Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, March 24, 2019

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Resources that Support Garden-Based Learning

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: May Segment
Resources that Support Garden-Based Learning

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal host, Ashley Kohl, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, May 28, 2015, this month looking at community-based education through the lens of gardening.  Sienna and Ashley talk about ways to expose our families to gardening-based learning experiences, both with in the garden and out in your community.

Using the seasons as a catalyst for learning can help connect kids to their environment and the seasonal cycles of their community. Garden-based learning is just one activity that is on many minds every spring. Stop and think what else cycles around each year and how you can use it as a point of entry to community-based education. Then take advantage of your local resources, following your interests and education through community engagement.

Discover local events and resources that make connects and support garden-based learning in our post, Learning through the Lens of Gardens.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Thursday, June 25!

Community Gardens Help Out Local Food Pantries in Berkshire County

Berkshire County Digs in to Assist Local Food Pantries

Donations of cabbage, tomatoes, greens, carrots, potatoes, onions, and others make a surprising addition to the food sent out to pantries and allow the creative cooks at meal sites to add another dimension of nutrition to their meals. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The first items that many individuals reach for when donating to a food drive or food pantry are canned or boxed non-perishable items. Now many community organizations in Berkshire County are reaching for shovels as a means to stretch donations and provide those in need with a source of nutritious, organic, locally-grown produce.

Each Tuesday morning the parking lot at the Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) springs to life as organizations arrive in pick-ups, vans, and sedans as a tractor trailer filled with food donations from The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts arrives. But, also waiting to be loaded into those waiting vehicles are over 600 pounds of fresh organic produce, harvested three hours earlier less than five miles away. Donations of cabbage, tomatoes, greens, carrots, potatoes, onions, and others make a surprising addition to the food sent out to pantries and allow the creative cooks at meal sites to add another dimension of nutrition to their meals.

Russell Moody, the minister at The Church of Christ in Pittsfield has created the “Giving Garden,” A 200-by-80 foot organic garden proudly displayed on the rolling hill in front of their building. This is the first year for the Giving Garden. With an average weekly donation of 500 pounds the crop yield has peaked at nearly 800 pounds, all going directly to local food pantries and meal sites. The entire garden is supplemented and maintained through donated plants and 100 percent volunteer-driven harvests. Dozens of volunteered man-hours go into producing those 600-plus pounds of food each week.

The Church of Christ is not the only organization localizing food donations in Pittsfield. The Unitarian Universalists of Pittsfield also have a dedicated garden space, along with a mobile chicken coop to provide much needed protein to the local agencies. You can listen to the Unitarian Universalists Garden radio webcast, and find more information about the program here!

There are also community gardens popping up throughout the Berkshires. Schools, housing complexes, and little swaths of green space have been allocated for organic gardens with some or most of the harvest going directly to local food pantries and meal sites.

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

With fresh, organic produce speed is of foremost importance. On Monday August 20th, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts received a large donation of organic eggplant. The produce was sorted and inspected at 9am Monday morning and later packaged and organized for shipment. On Tuesday morning The Food Bank’s tractor trailer arrived at BCAC at 10:25am. By 12:30 as the First Methodist Church in Pittsfield is beginning to prepare it its Harvest Table meal for the evening, food pantry clients are choosing that very same eggplant that was donated to The Food Bank only one day earlier.

With so many new and exciting ideas to assist your local food pantry and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts find out how you can donate in your community and fight hunger in your backyard.


Join Hilltown Families on an organized field trip to The Food Bank of Western MA in Hatfield on Sept. 15th at 1:30pm. Our field trip will involve a tour of the Food Bank where 7.6 million pounds of food gets sorted every year!   Participating families/groups can see how the facility operates with pallets of food, the walk in freezer, forklifts and staff management.  Games as a group will be facilitated to aid in the understand of the concept of hunger, and there will be a hands-on volunteer project.  This is a free event, open to all! To sign up, click on the banner.

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