Celebrate Public Shade Tree Planting in Amherst 2016

The Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee (APSTC) invites you and your neighborhood to apply to become this year’s Neighborhood Tree Steward Project. We’re seeking one Amherst neighborhood in need of public shade trees with several interested households to work with us to select, plant, water, mulch etc. and learn how to care for newly planted trees. Last October, we worked with neighbors on Potwine Lane and planted 18 new public shade trees. Interested? Contact Nancy Higgins at nehiggins@amherst.edu and/or meet with some of us at The Sustainability Festival on the Amherst Town Common, April 16, 2016.


Help Bagshare Amherst!

bagsBagshare Amherst and All Things Local is in need of gently used cloth bags, can you help?

In an effort to reduce their environmental impact, All Things Local Cooperative Market is partnering with the Bagshare project!


The BagShare event is ongoing at All Things Local. The in-house (or on the patio, rather) event that they had recently was very successful. They made over 50 bags… BUT they need your excess empty cloth bags to help get to 150 bags!

Your donated bags will be outfitted with a “bagshare” label and then will be available to those who have forgotten their reusable bags!  Sharon Raymond, of Simple Shoemaking will be overseeing the “BagShare” program.

All Things Local is holding off on handing out these bags until they have 150 – so they will definitely be having another (on the patio) event in the very near future.

Please help by bringing your extra soft cloth bags that are suitable for shopping!

Remembering our Backyard Baker

For Dorie – the Bionic Baker/Biker

Lissa Pierce Bonifaz

An empty shelf at All Things Local
An empty shelf at All Things Local

One summer day in June of 2010, I biked to Simple Gifts Farm to pick up my share. To my disappointment, Bread Euphoria had been replaced by Backyard Bakery. This new bread had heft with which I was not accustomed. So, I asked Jeremy, “what’s with the shift?”

He explained that Dorie was a local patron to the farm and that her bread was “out of this world”. So, I took loaves of flaxseed and Danish rye home. My family loved it. Dorie’s bread was soulful: full of substantive nutrition and texture. It found its way into my morning routine of hot tea, buttered toast and marmalade. And I came to depend on Dorie’s bread each morning like one needs water when walking through a desert.

Dorie got around-on her bike that is. I bought her bread at the Amherst Farmer’s Market, at Kendrick Park, at the Swartz’s farm, at Portabello’s and most recently at All Things Local. She quickly became known as a local superhero like no other: an entrepreneur, single mother of two teen-age boys who moved her bread around town on bike. She seemed superhuman; using mixers taller than her to bake a bazillion loaves of bread and bike them around town, no matter the weather. A spark in our midst. Who inspired so many to think beyond the conventional choices we, women were being given in this small town.

dorieJust three weeks ago, Elsie, of Aunt Elsie’s Cookie Crisps shared with me how she and Dorie supported each other during the more difficult months of the winter market. I told her that the two of them were real inspirations to other women who would like to be entrepreneurs, but lacked the courage that these two women so abundantly shared. I went to Dorie’s table next and bought my last two loaves of her bread. My daughter was with me and asked her, “where’s your green car?”

She told us that her bike mobile was broken and she didn’t know how it could get fixed. She smiled at us and then moved to attend to another customer. While leaving, I wondered if it was difficult for Dorie to go back to driving when she was so committed to her travels by bike. I knew these ideals were her bread and butter.

It seems ironic that the very world Dorie was trying to protect would be the culprit for her tragic death. Out enjoying Mother Nature, she was swallowed up by frozen falls and taken from us so abruptly. This does not seem natural to me.

It is hard to make meaning out of such a tragedy for her family and our community. Perhaps her energy burned so bright precisely because it knew its finite ending.

As I finish the last few crumbs of her beloved bread, I am assured that I have known a local heroine like no other. 

GFA supports the Massachusetts GMO Right to Know Legislation

The Steering Committee of Grow Food Amherst voted to join the many businesses and organizations that have indicted their support for pending Massachusetts legislation, Genetic Engineering Transparency Food and Seed Labeling Act, H.D. 369, (the GMO Labeling Law) sponsored by our own Representative Ellen Story and supported by 143 of the 200 Massachusetts legislators.  The up to the minute list of legislative sponsors is here.

banner_test1More than 300 local businesses, organizations and community groups have so far joined the network supporting GMO labeling in Massachusetts.  To be clear, this is not an “anti-GMO” bill, but rather a “pro-right to know” bill.  Grow Food Amherst has not expressed an opinion on the safety, value, or economic and social impact of the genetic modification technology.  This remains an open question in scientific circles.  This is a pro-consumer right to know issue.  For more information on the proposed legislation, see: Mass GMO Labeling Law

Help us celebrate National Food Day in Amherst

foodayTO:  Grow Food Amherst Members and Friends

Last October, Grow Food Amherst sponsored a community potluck at the Bangs Center in celebration of National Food Day.  We are asking for your help in planning an event or food related activity.  This year’s Food Day themes are nutritional education, food justice and partnerships with local farmers! 

