What is Medicine?

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘medicine?’ Most of us, I think pills, antibiotics, patches and syringes. Things we are ‘supposed’ to take in order to get better, to lessen the symptoms or prevent bodily annoyances. Name brands may even come to mind in place of the medicine itself, because we see them advertised on TV and in magazines alongside clothes, soft drinks and electronics and they become little more than impulse buys.
But let’s go back to the definition (from Merriam-Webster):
Medicine (noun):
1. The science or practice of the treatment and prevention of disease.
Medicinal (adjective):
1. Having healing properties.

As complex and difficult as healing can be, I also believe that it can be equally as simple. I believe that anything that heals or prevents dis-ease is medicine. Anything that eases suffering, soothes, comforts, is medicine. And I believe that we (especially here in the US) have become unfamiliar with the most beneficial medicine of all: Food. We, unlike many other countries, have such an abundance of food that we waste a staggering amount each day. All for profit, we synthesize edible products in laboratories and pump them full of artificial flavor to make them taste good. We eat things full of fat, sugar and salt but completely devoid of nutrients. And we swap genes between species, and create crops that can’t survive without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides- and we make ourselves and the land we depend on for survival sick in the process.

To me, medicine truly is the practice and art of treating and preventing dis-ease in all organisms in our natural environment: in humans, in the many species we share our earth with, and in the earth itself. Healing goes so far beyond alleviating symptoms of dis-ease; to heal is to regenerate, reinvigorate and restore. I believe that we are able to do all of these things when we re-learn how and what we can grow locally and naturally. Food grown locally and in season not only tastes better, but is more nutritionally valuable than food grown elsewhere, picked unripe, and shipped thousands of miles to our grocery stores.

We have such a respect for medicine and doctors, understandably, but are barely aware of the people out there growing, tending and harvesting the most crucial elements for our health and well-being: the farmers. We depend on a certain code of ethics from our medical professionals, but it gets a bit murky when we start talking about food. What is ethical when it comes to food production and who decides?
In trying to answer these questions, I found that the “Values of Medical Ethics” apply perfectly to our food system.

The Six Values of Medical Ethics (as applied to food systems and justice).

1) Non-maleficence – “first, do no harm” ( Putting the health and wellbeing of all organisms before profit by reducing dependence on processed foods and allowing indigenous peoples to maintain traditional lands and practices).
2) Beneficence - a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient. (Regulators and government officials should act in the best interest of all organisms, rather than in the interest of profits).
3) Respect for Persons- the patient -and the person treating the patient- have the right to be treated with dignity. (Those who buy, those who grow, harvest and package our foods here and in other countries, and all animals involved should all be treated with dignity).
4) Truthfulness and Honesty-the concept of informed consent (All people have a right to know how their food is cultivated and processed- including disclosure of ingredients, chemical use/synthetic ingredients, and genetically modified organisms).
5) Justice- concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment -fairness and equality- (All people deserve access to fresh, culturally appropriate, whole foods, regardless of social or financial standing).
6) Respect for autonomy – the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment. (All people in all countries should have a say in how their foods are grown and processed, and the collective voice of the people should be given more power than the voice of corproations).

The ways in which we interact with and consume our food has within it the ability to destroy ecosystems, human/nature ralationships and human/human relationships, as well as heal them, bring people together and encourage resilliencey and bounty. When I think of medicine, I envision communities coming together to help each other harvest, forage for wild edibles, grow community gardens and host potlucks. I see neighbors teaching one another how to become more self-sufficient through planting and preserving. I think of all of my friends who have knowledge and skills just waiting to be shared. I remember how much more alive I felt when I learned we could actually do something to reduce the damage and suffering in our world, and that beginning can be as simple as getting to know your farmer.

(For me, that means stopping by the Tuesday or Saturday Market in Northampton, MA!)

Stone Soup at the Movies!

Join the Stone Soup Cafe’ as we screen the award winning documentary

A Place at the Table                                                              

April 24th @ 6:30pm – Greenfield Garden Cinema

A Place at the Table Trailer

Your ticket purchase will be a contribution to the Stone Soup Cafe’, so please bring your friends and help support our community as we fight hunger and build awareness towards local, nutritious food.

See you at the movies!


A little something for those chilly spring nights.

The first day of Spring has come and gone, chased by a final (…probably) snow storm, reminding us that winter takes its time in leaving Massachusetts. At the first hint of warm weather we put away our woolens and head outdoors; the days may be sunny and warm, but the evenings can still be raw and bone-chilling. This makes for a perfect maple syrup season (ooh, foreshadowing, possibly?) but can leave many of us feeling cranky and uncomfortable. That’s why I keep a mason jar full of chai concentrate (decoction) in my fridge, ready to blend in a mug of warm milk. (I even froth mine with a french press before adding the concentrate, which makes it feel super indulgent.) The herbs I use stimulate blood flow, aid in digestion, and have anti-bacterial properties to help you keep away those last minute colds, too.

Making a decoction (or concentrate) is very similar to making a quick infusion (like when we make a cup of tea). Rather than pouring hot water over herbs and doing a quick steep, we simmer them together in a pot until the water has reduced in volume by about half. Not only does this result in a stronger flavor, but it allows us to get all that tougher roots (astragalus) and barks (cinnamon) have to offer, in a way that a quick steep couldn’t.

