Monday, August 22, 2011

Preservation Nation: Frozen Blue Ice

My man wants to learn to can.  Really! So we're starting with the easy stuff. 

Blueberries a) because they can be frozen, b) because first you turn them into tiny blue frozen ice cubes by spreading them all out on a cookie sheet and then into freezer for only a bit of time c) before dipping the cookie sheet into a bag, frozen blue ice an be consumed right now (or in January with Prosecco) and finally e) no messy clean up. 

So far we have 11 bags of the things, stuffed into zip lock bags, stuffed into the freezer, ready to be launched. 

Total time: around 15 minutes, not all at once, not counting buying flats of them, not including shopping around for the best price, not including regret that we are a bit past the season, not including glee and thanks that we finally did score some grown in Westfield, big, beautiful, plenty to last us a year.

This is not canning but we are 'putting up' food for later. Not much later but later, all the same. Next we will do Peaches.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Restaurant of the Week: Magpie

Evelyn Whitbeck-Poorbaught.... is on a tear.

This weekend, Magpie, her pizza place, will be inundated with the spillover of the 1000 or so of people who show up on the Green in Greenfield for Free Harvest Supper. But this is a good thing, for us, anyway.

Evelyn's pizza is sublime - cooked in a wood fired oven making for a flat, bubbly crust that takes the beauty of summer tomatoes one step further to nirvana.

A better thing, if it is possible, is that that self same pizza will be offered in the food line for free at Free Harvest Supper. The pizza shown above was served in Evelyn's restaurant on Bank Row as the Tuesday Night Special this week. It consisted of feta, artichoke hearts, red onion, sungold cherry tomatos and fennel. Need I say more?

This Sunday, August 21, at Free Harvest Supper, the Evelyn's pass-around-to-the-crowd pizza will be in keeping with the theme of the event. The crust will be baked from local wheat and it will be topped with local feta, crazy-fresh area tomatoes and basil, among other things.

Free Harvest Supper chefs create the meal with food that comes in a day or two before the event. All from the fields of area farms, all quite fresh and if I didn't mention it, left over from the harvest. Pizza handed out on Sunday between 5 and 7 will be featuring tomatoes and cheese but to see what else, better show up and don't forget a plate and utensils. This event is zero waste.

Magpie, if you happen over there on Sunday, is located across the green on Bank Row and will be open during Free Harvest Supper, thus Evelyn's tear. I do believe she will be ready though. Her background as a conspirator chef in Free Harvest Supper for years makes her event-ready for anything. The pizza menu at Magpie on Sunday will feature the special pictured above as well as house-made sausage and broccoli rabe, fennel, arugula and goat cheese and perrenials such as meatball and peperroni and mushroom.

Magpie has a nice wine and beer list as well as other things featuring local food besides pizza.

Magpie Restaurant
21 Bank Row
Greenfield MA

Restaurant Hours
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 4 to 9
Friday and Saturday 4 to 10

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Farmer Software-of-the-week

Small Farm Central-Your Friend in the Cloud

The infrastructure of a city or town say, Pittsburgh, PA or Hadley, MA, greatly depends on raw materials. In the case of Pittsburgh, available steel makes for structures of a solid state and in Hadley, the very fertile river valley irrigates our soil.

But the digital infrastructure is yet another thing. In the City of Steel, Simon Huntley brings the computing cloud to those working under real clouds, the very clouds that make farming as volatile as the stock market.

Today Simon' farming is limited to a small back yard plot but his extensive experience on a farm in Colorado gave him a good look at what it takes to plant, nurture and harvest as well as doing it all over again. Selling the stuff is yet another chore. Simon is also an information technology grad. He formed Small Farm Central four years ago to marry farming with computing. "I'm not in this to make a million dollars, obviously," he said. "We are self-funded and we really just want to make life easier for farmers with direct marketing and web services."

Small Farm Central has four employees and has grown organically. The company now has over 400 customers across the country and in Canada. Services range from a web presence, hosting, e-commerce and mailing list options, all for a monthly fee. "We have a designer on staff. The sites are run on templates so they are easy to create but people still manage to make them look different," said Simon adding that technical support in the form of a person is also provided.
Typically, farmers will use the e-commerce functionality to manage buying clubs, inventory and track wholesale account.  "Typically people will use us for inventory and tracking specialty food like honey and flowers. Inventory capabilities help prevent people from selling out," says Simon. In addition, the company designs websites and provides templates. Locally, Town Farm of Northampton and the Tuesday Farmers' Market are both represented by Small Farm Central websites.

The latest of the company's offerings is a free mapping site for farmers' markets and other groups called "Farmers Faces." Farms are referenced on a map with a link to farms' websites. The map is populated by individuals who run it such as farmers market managers or advocacy groups and others. "We're doing this so that people only have to update their information once," says Simon. "People have a presence online all over the place. They can be a member of a specialty group and selling at a farmers market and through a CSA. With a profile on Farming Faces, users won't have to constantly update their profiles," he said.