You can help by joining us on Wednesday, June 18 at 7:00pm – 9:00pm at the Bangs Community Center (Room 101) and/or sharing the 2014 Food Day Meeting flyer with  your friends and contacts.

In this meeting, we will share priorities for an improved food system, share ideas on ways to build off last year’s activities, and brainstorm on how your organization can use Food Day to promote your current work for a sustainable food system in Massachusetts.

Please RSVP to: Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Coordinator at ciccarellos@amherstma.gov or by phone (413) 259-3149.

Thanks for the help!

Food Day is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.  Here is the 2013 campaign report. Massachusetts was #2 in the country with 640 activities! 

Come to this meeting for an overview of what Food Day is, meet others who care about our food system and have fun networking with like minded people.

A few ideas from recent brainstorming sessions around the state:

  • MA schools “Eat Real” 2014 challenge (over 340 schools did last year!)
  • A statewide “Apple Crunch”
  • Food Justice Summits and panels
  • Farm tours and community activities with your local farmer
  • Health center staff members hosting local food potlucks
  • Cooking demonstrations and lessons
  • Community youth groups hosting healthy education activities
  • Food system forums and/or film screenings at town community centers
  • College campus organizing (over 30 campuses participated last year!)

Please bring your ideas to help us plan a local event!

You are invited to a public forum to discuss the proposed purchase of the Fort River Farm

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has awarded Amherst a grant for $105,665 to help acquire land for development of the proposed Sharing Gardens and Beginning Farmer Incubator at the Fort River Farm in East Amherst.  To complete the land acquisition, the Town is required to find additional funds.  Grow Food Amherst would like to invite you to a public forum to learn more about the proposed project, ask questions, and share your ideas!

Saul Property - Please join us on:

Thursday, April 10

5:00 – 6:30 pm

Woodbury Room – Jones Library

Facebook Announcement

The tentative agenda is as follows:

  1. Welcome and background – John Gerber, Grow Food Amherst
  2. Status of the proposal and funding – David Ziomek, Town of Amherst
  3. Experiences growing food on public land – Jake Stocker, farmer at Amethyst Conservation Area
  4. Preliminary plans for the Sharing Garden – Aaron Drysdale, Chair of the Sharing Garden Committee

The Community Preservation Act Committee voted unanimously to support a request for CPA funds to complete the purchase.  The proposal will go before Town Meeting in the spring.   While there was significant interest expressed at the Fall Town Meeting, the original proposal was not funded due to unanswered questions about the project.  This forum will attempt to answer some of those questions and seek further input from the public.

Grow Food Amherst is solidly in support of the purchase of the property and is very interested in making sure the concerns of residents and Town Meeting members are addressed.  Please join us for this public discussion.

If you are not able to attend, please send your thoughts and questions to: growfoodamherst@gmail.com

Thank you.




Free workshop on herbal approaches to stress relief – Saturday at noon

Grow Food Amherst is pleased to invite you to a free workshop!

white buff

Herbs for Stress Relief Workshop

Carol Joyce of White Buffalo Herbs

Saturday, March 1

12:00 Noon – 1:00pm

At the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market

Amherst Regional Middle School; 170 Chestnut St.

Most of us are surrounded by unwanted, irritating noise, pollutants, & smells in today’s world. Many worry or suffer undue stress. Community Herbalist, Carol Joyce of White Buffalo HERBS, will teach you how to create your own Aromatherapy sprays & herbal tinctures and discuss herbal stress relievers. No knowledge of herbs is necessary for this workshop. This is a beginner class.

Please join us for this free workshop!

And if you have not yet been to the Winter Market, it is the place to be on Saturday mornings!  Stop by for coffee and conversation with your friends and neighbors….


On finding cheap food or better quality of life (for all)

This month, the Pioneer Valley Relocalization Project welcomes UMass professor John Gerber’s contribution to its In Close Proximity column.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was tying grape vines at a farm in Central California on May 14, 2008, when the temperature soared well above 95 degrees. Only a few days in the country, this undocumented field worker, who didn’t have easy access to water, shade or the work breaks required by law, passed out from the heat and died two days later.

