NORTH ADAMS -- Samples of cheeses, bagels, cookies, honey and vegetables were consumed by the dozens as area residents tasted the products of local farmers and food producers during Hoosac Harvest's "Know your farmer, Know your food" event Thursday night.
"This is a great place to talk to community members, share your stories and your products," Suzy Konecky, cheesemaker for Cricket Creek Farms in Williamstown, said. "It's a great way to raise awareness about what is being produced locally. I just talked to a couple that didn't know that they could get grass-fed beef locally. I was able to direct them to our farm store."
The event, started four years ago by Target Hunger, resurfaced last year under the auspices of the all-volunteer run group Hoosac Harvest, which aims to help connect the community with locally grown, healthy and sustainably produced food.
"Tonight isn't about selling; it's about getting people to meet their local growers and producers," Caroline Scully, a Hoosac Harvest volunteer, said. "It's about getting people to know about the value of locally produced jams and bagels and about where they can find locally produced products -- from meat to vegetables to cheese and eggs."
In addition to raising awareness about local food sources, the group was also promoting its own programs -- subsidized community supported agriculture (CSA) shares at Many Forks Farm and Square Roots Farm, seed swaps and a new volunteer gleaning program.
"We just started the gleaning program last year," Hoosac Harvest volunteer Kathy Keeser said. "We take volunteers out to farms to pick produce, which is then donated to local food pantries. The farms, for whatever reason, aren't able to pick the produce on their own. We were able to donate a few thousand pounds to the local food pantries last year."
In addition to the gleaning donations, the group also encourages residents who have gardens to grow extra vegetables to donate the pantries.
"We're also adding a new ‘Homesteader Tour' this year," Scully said. "We're looking for gardeners or producers of any level -- who grow food or raise chickens -- in their backyards. Then on July 20 and 27, we'll do guided tours, sort of like a garden or green energy tour."
She said the tours will not only allow individuals to view all the possible ways local residents are growing or producing their own foods, but the tours will also double as a fundraiser for the group's subsidized CSA shares.
For Tony Pisano of Berkshire Farms Apiary in North Adams, the event is a great way to get people to try his locally-produced honey -- which can make all the difference when they go to buy their next jar.
"A lot of people have never tasted raw honey," he said. "People have this idea of what honey tastes like and are really surprised. Big companies blend many different honeys together, so every bottle of honey purchased in a store tastes the same. But all honeys taste different. My honey, which is made here in North Adams, tastes different than honey produced in Willliamstown."
For others, it was a chance to gain some exposure.
"It's really exciting to put out samples and get instant feedback right away," Lucie Haskovec, owner and baker of Night Owl Bakery in Bennington, Vt., said. "I just started my business in October and I plan to participate in the North Adams Farmers Market this year. I did one farmers market last year and sold out of my cardamom-frosted cookies. It's just a great experience."
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