Maple Sugar Season: A Sweet Point of Entry to Community Engagement… and Learning!

2016 Maple Sugar Season

How sweet the end of winter is here in western Massachusetts – and not just because the snow is beginning to melt! Warmer temperatures signal the start of sap flow in sugar maples, whose frozen and sleepy roots and limbs come alive when the landscape begins to thaw. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities.  Read the rest of this entry »

GIVEAWAY: 2016 CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a 2016 Summer Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm!

Enter for a chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2016 season by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences in the comment field. Deadline: March 29th, 2016.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a fabulous way families can support local farmers.  By purchasing a CSA share for your family, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  CSA’s are also great opportunities for community-based learning! Here on Hilltown Families we highlight educational opportunities in the region that integrate our local food culture, encouraging families  to engage with our community while learning through the lens of local food. For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.


How does your family participate in our local food culture?  Maybe you have a garden in your yard, a plot at the community garden or container pots on the front stoop or windowsill? Do you buy your food at farmers’ markets or roadside stands? Is volunteering to support food security and sustainable agriculture in our region a priority to your family? How does Hilltown Families support your family in your food, farm and garden-based interests?

We invite our readers to share ways your family engages in our local food culture and how you use this lens of community engagement as a way of supporting the interests and education of your children. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences, and be entered to win a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $420 value!  Deadline to enter to win: March 29th, 2016, by 11:59pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Slow Cooker Warms the Tummy

Cooking Up Some Winter Warmth

In this installment of “Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection,” Cheryl explores how to create simple, food-based connections during the cold winter months as she shares some of her favorite family-friendly slow cooker recipes.

I lose a lot of people when I talk about how much I love winter. I honestly do. The chilly weather, endless mugs of hot chocolate, and lazy weekend afternoons curled up on the couch…isn’t this what being a New Englander is all about? Regardless of your stance, I think we can all agree that the declining temperatures offer a perfect opportunity to connect indoors through cooking and togetherness. Plus, warming up beside a toasty oven is a definite bonus! It’s also the time of year when kids get increasingly antsy with cabin fever and, this year, a lack of snow to keep them occupied. Children are constantly searching for things to do, so gather them up and allow them to get their hands dirty!

Some of our favorite family meals during the winter happen through the magic of a slow cooker. It’s a winter staple in our home now, however, my love of the cherished Crockpot hasn’t always run deep.

Read the rest of this entry »

Local Food in Winter Months: Farmers’ Markets, CSA Shares & Cooperatives

Winter Brings Abundance of Local Foods and Farmers’ Markets

Despite the winter landscape, local foods are in abundance here in western Massachusetts! By visiting local farmers’ markets, taking part in special community events, and learning more about ways to access local foods during what is most growers’ off-season, families can learn about the roots of their meals and gain insight into local food systems – not to mention the delicious foods that will fill hungry bellies, too!

It’s hard to believe that local foods are still in abundance given the state of the landscape outside our windows, but despite the crust of snow and ice that blankets leaf-less trees and bushes, local foods of all shapes, sizes, and flavors are still available. During the post-holiday months of winter, families can take advantage of farmers’ markets, community-based educational opportunities, and local businesses in order to learn all about and enjoy all of winter’s local food offerings.

While outdoor farmers’ markets can’t take place during the wintertime, many local markets have moved indoors for the season – continuing to provide a consistent, simple way for local farmers and food producers to connect with the community. Of course, certain local delicacies are only available seasonally, many foods can be offered and/or produced year round. Families can find potatoes, apples, squash, onions, and many other similarly hardy foods from storage at farmers’ market booths during the winter. Additionally, some farms continue to produce salad greens, sprouts, hardy greens, and other greenhouse-grown crops throughout the winter thanks to modern agricultural technology. Other farmers and producers easily offer meats, cheeses, honey, breads, and a host of other products available year-round due to their non-seasonal nature or long shelf life. Despite the fact that winter isn’t a true growing season in New England, winter markets offer a surprising amount of variety! Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Resolve to Connect to Real Food this New Year

A Real Food Resolution

With the holidays behind us, there’s a lot of talk around the water cooler about New Year’s resolutions. If you listen, you’ll notice that most of them center largely on calorie restriction and losing weight. We resolve to be thinner, and use the pressure of the upcoming beach season to feed a false sense of motivation. Before we know it, the pressure gives way to frustration, regret, and self-defeat. Just as food creates an avenue of connection to others, it can also enhance (or inhibit) the connection we have with ourselves.

In the hustle of everyday life, it can be easy to forget that food is, ultimately, our life source. We may not think of this as we rush by the take-out window, because food has become something we don’t have to think about. But at what cost? One of the most critical components in improving our relationship with food is knowing where it comes from and what’s in it. We have drifted from the cherished process of cultivating, planting, and preparing foods in a way that was commonplace a hundred years ago. That said, it’s never too late to make a new start and chart a new course. Given that food is our most basic right and necessity as human beings, it makes sense that cultivating a connection with food is one of the most essential components of creating lasting change. It begins with mindfully shifting the focus from what we eat to how we eat.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsfield Farmers’ Market’s “Kid 10” to Showcase Local Youth Vendors

Pittsfield Farmers’ Market’s “Kid 10” to Showcase Local Youth Vendors

In preparation for the city’s annual 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival, the Pittsfield Farmers’ Market is accepting vendor applications for Kid 10: A Kid-Run Farmers’ Market. Showcasing the talents and creativity of local youth, the special kid-centric edition of the Pittsfield Farmers’ Market will feature foods and crafts created and produced by local youth – presenting a unique opportunity for young entrepreneurs and market-goers alike.

Providing an opportunity to include young community members in the ongoing conversation and community surrounding the consumption and use of local foods and goods, Kid 10 is a unique event within the landscape of Berkshire farmers’ markets. Held on Saturday, February 13, 2016, from 1-6pm at the Boys and Girls Club at The Lighthouse, this special market event broadens the market for local foods and goods, and welcomes youth into the local economy. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Connecting Across Generations Through Food Traditions

A Holiday Reflection

This holiday, start a new tradition… dig out your old recipe cards, and host a Holiday Food Share, where family members and friends cook a recipe that’s most meaningful to them, while sharing a memory of what makes it so special. What a great opportunity to bake that casserole your great aunt was known for, and to share stories rich in history and nostalgia.

