|By Lori Szepelak|
GREATER SPRINGFIELD Across the valley, farmers' markets are starting to sprout up in bank parking lots, at health centers, and on town commons.
Hampden Bank is one of several institutions that opens its parking lot to vendors now through the fall, and on June 4, there were a variety of plants to purchase, vegetables, honey and eggs to check out, and a variety of baked breads and tasty treats at the West Springfield branch on Westfield Street.
Hadley farmer Glenroy Buchanan is the market manager and noted during an interview with Reminder Publications that asparagus, beets, carrots, greens, honey, lettuce, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes and turnips are "readily available," while there are "limited" crops of broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, raspberries, sprouts, and squash (summer and zucchini).
"I recommend everyone pick up a copy of CISA's (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) farm products guide to track by month when fruits and vegetables will be available," he said. CISA, based in South Deerfield, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Buchanan's offerings ranged from asparagus from $4.75 a bunch and heirloom tomatoes for $2.75 a pound, to spinach at $1.99 a pound to a head of lettuce for $2.50. His six-pack of plants was selling for $2.75.
CISA's popular Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide provides a wealth of information and inspiration to residents eager to buy local farm products, eat local food and support local farms.
Philip Korman, CISA's executive director, noted that the guide is full of resources to help anyone find food and farm products, and the businesses that serve and source those products, including restaurants, retailers, dining services and specialty producers.
"When you buy more local farm products you not only get the best quality, but you also have a positive impact on your local economy, your environment and your community," he said. "More and more businesses are using locally grown, and you can find them in the guide. Local farm and food businesses bring the best of the harvest to our community throughout the year."
Melanie Mitchell of West Springfield was visiting the farmers market on Westfield Street for the first time, and spent almost $30 on plants and produce.
"I've been wanting to stop in for some time," she said, as she showcased the spinach, radishes, plants and honey she was loading into her car.
Virginia Longo of Ginger's Picnic Basket in West Springfield was at the farmers market for the first time, too, as a vendor. Longo was joined by her grandmother Anna Chestnutt who was visiting from Pennsylvania.
"My breads sold out fast this morning," she said, noting that next week she will be making extras in addition to her dinner rolls, whoopie pies, banana chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies that were also prettily displayed on her table. Longo also was serving home brewed iced tea for the masses.
"This will be a family endeavor," said Longo, who said that after her children are out of school for the summer, she will be teaching them the business aspect of running a table at the farmers market.
"It's also a great way to get to know the community, to meet people, and to talk to people," she said.
In addition to Buchanan's plants and produce, and Longo's breads and treats, Jim Wachala of West Springfield had a variety of local raw honey for sale, in jars priced at $14, $8, and $5.50, as well as pure honey straws at 40 cents each or three for $1. Elmore John, also of West Springfield, was selling farm fresh eggs for $3 a dozen.
CISA's guide can be found in the produce sections of several local retailers and copies are also available at Chambers of Commerce. An online version of the guide can also be found at www.buylocalfood.org.
CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members and advocates working together to strengthen local agriculture by building connections between farmers and the community. For more information, call 665-7100.
For more details on regional farmers markets, visit www.farmfresh.org.
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