FROM ALPACA FIBER TO FASHION FARMER
Donna Young's a farmer/vendor at the Amherst Farmers' Market on Saturdays from the third Saturday in April until the Saturday before Thanksgiving, going from 7:30am until 1:30pm. You might see her still packing up after 2:00 on many a Saturday, after everyone else might be home, he-he-he! She's sure the farmers' market manager doesn't notice that she is delayed. This is her sixth year with her fashionable warm alpaca products at a very successful farmers market currently at the Common in Amherst rather than Spring Street due to COVID-19.
Donna Young, age 59, has been farming in Ware for 32 years, when she purchased 16 acres of raw land nestled in the Hills of Western MA, near the Quabbin Reservoir. Donna commenced building a split level house and a 60' by 90' barn that houses horses and alpaca along with some out buildings. Donna's best friend, who she went to many Alpaca Affair's with, soon retired, moved to Maine and purchased 2 alpacas : ) Donna, not to be out done, purchased 10 alpaca's, lol. She quickly grew her herd to over 50 but 3 years sold 30 alpacas to down size in her retirement, and now has 18 -13 girls/hembras and 5 boys/machos.
Alpaca's are originally from South America particularly Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Donna originally purchased her alpaca's from Canada as the American Dollar was worth 100/70% in 2001. Alpaca's are smaller than Llama's and are related to Camels as all have a split lip characteristic.
Alpaca's are timid, docile and they mostly spit at other herd members they may have a pet peeve with, and even known to spit in the others ear, yuk! Alpaca's can grow up to 10 pounds of fiber/fur a year which is shorn/harvested once a year in the spring, a pair of socks takes almost ½ pound of prime fiber to make.
Alpaca fiber is used to make clothing that wicks moisture and eliminates odor, it is very soft and just a thin layer is needed to keep you very warm. Natural alpaca fiber is available in 22 colors and the light colors can be dyed to red/blue/purple/pink/green etc. Socks, boot inserts, gloves/mittens, hats/scarfs are just a few items that are made from my alpacas fiber. Alpaca is a natural wool fiber that will keep you warm for as long as you want to be outdoors, though it's always nice to have a warm cup of hot chocolate, yum!
In Donna's spare time she likes to ride her 17 year old white Thoroughbred gelding for fun, he's a great horse and loves attention. She also has a 17 year old bay Thoroughbred gelding which is a brother from another mother, as all thoroughbred's are related to 3 stallions...a story for another day. There is a large surrendered number of alpacas and rabbits at Nevim's Farm: https://www.wwlp.com/news/massachusetts/large-surrender-of-alpacas-and-rabbits-in-massachusetts/
GO Farm is your super local, go-to source of the freshest, locally produced pork, chicken, eggs and more! Named for our two children, George and Olivia (GO) who inspired us to make our farming dreams a reality. GO Farm’s mission is to provide sustainable food products including organic produce, pasture-based meat products, and eggs, while also supporting the local agricultural community and the local economy.
GO Farm began farming on a small scale as a hobby, then the farm transitioned to an authentic farm business, more rapidly than we anticipated. For four years now, GO farm has raised meat products--chicken, pork, and eggs--as well as organic and conventional vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and winter squash, etc.). Originally the farm began growing vegetables on three acres of rented land. Since then we have grown substantially. Today, we manage and own 15 acres of farmland, which we purchased this year as we have moved from our original location in Amherst to our new Farm in Hatfield.
At GO Farm, we raise heritage breed pigs, Gloucester Old Spots, which provide a uniquely flavorful pork. Our chickens are derived from a heritage breed as well, which produce a delicious meat with higher proportion of dark meat to white meat. We will be at the market this Saturday with fresh chicken back in stock! Pork will be back in stock in a few weeks! Follow us on Instagram @gofarm_mass, Facebook @G.O.FarmMA , and our website WWW.GOFarmStore.com for product offerings, preorders for the market, or pick up right from the farm, and we are at the Amherst Farmers' Market EVERY Saturday during the Market season!
Established in 2017, Quabbin Hill Farms is a diversified family and friends farm located in the heart of the Quabbin-Swift River Valley. Situated on 17 acres of sustainable farm land just a half of a mile from one of the many beautiful trails leading to the legendary Quabbin Reservoir, its fertile soil and naturally green pastures provide the perfect setting for growing nutritious fruits and vegetables and raising healthy, happy chickens.
In 2019, we expanded into home grown, hand-tended hemp and handcrafted CBD products including salves, soaps, tinctures, and supplements. We are licensed by the state of Massachusetts, and all of our products go through rigorous testing to ensure they meet the MDAR standards.
