By AFM Contributing writer Cheryl Conklin
Starting your own garden can be a truly rewarding experience in many ways than one. The benefits are varied and plenty, and encompass almost every aspect of your life and household. It also opens up opportunities in which you can help those most vulnerable within your community, too. Let’s break down the specifics.
Benefits You Enjoy
Raising your own garden is truly a great way to enrich your household and improve your family’s quality of life. The health benefits of such a green space alone are impressive, while its offerings to your overall wellness can’t be beaten.
Beyond Your Backyard
The benefits of raising a garden are varied and plenty for you and your household. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, there’s more than one way for your garden to serve your community, too.
Building Your Garden
It may come as a surprise that creating a home garden is not quite the tall order that it seems like at first glance. However, it still helps to know the specifics — literally from the ground up — to ensure that this space is as productive as it is pleasing to the eye.
Suffice it to say, a garden is more than just a pretty space to have at home; it can also sustain life and health within your household and community. Indeed, growing your own garden can be a precious contribution to the world, so go ahead and make it yours, too.
Photo via Pexels.com
By AFM Contributing Writer, Cheryl Conklin
Climate change, according to NASA, is “one of the most complex issues facing us today.” It’s an issue that goes beyond science, and it involves politics, economics, and ethics. Despite its large scale, it’s the small things that are going to impact its effects. As a homeowner, there are things you can do to minimize your own carbon footprint and help Mother Nature keep her cool.
Visit the Amherst Farmers’ Market for the freshest locally produced and grown foods!
If you have an eye for details, RoofingCalc.com points out you can perform your own smart home energy audit without spending the $400 you are likely to be charged by a professional. Start by looking for areas of your home where heat can escape. This may be old windows, poor seals around the door, or on insulated flooring above the basement. If your home is more than 10 years old, you likely have room for improvement via steps like caulking air leaks and improved heating and cooling.
Harness the power of the sun
Solar energy is provided by the sun free of charge. However, solar panels will cost you. The average cost to install solar panels ranges from $17,760 to $23,828. Many local power companies have agreements with installation providers that can get you a discount. Some even offer money back on your energy bill for installing one or more solar panels. If you can get your neighborhood together and convince several homeowners to purchase solar panels, you’ll have leverage when asking for better pricing.
Get your heat from underground
Many homes today are advertised as being green. One of the biggest selling points for these is geothermal heat. Popular Mechanics explains that geothermal heat comes from underground and is a cost-effective way to save money on your monthly power bill while doing some good for the environment. Retrofitting a home with a geothermal system isn’t cheap and may cost as much as $30,000, but if you can get tax credits or incentives from your local power company, a geothermal system can pay for itself in about 10 years.
Switch to a new type of outlet
If you weren’t already aware, the outlets in your home can continue to provide power to appliances even if they are turned off. Business Insider recommends installing power-saving switches, which can be turned on and off at your convenience and won’t add to your utility bill when not in use. Chargers in particular are the biggest energy vampires in the home, so consider at least upgrading where they are plugged in.
“Low-flow” is a term used in plumbing to describe faucets that use less water than a traditional fixture. When installed throughout the home, low-flow fixtures can cut your home’s water usage in half without sacrificing your hygiene routine. A low-flow showerhead typically runs around $20. Check with your water company – they may provide these free of charge
Maximize natural light
Solar power is not the only way you can harness the power of the sun. Natural light, which is available even on cloudy days, can keep you from flicking on your fixtures. But it’s not enough to simply open the curtains. You’ll need to strategically hang mirrors throughout your home and use a lighter color palette on the walls.
Use common sense
DirectEnergy.com lists more than two dozen ways to be energy-efficient at home. These include common sense actions such as washing your clothes in cold water and setting your thermostat up and down as the temperature changes.
Upgrade your community
Addressing your own policies and practices is one thing, but have you considered making a broader effort? Look at cities that are known for their green practices, and consider pushing for changes on a local level. Bikeability, walkability and renewable energy sources are key factors influencing how green a location truly is.
