently, Hilltown Families has partnered with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Hampshire and Franklin counties in the distribution of hand-knitted hats to Hilltown children in need. It has also begun an Outdoor Adventures for Kids program in conjunction with Tekoa Mountain Outdoors.

“It’s been an amazing, enriching experience for myself and, I hope, for the community,” says Wildfield. She is not sure what she’ll do when her daughter moves on from grade school. For now, there are plenty of things to keep her busy. “We’re always looking for guest writers on the site,” she hints, reminding everyone that while one person started Hilltown Families, community is what makes it work. Read the rest of this entry »

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