Quabbin Hill Farms is committed to sustainable, organic, and ethical farming practices. It’s founder Michael Vilcans, a graduate of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture’s Sustainable Food and Farming program, is passionate about continuing the tradition of and expanding local, organic, and sustainable food systems in Massachusetts. That is why he established Quabbin Hill Farms along with his partner and experienced urban farmer, Molly Crookes, and their close friends and accidental agriculturalists Jason Awerman and Sadie Trombetta.
We are dedicated to continuing the tradition of farming and agriculture in Western Massachusetts, a place we have called home for over a decade. By providing our customers with fresh, nutritious ingredients at a reasonable price, we hope to help them and their families reconnect with their food, the people who grow it, and the beautiful land that makes it all possible.
Where did it all start? My name is Aaron Andrews and back in high school, I had personally dealt with depression and anxiety while I was growing up and I wanted to create a space where I can deal with all of the emotions I was feeling. I did not have any friends to talk to about it and I did not have anyone who understood what I was going through at the time. I naturally started to take matters into my own hands as I began to focus on taking care of myself more.
Beyond Happiness Is broken into three main avenues of wellness that I have built for myself and my products are all natural with all ingredients locally sourced!
One of the ways I did that was through skincare. Unfortunately, I could not find any products on the market that were a good fit for my skin type as men of color. The market for beauty products for black men was very limited so I did my own research and started creating my own skincare products that worked for me AND you can find me at the Amherst Farmers' Market weekly during the season!
The products become a way for me to check in emotionally with myself through physically being present with what I'm putting on my skin. I developed each product with the intention to help me with different emotions I was dealing with at the time. For example, there was a time when I was dealing with a lot of anxiety so I made a cream with lavender to help calm me down.
The act of me taking care of my skin quickly spun into multiple different ways I engaged with wellness. Being active and connecting with people was a huge stepping stone for my own wellness. I started to work out a lot more and even became a certified fitness trainer in my first year at Hampshire College and worked at the YMCA in Northampton, Massachusetts. As a result of me taking charge of my wellness and developing healthy ways to cope I immersed myself in new relationships and friendships with people in hopes to build a community and meaningful experiences for myself and others around me.
I can think back all the way to when I was 15 years old I remember the first time I got a device that I could record video on. Ever since I would create so many videos of my friends and filming everything that meant something to me. My friends would ask “Aaron why are you always filming stuff” At the time I didn't really have an answer besides “ I just like to '' But today I do have an answer. The reason why I make videos is that sometimes people can't say what they are really thinking or feeling and when I film people and myself I can capture the emotions and feelings that can't be said in words but only captured in moments.
As a result of taking care of my skin, working out, eating healthy, creating new friendships, and learning about wellness I was able to create an environment where I was actively managing my depression and anxiety and completely changed my life. This is something that made my life better in all areas, and I got excited about figuring out how to help other people overcome their own wellness struggles.
I am not saying I can cure depression or anxiety. What I have realized is that I can share with people the tools that can help them manage it themselves. That is how Beyond Happiness LLC a multimedia business/brand with a mission was born. Our mission is to help other people love who they are and provide tools where different people can learn more about themselves while engaging with amazing sustainable products like our skincare line and candles. As you can see, it is more than just skincare products. It is about wellness overall, I like to say!
Rachel and Bruce Scherer, of Little White Goat Dairy, bind their love and respect for each other with love and respect for their land. In 2004, Rachel began making her cheeses, learning in the home kitchen. Rachel's first career was in science, so comfort with experimentation let her fool around, make mistakes, and learn from them. In 2013 The Little White Goat Dairy became a licensed creamery. The cheeses, yogurt, and kefir are made on the farm with the milk of their very spoiled LaMancha dairy goats. Bruce manages the pastures and the infrastructure. He also raises the hogs, broilers and laying hens. They designed, constructed and outfitted the 100% solar-powered barns and dairy themselves. The farm joyfully includes second and third generations of the family living and working together. The land for the farm, in Orange, MA, was 100% wooded 40 years ago. The many stone walls reveal there once were pastures, and they have been re-creating them using livestock as an integral part of the process. They cut the trees, then run hogs on newly cut areas. The next year we let the goats forage on the stump sprouts in spring, then seed cover crops, and let them graze again in fall before seeding pasture grasses. Once established, the goats are rotated through the forage stands so that they graze ‘belly-to-knee’ – they are never eating down to the ground. The system builds healthy soil and healthy animals.
