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 email@example.com
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.
"It's 5 o'clock somewhere" being the mantra of good wine and celebration! Quality "hand crafted wines from hand tended vines” is what Mount Warner Vineyards Farmer Winery is all about. Located in the farm heritage community of Hadley, Bobbie and Gary Kamen’s artisan winery produces award winning wines from grapes they grow and harvest in their own one acre vineyard. The vineyard and winery was the Kamen’s “What’s Next” adventure as they embarked on the next phase of their lives. Gary retired from UMASS as a Professor of Kinesiology and Bobbie retired from AARP as a Senior Strategic Advisor.
Their winemaking passion began in their basement about 17 years ago and their grape growing passion began shortly after when they planted about 25 vines from cuttings of wine grapes from their dear friends Brenda and Peter at Jewell Towne Vineyards in Southampton, New Hampshire. While the short growing season defines the varieties that can be grown here, these cold-climate varieties - developed at Cornell University for the New York Finger Lakes area and in Minnesota - are well suited to the Hampshire County mesoclimate. They have continued to experiment with trellising systems and expanded the vineyard to over 725 vines including a number of varietals such as Cayuga White, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Marquette, Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, Corot Noir and Petite Pearl. In addition to the grape wines, they supplement their own harvest of raspberries with ripe berries from local farms to make a “to die for” raspberry port-style dessert wine – Raspberry Rhapsody and a Positively Peach dessert wine made from locally sourced ripe juicy peaches in the style of a classic dessert wine.
As a “nano winery” their small scale production ensures that the vines will be hand tended and the wines will be hand crafted. Their wines can be sampled at several summer Farmers’s markets in Amherst, Springfield and Westfield. For more information contact Bobbie Kamen at 413-588-1329.
Gary Kamen and Bobbie Kamen, Winemakers and Owners
Mount Warner Vineyards LLC
Roundhill Orchards is comprised of two farms, both century family farms. The homestead is in Southampton Massachusetts, and the other in Holyoke Massachusetts. Planting began in Southampton in the early 1980’s, by Kate Miller Carl and Alfred Rupert Carl Jr. and continues to this day. The Holyoke branch of the orchards was planted by Marian and Alfred Carl Sr., with help from Kate and Alfred Carl Jr., through the early 1980’s as well.
In the early days of the orchard Kate and Alfred pollinated many local farms and orchards throughout New England with numerous hives. While currently focusing on small fruit production, the apiaries are still in production. Round Hill Orchards are currently owned and operated by Kate Miller Carl, and managed by Andrew Douglas Carl. Currently Roundhill Orchards raises numerous berries, stone fruits, apples, pears, vegetables, and honey bees, while also working to cultivate paw paws, persimmons, and hardy kiwis. The orchards practice IPM (integrated pest management), which is between an organic and conventional approach, but leans much closer to an organic approach.
Roundhill Orchards attends the Florence and Amherst Farmers markets, with a farm stand located at 1 Douglas Rd. Southampton Massachusetts. Offering already picked fruits and vegetables, and for thrill seekers pick your own berries, apples, and pumpkins in season. Andrew makes for the third generation to attend both the Amherst and Florence farmers markets. The Orchards are largely worked by Kate and Andrew, with additional help from Jenny Kapinos, sister of Andrew, as well as Elizabeth and Thomas Kapinos, grandchildren of Kate and Alfred Jr.
The family tradition continues, as Andrew and his fiancée Tricia Brown are soon to be wed, in a ceremony on the farm. Tricia will be known to many at the Market, since she has come to help out on busy days.
Welcome to Apex Orchards! Apex has been owned and cared for by the same family for seven generations. 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, table grapes and kiwi. 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 (including the Amherst Farmers' Market) and of course, right here at our farm store.
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. Among the Amherst Market regulars, Apex Orchards may be best known for one thing: apricots. When the apricots come in, people will be lining up at Apex’s stand, eager for this year’s crop of the soft, delicate fruit. Tim Smith, the owner of Apex Orchards, agrees that the apricots are special. “A lot of people have never tasted a fresh apricot,” he observes, noting that Apex is one of the only farms in the Pioneer Valley that grows the fruit. The farm also sells honey under the label “Shelburne Honey Company,” and even grows a small variety of kiwis
Of course apricots are not Apex’s only crop, and despite the palpable excitement at the farmers’ market when the apricots are introduced, customers also regularly enjoy Apex’s other offerings. Apex grows many varieties of peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, and apples, along with grapes and blueberries.