Challenge your own community to embrace the changes necessary to raise your own town’s environmental ratings. To help make your case, point out how these changes not only create a healthier environment for living, but a healthier economy at the same time.
Making a few modifications to your home won’t change the world, but it’s a good start. By taking the initiative to go green, you set a positive example for your friends and neighbors, and may start a domino effect that can help get the climate under control.
By AFM Contributing writer, Cheryl Conklin
With all the conflicting health and fitness information out there, it is easy to become overwhelmed. How do you know what actually works when there are so many options? If you are currently experiencing information overload with regards to healthy eating advice, keep reading. The following article from Amherst Farmers’ Market offers easy tips for healthy eating that will benefit everything from your mental health to your physical health to your dental health.
If you read healthy eating blogs, watch the news, or skim magazines, there is always some tidbit of information on healthy eating. One day you may read that pasta is good for you, the next day it might be deemed the worst possible food. With all this competing information, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. One consistent recommendation across almost any meal plan is to avoid processed food. Stay away from foods with lengthy ingredient lists or high levels of trans-fats, salt and sugar. Likely, you will feel healthier, more confident and better equipped to tackle day-to-day tasks.
Focus on How You Feel
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” you already have a basic understanding of how food affects your mind and body. Focusing on how certain foods make us feel is one of the easiest ways to determine if what we are eating is good for us. For example, some people can eat cheese and bread and feel great, while others may feel lethargic, moody or even sick. There is no perfect diet for everyone, so being vigilant about how your body responds to certain foods is fundamental for meal planning.
Eating high levels of processed foods has been connected with increased rates of anxiety, depression, stress and sadness. Additionally, consuming high amounts of sugary foods and beverages can result in serious oral health issues. On the other hand, eating whole, unprocessed foods comes with a myriad of mental health benefits including mood stability, higher energy levels and better sleep. The process of thinking about how food makes you feel is referred to as “mindful eating” and can be used to help create a personalized eating mantra.
Shop the Perimeter
One easy way to avoid processed food without reading endless labels is to simply shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Almost every grocery store is shaped in a square/rectangle with meat, dairy, produce, and bread making-up the four sides. The inner isles generally contain items such as cereal, granola bars, jams and junk food. If you want to stick to a healthy, whole meal plan without the hard work, plan your diet based on items found on the outskirts of the store. When you do venture into the middle aisles, focus on foods with limited ingredient lists such as quinoa, canned legumes and nut milk. Shopping the perimeter of the store is an easy way to avoid temptation, diversify your diet and consume more whole foods.
Eat More Plants
Following a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to ensure your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals. Additionally, a diet centered on whole, unrefined plants helps eliminate processed foods associated with obesity and heart disease. Vegetables, fruit and legumes also contain high percentages of water, helping you stay full and hydrated for longer. While you may think a plant-based diet would rack-up your grocery bill, there are a number of plant-based foods that are relatively cheap. For example, a head of lettuce costs about $2.50 while a box of sugar-packed cereal can sell for upwards of $6. To help reduce the financial burden of a plant-based diet, purchase fruits and veggies that are in season and on sale.
Eat for Your Teeth
When too much processed food is consumed, it can wreak havoc on your teeth. An abundance of sugary soda, sweets and unhealthy snacks increases the risk of tooth decay. By building a diet based on healthy, whole foods, you’ll not only eliminate health hazards, but you’ll also give your pearly whites an advantage.
In addition to eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, be sure you’re brushing and flossing properly. Try to brush your teeth after every meal to ensure you’re removing anything that could lead to increased plaque or bacteria. If food keeps getting stuck between your teeth due to misalignment, you should take extra measures to ensure a healthy smile since crooked teeth can significantly impact oral health. Talk to an orthodontist about the best treatment to straighten your teeth. While braces are certainly an option for adults, you may feel more comfortable with clear aligners. Compare some of the popular alignment systems to determine which treatment option fits your alignment needs, your timeline and your budget.