The Amherst Farmer's Market is the first and best market for us! We are especially appreciative of the incredible support the market community, vendor, staff, and customers, have shown this year with the many necessary changes due to COVID-19 and unprecedented times. We work with the belief that growing, preparing, serving and sharing food is a truly vital form of love and nurturing. As a community we can share the bounty of local farms, and eat in good health.
Apex Orchards has been owned and cared for by the same family for seven generations. The current owner, Tim Smith, has been back on the farm for 40 years. He is the current owner/operator on the farm. Abner Peck Sr., of the first generation of growers, arrived in Shelburne, MA from Lyme, CT in 1828 and purchased the land which is now known as Apex Orchards. He was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War and his ancestors arrived in the United States in 1634.
The farm was originally a diversified farm as was typical for the era. The family raised cattle, sheep, horses and pigs. All of the fodder for the livestock was grown on the farm as were vegetables and apples for the family. Most of what was produced on the farm was used by the family. A small amount of meat, apples and dairy products were sold.
Tim's great-grandfather, Austin L. Peck, added on a dairy operation and a large flock of chickens. The family sold both cream and eggs in the area. His grandfather, Lyndon Peck, didn't care much for dairying and he converted the farm to the orchards that we know today. The last dairy cows were sold in 1946 and the name of the farm was changed to Apex Orchards. The name was inspired because the orchard sits at the apex of a hill with a beautiful view where we grow spectacular fruit.
Tim's parents continued expansion of the farm. Apex Orchards was originally a wholesale apple orchard selling apples across America and Europe. In the late 1990’s we moved into retail and have been supported by the help of our wonderful customers. In 2011 we purchased an additional 175 acres of land just up the road from our farm. This was part of the original Peck family farm from 1828 and we are glad to have it back in the family. It will give us and future generations the land to diversify and expand the farm.
Today Apex Orchards grows a wide array of tree fruits, including apples, peaches, nectarines, apricots, quince, pears, Asian pears, blueberries and table grapes. We plan on adding additional fruit in the future. We pride ourselves in the diversity of fruit that we sell. We think you’ll be impressed too! Our fruit is sold in stores throughout the local area, at farmers markets, and of course, right at our farm store in Shelburne. Western Massachusetts is without a doubt one of the top fruit growing regions in the world. The soil, the micro-climate, and the varieties all combine to give our customers the best tasting fruit possible.
We look forward to seeing you at the Amherst Farmers' Markets, in our local stores and at our Farm Store in Shelburne!
Home Fruit Wine begins with a peach tree which David planted more than 20 years ago, in honor of his rescue dog Pearl. In 2011 Mother Nature was good to us and we had more peaches than we could ever eat so we made our first batch of wine. Well needless to say, I’ll admit, it was not our best. With help from Uncle Sonny, whom we have named our Blueberry wine in his honor, “Sonny’s Blueberry Sunrise," and lots of trial and error, we have learned the art, and may I add, FUN of Fruit wine making.
David’s hobby of the fruit trees, which he planted and maintained, started to grow and became the catalyst for our Home Fruit Wine business! He calls is it his "miniature orchard!" We now have Blueberries, Raspberries, Rhubarb, many fruit trees and even Kiwi to work with!
Our Wines are made with fresh succulent fruit and berries giving you a sweet natural taste. From David’s miniature orchard our fruit and berries are locally grown. What we don’t have we source from local farmers and friends to use in our collections.
Home Fruit Wine was established in 2014 and we then opened our retail and tasting store in 2015. We have 42 different kinds of Fruit wines and Blends. We invite you to stop in for a tasting at our retail store at 382 South Main Street, Orange, MA and/or you can find us at one of the following locations to stock up for the festivities!
1) Amherst Farmers Market, Amherst, MA (Saturdays on the Amherst Common!)
2) Atkins Farm, Amherst, MA
3) Forest Park Farmers Market, Springfield MA
4) Patriot’s Package Store, Templeton MA
5) Smith’s Country Cheese, Winchendon, MA
6) Templeton Spirits, Templeton, MA
7) The Mill Moble, Gill, MA
It was a week before Christmas in 2018. Juliana was in the cantina of her nonna’s house, helping to cut up cured Italian prosciutto for the holiday. As she and her nonna were trimming off excess fat, her nonna said that her mother used to make their own soap, using fat saved from the animals on the farm. She would mix in bay leaves and lavender, giving them the faintest scent. The thought of making something that’s both crafty and useful stuck with Juliana over the winter.
As a crafty person, she enjoys the process of making purposeful items, so on a cold day in February, she decided to attempt her first batch of soap, made from scratch. Many hours were spent researching the soap making process, but she felt ready to try it for herself.