The volatility of weather is a big factor in selling fresh food. Getting the word out about late breaking crop news like having lots of melons to move, for example, or increasing awareness about winter shares where direct marketing can come in handy. Social media provides myriad ways to communicate a the rise and fall of food ranging from Twitter to Facebook in a world where everyone seems to be looking at hand held devices. Farmers in the fields checking rain patterns on their Blackberries less than a mile from people driving in cars checking for the nearest farm stand. Simon takes a broad view of social media. "We can provide help with the web side of things," he says. "A good site is the bedrock any marketing plan. We don't do a ton of social media but we will be looking to more integration where necessary."

When asked where he sees the web marketing scene ten years from now Simon responded, "I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day about this," he said. "Ten years ago was just 2001 so I guess my answer to that is that things will be the same only different." Kind of like the weather.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free Harvest Supper Menu for Sunday 8-21-11

Serious food.....
This Sunday at Free Harvest Supper where the food is free and the really really free market offers more free food, chefs Maggie and Evelyn will serving the menu below. All food local, donated and being served on the Green in Greenfield to one and all after 5 pm this Sunday on August 21.  Meuu will feature 100% local pizza with in season cheese, tomato and pesto, among other local stuff. 

Politically correct pizza! How great is this country?

Free Harvest Supper Menu

TURKEY PEACH SALAD (local turkey)
KAPUSTA (Cabbage)

Really, Really Free Harvest Supper Needs You!

Many Hands Make Light Work: Volunteers Needed for Free Harvest Supper
For more information: contact

           All are welcome to be part of this great community event which features a free bountiful meal of locally grown food donated by local farmers and prepared by local chefs, live music, children’s activities, educational displays, and a Really, Really Free Market. The Supper organizers are planning an event that includes recycling and composting and produces very little trash. Help conserve resources and reduce trash by bringing your own reusable place setting (plate, cup, fork, spoon) and napkin. 

(MC this year is Garth Shaneyfelt pictured above)

Organized by MANY volunteers, inspired by Juanita Nelson, enjoyed by hundreds of community members each year, the Free Harvest Supper has three goals: to encourage everyone to eat locally grown food, to support local agriculture, and to raise money for Greenfield Farmers’ Market coupons distributed by the Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry. The supper, entertainment, displays, and the Really, Really Free Market are all free for everyone. . .and the organizers welcome donations to support the Greenfield Farmers’ Market Coupon Program.

Many hands make light work and great community events! The organizers of the Free Harvest Supper are looking for more willing hands to help at the Supper. Volunteers are needed the day of the Supper for set-up, food preparation, serving, recycling and composting, clean-up, and other tasks. The Supper will be held this Sunday, August 21, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on the Greenfield Town Common/Court Square. To volunteer to help at the Free Harvest Supper, contact Jennifer at (413) 774-3179 or For more information about the Free Harvest Supper, and to see pictures of past Suppers, visit (chefs Maggie & Evelyn from Hope & Olive and Magpie of Greenfield)
All are welcome to be part of this great community event which features a free bountiful meal of locally grown food donated by local farmers and prepared by local chefs, live music, children’s activities, educational displays, and a Really, Really Free Market. The Supper organizers are planning an event that includes recycling and composting and produces very little trash. Help conserve resources and reduce trash by bringing your own reusable place setting (plate, cup, fork, spoon) and napkin.

Last year, $4,000 was raised from donations, raffle ticket sales, and fundraisers. The Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry distributes Farmers’ Market coupons to folks who are hungry, they use the coupons to buy food at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market, and the farmers who accept the coupons are paid by the Food Pantry. In a cycle of local generosity and abundance, folks at the Free Harvest Supper enjoy a free meal, hungry families use the coupons and enjoy great food, and farmers are paid for their produce. (Pictured above Barts Ice Cream scooper and to left Dan Botkin, farmer and contributor.)
To make financial donations to the Free Harvest Supper: Send checks made out to Center for Self-Reliance to Dino Schnelle, Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry, 3½ Osgood Street, Greenfield, MA 01301. Please note “Free Harvest Supper” on the check. For more information about the Center for Self-Reliance and the Greenfield Farmers’ Market Coupon project, please call (413) 773-5029.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Art in the Orchard - Sculpture Park Hill Orchard

1st Public Sculpture at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton, MA, where Culture meets Horticulture: 22 sculptures and installations by 16 local and regional Artists displayed along a path meandering through apple and pear trees, raspberry and blueberry bushes.

GRAND OPENING: August 13, 2-5pm. Then open every day from dawn to dusk until October 30th.

Art and nature overlooking the Pioneer Valley in the light shadow of Mt Tom as backdrop.

Art in the Orchard is funded in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. 

Artist nameMedium
Tim de Christopher (website)Stone
Piper Foreso (website)Steel, plate glass, dichroic glass
Laurie FrazerMosaics
Susan Halls (website)High fired terracotta
Matt Evald Johnson (website)Forged and fabricated Steel
John LandinoSteel
Marty Klein (website)Wrought Iron
Robert Markey (website)Ferrocement, Mosaics (mirror, marble, smalti, gold)
Chris Millette (website)Wood
Lauren Mills (website)Cast Bronze
Maggie Nowinski (website)Mixed media installation
Kamil Peters (website)Reclaimed metal
Karen Rossi (website)Steel, Aluminum, Steel and Paint
Brace Thompson (website)Steel
Bob Turan (website)Welded Painted Steel, stainless steel, polished concrete
Chris WoodmanRepurposed Steel Saw blades, clock springs