Apex uses integrated pest management (IPM) techniques. We believe in using sustainable business practices in our operation of the farm. We have solar panels on the farm too. Our farm has been supplying the finest farm fresh produce since 1828, and that tradition continues today. We have pick your own areas available in the fall in an orchard with one of the most spectacular views in New England.
Our retail store is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm from August through April. From mid-September until the end of October we offer pick your own apples in our scenic orchard. A farm visit is a terrific family event and we also often hold in store events. You’ll find our family and staff to be welcoming and helpful, including offering up tips and recipes for preparing fruit and storage.
Come see us Saturday at the Amherst Farmers' Market and say "hello!"
When seeking out the perfect, worth-every-calorie brownie, one needs to transcend the cake-ish dull flavor of so many brownie offerings and get right to the chewy edges and dense, decadent middle of a made-from-scratch brownie. Dawn Lepere, Owner, Baker and Creative Director of Round The Corner Brownie Company, has found a way to distill brownie goodness to its very essence.
Dawn relocated to Amherst with her husband and daughter 7 years ago. Although she quickly fell in love with the area, her new situation presented a frustrating dilemma on the job front. Her wish to be available as a mother while also providing additional income for her family resulted in stints at part-time jobs. Grateful for the work, but feeling like there must be something more satisfying, she considered a series of ideas for creative projects. Meanwhile, Dawn helped with fundraisers at her daughter's elementary school, and these experiences demonstrated an undeniable fact: people love baked goods. With this inspiration, Dawn set to work on a plan to focus her creative impulse on the culinary arts.
The trick was finding a niche in the vast world of baked goods. Brownies quickly rose to the top of the list as they were already a family favorite and seemed to provide a versatile platform for a variety of delicious flavors. Dawn spent 8 months test baking some of her “core” flavors, and additional flavors are offered seasonally. You can experience the results of her labors in offerings such as Chocolate Chip Brownies, Mocha White Chocolate Chip Brownies, Chocolate Raspberry Brownies and Flour-less Brownies.
It seemed to Dawn that the next obvious step was to create a line of "Blondies," which are similar to brownies except that they are made with a blond batter. You can think of them as deep dish cookies. Dawn tweaked the ingredients and baking time until they achieved the same dense and chewy inside texture as her brownies while remaining golden brown and crunchy on the outside. They are served up in decadent flavors such as Butterscotch, Peanut Butter, Toasted Pecan/White Chocolate and Caramelized White Chocolate.
For those who need to avoid gluten, Dawn has created a line of gluten-free brownies that are virtually indistinguishable from her traditionally baked collection. The gluten-free varieties include Flourless Chocolate Brownies, Caramelized White Chocolate Blondies and Peanut Butter Blondies.
Dawn has also answered the many requests from the vegan community by creating two delicious vegan AND gluten free options; a Chocolate Chip Blondie and a Chocolate Brownie Cake.
Looking to create interest in her indulgent treats, Dawn has proudly become part of the Amherst Farmers’ Market and brings most flavors with her each Saturday. Dawn also provides private baking and catering, so please feel free to stop by and talk to her about her ideas - including mini frosted brownies and chocolate dipped brownie bites - for your next gathering!
Dawn and her brownies have appeared on Mass Appeal, been featured in the food section of The Hampshire Gazette and been showcased on Brittany Murphy's Buzz Around Town on Western Mass News.
Maybe you didn’t know you were looking for the perfect, mouth watering, brownie or blondie masterpiece, but now you know where to find it!
Fungi Ally was started by Willie Crosby. He went to UMass' Stockbridge School of Agriculture for Turfgrass' Managment. After several years in the golf course industry he decided to shift gears into an area of (excuse the pun) organic interest; food production. After interning at Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst and working mainly as the primary weed destroyer and general crew member, the experience gave way to a new path. Thoroughly enjoying the experience of being in this community and working to produce food, a new destiny was formed, but, at the same time, I experienced what hard work it was! So he schemed up a way to work less, play more, and produce pounds and pounds of mushrooms. In the long run it was a total FAIL in meeting those above objectives! Mushroom farming is just as much hard work as vegetable production, but, on balance, equally rewarding in offering our community high quality mushrooms and seeing my interest come to fruition.