She was 17 years old. The Centers for Disease Control reports that heat-related deaths of farm workers are on the rise in the U.S. This deadly trend is unfortunately one of the costs of cheap food.

Our industrialized food system consisting of mega-farms, long-distance shipping and big box-stores has driven down the retail price of food to the point that Americans, on average, expend about 9 percent of their annual income on food. The industrial food system in the U.S. produces cheap food, but at a cost. Fortunately, in western Massachusetts we can partially opt out of this exploitative system.

Most of us recognize that vegetables grown in the Pioneer Valley are of higher quality than anything shipped from a distance. We enjoy the freshness and flavor of the food available at our local farmers’ markets, farm stands, food coops and some regional supermarkets. Yet most experts agree that less than 10 percent of the produce purchased in our region is grown locally.

I suspect the reason that 90 percent of Pioneer Valley consumers don’t regularly buy local food is due to its perceived higher price and the convenience of shopping at major supermarkets.

Busy people treat food shopping as just another task, rather than a pleasurable social experience. Studies indicate that we have 10 times more conversations when we shop at the farmers’ market than the supermarket. I know when I stop in at the new All Things Local Cooperative Market in downtown Amherst, I always bump into friends and neighbors.

Shopping locally isn’t an efficient use of time in my task-driven life, which is one of the reasons I make the effort. For me, this is about quality of life.

Of course, some regional supermarkets do try to buy local products. The Big Y, for example, is a Springfield family-owned business and a major supporter of the UMass Student Farm, which grows organic vegetables for sale locally. When we have to shop at supermarkets, we can support local farmers by asking specifically for their products.

And what about price? How often have we heard the statement that local food costs more?

Certainly, local beef, pork and chicken cost more than meat raised in a factory farm. You just can’t beat the efficiency and scale of the industrialized animal factory for low price. The fact that local meat products are generally produced with less stress on the animals may not be worth the higher price to some of us. Of course, if we were concerned about our own health, the health of our community and the health of the environment, we might choose to eat less meat altogether and buy local. This would be an investment in a higher quality of life for ourselves, for local farm families, and for the animals we consume.

On the other hand, there is little difference in price between local and shipped vegetables, especially during our growing season.

But “cost” includes more than “price.” The industrial food system that produces cheap food does so at the expense of the workers in the food system, on farms, in factories, shipping terminals, big box-stores, and the fast-food restaurants serving the food. These workers earn near minimum wage. A federal minimum wage law that leaves families in poverty is part of the cost of cheap food.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez’s death is also part of the cost of cheap food.

When we consider the quality of life we enjoy in the Pioneer Valley, we might also wonder about the quality of life of those who are working to produce, ship and sell cheap food. When we buy food shipped from long distances, we say “yes” to an exploitative system designed primarily to maximize financial returns of corporate shareholders at the expense of others.

It is true that relocalization of the food system may result in higher (but fairer) food prices overall. At the same time buying local food will create local jobs and build community. It is an investment in a higher quality of life. Is this an investment you can afford?


John M. Gerber is professor of sustainable food and farming at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture, a member of the Pioneer Valley Relocalization Project and one of the founding members of Grow Food Amherst, an organization of local citizens committed to helping the community become more food self-sufficient.

For information, visit www.growfoodamherst.org.

Original Post in the Amherst Bulletin

Amherst may work with Kestrel Land Trust to secure community farm rejected by Town Meeting

By SCOTT MERZBACH  (Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette: Friday, November 15, 2013)

AMHERST — A nearly 20-acre parcel being eyed as a community farm may still be acquired by the town, despite Town Meeting’s refusal to appropriate money for its purchase.

Town officials this week said they are working with the Kestrel Land Trust to secure the agricultural land on Belchertown Road with hopes of returning to Town Meeting in the spring to bring the property under town control.

“The bottom line is we’re not giving up on this acquisition,” said Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek. “We’re going to work with partner Kestrel in ways to make sure we don’t lose the opportunity to buy this land.”

Stephanie Ciccarello, sustainability coordinator for Amherst, said the project interests those who want to see more food grown in the community.

“This is still something we very much want to pursue. We think there’s a lot of value in this,” Ciccarello said.

To that end, Ciccarello helped organize a forum Wednesday with members of Grow Food Amherst to discuss strategies for both buying the land and then using it.