The inspiration for this month’s column came a few weeks ago when my grandmother surprised me at work with a fresh batch of her homemade applesauce. Coincidentally, I had forgotten to bring breakfast that day so you can imagine my delight! As I sat at my desk and enjoyed this unexpected treat, and all of the love and labor she put into it, I felt a heart swell of emotion. I imagined her in the kitchen, peeling each apple by hand, slicing, cooking, stirring, cooling…just to give it away to the people she loves. She bakes pies for the holidays, and surprises us with stuffed cabbage because she knows it’s our favorite.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Food Gifts and Giving Make Real Connections

The Spirit of Giving

When I think of everything a holiday should be, Thanksgiving has all the bases covered. There are few joys greater than the smell of a home cooked meal, and the warmth of family and friends gathered around the table to enjoy it. This holiday isn’t about wish lists or battling long lines and huge crowds in search of the perfect gift. In fact, Thanksgiving gives us the unique opportunity to give something greater – the gifts of time, presence, laughter, and love.

Each year around this time, we begin to reflect on how we might celebrate the spirit of giving beyond just our family table. This usually includes neighbors, teachers, and even the larger community. This year, we picked up a few mini loaf pans that we plan to fill with banana and pumpkin breads before handing them out to a few of our neighbors. The kids also decided they were going to create hand-written tags, naming something about the recipient that they were most thankful for. These notes will say thank you to the teenagers who smile and wave each time my children shout hello to them out the window, to the neighbor who brings our trash barrels in from the street each week while we are at work, and to the surrogate grandmother next door who never forgets their birthdays.   Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Beyond Pumpkin Pie

Beyond Pumpkin Pie

There aren’t many things I love more than autumn in New England. The crisp air, brightly colored leaves, and oversized sweatshirts provide the perfect backdrop to this amazing time of year. Now we can’t talk about fall without mention of the most synonymous symbol of the season – the almighty pumpkin. They’re everywhere, and they’re used to make everything from coffee to pancakes to pie.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Farmers’ Markets Feed a Sense of Community

Our Growing Roots: A Market Analysis

Finding community connection at our farmers’ markets!

Next time you walk into your local supermarket, take a moment to notice the perfect symmetry of it all. Under the bright fluorescent lights, you’ll find endless rows of neatly packaged foods, ready to eat, easy to prepare, no thought required. A plethora of colors and flashy logos jump out at you, while commercial cartoon characters are strategically placed on cereal boxes and fruit snacks to lure your children into their sugary grasp. Ingredient labels are long and indiscernible and we are often unaware of where in the country or the world these products originated from. The big box grocery store landscape can give us a limited and detached sense of how food and community are related.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the unrefined simplicity of farmers’ markets. I love the atmosphere of small tables draped in mismatched cloth, crates overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies, and the sense of true community. Upon first glance, these joys are simple ones. However, farmers’ markets offer us a unique experience unrivaled by most conventional grocery stores.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection

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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Learn About Local Food & Chemistry through Fermentation

The Art & Science of Fermentation: Lessons in Local Food Preservation

There’s lots of space for learning about food science when you turn your kitchen into a fermentation station!

This time of year, it’s so easy to forget how badly we longed for crisp pickling cucumbers and fresh local tomatoes during the winter – sometimes, it all comes in at once, and it’s all we can do to keep the bounty of our gardens and farm shares from going to waste. Gardening is, of course, a great way to expose kids to cycles of growth and the joy of producing your own food, and the cooking that eventually follows. A solidly planted garden brings with it a myriad of other kitchen-based learning experiences (measuring math, recipe literacy, and lots of fine motor skill development for small folks). But what do you do when you’ve cooked all you can eat and your self-sufficient kiddos have already mastered the ins and outs of your kitchen? Start fermenting! Read the rest of this entry »

GIVEAWAY: CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a Farm Share from
Crimson & Clover Farm this Summer!

Enter for a chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2015 season by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences in the comment field. Deadline: April 28th, 2015.

Locally grown food is a great community connector! This past winter families could enjoy Winter Farmers’ Market in the Pioneer Valley while connecting with friends and neighbors during these festive weekly markets.  And during the growing and harvest season Farmers’ Markets happen nearly every day of the week and have quickly become places the community not only shops for fresh produce and local products, but a place they can participate in collaborative consumption by taking free workshops and learning from farmers who freely share their knowledge on growing a better garden or preserving food.

But Farmers’ Markets aren’t the only way the community can participate in farm-based learning while connecting with their neighbors and supporting local farmers… Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another fabulous way families can support, participate and learn through the lens of our local food culture.  By purchasing a CSA share, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.


How does your family participate in our local food culture?  Maybe you have a garden in your yard, a plot at the community garden or container pots on the front stoop or windowsill? Do you engage in with farmers, buying your food at farmers’ markets or roadside farm stands? Is volunteering to support food security in our region a priority to your family?

We invite our readers to share ways your family engages in our local food culture and how you use this lens of community engagement as a way of supporting the interests and education of your children. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences, and be entered to win a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $420 value!  Deadline to enter to win: April 28th, 2015, by 11:59pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Just Roots Community Farm Fosters Youth Collaboration

Innovative farm program uses accessible skillshare as community builder

Just Roots Community Farm isn’t “just” anything – never just this or just that, the farm incorporates many different projects, practices, and goals into its overarching purpose. Located on the former Poor Farm in Greenfield, MA, Just Roots works to promote knowledge of, demand for, and access to local food in Franklin County. Through a variety of offerings including community workshops, affordable CSA shares, volunteer workdays, and educational programming, Just Roots serves as a community-centered vehicle for resiliency, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and endless learning.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sugar Season in Western MA

Sugar Season in Western MA

If sugaring is something that your family is particularly interested in trying and you’ve got a yard full of maples, try it out for yourself at home! With the right supplies, sugaring can be a fun and fairly easy family activity. Kids will get to practice math and science skills while selecting trees to tap – first, they’ll need to identify the proper species, and then they’ll need to determine the diameter of the tree at a specific height. Lots of careful observation, use of tools, and recording of data will need to be done! Then, while you wait for the sap to collect, kids can track the amount that fills the bucket each day. Older students might even be able to figure out the percentage by which the volume of the sap decreases after it has been boiled down into syrup!

As the winter days become warmer, plants and animals begin to prepare for springtime to come. And what’s one of the first (and possibly the most delicious) signs of spring here in western Massachusetts? Maple sugaring season, of course!

Sugaring season has been a New England tradition since practically forever. It was written about by English settlers as early as the mid-1600’s, and was a Native American harvest long before any Europeans set foot in North America. The history of this annual sap-harvesting tradition can’t really be boiled down to any specific time period or group of people, but it has nevertheless been done year after year for countless generations.

