Simple Gifts Farm to Open New Farmstand
Leaving Amherst Farmers Market after 18 years
Amherst, MA (July 8th, 2017)--Jeremy Barker-Plotkin needs to find a new activity for his Saturday mornings. “I’ve been setting up my farmer’s market display 30 Saturdays a year for the past 18 years,” says the 46-year-old farmer. Barker-Plotkin will be celebrating his last market this Saturday, as he prepares to open a new farmstand at the farm on North Pleasant Street. Cake will be available to market-goers who come to say goodbye to the bounteous display in the Spring Street farmers market.
While the departure from market has a touch of bittersweet for Barker-Plotkin, the new farmstand will provide him with an ample outlet for his energies. The stand will be open seven days a week, and will feature organic produce and other local products from other Valley farms along with the veggies, eggs and meat that Simple Gifts typically brings to the market. Simple Gifts Farm’s 250-member Community-Supported Agriculture program will also be able to pick up their shares seven days a week from the new farmstand. A Grand Opening for the new farmstand will happen on July 15th, complete with balloon animals, farm tours, live music, and more free cake.
The farm has had some trouble signing up enough members to allow it to go to with all farmshares, which was the orginal vision of the farm. “The farmshare market is tight in this area, with so many great farmers offering shares,” says Barker-Plotkin. The farm has offered a flexible 10-pass option since 2016, which allows members to come in for 10 pickups anytime over the course of the season, as a way of making the share more accessible for those who have a smaller household or are gone during the summer. The farm stand will offer another more flexible option. “We want to keep the core share experience for members, while also opening opportunities for those who might want to come in and just buy a tomato or a bag of salad mix.”
Barker-Plotkin started started selling at the Amherst Farmer’s Market in 1999 when he started the farm operation. He was initially part of the Lampson Brook Farms Cooperative, a group of farmers who all operated plots at the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown. The cooperative also brought produce to the Central Square Farmer’s Market in Cambridge, and operated a small stand at the farm site in Belchertown.
The North Amherst Community Farm land trust was formed in 2005 to preserve the property in North Amherst where Barker-Plotkin now farms with farming partner Dave Tepfer. “ I had outgrown the site in Belchertown, and wanted to find a site where I work with Dave to integrate livestock into the operation.” The land trust purchased the site in 2006, and Barker-Plotkin and Tepfer have been farming there ever since. The operation has grown from about 9 acres in 2006 up to the current 20 acres in organic vegetable production, along with an additional 20 acres in pasture for the animals.
This week's Did You Know: the word Frittata translates from Italian as "egg cake?" It's true! Let's talk about egg cakes!
Call it a frittata, call it an egg cake (note to self: call it an egg cake from now on). Either way, this delicious recipe from Chase Hill Farm is loaded with fresh, locally sourced eggs, cheese and veggies. You can do all your shopping for this egg cake at the Amherst Farmers' Market...all of it! Plus, you'll get to talk to some nice farmers, which is a reward in itself.
Early Summer Frittata
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 baby zucchini from Simple Gifts Farm
1/2 chopped sweet purple pepper from Queen's Greens
5 scallions from Choice Farm, chopped
8-10 pasture-raised eggs from Chase Hill Farm
3 Tbsp. cream or milk
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley from Choice Farm
1 cup cheese chunks, your favorite Chase Hill Farm cheese!
(I used Tomme de Normande; Farmstead or Alpine Autumn are also good choices)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet (cast iron is my favorite!) over medium high heat. Sauté sliced zucchini and pepper 3-4 min. Add scallions and cook 1 minute longer, then reduce heat to low.
Whisk together eggs, cream, parsley, and salt & pepper. Sprinkle cheese over vegetables, then pour in egg mixture. Without stirring, cook until edges start to set. Transfer pan to oven and cook 10-12 min. until puffed and set.
Serve with the first sugar snap peas from the Kitchen Garden, early cherry tomatoes from Old Friends Farm, a loaf of peasant wheat bread baked by Bread Euphoria, and wine from Mt. Warner Vineyard.
All these local farm ingredients can be found at the Saturday Amherst Farmers' Market!
"Our pigs play tag; our chickens scratch; our cattle come thundering to each days’ new grass." - Gray Dogs Farm
Gray Dog's Farm in Huntington, Mass. is new to the Amherst Farmers' Market this year, but no stranger to the local meat game. Founded in 2007, Gray Dog's is a meat CSA that humanely-raises, top quality chicken, pork, beef, goat, lamb and eggs. They're Facebook page is full of great photos and recipes - you should probably go like them right now. Go ahead, I'll wait...
Amazing, right? I mean did you see that strawberry ice cream recipe? With coconut milk?!? I've already cancelled my Very Important Party Plans for tonight (ed. note: cancelled plans consist of giving the cats a good brushing while watching reruns of Friday Night Lights) in favor of making strawberry coconut ice cream and this Grilled Beef with Fresh Herbs Wrap recipe. Dig it!
