Fork & Spade: A community food digest for April

  • Volunteers, from left, Brant Jones, Anne Maynard and Howard Moore, plant pollinator friendly plants at Bridge Street School. Western Mass Pollinators Network

For the Gazette
Published: 4/15/2021 1:15:51 PM

Winter is finally over and the glory of spring abounds! While enjoying the sunshine through her open window, your Fork & Spade moderator wants to remind you that joy is an excellent engine for action. This month’s column contains so many different opportunities to help your food-insecure neighbors, as well as some chances to learn more about the community connections and land around you. Read on, and be well!

A community farm grows,Tuesday Market returns

If you’ve ever been curious about the cultivated areas around and across the street from the Florence soccer fields, wonder no longer. That land is part of Grow Food Northampton’s 121-acre community farm, whose veteran tenant farmers include Crimson & Clover, Sawmill Herb Farm, Song Sparrow Farm and Lakeside Organics. It also encompasses Grow Food’s organic Community Garden and its Giving Garden, which grows 9,000 pounds of organic produce annually for donation to organizations that prepare meals for and distribute food to community members experiencing food insecurity.

This spring, Grow Food is excited to welcome three new farms onto our parcel: Riquezas del Campo, an immigrant-led worker-owned cooperative farm entering its third season; a collective of Somali Bantu families who grow food for themselves, their families, and their community; and Angel Ramos, an experienced farmer and vendor at many local farmers markets.

And in a sure sign of the seasons changing over, the Tuesday Market returns this month. The market will kick off its 30-week season on April 20 from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the plaza between Thornes Marketplace and the Gare Parking Garage in downtown Northampton.

Our vendor lineup is growing this year, and we are happy to be bringing back many old favorites as we move out of the pandemic. For now, COVID safety will be required, including a limited customer capacity, masks and physical distancing. Kingfisher Duo will be bringing their lively strings music to the opening market. We hope to see you there.

Pollinate Northampton

In the midst of all the joys of spring — trees budding out, bird couples nesting — it can be easy to forget that nature’s balance is never guaranteed, and that pollinators — so central to food security — need our help to reverse their alarming decline.

Recently, participants in the local group Pollinate Northampton! joined a pilot to increase native plants for pollinators across and between Northampton residents’ yards and public “anchor plantings” like those in Pulaski Park. Their work has been encouraged and supported by the Western Mass Pollinator Networks, which also promotes pesticide reduction and helps disseminate information on pollinator-friendly town resolutions.

Western Mass Pollinator Networks is poised to do more, however. In the past few years, Director Peggy McLeod has received so many requests for guidance and resources from pollinator advocates beyond western Massachusetts that it became clear that she couldn’t keep up with such demand. Fortunately, last summer, the Northeast Organic Farming Association agreed to coordinate pollinator protection statewide. The two organizations have since formed a steering committee to launch the Massachusetts Pollinator Network, and have established a fundraising site and set a goal of hiring a coordinator this year.

“NOFA/Mass is excited to build centralized resources and pull together more individuals and towns working together for pollinators,” says Marty Dagoberto, the group’s policy director. By May we expect to hire a coordinator and take this on.”

Donations help strengthen the survival chances for pollinators (and our food system) across Massachusetts at go.rallyup.com/pollinators2021. Contact Peggy MacLeod at wmassbees@gmail.com for more information, and learn more about Pollinate Northampton! at wmassbees.org.

Manna calls for volunteers

Manna Community Kitchen served more individuals last month than they ever have before. Nora Finnerty writes:

“Are you someone who wakes up thinking about chopping vegetables, sauteeing sauces, and baking fragrant entrees? No? Well, now you can be! Manna Community Kitchen is looking for volunteers to help fill the Monday morning kitchen prep shift, starting at 8am. While helpful, previous cooking successes and/or experience are not necessary. Our kind and patient chef, Lee, is willing to help turn you into the culinary whiz you’ve always dreamed of being.

“You can sign up for a volunteer shift at mannanorthampton.org under the ‘Volunteers’ tab. Oh, and there are other volunteer opportunities available besides kitchen prep — we have food packaging and cleaning shifts available too!”

Cathedral in
the Night

Cathedral in the Night reminds us that food is connected to more than just physical sustenance. The ministry worships in front of First Churches every Sunday evening. During the pandemic, the gatherings take place at 4:45 p.m. for a brief service followed by a free community meal.

“Cathedral is a place of connection for the student, the unhoused, the housed, the seeker, and the non-believer,” writes Pastor Dawn Orluske. “In addition to dinner on Sundays, we strive to meet needs like providing clothing, hand warmers, sleeping bags, long underwear, toiletries, feminine products, toilet paper and wipes. We always have Narcan available for free, and we strive to build a diverse community of people who might otherwise never get to know one another.”

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cathedral partners with Manna to host the Kindness Cafe outside, in front of St. John’s Church from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Starting this spring, the group will meet on Mondays under the giant tent at St. John’s for a check-in group where people are encouraged to share the highs and lows of their week and lift one another in prayer. All are welcome.

“This year, our ministry is celebrating 10 years of service. We have been supported by countless congregations who bring food and supplies each week,” Orluske says. “In the pandemic, we have especially been buoyed by the beloved community of Northampton. Thank you to the dozens of families who have baked treats and written notes of encouragement.

“Among those are the Key Club at Northampton High School for volunteering weekly; Berkshire Naturals, which has given us tons of healthy snacks; the Kiwanis Club, for providing a vegan meal; local restaurants (Local Burger, Belly of the Beast and Roberto’s); the Downtown Northampton Association; city councilors; and our state representative and senator, who have brought vegan and vegetarian food for our dinners.”

If you’d like to donate, volunteer, or help with a meal, please email info@cathedralinthenight.org.

Food policy council begins work

And finally, when it comes to food access, the input of those whose lives are most affected by policies and systems that encourage better health outcomes is invaluable; this is something that Healthy Hampshire understands. Its work seeks, among other things, to help make fresh, healthy food more accessible and affordable for everyone in the community.

After years of organizing multiple coalitions to address food system issues throughout Hampshire County, Healthy Hampshire received funding via Cooley Dickinson Health Care and the MA Health Policy Commission last year to develop a countywide food policy council, with the goal of advancing policy, systems and environmental changes to increase food security across the county.

The Hampshire County Food Policy Council has since begun its work from the ground up by first establishing a Governance Circle — a group of underrepresented residents charged with selecting a decision-making method for the council — before moving on to form a Startup Circle with many of the same residents, who will be responsible for figuring out how the council as a whole will work.

As the council develops, Healthy Hampshire is facilitating monthly Learning Circles to disseminate key knowledge and values out to interested community members. These Learning Circles are open to anyone who would like to be involved with the Hampshire County Food Policy Council. People can sign up to get notifications about coming Learning Circles by visiting www.tinyurl.com/HCFPCsurvey.

April’s Learning Circle will take place on Tuesday, April 27, from 1–3 p.m. on Zoom, and the topic will be an Introduction to Cultural Humility, facilitated by the Women of Color Health Equity Collective.

Francie Lin is the food access coordinator for Grow Food Northampton. She can be reached at francie@growfoodnorthampton.org.




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