Today, a popular sugar season tradition for families in western Massachusetts is visiting a nearby sugar shack. There are sugar shacks to visit all over the region , and a great many of these can pair the experience of watching fresh maple sap be boiled down into a thick syrup with a homemade stack of maple syrup-covered pancakes. Many sugarhouses offer informative tours of their facilities, demonstrating their process of tapping, collecting, boiling, and bottling their syrup. In addition to learning about the sugaring process, a visit to a sugar shack can also be a lesson in local history and community resilience – many local sugar houses have been owned and operated by the same families for a few generations, making sugaring an important part of the local economy as well as a strong link between local families and their physical surroundings…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Stone Soup Cafe: Community Engagement One Meal at a Time

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe
Bringing Community Together One Meal at a Time

It can be easy to go through your family’s daily, weekly, and monthly routines without actively engaging with a diverse cross section of the community. Even families who routinely do volunteer work or explore new areas are somewhat limited in their ability to connect with others whose experiences – in the same physical location – are very different from their own. Strong communities, though, depend on interconnectedness amongst all of their members. In order to be resilient, a community must allow for those from all walks of life to have a voice, to be respected, and to be understood.

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe offers a venue that supports just that! Stone Soup is a weekly pay-what-you-can community cafe that serves fresh, homemade food to community members of all ages, backgrounds and dietary restrictions (gluten-free & vegan options). Located at All Souls Church in Greenfield, MA, (and supported by the congregation), the cafe is run based on the idea that food is a common thread in all communities, and that in sharing it, people from all backgrounds can bridge differences and connect with each other. In addition to community-building efforts, Stone Soup is also helping to address the issue of hunger in Franklin County. The cafe is the only place in Greenfield to get a free meal on Saturdays, making it a necessity in the lives of many families and community members.

Read the rest of this entry »

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Winter Fare: A Week of Winter Farmers’ Markets

CISA’s Week of Winter Fare
January 26 & February 2, 2013

In addition to perusing the array of local foods, shoppers can attend educational workshops scheduled during each market. Workshops range in topic from simple cheese-making and canning to growing grains and herbal medicine. All the workshop leaders are local people who practice these skills at home. The workshops are free and do not require pre-registration. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

It is possible to eat locally year-round and there is a lot of amazing local food to be had even in the depths of winter. On January 26th and February 2nd, CISA will kick off its 20th anniversary year with Winter Fare, a celebration of the winter bounty. In collaboration with regular Winter Farmers’ Markets in Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, and Springfield, Winter Fare will highlight the array of local food available in the deep of winter with workshops, bartering, music, and more! Bring your shopping bags and stock up on fresh salad greens, root vegetables, local grains and bread, eggs, meat, cheese, maple syrup, honey, jam, pickles, and more, all grown by local farmers.

Amherst, Greenfield, and Northampton will all host Barter Markets, a fun, lively food-swapping event. Bring your own home-preserved foods and trade with your neighbors to diversify your pantry and get to know other people that can, dry, and freeze the local harvest.

This special event is designed to showcase the amazing local food that is available year-round in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA, and to introduce new people to the incredible farmers’ markets that run all winter long. For a complete list of winter farmers’ markets, including regular markets in Athol, Easthampton, and Hampden, visit

More details about Winter Fare, including complete lists of workshops, are available at Volunteers are still needed to make this event possible! Please contact CISA at 413-665-7100 or to sign up or for more information.

Winter Fare is sponsored by River Valley Market, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, and Whole Foods Market.  All four markets accept SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), and in honor of Winter Fare, CISA will be matching the first $10 of all SNAP purchases.

– Submitted by Claire Morenon

Seasons at Our Table: Harvest Season

Harvest Season

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest.  It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.. and it’s the final season we’ll be featuring in our 3-part series, Seasons at Our Table.

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Taking a look back this year, at the beginning of Maple Sugar Season in late February, we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.  Read what they had to share in our first installment of Seasons at Our Table, “Maple Sugar Season.”

Then at the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  We highlighted submissions our readers shared, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands.  Read their submissions in our second of three installments of Seasons at Our Table,Farmers’ Market Season.”

It’s now we conclude with the “Harvest Season.”  We’ve ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips.  We started by asking for kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too:


One of our readers asks, “This is the first year our family is to host Thanksgiving Dinner at our house (ack!). I’ve never cooked a whole turkey and don’t even know where to begin. I could surf the net, but many of your readers seem very savvy and I’m hoping these more experienced family cooks could offer their advice- from how to pick out a turkey to how to cook it?”

Kara Kitchen writes, “There are a great selection of local fresh turkeys here in Western MA. We like to do ours on the gas grill; keeps the heat outside, more room in the oven for sides, takes less time, and is so juicy! Just keep it covered w/tin foil and keep adding water to keep a constant 3/4″ in the bottom of pan (we use the one-use tin ones w/handles)-this will keep the meat moist but let the skin get crispy-no need to baste w/the steam caught under the foil!… cuts time in half (>4hrs).”

Michele Yargeau Sexton writes, “You need 2lbs of turkey per person when selecting the size. Remove all the stuff out of the turkey, rinse and dry. salt and pepper cavity, and stuff with celery, carrots, and a little onion. No need to peel the carrots, or trim the celery, it’s only for flavor. Soften butter in your hands, and massage the turkey all over. Make a thick paste of all purpose flour, orange juice, salt and pepper. Brush all over the buttered turkey with a pastry brush. Put in a roasting pan, add about an inch of chicken broth, and cover tightly with foil. Put Turkey in oven @ 250-degrees about 11 hours before you want to eat it (yes, that usually means about 2am.). DON’T TOUCH IT FOR 9 HOURS, DON’T OPEN THE FOIL, NOTHING. The 10th hours, remove the foil, turn heat up to 350-degrees for browning. Remove from oven, let sit about an hour. Carve and Serve.”

Katie Stetson writes, “I usually just truss and oil it put it in the oven at 350-degrees then pull it out just before it is fully cooked – tent it with foil and let it rest for 45 minutes during which time it will finish cooking but not get dry. In that 45 minutes you can finish up the sides in the now empty oven.”

Deborah Hackett writes, “Ok, I know I am old school but…I still put stuffing inside my turkey, the heat kills the bacteria. Cover with foil and cook at 350-degrees for 25 minutes per pound.  The last 1/2 hour uncover to crisp skin. Make sure oven rack is low or top will burn. Let rest while getting other side together and serve. Or if you choose ham, I put mine in the crock pot on low for 12 hours.”


