Mary Nelen Photo
Several weeks ago it was announced that the Food Bank Farm CSA in Hadley, which sold farm shares to consumers and supplied produce to the Food Bank Farm of Western Massachusetts, is closing after almost 20 years. Locavore spoke with Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank, about the functions that will be carried on by the Farm's successor, Mountain View Farm.
VL: Now that the Food Bank Farm is no longer in operation, will you aim to grow the same food in 2010 for the "food insecure," i.e. hungry?
Andrew Morehouse: We'll be working with Ben Perrault of Mountain View Farm to determine which crops will be grown on the Food Bank Farm that the Food Bank can easily distribute to pantries, meal sites and shelters across Western Massachusetts as well as to shareholders of Mountain View Farm. Fortunately, the Food Bank receives a total of about 800,000 pounds of local produce every year from area farms.
Will you continue to have a goal of 200,000 pounds of food per season?
We expect the harvest to yield less total pounds of produce than past years, since some of the land will be left fallow on a crop rotation basis in order to give the land a rest.
The Food Bank CSA [Community Supported Agriculture farm] on the Food Bank Farm tilled the land to provide food for the area's hungry. Food Bank of Western Mass leases the property for purposes of distributing food to agencies. Is this food activism model unique in the nation?
Yes, very much so. We've invited current Food Bank Farm shareholders to continue to support this unique partnership by becoming shareholders at the Perraults' Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, or by signing up with the Next Barn Over CSA that Michael Docter has decided to start on his own land. In addition, there are now at least 16 or so other CSAs to choose from in the Pioneer Valley.
Why is Michael Docter no longer a part of Food Bank Farm?
Michael Docter is a legacy in the CSA community, having spearheaded the Food Bank Farm for close to two decades. We are so grateful to Michael for creating such a vibrant CSA at the Food Bank Farm over all these years. Two years ago, Michael retired from farming the Food Bank Farm and recruited Ben and Liz Perrault of Mountain View Farm to till the Farm for shareholders and The Food Bank. Moving forward, the Food Bank will continue to work directly with the farmer of the Food Bank Farm, in this case Ben, to sustain the Farm's two-fold mission: sharing the bounty between shareholders and people in need of food assistance.
Last week on Rte. 9 just across the little golf course in Haydenville, the coffee rush was rerouted at an area bakery. People who normally line up for their caffeine and morning buns were sent around the corner to a much bigger place where an espresso machine hissed.
Does the Valley need another coffee joint with WiFi? When unemployment is up to 9 percent and the baking is being done on the premises, yes. Bread Euphoria's new digs are a big room with a wall of windows facing north where Andrew Quient Pottery used to be and still is. The new cafe is actually a buildout of the original space. The menu now features salads as well as bread, gourmet pizzas (this week's special: roasted sugar pumpkin), sandwiches and pastries. The new hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This new hang in Haydenville will probably be popular with moms killing time, construction workers on their lunch break and people living unemployed lives of leisure. Where better to taste all the big cookies, fill up on sandwiches made with sourdough bread, or drink copious amounts of espresso to fuel a Twitter campaign? In addition to all that community building, the folks at Bread Euphoria plan to get hilltownies out of their homes this winter.
"We'll be doing music in January, once we have our liquor license," said a staff member. "For now, we'll just play it by ear and see what folks want to hear. We'll have bands, but it would also be good just to have people come in and play, pass around a chord sheet."
ValleyLocavore Farewell Note
This is my last column as the ValleyLocavore for the Valley Advocate. To follow my reporting on the local food scene, check out my blog at www.valleylocavore.com. You may see my byline in the Advocate again next year.
In the meantime, I have a tip for you. Buy local, but more important, buy direct. In this economy there is less money to go around but the same amount of food is being grown in the Valley. Buying direct cuts out the middle man and the savings is passed on to the consumer, and the closer to the source, the healthier and better tasting the food. Also, the less chemical content in food, the fewer calories. Of course you have to get off your ass and learn to cook, but that is why God invented grandmothers and aunties, or The Food Channel.
Recipe of the Week
Collapsed Orchard Apples (serves 4)
4 firm apples (Gala, Mutsu or Macoun)
2 cups chestnuts (roasted at 400 for 1/2 hr., peeled and coarsely chopped)
8 Tbsps. maple syrup
4 Tbsps. butter
2 cups vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)
Core the apples, leaving the bottoms intact to prevent syrup seepage during the baking process. Fill the cavity of each apple with chestnuts, around 2 Tbsps. of maple syrup and around 1 Tbsp. butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 or until the apples collapse on the baking sheet. Serve with local vanilla ice cream or whole milk yogurt.