Ziomek said the message from Town Meeting is that there are concerns about not going through the usual process for using $41,785 in Community Preservation Act money. Such funds would have been used to obtain a Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity state grant so the town could purchase the land for $150,950.

Ziomek said he expects to apply for CPA funding in the spring, which has a deadline in mid-December. But with property owner Bob Saul intending to sell the property by the end of the year, Ziomek said, Kestrel could assist in holding it until the town can act.

Ciccarello said there may have been misunderstanding about how the land would have been used. While the town has other conservation areas that are leased to farmers, this would feature learning workshops and demonstrations by students and faculty from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College and Hampshire College, she said.

The land would also feature a shared community garden, which is different from community garden plots at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area and on Mill Lane.

“The idea is that right now you pay a fee to rent a community garden. There wouldn’t be a fee for this,” Ciccarello said.

People in need would be among the recipients of the fruits and vegetables grown on site which would be donated to places like the Amherst Survival Center.

A mentorship program would bring experienced farmers to the site and serve as an incubator for new farmers, she said. “This will benefit a young farmer starting out.”

Ziomek said the “learning and teaching piece” is essential.

“What makes the difference in the plan for the land is the variety of value-created options for agriculture,” Ziomek said.

Ziomek also spoke to the Amherst School Committee this week concerning the idea is to involve schoolchildren in the farming. The land is within walking distance of Fort River School.

Source URL:http://www.gazettenet.com/home/9316460-95/amherst-works-with-kestrel-land-trust-to-secure-community-farm-rejected-by-town-meeting

Composting Volunteers need to help compost those pumpkins with the Town of Amherst!

FROM:  Susan Waite, Amherst Recycling Coordinator

Hello Friends!

A fun project that supports a Sustainable Amherst needs some help.  On November 2nd and 9th (consecutive Saturdays) Amend Organics will be collect discarded jack-o-lantern pumpkins for composting at the Transfer Station and the Farmer’s Market (see flyer below and press release).  He is looking for some assistance at the Farmer’s Market location between 8 and 2 as he cannot be at both locations.  It will be a fun time and a great public education opportunity.

Thanks much! The work will not be taxing…compost cheerleading…making sure the pumpkins are not painted or coated with shellac and then direct folks where to plop it in (wheeled tote bins will be provided).

If we split each day into three, two-hour shifts, we are looking at:

Sat 11/2  8-10                      Sat 11/9 8-10

Sat 11/2  10-12                    Sat 11/9 10-12

Sat 11/2  12-2                      Sat 11/9 12-pm


If you can help, please contact Susan Waite at;

Susan Waite

Recycling  Coordinator*
Town of Amherst Department of Public Works

Household food waste collection at the Amherst Transfer Station will continue through fall 2014, per an agreement between Amend Organics and the Department of Public Works’ Division of Solid Waste. The pilot program, originally set to end in late October of this year, was very suc-cessful in terms of process and the quality of compostable household waste generated.

Open to all Transfer Station sticker holders, the program accepts all food waste and food-soiled paper, including material unsuitable for home composting such as meat, dairy, seafood, bones and greasy pizza boxes. Amend Organics’ biodegradable bags are sold at the Transfer Station in rolls of fourteen for $20.00. Participants may deliver bagged compost during Station operating hours.

Collected material is removed daily and transported to a nearby site for processing.
To kick-off the program’s continuation, Amend Organics will collect discarded Halloween Jack-o-lanterns free of charge from the general public during the Great Pumpkin Drop-off, held on two consecutive Saturdays: November 2nd and 9th. On those two days, area residents may deliver unpainted, uncoated pumpkins between 8am and 2pm to a collection center at the Amherst Farmer’s Market on the Town Common or to the Amherst Transfer Station. The Transfer Station sticker requirement will be waived for the pumpkin-possessing public on the two collection days. Transfer Station Supervisor Steve Telega feels this is important: “We collect discarded Christmas trees without stickers in January and we must avoid discriminatory practices…(we) don’t want to anger any ghouls and goblins.” he explained.

Amend Organics’ Great Pumpkin Drop-Off will positively impact on the environment in several ways. Pumpkin flesh is heavy, and collected material will be composted locally; removing it from the municipal waste stream will cut down on garbage truck emissions, as Amherst waste is hauled as far as 284 miles away for disposal. Finished compost is an excellent natural soil amendment and can be used in place of commercial petroleum-based agricultural fertilizers. Waste haulers operating locally will also benefit via reduced tonnage fees at landfills and incineration facilities.