Aimee Costa Lalime asks, “Where do you get the fresh, local turkeys?”

Kara Kitchen replies, “This year we got ours (most have to pre-order) from Berkshire Organics in Dalton (they had 3 local choices!), but in years past we’ve ordered through the Cummington Creamery or Lightning Bug Farmstand (on the Plainfield/Cummington town line), which I believe are from Diemand Farms. I think the River Valley Market Co-Op (Northampton) should carry them as well, or at least direct you to one… or find a hunter, they are in abundance out here in the Hilltowns! ;)”


For Thanksgiving, some families skip the turkey and serve up a delicious vegetarian feast using local roots, squashes, greens, apples, pumpkins, cranberries and mushrooms instead! What’s your favorite vegetarian dish to cook up for your family Thanksgiving dinner?

Kara Kitchen writes, “Roasted root vegetables! Tossed in EVOO, salt+pepper…even the kids can’t resist the caramelized goodness.”

Bevan Brunelle writes, “Homemade cranberry sauce served warm with orange zest.”

Sienna Wildfield writes, “Tonya Lemos turned me on to fresh from the garden Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and tons of chopped garlic…. Now it’s a staple for Thanksgiving dinner! Grew 12 plants this year in our garden… just can’t get enough of this deliciousness!”

Tonya Lemos writes, “One of my favs is a Greek dish that seems to have made its way to our Thanksgiving tables over the years… it is Peas cooked in Olive Oil with Garlic and Pearl Onion with A LOT of fresh dill.”

Marya Kozik LaRoche writes, “Lentils and caramelized onions.”

Jennifer Fox writes, “There is a terrific loaf recipe in the Greens cookbook that I make every year. It isn’t vegan (plenty of cheese), but is a huge hit with even the vegetarians who are extremely picky eaters and jealous meat-eaters. The recipe also suggests a mushroom gravy, which is great. – My family veggie “recipes” are also naturally vegetarian. My favorites are candied parsnips and mashed rutabaga (Florida mountain turnip around here!)”

Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “Almond gravy! Delicious and full of vegetarian protein.”

Ana Araujo writes, “Homemade pumpkin ravioli. We’ve been doing this for years.”

Mary-Jane Sackett writes, “Mac and cheese seems to be a favorite around here.”

Anne Schlereth writes, Lentil Balls recipe from the Meatball Shop in NYC. The recipe can be searched on the NYTimes website. They are perfect with all the root veggies at the Thanksgiving table!”

Deanna Dariusz Raczkowski writes, “We are trying Field Roast Cranberry Hazelnut roast this year!”

Robin MacRostie writes, “Pickled pumpkin; cornbread chestnut stuffing.”

Laurie McCullough writes, “I appreciate all these wonderful ideas, thanks!”

Funding for Seasons at Our Table was made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union, administered by the Parent Education Workgroup of the Communities That Care Coalition.

Q&A: Where’s Your Favorite Place to PYO Blueberries in Western MA


Share your favorite place to PYO blueberries with your kids in Western MA! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Blueberries are out early this year! Where’s your favorite place to PYO with the kids?

  • Laura LeClair writes,Birdhaven Blueberry Farm in Southampton!”
  • Jessica Campagna Wehry writes, “Where is close to Pittsfield for PYO organic blueberries? I’ve been dying to bring my son!”
  • Sue Lowery writes, “Blueberry Hill on Washington Mountain Rd in Washington, MA (just outside Pittsfield) is amazing and wonderful. Roy and Marilyn Wiley are the owners, and are delightful folks.”
  • Amanda Gadd writes,Whitney Farms (Chester) off of Route 8 is lovely. They have a free petting zoo complete with a peacock.”
  • Jen Hartley writes, “Running Fox Farm is in Worthington.”
  • Sara Barry writes, “I love Running Fox Farm.”
  • Kathy McDonnell Elsea writes, “Maddie and I picked at Birdhaven Blueberry Farm in Southampton and I’m secretly planning to go back tomorrow. Only got 8 lbs!”
  • Megan McD Kenburn writes,Kenburn Orchards Bed & Breakfast on Rt 2 in Shelburne is great! $2.89/lbs or less if you pick more than 10 lbs. It’s not far from the Greenfield Rotary if you are driving towards Shelburne Falls. Great berries, nice people.”
  • Susan Loring-Wells writes, “Just picked blueberries with my daughter this afternoon on River Road just South of Route 116 and Sugarloaf Mtn. Not sure whether it’s located in Sunderland or Whately. It’s about 1/2 mile – mile down on the right from Rte 116. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the place. The berries were delicious and abundant.”
  • Hilda Bailey ‎writes, “@Susan, Nourse Farms (Whately, MA)”
  • Kim Nestor-Carlino writes,Quonquont Farm in Whately has an unbelievable crop this year! Got one full quart off of one bush. Delicious and low spray.”
  • Vickie Riggs Selleck writes,Kenburn Orchards Bed & Breakfast in Shelburne.”
  • Dawn Klein writes,Whitney Farms in Cheshire, MA. Great nursery and deli too! With a huge playground area and petting zoo!”
  • Karen Lucas writes, “Dickinson Farm in Granby, MA. Love it there and tons of yummy big blueberries!”
  • Sienna Wildfield ‎writes, “Summit Farm in Plainfield has PYO organic berries and Benson Place in Heath has low bush blueberries. “
  • Philip Korman, Executive Director of CISA writes, “Contact info and location for all PYO found at the CISA website — you can also change the zip code at the end of the URL for your location!

GIVEAWAY: CSM Share from Goldthread Herb Farm

Enter to Win a CSM Share from
Goldthread Herb Farm in Conway

Share a folk remedy you like to make in the summer months using fresh herbs & plants and be entered to win a large CSM Share from Goldthread Herb Farm in Conway, MA. Deadline to enter: Monday, July 2nd, 2012.

This summer Goldthread Herb Farm in Conway, MA is embarking on their fifth season of providing Community Supported Medicine (CSM) Shares to the community… and Hilltown Families has a large share (enough for a family of 3-4, valued at $250) to giveaway to one lucky family! Details on how you can enter to win are below and deadline to participate is Monday, July 2nd, 2012 by 7pm (EST).


Goldthread Farm’s fresh-from-the-field CSM shares contain herbs and remedies for a host of commonly encountered conditions such as colds, flus, sore throats, coughs, digestive issues, sleep improvement, skin conditions, children’s health, and more. Their CSM shares offer handcrafted medicines, tea blends, honeys, elixirs and flavorful culinary spices.  Their two seasonal pickups include a unique opportunity to meet their plants, sip freshly brewed herbal tea and participate in an in-depth herb walk and educational session at their farm in Conway, MA.  Alternatively, shares can be picked up at their storefront in Florence, MA. In addition to their large shares, they also offer and small share (perfect for 1-2 people).


