Our Growing Roots: A Debut
As I share my first post as a Contributing Writer for Hilltown Families, I am aware of the heart swell of emotion I feel for the opportunity to unite with the larger community. You see, Western Massachusetts is a place I have always called home; a place my husband and I have chosen to give our own children roots. My connection to the area is strong and I am honored to share my thoughts and experiences of food-based connections as it relates to our local habitat and culture.
When I was younger, I did not have the same appreciation for the richness of this region as I do today. What I have come to love most about our little corner of the world are the abundant farm lands, orchards, apiaries, and local merchants that provide our very basic and fundamental life source – food. All of these threads are woven throughout our rural areas, small cities and towns, like a stitch that holds us together. Whether it’s a special holiday, family gatherings, or a barbecue with friends, food plays an important role not only in our survival, but in the way we connect with those around us.
I recall a time several years ago when my children were very young. As we pulled our wagon along the paths at Red Fire Farm in Granby, I watched in amusement as our girls frolicked barefoot among the tomato plants. Their little hands gathered the ripe red fruit, and the seeds ran down their chins as they ate more than they collected. They didn’t even like tomatoes, did they? Maybe it was the thrill of harvesting their own food, the feel of pulling it fresh from the earth, which made them suddenly love something they’d always refused. That’s when it hit me: when we connect with our families, with our land, when we know where our food comes from and the names of the farmers who plant it, the ordinary transforms into something else.
What started out as a simple walk down a dusty path at our local farm has rippled into something greater than I could have imagined. Each year, as our children grow, so does the organic garden in our backyard. They involve themselves in the process of choosing which seeds to plant and watch in anticipation as the seedlings begin to sprout. They water, and weed, and pick fresh veggies on warm summer evenings. They pick snap peas and delight in watching their friends try one for the very first time. They slice tomatoes for salad, add mint leaves to their water, and may give you a raspberry or two if they’re feeling generous. They like to grow more than we consume so they can share the fruits of their labor with others. They love to walk around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and handing out garden-fresh zucchini bread or pumpkin muffins “just because.” The surprised gratitude and friendly hugs are their reward, which they accept with open arms.
As my children begin to test out their wings in the world it’s comforting to know that they are rooted to this community, to the people and places that have watered them and watched them grow. Each month in “OUR GROWING ROOTS” I will be sharing food-based experiences, celebrations and observations of our community and my family, helping to build and strengthen the bonds of our larger community; the place we all call home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. In addition to freelance writing, she works as a private practice Mental Health Counselor in Chicopee. Cheryl is passionate about local and organic food. In 2012, she founded GMO Free Massachusetts, a grassroots organization designed to educate consumers about the benefits of an organic lifestyle while empowering people to make informed choices. Cheryl is also an avid theater-goer, a passionate writer, and aspiring playwright.