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Feeding my soul – and the community

Updated: Jul 25

I love veggie gardening. I love the planting, watching things grow, and I especially love the harvesting.

I love farming too: the planting, the watching things grow, the harvesting. OK, what I really love is somebody else doing the farming.

I’m too old to start farming and, quite frankly, don’t have the resolve it takes to be a farmer. If I didn’t know that before (I did), I certainly know that now and I don’t take it for granted.

This year has been a climate horror for Western Mass farmers. Not that past years weren’t. Two years ago, it rained for what seemed like all of August and crops rotted in the fields. Last year was a mega-drought.

If you didn’t think that climate change was real before, 2023 probably has changed your mind. Crazy, hours-long downpours with dangerous lightning has wrought havoc throughout the Pioneer Valley. We may have seen weather like this before, but the force and unpredictability of these storms is dramatically worse.

Photo courtesy Lindsay Sabadosa, distributed by State House News Service

This summer has been tragic for the farmers. A very late spring frost killed off much of the fruit in the Hilltowns; massive lightning struck J&J Farm in Amherst completely destroyed their barns; and, just recently, record rainfall and flooding took out whole fields along the Connecticut River, from Ashfield to Northampton, just as the crops were ready to be harvested. The Connecticut River rose more than 2 feet above flood stage. And with that flooding came another concern: contamination of the fields from waste water seeping into the river upstream.

Luckily, here in the Valley there is a deep respect and love for our farms. Farmers around here seem to have a pretty good support system. First and foremost, they have each other. When J&J Farm went up in flames, neighboring farmers were first on the scene to help move the livestock to safety. The local organization CISA (Community Involved Sustainable Agriculture) provides assistance to farmers through funding and grants and engages the public to support “buy local.”

Our government officials are consistently standing up to support the region’s farms and farmers. A week after the flooding, Jim McGovern and Elizabeth Warren as well as local officials Jo Comerford, Natalie Blais, Lindsay Sabadosa and others toured the devastation in the fields, talking to the affected farmers and determining how they can best help.

The community has also stepped up, contributing to the farms’ individual GoFundMe pages as well as lending a hand and providing words of encouragement. (A list of the individual farms’ donation pages can be found HERE.)

The best thing we, as Western Mass citizens, can do is to “buy local” from farm stands, farmers’ markets and stores that carry locally made products. Not only is the food quality better when it is sourced closer to home, it supports the farmer and helps the local economy.

When we moved here five years ago, I had no idea how much living among the farms would permeate my soul. I take the long way to work just so I can pass the farms each morning and see what’s happening. Is the corn for sale yet? Is that a new calf in the field? Are those peppers they are picking over there?

I will never be a farmer, but I can do the next best thing: Support them, because they feed my soul.

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