Goldthread Herb Farm is a medicinal herb farm located in the Hilltowns in Conway, MA. The farm is situated on a south facing hilltop, surrounded by hundreds of acres of mixed conifers and hardwoods, teeming with wildlife, and blessed with abundant streams and brooks. Their goal is to provide a source for organically grown and sustainably wild harvested medicinal plants and plant preparations that are of the highest quality and crafted with the greatest care and attention to detail. In Florence, MA they have a full-service apothecary and clinic stocked with organic medicinal herbs and local products fresh from their farm. Visit for more info on their CSM and classes, or call 413-587-0620.


Your chance to win a Large CSM Share from Goldthread Herb Farm in Conway, MA for the 2012 season is as easy as 1-2-3(4)!  To enter to win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below;
  • FULL NAME (first/last);
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) (must include your town to be eligible);
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address);
  • From our favorite entries (so make them good!) we’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Monday, July 2nd, 2012 by 7pm (EST).

Safe, Healthy Food Choices: Resources for Families in the Pioneer Valley

Safe, Healthy Food Choices: Resources for Families in the Pioneer Valley

Know your farmers and ask questions! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This past Tuesday, May 29th, Hilltown Families and the Hilltown Non-GMO Workshop Group hosted a community conversation, Safe and Healthy Food Choices: Educating and Empowering Families in an Era of High-Tech Food Production, at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg with three local food advocates.  Herbalist Tony(a) Lemos from Blazing Star Herbal School discussed the rise in childhood allergies since the introduction of GMO foods, local organic farmer Ed Stockman did an  informative presentation on GMO Foods, and Jennifer Hartley concluded with a terrific list of resources to empower families in the making of food choices.

Check out Jennifer’s resource list below, or download it and share with your neighbors, family and friends: Safe, Healthy Food Choices: Resources for Families in the Pioneer Valley (pdf)

Safe, Healthy Food Choices: Resources for Families in the Pioneer Valley (pdf)
Prepared by Jennifer Hartley, MSLIS
(Feel free to reproduce and distribute this handout widely.)


Sourcing non-­GMO seeds.

Resources for gardeners


  • Questions to ask:
    • Are the seeds that you use non-­‐GMO?
    • What are your growing practices?
    • Do you feed your animals non-­‐GMO feed?
    • Where do you stand on the issue of GMOs?
  • Finding local farmers: CISA database (Be aware, however, that not all farmers are included in the CISA database, and some may grow GMOs.)

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Locally Grown Farm Products Guide

CISA’s 2012 Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide

CISA Farm Products Guide 2012

“The Guide will help everyone find great food and farm products whether you live in the Valley or are visiting it,” says Philip Korman, CISA’s Executive Director. “Buying more local farm products is a great way to have a positive impact on the local economy, the environment and our community, while providing good food for your family. And best of all, it is easier than ever before, with more farms, restaurants and farmers’ markets — including winter markets — bringing the best of the harvest to our community throughout the year.”

Released this week, CISA’s 2012 Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide provides a wealth of information and inspiration to families in Western MA eager to buy local farm products, eat local food and support local farms in the Pioneer Valley. The Guide is full of resources to help everyone find local food and farm products and help our communities scale up the local food system.

CISA’s Guide grows bigger every year as the availability of local food grows and the demand continues to skyrocket. This year the Guide includes a new agritourism section with delicious itineraries for farm, festival and restaurant visits in every season.

An online version of the Guide, available at, lets users search by product and location. It provides comprehensive lists of Local Hero farms, restaurants, grocery stores, and more, along with a continuously updated report of what’s ripe and where to find it.

The Guide can also be found in the produce sections of several local retailers, including Atkins Farms, Big E’s Super Market, select Big Y stores, Cornucopia Foods, Foster’s Super Market, Green Fields Market, McCusker’s Market and Deli, Randall’s Farm and Greenhouse, River Valley Market, State Street Fruit Store, and Whole Foods Market. In addition, copies will be available at Chambers of Commerce and distributed outside the region by farmers.


CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members and advocates working together to strengthen local agriculture by building connections between farmers and the community. Founded in 1993, CISA runs a number of innovative programs, including Senior FarmShare and the Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown® public awareness campaign. Learn more about CISA at or call 413-665-7100.

Carrie Saldo of Connecting Point features CISA Farmers’ Markets on WGBY in a recent interview:

Connecting Point writes, “Over the last 5 years, the number of farmers’ markets in the region doubled, and 49 markets now offer locally grown food in all seasons of the year! The array and display of goods is bountiful with items from maple syrup and honey to meat, flowers, vegetables and fruit. Producer Dave Fraser, along with Phil Korman, Executive Director at CISA, spent the day with the folks at the Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland as they prepared for the Springfield Farmers Market.”

GIVEAWAY: CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a Farm Share from
Crimson & Clover Farm this Summer!

Enter to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2012 season by sharing a family recipe you're looking forward to preparing this spring with fresh local produce, embellished with the story behind this favorite dish! Deadline: April 16th.

Locally grown food is a great community connector! This past winter families could enjoy Winter Farmers’ Market all throughout Western MA while connecting with friends and neighbors during these often festive weekly markets.  And during the growing and harvest season Farmers’ Markets happen nearly every day of the week and have quickly become places the community not only shops for fresh produce and local products, but a place they can enjoy a summer morning or evening together listening to music, enjoying coffee or dinner, and chatting with local farmers.

But Farmers’ Markets aren’t the only way the community can connect with their neighbors while supporting local farmers… Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another fabulous way families can support and participate in our local food culture.  By purchasing a CSA share, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.


Hilltown Families is currently working on a project titled, Seasons at Our Table, inviting our readers to share recipes and stories inspired by our local food culture. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us in this project by offering an incentive to our readers to share their favorite stories and best family recipes. Share a family recipe you’re looking forward to preparing this spring with fresh local produce, embellished with the story behind this favorite dish, and be entered to win a Small CSA Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $375 value!  Deadline to enter to win: April 16th by 7pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.


Crimson & Clover Farm

Crimson & Clover Farm is a community based farm located on the beautiful Northampton Community Farm in Florence, Massachusetts.  They grow vegetables, fruits and flowers for a Community Supported Agriculture Program and for farmers’ markets.  Welcoming and encouraging community involvement with the farm, they offer weekly volunteer workdays, farm celebrations and educational opportunities.