With many college-level courses and industry know-how behind her, she felt confident in the chemistry behind soap-making. Cold process soap making, utilized by Amherst Soaps, relies on a compound called sodium hydroxide, or lye, to split fat molecules. Overall, fat molecules are pretty stable, explaining why we can heat them so hot in cooking, so it takes a very strong molecule to break them apart. Lye happens to be the perfect fit. The process by which the lye breaks the fat is called saponification, resulting in soap! After this initial fat breakdown, the soap must be cured to allow the saponification reaction to complete. This curing period also allows the bars of soap to harden, ensuring they last in the shower. At Amherst Soaps, we cure our soaps for 4-6 weeks. We also generously super-fat our soaps, meaning we calculate for unreacted oils in our batter. This excess oil is what makes our soaps gentle and moisturizing for your skin. If every molecule of fat is reacted with lye, the soap is very harsh on skin, and is actually used as laundry soap!
Because lye isn’t very friendly to fats, it can be dangerous in its raw form. Originally, Juliana wanted to make soap with the students she taught, as a way to learn about chemical reactions, but given lye’s danger, she did it as a demo instead. The students were more than thrilled seeing a useful chemical reaction and were also satisfied with melt and pour glycerin soaps to make their own instead.
Since Juliana began selling soaps as Amherst Soaps in May 2019, she has also become quite the businesswoman. This was her first venture into the business world, and although Amherst Soaps is still quite small, it has provided her with countless business lessons ranging from simple bookkeeping to photography. In early 2020, Juliana made Amherst Soaps into a fully functioning LLC as a way to increase her wholesale base and to create a website, amherstsoaps.com. Now, customers can find soaps in many retail locations in the valley, or online!
Regardless of her business adventures, Juliana and Amherst Soaps has a commitment to local. Impressed by the local food scene in the valley, Juliana realized many of her ingredients could be sourced from the area. This meant not only a gentle, handmade soap, but one that reduced its carbon footprint and supported the community as well. Currently, Amherst Soaps strives to include local products in each bar of soap. Most of the time, this is creamy, hand-rendered lard from other vendors of the Amherst Farmers' Market such as, GO Farm in Hatfield, or thick, golden honey from Quaboag Trading Co. in West Brookfield. Even better, both of these are found on Saturdays at the Amherst Farmers Market as well! Truly local goods being used in great-for-your-skin soaps.
Amherst Soaps can be found on alternating weekends at the Amherst Farmers Market, or at many farm stands and stores in the Amherst-Hadley area. For a full list of soaps we offer, local businesses we source from, and all retail locations, check out our website, AmherstSoaps.com!
Community Herbalist Carol Joyce of White Buffalo herbs has been growing and learning about herbs for many years. Though born in northeastern MA, she has strong roots in Western MA-her dad was born in Pittsfield & she graduated from MT Holyoke College, in South Hadley. Carol has lived all along the east coast on her sailboats & in Great Britain. She is a Social Worker/Therapist in private practice, a Community Herbalist, & now lives on her Still Willin’ Organic Farm & Botanical Sanctuary in Warwick, MA. She even was the caretaker of an uninhabited island (Soldier Key) in the Florida Keys, lived aboard sailboats for 15 years, earned her Captains license and chartered her 3-masted, wooden, gaff-rigged schooner, “Zeeto” for years in Boston Harbor.
Originally Carol started White Buffalo Herbs at her Twin Brook Organic Farm in New Salem. She grew & sold 100’s of medicinal herb plants and eventually started making value-added herbal products. She started selling just 10 of her hand-made items at the Amherst Farmers Market as a temporary, stand-by vendor over 30 years ago. Each week she would bring a wheel barrow & table w/umbrella to set up in the middle line of the market, when it was allowed, at the Spring Street parking lot. Each week she’d wait for the ok from the market manager to set-up, since the market was so full and busy it only allowed set-up for other farmers, when someone was out. Finally she became a full-time farmer/vendor at the Amherst Farmers Market & remains so til today.
Eventually, Carol & her husband Marty Vogt purchased 124 acres of remote, mountainous woodland in Warwick, MA & moved there in 2000. It had been a cow farm in the 1700’s but was totally wooded, steep, and had no roads or buildings on the site. Together they built a 20-sided round house, the bottom half of which is dedicated to White Buffalo Herbs. Except for the foundation, Carol & Marty built this entire home and farm with only their own 4 hands…no cranes, no contractors, no neighbors aid. Because Carol never takes “No” for an answer & is very determined, the clearing and building was grueling and rewarding, and Carol can truly say “We built our farm, by ourselves! They are “Still Willin’ “ to work hard on this wonderful new farm and have put it into a conservation restriction, so no more homes can be built on this wilderness.
