Amherst Celebrates National Food Day with a Local Foods Potluck

WebAmherst Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello, welcomed 25 local residents to the first Local Food Potluck sponsored by Grow Food Amherst at the Bangs Community Center on Food Day, October 24.  Joining more than 4,500 food events in all 50 states, Amherst citizens took a small but positive step to fix the broken food system.

According to Rose Arruda, Food Day Massachusetts Coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources; “across many sectors, hundreds of individuals and organizations are collaborating on activities for Food Day. Knowing that they have come together to share and educate their community speaks to the sense of responsibility we have for our food system and that we have a stake in each other’s well being… we are also having fun as we do the work!”

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Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate

Food Day 2013!

Amherst Local Foods Community Potluck-October 24!

Please join us! potluckTo sign up, go to: Sign up here!

Grow Food Amherst invites all members of the community to gather for a potluck meal to celebrate National Food Day on Thursday, October 24th from 6-8 PM in the Large Activity Room of the Bangs Community Center. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share prepared with items from their garden, CSA, local farm or local food store (as much as possible), their own plate and utensils, and an index card with a list of ingredients for those with food allergies.

The group will also have a photo board on hand so that people may share photos of their gardens or prepared dishes.

“The main idea behind Food Day is to raise awareness of the importance of eating fresh, local and healthy food” said Amherst’s Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello.

“We are so fortunate in this valley to have an abundance of incredible local produce that Food Day seemed the perfect opportunity to gather and share a meal that reflects that bounty”.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Ciccarello at (413) 259-3149 or via e-mail at:  Please let us know you plan to attend by signing up below.

To sign up, go to: Sign up here!

Community Discussion Regarding the Fort River Farm Conservation Area

Imagine this site in East Amherst as location for a public farm and gardens!


The Town of Amherst Conservation Department invites community members to participate in a discussion regarding the pending acquisition of property in Amherst’s East Village Center.  The discussion is being held on Tuesday, October 29th from 6-8 PM in the Town Room of Town Hall.

“We are very excited about this opportunity” said Assistant Town Manager, David Ziomek.  “It is a unique parcel that has the potential to serve the community in numerous ways”.  The 19 acre lot is located adjacent to the Fort River Elementary School.  Potential uses include passive recreation and agriculture along with an interpretive nature trail.

“We are looking for public input and ideas on how this land would best serve the residents of Amherst” said Ziomek.  “With a history of agricultural use, there is great opportunity for growing food for those in need as well providing space for incubator farms for new farmers – perhaps with more seasoned farmers serving as mentors.  There are so many wonderful opportunities for collaboration “.

A map with possible uses indicated                                                                                SaulProperty All members of the community are invited to attend.  To RSVP and for more information, contact Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello at (413) 259-3149 or via e-mail:

Amherst may buy 19 acres on Belchertown Road as farm incubator

By SCOTT MERZBACH   Staff Writer    Friday, September 27, 2013

(Published in print: Saturday, September 28, 2013)

The effort to buy the 19-acre undeveloped parcel, owned by Robert Saul, is expected to come before fall Town Meeting. The site is within walking distance of both Fort River School and the East Amherst village center, Ziomek said.

Town Meeting will be asked to approve a request to use Community Preservation Act money and a state Local Acquisition for Natural Diversity grant. The amount needed is $155,950.

“One of the goals would be to create a community cooperative garden,” said assistant town manager David Ziomek.

The CPA Committee this week voted 4-1 to seek Town Meeting support for the $41,785 match.

“This is a unique opportunity to buy a piece of property at a reasonable price,” Ziomek said.


About 2½ acres would used as an outdoor learning center with tillable land. It would have a demonstration garden and educational workshops and would be open to all residents, unlike the individual plots at community gardens that are used by specific families.

In addition, four acres would be set aside for the sale of two to four licenses, issued by the Conservation Commission, to be used by start-up farmers who could learn about best organic growing techniques.

“The benefits of such a program ensure that those participants who reach the end of their license are more likely to have success when establishing their own farms elsewhere in the region,” Ziomek wrote in a memo to the board.

The village center has been a focus of both redevelopment and improvements, Ziomek said, and open space is part of this.

“A significant component of this vision is to integrate open space, community gardens, walking trails, space for passive recreation, into the village center” Ziomek wrote.

An interpretative trail outlining the natural resources and agricultural activities would be built and a foot bridge would be constructed from Fort River School to the site.

The land features 1,400 feet of frontage along the Fort River and is adjacent to other land already protected through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program.

Ziomek said he has support from both the public schools and the Grow Food Amherst organization for the purchase. The transaction must be made by the end of the year.

Food grown on the site would go to the Amherst Survival Center to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, he said.

Source URL:

NOTE:  anyone interested in helping Grow Food Amherst develop the community garden at the site, may contact Stephanie Ciccarello for information or come to a Grow Food Amherst Steering Committee meeting. 

Great Day at the Kendrick Park Farmers Market

Thanks to David Lovler, Becky Reed, and Juliet Carvajal for helping out at our booth at the Kendrick Park Farmers Market today.  We gave away 50 tomato plants and signed up new members!








Our last plant went to Olievera, pictured above with Steering Committee member Juliet.


The plant was pretty heavy, so Olievera took it home on her head!