They are offering our readers a Small Farm Share ($375 value) which will feed up to two people.  Their vegetable options change through the season, starting with more leafy greens in the early season and more roots and summer type vegetables as the season moves along. The Small Farm Share is a great option for smaller families, couples, individuals, or folks trying out a CSA share for the first time. In addition to a Small Farm Share the winning shareholders will have access to their Pick-Your-Own garden where families can pick many other crops like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, flowers and much more. Find out more about their farm shares at


Your chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2012 season will be super fun for all foodies and families who love to cook & eat together!  To enter to win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below;
  • FULL NAME (first/last);
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) (must include your town to be eligible);
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address);
  • From our favorite entries (so make them good!) we’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Monday, April 16th, 2012 by 7pm (EST).

Seven Fall Festivals in Western MA

Annual Harvest Celebrations Highlight Local Food Traditions

South Ashfield Library serves up slices of homemade apple pie served with chunks of Vermont cheddar cheese at the Ashfield Fall Festival on Columbus Day weekend. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Autumn in Western Massachusetts is a great time of the year to explore the region. As the seasons change and school buses slow down your morning commute, community harvest celebrations fill our weekends with fairs, festivals and community dinners. Since 2005, Hilltown Families has been a resource for finding out about these community building celebrations that support local farming and highlight our local culture.  To follow is a sample of just a few of these harvest gems you’ll find out about during the harvest season.

10th Annual Honeybee Festival

Sept 10th, 2011 in South Deerfield: Celebrating all things honey, the 10th Annual Honeybee Festival happens on Saturday, September 10th from 10am-4pm, at Warm Colors Apiary. With honeybees being vital to our local food supply, participants can learn about their importance with live demonstrations of beekeeping.  Area chefs will be cooking up dishes of local food with honey as their featured ingredient, honey ice cream will be scooped out, and delicious samples of mead will be poured for the adults. — 413-665-4513. 2 South Mill River Road. South Deerfield, MA (FREE)

6th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival

Sept 18th, 2011 in North Amherst: The next weekend on Sunday, September 18th from 12noon-6pm, is the 6th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival. A fundraiser for the North Amherst Community Farm, the festival is a family-friendly celebration with live music,  farm-fresh food, microbrewed beverages, local ice cream, and a small farmers’ market offering locally grown produce. — 413-624-6223. 1089 North Pleasant Street. North Amherst, MA. ($)

Cooking demonstrations at the Garlic & Arts Festival. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

13th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival

Oct 1st & 2nd, 2011 in Orange: October is my favorite month for harvest celebrations in Western Massachusetts. The first weekend in October is the 13th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA. Celebrating agricultural and a region rich in local culture, the Garlic and Arts Festival is a two day celebration with cooking demonstrations, garlic market, garlic cuisine, local artisans and great entertainment! — 60 Chestnut Hill Road. Orange, MA (>$)

50th Annual Festival of the Hills

Oct 1st, 2011 in Conway: That same weekend is the 50th Annual Festival of the Hills in Conway, MA.  On Saturday, October 1st the town hosts a pancake breakfast with local maple syrup, sale of baked goods from Conway local kitchens, and community turkey dinner.  Then on Sunday, October 2nd, is their festival with traditional New England celebration, including log-splitting, pumpkin-stacking, and a good old fashion skillet-tossing competition! — Conway Town Center & Ballfield. Route 116. Conway, MA (FREE)

41st Annual Ashfield Fall Festival

Oct 8th & 9th, 2011: One of my favorite community celebrations, anytime of the year, is the 41st Annual Ashfield Fall Festival on Columbus Day Weekend.  With the smell of pumpkin donuts and hot apple cider wafting through the air, this sleepy little Hilltown comes alive with an iconic New England harvest festival. On the common the community can play games, visit local artisans, watch Morris dancers, while listening to live music. Their annual “Pumpkingames”  bring generations together into teams that formed on-the-spot, competing in a variety of games, such as pumpkin bowling and a pumpkin relay race.  After dancing and playing games, try some warm homemade soup at the Congregational Church Soup Kitchen. And for dessert in the town hall, the South Ashfield Library serves up slices of homemade apple pie, served with big chucks of Vermont cheddar cheese! — Ashfield Town Common. Route 116. Ashfield, MA (FREE)

GFN Harvest Celebration

New on the scene this year is Grow Food Northampton’s October 9th, 2011 Harvest Celebration at the Northampton Community Farm. Live music, local food, games, and farm tours will complement this happy celebration of the first year’s harvest at Crimson & Clover Farm! –

17th Annual Cider Days

The first weekend of crisp November brings us Franklin County’s Cider Days. Celebrating the traditional drink of New England, Cider Days is for everyone who loves fresh apples, sweet and hard cider, cooking with apples, and enjoying autumn in New England. This is the 17th year of this festival, and there will be orchard tours, cider making workshops, cider tastings, talks by orchardists, and more. Highlights include Saturday’s Apple Pancake Breakfast at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, and the Marketplace at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls, with local artisans and producers, food vendors, and of course, apples!

Other harvest festivals to look forward to include: 25th Annual Apple Harvest Crafts Fair & Children’s Festival in Amherst and Nuestras Raices’ Annual Harvest Festival in Holyoke on Sept 24th, 2011; Westhampton Fall Festival and Great Pumpkin Roll and Pumpkin Festival in South Deerfield on Oct 16th, 2011. Check back with us for these harvest festivals and more in the weeks to come, or check out list of Weekly Suggested Events every Thursday to find out what festival are happening that weekend.

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El Mercado de Vegetales de Jackson Street

New Monthly Farmers’ Market: Jackson Street Farmers’ Market
Debuts Friday, July 8th from 3-7pm

Families With Power, The Northampton Health Department, and Tuesday Market Present: El Mercado de Vegetales de Jackson Street (The Jackson Street Farmers' Market), starting this Friday, July 8th from 3-7pm at Hampshire Heights (corner of Jackson St. and Bridge Road, across from the Jackson Street School). The value of your food stamps will be DOUBLED at this Market (up to $10). Walk, bike, bus if you can, but if you must drive, please park your car at the Jackson Street School parking lot and walk over to Hampshire Heights. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Ben James of Town Farm in Northampton, MA writes:

We are very excited to announce Northampton’s newest farmers’ market. Initiated by Families With Power (a group of mothers whose children attend the Jackson Street School), The Jackson Street Farmers’ Market is dedicated to building community and providing nourishing, affordable, locally-grown produce to Northampton’s Latino and low-income residents.