Originally my idea was to grow mushrooms outdoors on logs, so with the help of community member Bill Cooley we inoculated 400 shiitake logs. We then waited and waited and waited for a full year until the mushrooms were ready to fruit. I thought what a brilliant way to farm! But in the meantime I learned more and more about indoor cultivation from workshops in Washington State and an Internship I served in Nevada at the largest medicinal mushroom grower in the country. After these experiences I dove into the world of indoor mushroom cultivation. Few years roll by and now we have a 2500 square foot warehouse growing about 300 pounds per week AND selling ready to fruit blocks to commercial mushroom growers throughout Massachusetts and New York.
Our mission is to create a world of balance and connection by revealing the power of mushrooms. We primarily work with edible fungi but also offer medicinal extracts and are experimenting with the possibility of Mycoremediation. The farm is located at 311 River Dr. in Hadley, MA and currently has 4 full-time farmers.
This is now the third year Fungi Ally has been participating at the Amherst Farmers Market! We have evolved the products we offer beyond mushrooms and have expanded the species we are growing. We also offer a CSA that can be picked up at the Amherst market. Saturdays when we aren't at market we enjoy hiking in the Skinner State park, Kayaking on the Connecticut and connecting with friends and family.
Stop by and visit!
Sam Sherer lives and works in Orange, Massachusetts, making bowls from local wood — cherry, walnut, maple, and birch, hand-turning them on a lathe. As a 'second' career, Sam has been turning bowls, large and small, for about 5 years. He learned his craft on Vashon Island in Washington State, mentored by friends - David, Jim, and Curt.
Looking out his window in June 2007, awaiting a laminectomy for an L 4/5 disc in need of repair, Sam gave thought and had time for a pause; retiring, "now what in my life?" At the same time, his neighbor, Patrick, was turning 80 years old. Everyday when seeing each other, Patrick would point to a big leaf maple tree in the distance, the tree being old and arthritic, a history unto its own, and say “widow maker! That’s what that tree will be someday.”
Those years have long since passed, the surgeon having fixed his spine and Patrick got his wish, not that the tree would make a widow-maker out of itself, but that before so, the tree would be transformed, just like Sam, himself. As Sam was in the search for cabinet makers and finding no one who would immortalize this wonderful tree, fruitfully, three men showed up one day out of the blue, during his convalescence, all being wood turners. Three men, three different styles, three different philosophies, and they all welcomed the tree as an art-form, ready to take on a metamorphosis, as the tree evolved into a new 'life.' That tree was the catalyst for Sam as they opened their shops, and hearts, teaching him the fine art and craft of making that transformation happen. Sam's 'new career' now fosters that transformation with his wood, his lathe, his re-claimed trees, turning them, literally AND figuratively, into beautiful wooden bowls.
The lathe and the process has given Sam an appreciation for beauty, form, function and a reason, in general. The shape of a bowl, the use of a bowl, the grain or age of the wood, the finish are all part of being open to what life presents. Sam continues making himself happy with the process and hope the meditation of movement finds you joyful.
Now being retired, once a public schoolteacher and now currently teaching yoga part-time. This spring Sam was part of a feature on Chronicle about the North Quabbin area with his feature section being toward the end of the segment. Sam would love to meet you and hope to be able to show you his work and will be at the Amherst Farmers' Market, along with his brother & sister-in-law, Bruce and Rachel of Little White Goat Dairy, on Saturday's to do so! Feel free to stop by and talk with Sam, or he can also be contacted to set up an appointment if there are any comments or questions. Visit here to see an online gallery of his current work.
About ten years ago, when Ben and Laura Wells-Tolley moved to the Valley, they immediately enjoyed partaking of the local harvest. They first lived in downtown Northampton, only a walk away from the farmers’ market, and a short drive away from a number of farmstands and farms. The first tastes of the Valley totally swept their hearts away and gave them a vision for participation in the local food movement. Picking strawberries, warm from the sunshine and bursting with life, and cultivated high-bush blueberries from branches heavy with fruit, were beautiful moments in that first summer. Frequenting Hatfield and Hadley farmstands for watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash brought new meaning to eating seasonally.