Get Growing: Volunteers to plant 100 new vegetable gardens this season

By Cheryl B. Wilson                            Friday, April 12, 2013 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

A consortium of Amherst groups is urging 350 area residents to join in creating at least 100 new vegetable gardens this year. The idea is to establish new gardens in public and private spaces for growing healthy and affordable food.

kidsgradenIn addition to the local residents participating in the “350 Challenge,” Stephanie Ciccarello, sustainability coordinator for the town, is working with John Gerber of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, UMass Permaculture Group, UMass Auxiliary Enterprises, Hampshire College and Transition Amherst.

The kickoff event is a “Gardening 101” workshop on April 18, 6-9 p.m., at Amherst Town Hall. Charlotte Vesel, a trained volunteer with the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, will present an hour-long overview of vegetable gardening basics. After a question and answer session, participants can visit four information stations to learn about container and trellis gardening, how to build raised beds, techniques for building a “lasagna” garden and how to get your soil tested. The event is free. However, if you bring a soil sample to be tested, there is a $1 charge for supplies.

Two other events are scheduled for April 27 at the town’s Sustainability Festival on the town common and on May 5 in a living classroom workshop on installing a permaculture garden. At the sustainability festival, Tree Warden Alan Snow will demonstrate tree pruning at 10:30 a.m. Hope Crolius and her Goat Girls will talk, at 11:30 a.m., about how goats can control invasive species. Charlotte Vesel will demonstrate lasagna gardening at 12:30 p.m. and “Dr. Worm,” David Lovler, will explain composting at 1:30 p.m. The final demonstration will be basics of permaculture by the UMass Permaculture Group at 2:30 p.m.

To sign up for the 350 Challenge and for more information, go to or contact Ciccarello at 259-3149 or

Original Article


To help us reach 350, please sign up here.  Your commitment is only to grow something to eat!  You might be expanding an existing garden, starting a new one, growing strawberries in a planter on the patio, or even growing potted herb on your windowsill!


Amherst group seeks to inspire 350 vegetable & herb gardeners


Thursday, April 4, 2013

AMHERST — A community group is undertaking an effort to get 350 individuals or families to plant 100 new gardens in Amherst this spring, with hopes of having more local produce available to everyone.

Grow Food Amherst, a collaboration among Sustaining Amherst, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, University of Massachusetts Permaculture and other organizations, is starting the 350 Garden Challenge, in which growing more food locally in both the town’s public places and in neighborhoods is the objective.


“The idea is we are trying to think about how to do community gardening differently and encourage people to grow food independently,” said Stephanie Ciccarello, the town’s sustainability coordinator.

Ciccarello said Grow Food Amherst is encouraging people, even those who already do gardening on their property or in community gardens, to assist with the project and inspire others.

“We want people to grow food not just in their own backyard, but have opportunities to do this as a community,” Ciccarello said. “This is really a community project to help feed each other.”

The name of the challenge, she said, references the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists consider to be the threshold for maintaining a habitable climate.

Three free events will take place over the next month to help people interested in participating.

These begin April 18 at 6 p.m. with a Gardening 101 Workshop led by master gardener Charlotte Vesel at the Town Room at Town Hall.

Vesel will discuss the basics of gardening, followed by a question-and-answer period. There will be four work stations where attendees will learn basic techniques of soil testing, container and trellis gardening, how to build raised beds and techniques for making a “lasagna” garden.

Then, at the fourth annual Sustainability Festival on April 27 on the Town Common, a Grow Food Amherst booth will be set up where people can sign up to become members.

There will be demonstrations on pruning trees by Tree Warden Alan Snow at 10:30 a.m., goats controlling invasive species by the Goat Girls at 11:30 a.m., creating a “lasagna” garden by Vesel at 12:30 p.m., outdoor composting by David “Dr. Worm” Lovler at 1:30 p.m. and effective permaculture techniques by the UMass Permaculture group at 2:30 p.m.

On May 5, a living classroom workshop will be led by Sarah Berquist of UMass Permaculture from 1 to 3 p.m.

Ciccarello said Grow Food Amherst has been spreading its message through social media and a website,

Ciccarello said the project will continue in the fall when a seed saving workshop is held, a second annual gleaning event is staged in which volunteers get out to farm fields and remove edible fruits and vegetables left behind, and will conclude with a celebration of National Food Day in October.

Anyone interested in learning more about the 350 Garden Challenge should contact Ciccarello at 259-3149 or email

Original Article


To help us reach 350, please sign up here.  Your commitment is only to grow something to eat!  You might be expanding an existing garden, starting a new one, growing strawberries in a planter on the patio, or even growing potted herb on your windowsill!


Video – A place at the table – showing at Amherst Cinema

A Place at the Table

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will present a special screening of A Place at the Table, on:

Thursday, March 7 at 7:00 pm

at Amherst Cinema

placetableComing to us from the producers of Food, Inc., Fast Food Nation, and An Inconvenient Truth, A Place at the Table,  focuses on three real Americans struggling with food insecurity. Click here to watch the trailer.

50 million people in the U.S.—including one in five children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans.  Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us that although hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation,  it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides—as they have in the past—that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

Following the film, Food Bank Executive Director Andrew Morehouse will lead a panel discussion about domestic hunger with Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA, featured in the film and UMass Professor Julie Caswell.

Tickets are available now online at and at the Amherst Cinema box office.


Two other Amherst food events in March:

March 13 – Open Steering Committee Meeting of Grow Food Amherst

March 14 – What’s Growin’ On – Amherst Farms – open discussion