Healthy eating doesn't have to be confusing. By eliminating processed foods, eating more plants and focusing on how you feel, you can create a healthy eating plan specific to your body. Today is the day to start eating nutritious meals, feeling better and taking control of your health and well-being.
Welcoming CremeBru.LA and Dan Levine (an Amherst native) to the Amherst Farmers' Market as a new member for the 2021 season! Dan, Theresa Ryan AND their son, Ben, will be offering something new AND delicious on Saturdays at the AFM!
Dan Levine of CremeBru.LA (@cremebru.la on Instagram and Facebook) grew up in Amherst and started in foodservice at Antonio’s in the early 90s. His first experiences with Creme Brûlée were at local restaurants like the Blue Heron and the Night Kitchen.
After college in Michigan and 20 years in New York and California, first as a writer and then in technology, Dan met Theresa Ryan in LA. In 2015, their son Ben was born.
Dan had always loved to cook and Theresa, currently a voiceover actor and Realtor™️, spent decades in restaurants and as a karaoke host and event DJ. Somehow during a 2019 visit to Dan’s childhood home, Dan and Theresa found themselves testing out creme brûlée recipes for 25 of his parents’ friends.
When COVID hit, Dan and Theresa started selling BBQ out of their driveway as a way to safely see friends and neighbors. Soon, creme brûlée, impossible to find in restaurants at the time, was added to the menu and then took it over completely, with flavors ranging from Vanilla to Cappuccino, Honey Lavender, Maple Bacon, Mexican Chocolate and even Rosewater.
As COVID wore on, Dan longed for a slower pace and the chance to provide Ben with a supportive, inclusive, welcoming childhood filled with green spaces like his own. One rented RV and 3000 miles later, that dream became a reality, and CremeBru.LA was the next step in the process.
The Amherst Farmer’s Market’s unique blend of commerce, community and quality has always held a special appeal for Dan; from childhood treats and trinkets to a mandatory stop for ingredients during visits to grandma and grandpa’s house.
Even the Common itself is a welcome reminder of countless fond memories - shaving cream fights at the town fair, practicing for Ultimate or hanging out with high school friends who went on to Amherst College. The common, like the Market and like the town, just feels like home to Dan.
CremeBru.LA is currently working with Atkins Farms, Mapleline farms and Hall Poultry Farm and is actively expanding their list of local suppliers and customers. The next dream is a retail location in downtown Amherst staffed (at least in part) with autistic employees.
New Year’s resolutions are a great opportunity to set goals and define your path over the upcoming months. However, many people approach resolutions all wrong. Making huge, sweeping resolutions isn’t likely to be effective. After all, when you’re resolving to change the big picture, it’s easy to ignore the little details. However, the details are ultimately what matters most.
In fact, resolutions based on the means — not the results — tend to be far more effective. For example, if you want to save money this year, your resolution shouldn’t be focused on a final figure — it should be based on savings per month or even week. When you hone in on the steps it takes to reach a goal, you give yourself a road map you can follow to success.
To that end, Amherst Farmers’ Market contributing author, Cheryl Conklin, has come up with this list of resolutions to help you meet your goals in 2021. Here are some small, simple changes you can make that — when done consistently — can have a big impact on your life:
Treating Food as Fuel
When it comes to treating our bodies right, it’s easy to fall into traps telling us we should deprive ourselves of the basic energy we need to survive. Although cutting back on junk food and eating appropriate serving sizes is always wise, if you exclusively focus your health efforts on minimizing food intake, you’re going to wind up harming yourself in the long run.
Instead, focus on thinking of food as fuel. This is a powerful mindset to take since it covers both food intake and energy usage. For example, you can start your morning with a healthy smoothie packed with nutrient-dense fruits and a results-boosting supplement powder. Then, use that powerful breakfast to fuel the day’s exercise — ideally, 30 or more minutes of moderate activity. Thinking of food this way helps you to focus on how to work with your body, not against it.