Grilled Gray Dog's Farm beef, chilled and sliced thin (grilled with a dry spice rub or just a sprinkle of kosher salt and cracked black pepper)
Fresh Mi Tierra Flour Tortilla or wrap of your choice
Fresh Choice Farm oregano, parsley and chives minced
Choice Farm romaine lettuce (chopped or rolled up & thinly sliced/chiffonade)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Mayonnaise (you could get adventurous & make your own with some awesome local eggs!)
Dash of olive oil
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1) Toss the lettuce, chives, & fresh herbs with just a dash of the olive oil & vinegar.
2) Warm the wrap in the oven or on the grill.
3) Spread mayo on warm tortilla or wrap, add sliced beef, load in a generous helping of the dressed lettuce, sprinkle with parmesan, roll up and enjoy!
Still looking for new and exciting healthy summer salads ideas? You are? Do you like carrots? And maple syrup? You do?? Great!! This one comes courtesy of Justamere Tree Farm, home of all those yummy maple treats. Check out Justamere's website for more gluten and refined sugar free recipes. Also, this Maple Buttermilk Dressing sounds like it would be good on just about anything - green salads, root veggies, old tires...
Carrot and Radish Salad with Maple Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 tbsp. Mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2-4 tsp. Justamere Tree Farms Maple Syrup
1 clove Garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. Chives and/or Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, apple cider and maple syrup together in a bowl. Then add chives and/or parsley, salt and pepper. Toss salad dressing with julienned carrots and radish.
I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm starting to put the long, cold winter behind me. Even on a rainy day like today, it's a reminder that green things are growing and summer is fast approaching.
When the weather gets warmer, I crave fresh, crisp veggies in a light, but satisfying salad. But let's be honest, salad can get kind of dull. You gotta mix it up with salads or you end up staring at an uninspired bowl of romaine, for what feels like the 100th time, thinking, where did my life go wrong? Maybe I should have been an electrician. I should have moved to Bali when I had the chance. I bet they have yummy salads in Bali, full of mangoes or coconuts or something. Now it's just me and my romaine...together...forever. Hmmm...is Local Burger still open?
It doesn't have to be like that! Check out this delicious Steak and Red Pepper Pesto Salad from our friends at Chase Hill Farm. This is definitively not a boring salad, folks. Made with organic, local beef and local cheese from Chase Hill Farm in Warwick and organic arugula from Choice Farm in Amherst, this spectacular salad is fresh and exciting and will help to at least temporarily reaffirm your dubious life choices. Come to the Amherst Farmers' Market on Saturday for local, organic meat, veggies and cheese and tell us on Facebook if you have a great, fun summer salad idea!
BEEF and RED PEPPER PESTO SALAD
2 large red bell peppers
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups Choice Farm arugula
1/3 cup crumbled Chase Hill Farm Feta cheese
1 lb. Chase Hill Farm steak, grilled and thinly sliced ( I recommend a strip, sirloin, or skirt steak)
Cut peppers in half lengthwise, scoop seeds out and place cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until charred, about 20 min. Cool, peel off skin, and discard. Cut peppers into wide strips.
Combine peppers, walnuts, oil, garlic and salt in a food processor and process until chunky.
Combine arugula and feta in a bowl. Place steak on top and spoon pesto over steak. Yum!
Hi everyone. Here's the first in what we hope will be a semi-regular feature about the folks who make the Amherst Farmers' Market such a special place. Like us on Facebook to keep up with all the goings on at the Market this summer!
It’s a cold, grey, rainy morning at Twin Oaks Farm in Agawam. The kind of New England spring day that makes one pine for the summer sun’s warm embrace. John Spineti, Twin Oaks’ long-time owner, is dreaming about Japanese eggplants. Or Persian cucumbers. Or perhaps one of the seemingly limitless varieties of potatoes he grows with lyrical names like French la ratte and Russian banana fingerling. Which is to say that by all outward appearances, right now, as he gets his Spanish onions in the recently thawed soil, rain dripping from the brim of his ball cap, John seems totally at ease. Like there’s no place on earth he’d rather be than on his farm, planting onions. In the rain.
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.”
This year’s seemingly endless winter pushed the planting season back a couple weeks, but such is the life of New England farmer. And John Spineti would know. He’s the president of the Amherst Farmers’ Market and has been selling at the market he helped found for 43 years.
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, eventually earning a doctorate and a coveted job with Pratt and Whitney, where he helped design fuel cells for the Apollo Lander. It was the late 60s, 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 curriculums. 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, 43 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’s retired from teaching in 2000 and along with his wife Linda, devotes much 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 the tractor 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!
Come say hi to John and our all our great local farmers at the Amherst Farmers’ Market, Saturdays, rain or shine, 7:30 am to 1:30 pm, in the lot next to the Amherst Commons. See you there!
In the meantime, check out our facebook page for weekly updates and come say hi every Saturday from now until Thanksgiving, 7:30am - 1:30 pm on the Amherst Commons.
The Amherst Farmers Market has a new and upgraded blog and it can be found here:http://amherstfarmersmarket.wordpress.com/
Share your favorite seasonal recipes, local food wisdom, meet your farmers, and stay connected to the Amherst Farmers Market! Happy Summer!
National, my friends
Bringing you organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, locally-sourced blog posts on a semi-weekly basis from the Amherst Farmers' Market.