Located on the corner of Bridge Road & Jackson Streets, the new market is an easy walk or bike ride from a number of Northampton neighborhoods, and it’s a convenient stop on the way home from a long week of work. Stock up on tomatoes, raspberries, cucumbers, salad greens, summer squash, and more. Find out how Elba Heredia makes delicious sofrito with fresh cilantro for her popular arroz con gandulez. There’ll be live music & dancing as well! Town Farm will be making shaved ices (piraguas) in all new tropical flavors. Vendors include farmers from Nuestres Raices in Holyoke, El Jardin Bakery, Northampton’s Town Farm, and more.

You’ve probably noticed that there are farmers’ markets sprouting up everywhere, but there aren’t many being started in low-income neighborhoods. This is a real shame, since families living in these neighborhoods face a number of hurdles at once. Suffering from a far greater incidence of diabetes and other nutritionally-related disorders, hard-working, low-income mothers & fathers rarely have the time or the means to make a special trip to a farmers’ market. This is a problem, since it’s these people who can benefit the most from nutritious, locally-grown food. The Jackson Street Farmers’ Market aims to shift the situation by – as Jackson Street School teacher and market organizer Mary Cowhey puts it – “creating a positive community event out of the market as a way to change buying, cooking, eating, and activity habits.”

Most exciting of all, the Jackson Street Farmers’ Market will be doubling the value of customers’ food stamps, thanks to our FoodStampsX2 program. This program is run by Tuesday Market & Grow Food Northampton, and is funded by generous donations from Northampton residents and local businesses, including Florence Savings Bank. If you’d like to make a donation to this great program, here’s how.

So please come on by and be a part of the cooking, the dancing, the hanging out, and – of course – the food. The market is open to everyone! We would love to see you there.

And mark your calendar for the August 12th & September 9th markets as well!

Fill Your Belly with Tasty Local Food at Hilltown Spring Festival this Saturday!

Local Food with International Flare Served Up
at the Hilltown Spring Festival
May 14th, 10am-7pm at Cummington Fairgrounds

Locally brewed beer on tap from Opa Opa!

Vegetable Lo Mein from Goshen Snack Bar.

The eclectic nature of the Hilltown Spring Festival speaks true to the diversity of our community. This year even the food matches the diversity of our community serving up local food, often times with an international flare! A short list of what you’ll find at the festival: Blue House Cafe will have Polynesian wedding cake and gluten-free option; The Turkish Kitchen will have Lokoum and Cornmeal Halva; The Bakers’ Oven will serve up wood-fired pesto pizza; Elke’s Catering will feature German Bratwurst; Vegetable Lo Mein from Goshen Snack Bar; American hot dogs & hamburgers offered by the Hampshire Co. 4-H Exchange Club; Veggie Burgers from the Cummington Fire Dept.; and locally brewed beer from Opa Opa.  And Bart’s Ice Cream will be serving locally made ice cream for dessert, including Local Peach, Local Maple Cream and Mass Mocha!


Locally made ice cream for dessert from Bart's Ice Cream!

New to the festival this year is the Turkish Kitchen. Launched at the Ashfield Farmers’ Market in 2010, the Turkish Kitchen is a young purveyor of a very old cuisine. Tarhana soup, for example, dates back to the 10th Century, when the still-nomadic Turkish tribes needed fortifying foods that would be easy to transport and would not spoil. — They will be serving a variety of traditional Turkish dishes at the Hilltown Spring Festival. These include Boerek, philo dough pastries stuffed either with herbed feta cheese or a subtly fragrant meat filling; Shaksuka, a cold eggplant, zucchini and potato dish cooked in olive oil; Piyaz, a bean salad with herbs; Ic Pilav, a festive rice dish that includes pine nuts, currants, cinnamon, a dash of black pepper and dill; Tarhana soup with probiotics, grains and herbs; Mercimek soup with red lentils, grains, cumin and herbs; and for desserts, Lokoum (the ‘turkish delight’ of the Chronicles of Narnia) and Cornmeal Halva with hazelnuts.

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Giveaway: 5 Gift Baskets from 5 Local Food Businesses in Western Mass

Hilltown Families turned five at the turn of the year … and we are celebrating all year long!  This month we are offering 5 Gift Baskets from 5 Local Food Businesses, celebrating local food and businesses with a sample of products from Dean’s Beans, Tea Guys, Bart’s Ice Cream, Dufresne’s Sugar House, and Appalachian Naturals.

Deadline to enter to win is Friday, February 4th.  Five winners will be randomly selected and announced during the opening reception for Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA at Cup & Top Café in Florence on February 5th and must be present to win. All of the businesses included in the giveaway have products that are used or sold at the cafe. Details below.

One thing you can say about families in Western Mass is we are committed to creating healthy communities for our children to grow and thrive in.  One avenue that brings many of us together is food… more specifically, locally grown and produced food. Families and communities have come together to advocate for healthy locally grown foods to be served in our schools with programs like Fresh Wednesdays, and to celebrate these foods in our school cafeteria’s during the Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week.

Together we support family farms by choosing to purchase our food as local as possible, and shop all year round at both summer and winter farmers’ markets.  We like to discuss ways to prepare our garden surplus for the dinner table, where to pick local fruits, and organize ways we can share our bounty with neighbors.  In the fall, community harvest dinners bring together families to celebrate with events like the annual Free Harvest Supper of Local Food, and Western Mass restaurants often prepare their menus with locally grown produce. —  Our community is strong with the voice of many activists too and has rallied behind opportunities like creating a community farm, forming a perennial food growing group,  and supporting free workshops on food security. — We have a lot to be proud of living here in Western Mass, and our local food culture is one of the many reasons why!

Here on Hilltown Families we give a visual glimpse into our local food culture with photographic images taken at the multitude of family farms, community events and farmers’ markets happening in our region. Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA debuts this February in Florence with an opening reception on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup and Top Café in Florence, MA (1 North Main St. 585-0445).  As the show travels to different local businesses and institutes, the images will change, showcasing images relative to the season and the host town. The debut show at Cup and Top Café will include images from the Ashfield Farmers’ Market, Northampton Tuesday Market, Summit Farm (Plainfield), Florence Farmers’ Market, Clarksdale Farm (Deerfield), Free Harvest Supper (Greenfield), Red Gate Farm (Buckland), among others.