Ben and Laura were first introduced to the concept of a CSA at the Food Bank Farm. After gathering buckets of glowing sunflowers from the pick-your-own fields and getting into the weekly rhythm of going to the farm to get food freshly harvested with many other people from the community, Laura and Ben knew there was no going back to eating tomatoes in December and shopping primarily at the grocery store. As so many have found to be true, having tasted living food, food that is still vibrant with the life that it has drawn from the soil and sun, their appetites completely changed.
Soon after participating in the CSA at Food Bank Farm, Ben and Laura began to consider how they could delve even deeper into the heart of local agriculture. It was a chilly windy October afternoon when Ben and Laura took their first farm walk at Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, after Ben’s interview there with farmers Jeremy Barker-Plotkin and Dave Tepfer. Little did they know that day how precious that farm would become to them.
Ben began working at Simple Gifts as a farm apprentice but with a focus on the livestock. Dave and Jeremy were incredibly supportive of Laura and their children being present on the farm, out in the fields, in the flow of CSA, and taking front-row seats at every opportunity to see how a farm works at the ground level. Ben stayed on the crew for subsequent years and worked even more closely with Dave on the livestock side of the farm. Dave and Jeremy encouraged Ben and Laura to begin exploring their own livestock enterprises within the context of Simple Gifts. These ventures included having their own beef cows, sheep, broilers and a family cow, or two.
While living in Amherst, Laura and Ben discovered the gem of a farm called Upinngil Farm in Gill, MA. They began frequenting Upinngil for their delicious raw milk and cheese, and struck up a friendship with Clifford Hatch (previous vendor at the Amherst Farmers' Market) and his daughter Sorrel, the farmers there. Ben soon began working with the Hatches learning the art of dairying. It wasn’t long before Ben and Laura were sure that their future dream farm was going to have a dairy herd as its centerpiece. This was further solidified in their vision when they had the opportunity to attend an open house at Chase Hill Farm in Warwick, MA. During the open house, Farmer Mark Fellows described the Chase Hill Dairy as being seasonal, 100% grassfed, and certified organic. Ben and Laura left Chase Hill that day saying it was their dream farm.
After almost five years at Simple Gifts, Ben and Laura began to look throughout the Valley for a spot to establish a dairy and ended up making the move to Northfield, MA, when the historic Parker farm on route 63, came up for rent there. It was in Northfield that South Wind Farm was born. With a fantastic roadside location, a gorgeous view of the Connecticut River and a beautiful landmark barn on the property, the Wells-Tolley's hoped South Wind Farm would flourish. Unfortunately they were unable to secure additional pasture adjacent to the farm property and the farm’s limited land base put great limitations on the scale of the operation. Laura and Ben began to consider if again a move to a new location might be necessary for their farm to truly thrive.
In the winter of 2016, Jeannette and Mark Fellows approached Ben and Laura with the offer of a job for Ben with the goal of transitioning ownership of the farm over the next several years. Ben and Laura eagerly agreed and began the process of moving their pigs, chickens, cows and family to Warwick. After less than a year working together it became clear that the farm transfer would take place sooner than later.
Earlier this month Ben and Laura purchased Chase Hill Farm from the Fellows. The farm property is approximately 270 acres of certified organic APR land. The herd is comprised of certified organic Normande, Jersey and Normande-Jersey crosses. These cows happily graze on lush green pastures and produce delicious milk that is consumed in its raw fluid form sold directly to the consumer on the farm. Normande milk is excellent for cheese-making. A variety of artisan cheeses are made and aged on the farm. Ben and Laura are integrating their own livestock enterprises with those of Chase Hill. They are thrilled to have a diversified livestock farm with a 100% grassfed certified organic dairy herd as its centerpiece. The farm is producing raw milk, artisan cheese, beef, pork, chicken, and eggs.
Come by the Amherst Farmers' Market Saturday's to meet Ben and his family!
It's 4am on a Saturday morning and Twin Oaks Farm is awakening for the Market day. Two vehicles to load and then head in two different directions north; one vehicle to Northampton and the other, with John Spineti piloting, heading to the Amherst Farmers' Market. It’s a warm, humid morning, perspiration sets in just looking for the car keys, much less having to load and prepare. John, Twin Oaks’ long-time owner, already with a cool towel around his neck for the drive, is dreaming about breaking his fig tree 'record!' 12 trees sold in a Market day! Many other thoughts are also going through as he heads north on I-91. Shell peas. Snap peas. Japanese eggplant. Roma tomatoes. Persian cucumbers. Perhaps one of the seemingly limitless varieties of potatoes he grows with lyrical names like French la ratte and Russian banana fingerling.