They built a steep ½ mile driveway (truly!) up to the highest point on the property (it is so high up that the weather is vastly different than in the surrounding towns & a nightmare in winter), lived without power or water for 4 years while building their dream farm, were surrounded by amazing flora and fauna (bear, moose, deer, porcupine, so many trees & wild herbs), met wonderful people, and were “helped” by their cat “Lenny” now replaced after 18 years with 2 rambunctious kitties.
Carol continues to learn about herbs and the Green World around her. She holds an annual Apprenticeship on the farm and offers many other classes. She grows a variety of mostly Native American herbs and uses Native American formulas. She named her herbal farm company to honor the Lakota story of White Buffalo Woman, or Ptesan-Wi:
It is said that White Buffalo Woman appeared many ages ago with sage leaves & a medicine bundle in her hands. She shared her knowledge of the precious gifts of herbs with her people: sweet grass for purification, boiling corn for food, making dried pemmican, cooking over a hearth, and the gift of prayer. She showed them how to use a pipe which contains the gift of peta-owihankeshni (or flame) that can be passed from generation to generation. As she prepared to leave them, she said that the four ages of Creation were in her and that she would return to them one day, when people needed prosperity again. Once she saw she was no longer needed, she left rolling over four times. The 1st time she turned into a black buffalo, heading North; the 2nd time she turned into a brown buffalo, heading South; the 3rd time she turned into a red buffalo heading East; and after rolling a 4th time, she headed WEST, turning into a White female Buffalo calf-believed by the Lakota to be the most sacred living thing on can behold.
Carol thought that by naming her farm business “WHITE BUFFALO HERBS”, she could continuously honor White Buffalo Woman and her commitment to creating a healthy community. Meaning no disrespect to our Native American Community, she cherishes White Buffalo Woman’s vision and hopes to empower others to create their own good health in their communities.
As always, Carol strives to create new products that will be helpful to her community. She keeps her prices lower than most herb stores to help all folks be able to afford organic herbals. Carol now makes over 120 herbal products, herself, and attends 2 farmers markets each week: Forest park in Springfield on Tuesdays and Amherst Farmers’ Market every Saturday since long, long ago.
White Buffalo herbs products are available in person at the farmers markets or online at www.whitebuffaloherbs.com Carol can be reached directly via the internet at firstname.lastname@example.org
This season, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Carol is pleased to be offering her effective, sweet smelling (non-Aloe) GERM RELIEF Hand Sanitizer at the Main tent entrance to the Amherst Farmers Market each week. Dedicated staff will spray your hands as you come in to the market. Come by Carol’s White Buffalo Herbs’ tent in Amherst to browse her traveling HERB APOTEHCARY SHOP & have a chat…
We are proud to be farmers and passionate about supplying you with healthy, vibrant vegetables and flowers. We love what we do and love the connection between agriculture and community. We encourage you to ask questions about where your food comes from, how it is grown, and what it takes to get from its source to your table.We are Certified Organic by Baystate Organic Certifiers, have an on-farm Certified Kitchen facility for processing, and are certified by the Commonwealth Quality Program. Please feel free to ask us about any of our growing practices and certifications. Above all, we want YOUR certification and trust in how we grow food and flowers for YOU!We created a Holistic Goal to guide us in our business management, and use present tense to help us embody, step-in to, and realize its actuality.
Old Friends Farm Holistic Goal: Old Friends Farm grows food and flowers with integrity for consumers and ourselves. We offer fair pay to our workers and owners, and foster connection between the community and local agriculture. Old Friends Farm manages the farm to be part of a healthy ecosystem.
Old Friends Farm provides a fun and creative workplace. All people connected with the farm— workers, owners, and customers alike— are respected, cared for, and valued. Old Friends Farm manages its business with integrity, balance and harmony; it creates a high quality product in a positive work space; it provides an environment and schedule where workers can thrive at work and in their off-farm life; and the farm is adaptable and proactive about change. The farm keeps excellent records, has good internal communication and grounded decision making. Old Friends Farm pays attention to the water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics within the ecological and social ecosystem.
Old Friends Farm is a vibrant part of a healthy community and contributes to the local economy. The land is managed effectively, and is in better condition with each subsequent year. The community is a safe place to live, is diverse and accepting, and the link between sustainable agriculture and a healthy community is valued and actualized.
Bringing you organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, locally-sourced blog posts on a semi-weekly basis from the Amherst Farmers' Market.