So that you always have the right type of fuel on hand, make thoughtful choices about what and where you buy your food. For example, in-season fruits and vegetables will taste better if you buy local at Amherst Farmers’ Market, and you’ll be supporting local farmers. You can also plot out your snacks and meals before you shop so that you can stick to clean eating.
20 Minutes of Tidying a Day
Did you know that being in a messy room makes you more anxious, even if you’re not consciously thinking about the mess? Whether we’re aware of it or not, our minds spend time processing the clutter around us — it’s almost like having unfinished to-do lists taped to all your surfaces. Tidying up for as little as 20 minutes every day can do wonders for keeping your space organized and stress-free.
If you’ve neglected to tidy for a while, however, you may want to kick things off with a big cleaning and reorganizing day. Not only will this put you on the right foot for keeping things in order, but it will also give you a chance to release any negative associations you’ve built up at home over the last year. Clean up, let in some air, and enjoy a fresh start for the new year.
Explore New Expressions of Faith
The last year was marked by strife, and though some people feel more connected to their spirituality during a crisis, others can start to feel a disconnect. Either reaction is normal, but the latter can be pretty distressing. If you’ve started to feel separated from your faith, resolve to explore a new expression of it on a weekly or monthly basis. These expressions could be anything from exploring a new form of prayer to taking up a challenging volunteer role.
The important part isn’t necessarily what you do. Instead, it is the act of putting yourself out there. We often find our faith in places we might not expect. When we explore opportunities to connect with God, we open ourselves up to receiving the message He wants us to hear.
Above all, allow 2021 to be a year you open yourself up to possibility, whether that’s the possibility of personal growth, community change, or a deeper relationship with God. When we are willing to change, the path forward often becomes clearer than we ever imagined.
Photo Credit: Pexels
Little White Goat Dairy (LWGD) has been a member of the Amherst Farmers' Market for several years now and what a wonderful addition they, and their offerings, have been! A little history/story about LWGD and their reliable workers; their livestock guardian dogs!
"Our farm is graced by Pearl (black dog in photos) and Buck (tricolor in photos), our livestock guardian dogs. We got Pearl as a 6 year old who'd lived with goats her entire life. Her trip to our farm was only the second time she had been in a car!
She is a Maremma/Karakachan cross. Maremma are an Italian breed with records of them back into the Roman Empire. Karakachan, from Bulgaria, are even older, beginning in Thrace and early Greek civilization.
We were so impressed with Pearl's bear and coyote chasing, and her calm devotion to the herd, we brought in Buck, a purebred Karakachan puppy. It was fascinating to watch Pearl teach him how to be a good guardian. And her stern lessons on how not to be bad were impressive. They need to be calm around the livestock by day, and be vigilant by night.
We have acclimated them to people and they are very happy to greet visitors to the farm store. (Human visitors. Other dogs are considered threats to their herd, so do come visit without your dogs). So are, much to our surprise, birds of prey. No hawk is carrying off a goat, and someday Buck will figure out that robins aren't going to either.
They will patrol the perimeter and chase away predators. They do not pursue in order to attack. After the threat has been moved off, they head back to their posts at the barn. It's been great for the goats to not be shut in behind locked doors overnight.
They are totally different than the house dogs we've had. They live outdoors year round. They are innately independent and extremely intelligent. This combination makes for the ability to perform their duties without human guidance, but... they are not in the least bit interested in learning standard dog commands. Buck kinda sorta knows "sit" and "come" . Pearl, no way.
The remarkable thing is how rarely they require human direction. They know their job and take the responsibility very seriously. With great personality and temperaments they have earned our greatest respect and our deepest affection....which leads us to the new puppy, Otto!"
Come to the AFM tomorrow/Saturdays and see and stock up on the fruits of their labor!
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!
Bringing you organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, locally-sourced blog posts on a semi-weekly basis from the Amherst Farmers' Market.