August 23, 2011

What to Eat Now: Raspberries from Park Hill Orchard

Raspberries are in season, and as it so happens, the incredibly picturesque Park Hill Orchard farm is just a quick mile down the road from my house. I visited the farm the other day, chatted with the owners for a bit, and picked my own sustainably-grown raspberries.

August 22, 2011

The Kitchen Garden- Sunderland

            Many of the restaurant owners I have talked to cited The Kitchen Garden as one of their most reliable produce venders. So I was excited to head down to the farm to see what Caroline Pam had to say about her uniquely restaurant-focused farming operation.
            Caroline and her husband, Tim Wilcox, founded the farm in 2005. Caroline has an extensive background in the food industry, and her love of cooking inspired her to create a farm that would cater to local restaurants. Before establishing the farm, she worked at Green Street CafĂ© as a baker and formed relationships with the people there, including Paul Hathaway, the head chef of Chez Albert restaurant in Amherst. Paul later became The Kitchen Garden’s first customer.

August 19, 2011

Bistro Les Gras- Northampton

For Daniel Martinez, the owner and head chef at Bistro Les Gras in Northampton, buying locally is a “way of life” rather than a mere business strategy. “We have this lifestyle instilled in us,” he said. “My wife and I come from agricultural backgrounds. This has always seemed like the natural way to do it. And then there’s the flavor. I don’t think you can say enough about how much better everything tastes when it’s fresh rather than supermarket.”
            Daniel opened Bistro Les Gras in 2008 with the help of his wife, Beth, and together they have achieved the challenging balance of serving up authentic, French cuisine while remaining loyal to local food sources.
Before moving to Northampton, Daniel lived in New York. “I was big on the farmers markets there,” he said. And when he later moved to Portland, Oregon, he again claimed that there too “eating local was very easy.”
“In fact, it’s pretty hard not to eat locally in these areas,” he said. “My philosophy is based around the notion that local food just tastes better. That’s the point we try to get across because it’s the easiest for people to obtain.”
When he finally arrived in the Valley, he was impressed by the sheer number of farms in the area as well as the community’s increasing awareness of local eating.
“I’ve seen a big change just in the past year,” he said. “With the presence of the Tuesday market and the growing popularity of young farmers, I think we’re headed in a great direction.”

August 8, 2011

Blue Heron- Sunderland

Chef Deborah Snow
In speaking with farmers and restaurants owners about their decision to grow and buy locally, I’ve been impressed by the intensity of the their commitment. Deborah Snow, the owner and chef at Blue Heron in Sunderland, certainly falls in with this league of passionate people.
“Eating, for me, is a political act,” she said. “By using local ingredients I’m working against the large corporations that own most of the food industry.”
It didn’t take me long to realize that Deborah is much more than a working chef with compassion for local farms. She is fully dedicated to the cause as it stands as a worldwide issue. In fact, she's working on a book. 
“It’s focusing on the politics of food, sustainable capitalism, and how it can work practically. I’m trying to define what local eating can be within the context of a community."

August 2, 2011

Mountain View Farm- Easthampton

Liz Adler and her husband Ben Perrault established Easthampton’s Mountain View Farm in 2006. The farm offers CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares to individuals, families, and some local restaurants. I talked with Liz to get a better sense of her farm’s customer base and see why the model she and her husband have established works well in the community.  

What is your reasoning behind offering CSAs?
We really like the CSA model; it works well for the consumer and the farmer. By cutting out the middleman, the consumer gets a better price, so it works out for everyone. And as farmers, we also like being able to grow a wide variety of things and having a sort of built-in crop insurance.  It is also valuable in terms of educating people. We always have lots of kids running around—it’s really great to have that community aspect.