Rolling along the highway, a two decade old Subaru Legacy wagon and a converted Coleman pop-up camping trailer, older than the very Market itself, heading towards the day's sales. The car and trailer, both loaded with more than ever anticipated by either manufacturer, has been making this trip every Saturday morning for years now. Which is to say that by all outward appearances, right now, John, listening to NPR on his way, seems totally at ease. Like there’s no place on earth he’d rather be.
John’s reeling off the laundry list of vegetables, herbs and other herbaceous wonders he grows at Twin Oaks. “…Peruvian blue potatoes, very unique; genuine Japanese eggplant, thin, two feet long; banana trees, fig trees, pomegranate trees, rubber trees…three or four varieties of snap peas, snow peas, sun gold tomatoes.” A very eclectic assortment on offer.
This year’s seemingly endless winter pushed the planting season back a couple weeks or so, but such is the life of New England farmer. And John Spineti would know. He’s been the standing president of the Amherst Farmers’ Market longer than Franklin Deleno Roosevelt was in office and has been selling at the market, since its inception, the market he helped found 45 years ago.
Farming is in John Spineti’s blood. His father farmed the same property John farms today. “My family always farmed…my Dad, his ancestors in Italy. They were all farmers,” John says. “I can trace my family’s ancestry all the way back to Croatia in the Sixteenth Century. These little agrarian villages.”
John remembers his family’s Victory Garden celebrating the end of World War II (“Roses, v-shaped”). But though he has fond memories of childhood summers spent helping his family on the farm, when it came time for John to look for a career, like so many sons and daughters, he set out to blaze his own trail.
Setting his sights on the burgeoning technology sector, John studied chemical engineering where he received a B.S. from MIT in Cambridge, and then eventually earning an Ed.D from UMass and a coveted job with Pratt and Whitney, where he helped design fuel cells for the Apollo Lander. It was the late 60's, the Cold War and the race to put a man on the Moon was fraught with any number of geopolitical consequences. And here was this farm boy from Agawam, helping brave young men and women slip their terrestrial binds. But all the while, John felt his heart drawn to the familiar gravitational-pull of the family farm.
So back to the farm he went. And to the classroom. John left Pratt and Whitney for newly opened Springfield Technical Community College where in addition to teaching, he helped design assorted science and math curriculum's. And after the school day was finished, he’d farm.
“Classes would finish at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I’d run home to the fields and green houses,” John says.
Amongst his neighbors, his penchant for plowing into the evening hours earned him the nickname, “the Night Farmer.”
In 1972, John and several local farmers had an idea. Let’s organize a farmers’ market in downtown Amherst.
“We pre-dated the local food craze by a few years,” John chuckles.
The Amherst Farmers’ Market was the first of its kind in the state. And now, 45 years later, it’s the state’s oldest and surely amongst its most beloved markets.
“Where else can you shake the hand of the farmer who planted the potatoes or raised the lamb that you’re going to have for dinner tonight?”
John retired from teaching in 2000 and along with his wife Linda, devotes much of his time to the tireless, year-round work of operating Twin Oaks Farm.
“We don’t have any employees on the farm. So the work is 12 hours a day, every day of the year, selling, growing, preparing, weekends and holidays,” he says.
And John doesn’t have any plans to hang up the keys to his (impromptu) tractor collection, now at the number 14 mark, any time soon.
“I could go another 10 or 15 years,” he says. “I love talking with families who have been coming to the market for years and I think they enjoy seeing all of us. Nowadays, you can buy organic food just about anywhere it seems, but there’s only one place where you can chat up the farmer - at the Market.”
Indeed it’s these relationships, forged over countless Saturday morning conversations, that drive John and the rest of his brethren at the market to get up way too early week after week. It’s the sense of community, of home, of building something enduring and meaningful. That sense of commitment comes through in the vibrant colors and flavors at the market every Saturday. Stop by, say hi and see for yourself. Always at the ready with a quip, prepared for banter and can converse about any topic! Meet the man who, while never having traveled more than a half-days' distance by car, has encyclopaedia knowledge of a truly global capacity. John Spineti of Twin Oaks Farm....
Bringing you organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, locally-sourced blog posts on a semi-weekly basis from the Amherst Farmers' Market.