Both Hilltown Families and Cup and Top Café are celebrating their 5th birthdays and the café has been a proud sponsor of Hilltown Families for the past couple of years. Helen Kahn, owner of the café writes, “Over the last five years the café has literally grown up alongside Hilltown Families, and during that time we have developed a sort of symbiotic relationship. The café provides a physical space that compliments what Hilltown Families has created online for families.”

“The café is a great family friendly destination,” shares Sienna Wildfield, Founder of Hilltown Families. “Helen’s commitment to supporting local farms, local artists and local businesses can be seen on her menu and on her walls.  The café is the perfect spot to debut Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA.”

On the evening of the opening reception, Hilltown Families will announce the winners of each of the 5 gift baskets from 5 local food businesses. These business are featured below and have been selected for the giveaway because all of them have products that are used or sold at the Cup and Top Café. Find out how to enter to win below (it’s super easy), and make plans to come to the opening reception on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup & Top Café (1 North Main St. 585-0445). Must be present to win! Come show your support of Hilltown Families and maybe even walk home with a fabulous gift basket to add spark to your kitchen!

Dean’s Beans (Orange, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Dean’s Beans Gift Box includes a 12oz. bag of Moka Sumatra, a 12oz. bag of Peruvian French Roast Decaf, a Putumayo CD with music from the coffeelands, Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee written by Dean Cycon, Dean’s Bean Travel Mug, a Large Dean’s Beans T-Shirt, a 12 oz. bag of Organic Hot Cocoa Mix, a 12 oz. bag of Organic Baking Cocoa, a 24 oz. bag of Organic Sugar, and a pound of Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. (Value: $85)

Social activism, ecological responsibility, and great coffee meet at Dean’s Beans, a family-owned certified organic, fair trade coffee roaster. Offering fair priced, great tasting products that support peaceful social change, Dean’s Beans is characterized by an unyielding commitment to ethical business practices, people-centered development, and sound ecological practices. The quality of their products is a reflection of the quality of life of our farm partners. The health and strength of their communities are integral to our success. We design and fund grassroots development projects in the villages where we buy our beans. To read about these projects please visit our website at

Appalachian Naturals (Goshen, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Sundried Tomato Horserdish Dip (12 oz): Rustic blend of freshly grated horseradish roots, farm fresh buttermilk, & a touch of sundried tomatoes. Chipotle Bleu Cheese Dip (12 oz): Spicy southwest sauce with fresh buttermilk, bleu cheese & smoky chipotle peppers. Chipotle Honey Mustard (10 oz): Sweet & spicy mustard with honey from Warm Colors Apiary. Cape Cod Caviar (10 oz): Organic cranberry sauce sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar, loaded with Cape Cod cranberries. (Value: $45)

Since 2004 Appalachian Naturals has been committed to bridging the gap between local agriculture and the grocery aisle, with a slogan “Local Agriculture Is Everyone’s Business.” Located 20 miles east of the Berkshire region of the Appalachian Mountains in the Hilltowns of Western  Mass, their dressings, dips, organic salsas, and barbecue sauces are made locally using ingredients from local farms & artisans; such as: Mapleline Farm, Warm Colors Apiary, Atlas Farm, South River Miso, Red Fire Farm, and Holiday Brook Farm. Appalachian Naturals can be purchased at local markets and co-ops, or at seasonal farmers’ markets and farm stands. Favorites include Sundried Tomato Horseradish, Organic Salsa Veracruz, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, and Applewood Smoked Barbecue Sauce.

Dufresne’s Sugar House (Williamsburg, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Dufresne’s Sugar House is offering a gift basket containing a pint each of Light Amber Maple Syrup and Dark Amber Maple Syrup and five packets of maple candy made from the finest early-season light amber maple syrup. (Value: $38)

Located in the beautiful hilltowns of Western Mass, Dufresne’s Sugar House has been making award-winning maple syrup for four generations. That’s over 100 years of sugaring experience!  The Dufresne family works for the maple sugaring season all year round, practicing sustainable forest management, and harvesting  their syrup with a smoke-free, wood-burning evaporator.  They offer three grades of 100% pure and natural maple syrup, along with maple candy, maple cream, maple sugar block and Indian sugar.  Their maple candy make great table/party favors and all maple products are available for both home and commercial use, shipping out daily to customers from MA to California. Find out more about Dufresne’s Sugar House at

Bart’s Ice Cream (Greenfield, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Barbara and Gary are offering coupons for one pint of Bart’s Super Premium Ice Cream (redeemable in grocers in Hampshire and Franklin Counties and in the Berkshires in select stores); and one 56 oz. carton of Snow’s Premium Ice Cream (redeemable in grocers in Hampshire and Franklin Counties). They’re also offering a 9 oz jar of Bart’s Homemade Hot Fudge; and a Bart’s long sleeved t-shirt with“Think Local, Buy Bart’s” on the back (Value: $35)

Bart’s Super Premium Ice Cream and Snow’s Premium Ice Cream has been using locally sourced, high quality ingredients since the 1970’s. The Snow’s brand is a family priced premium product that sells in 1/2 gallons, while Bart’s is a super-premium, that appeals to adults who want something special and are willing to pay a bit more for it. Over the past 3 decades, owners Barbara and Gary discovered they are also passionate about giving back to their community. 1% of their gross sales is donated yearly to charities and fund raisers. They also contribute their time to community boards (CISA and River Valley Market) and are committed to supporting organizations that work toward eliminating environmental and social problems.

Tea Guys (Hatfield, MA)

GIVEAWAY: This Tea Guys gift box includes a selection of three tins of our unique blends: Tropical Green tea, Pomegranate Pear fruit tisane, and Toffee Chocolate Hazelnut black tea, alongside a ceramic teapot with a stainless steel strainer for brewing the perfect cup of tea. (Value: $65)

Tea Guys is a local family-owned business specializing in artisan whole leaf loose tea blends. Their culinary-inspired tea creations are blended in small batches daily and made with the finest loose tea from around the world, freshly hand-milled spices, vanilla bean, dried fruits, nuts and artisan ingredients to create unique and colorful blends that stimulate the eyes, nose, and palate – and truly taste like no other tea.


Your chance to win one of these glorious gift baskets is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply:


  2. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES HAS HELPED YOU DISCOVER WESTERN MA LOCAL FOOD CULTURE in the comment box below, and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and the winner will be announced during the open reception as explained below.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! —  Deadline to enter to win is Friday, February 4th, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  Five different winners will win one of the above mentioned baskets during the opening reception of Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup and Top Café in Florence, MA (1 North Main St. 585-0445). Winners will be announced at 6:30pm and must be present to win. If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at

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