Watching people bundle back up in the nighttime chill (after a nearly 70 degreen day!) as I sip my own mug of spicy chai made me want to share my recipe, which has been adapted from many other recipes over several years:

‘Warm Me Up’ Chai Decoction (Concentrate)
2-3 cups of concentrate

24 cardamom pods
18 whole allspice
9 inches cinnamon bark
3 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 teaspoon whole cloves
3 inches piece fresh ginger root
3 inches dried astragalus root
4-6 tablespoons of regular or decaf black tea OR red rooibos tea OR no tea at all.
3 -4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey or more to taste (maple syrup may be used)

1. Coarsely crush all spices in a mortar and pestle, or by wrapping in a tea towel and crushing with a rolling pin.
2. Combine crushed spices and water, and bring to a boil, with the lid on (for now leaving out the black tea, or other tea, if using).
3. Reduce to a simmer for 30-90 minutes, with the lid off. (The amount of time needed will vary
4. You have two options here: You can remove the pot from heat and steep as long as you’d like (overnight, even), to get a spicier concentrate, omitting or adding black tea later -OR- you can remove from heat and add black or other tea now, steeping for 5-10 minutes.
5. Strain all herbs through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth or cotton muslin, and decant in to a mason jar with a lid. Add desired amount of honey or maple syrup. Store in the fridge for longest shelf-life
6. When you’re ready for a cup of chai, heat a cup of milk on the stove, bringing to a quick boil (keep an eye on it! It can boil over quickly!) Optional: Pour milk in a french press, and plunge carefully but quickly, until milk is light and foamy. (It will at least double in volume, keep this in mind, and make sure the spout side is turned away from you so you don’t get burnt.)
7. Pour 1/3 cup of concentrate in a mug, top with frothed milk, and enjoy the warmth.

Experiment! This is how I like my chai, but you can add any number of spices and herbs to this: fennel, anise, orange or lemon peel, cacao…

Though these organic herbs are not local, they can be purchased in an ethical, sustainable way which supports small farmers in countries financially dependent on exports.

[ For more information on buying spices and herbs in bulk, check out www.acadiaherbals.com. Acadia Herbs is a well-stocked herb shop in downtown Northampton, MA, with a friendly, knowledgeable owner and staff ready to answer any questions. ]



Limiting Fossil Fuel Use

When laboring a small farm it is pertinent to have as many efficient tools as necessary, and that generally means limited fossil fuel operated machinery.  That is just what you will find here at Leaping Frog Farm.  The entire land is shaped and nourished by hand except for the one combustion engine machine.  This machine is unbelievably efficient in the efforts of tilling large area of earth.  It would make less sense to do it by hand and hoe, unless of course that is your only means.  Within an hour I had the entire hooptunnel up and turned, just about two thousand six hundred square feet.  There are many tools needed due to each task having its own demands, a pair of sturdy hands and a critical thinking mind go a long way too! This process allowed the limestone and phosphorus minerals to be well mixed in with soil.

Let the Growing Season Begin!!!

The days are longer, the sun brighter; the birds are singing and the maple sap has been flowing strong.  These are all tell-tale signs that an abundance of local and seasonal food is on it’s way to the Stone Soup Cafe’ Farmers around the valley (working especially hard at Just Roots Community Farm!) are busy starting seeds and planting the crops that will be the foundation of Stone Soup menus.

Pretty Soon, the kitchen counter at Stone Soup will look like this…

Until then, we are offering lot’s of things to be excited about, even beyond the amazing food (which we could write a whole blog post in and of itself!)  On Saturday March 30th we are hosting an open house at the Cafe’ please join us to experience the cafe’ in all it’s awesomeness, and be sure to bring a friend, ask us questions, learn how to get involved, and just have relax with great people and even better food…wait, I mean the people are better than the food…but the food is so good…darn, I can’t decide, they both are super duper great with maple whip cream on top (we had that last week on homemade Mexican sugar cookies, by the way!)

That’s Greenfield ↑, if you zoomed way in on the red star, you would see Just Roots planting a bunch of vegetables. You would see the farmer’s market getting ready to launch on Main St., and a whole cast of amazing volunteers making the Stone Soup Cafe happen each week.  What do these three things have in common??? Interesting you might ask, because Stone Soup is teaming up with Just Roots to host a monthly Local Food Cafe’ where we will highlight the amazing local food this valley has to offer on our menu and elsewhere.  We will also be launching a joint Farmer’s Market Table to bring the gifts of the cafe’ and Just Roots out onto the streets of Greenfield!

Starting April 27th                                                                                                                come to the cafe’ to learn about and experience local foods with the Stone Soup Cafe’ and Just Roots.                                                                                                     

See you there!!!


Food as Medicine


Hello, Everyone! My name is Krystal Graybeal, and like the other students here, I will be sharing aspects of my internship journey with you. For the past couple of years I have been studying Permaculture with (among many talented others) Abrah Dresdale -our dedicated Farm and Food Systems coordinator and mentor extraordinaire-, as well as Home and Advanced Herbalism with the wonderful Brittany Wood Nickerson in Amherst, MA. Individually, these two subjects have proven to be the most valuable and engaging of my educational experience so far– so imagine my wonder when Abrah suggested a melding of the two- Local Food as Medicine! (Keep your eyes peeled for my next post to find out exactly what I mean by that- it’s likely not quite what you might think!)

How are these two subjects related?
Permaculture is about much more than growing food. One of my favorite definitions of Permaculture comes straight from Ryan Harb, Permaculture Academic Coordinator at UMASS Amherst. “Permaculture is really about solutions. It’s about taking all the problems we have in the world and making something good out of them.” To me, it is about healing the land itself, as well as our human connections with the land, and with one another. And Brittany’s motto is “Healing Starts at Home.” How true. So much can be accomplished when we all take small steps in the same direction.

Here, over the next several weeks, I will update with local plant profiles, do-it-yourself tutorials, and highlight some of the local folk who made these things their livelihood.

I would like to leave you with a question today: What sort of relationship do you have with the land around you? Or with the food you eat?


“The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The End.

On March 16th we not only wrapped up the Greenfield Winter Farmers’ Market season and my internship, but also we held the last winter market in the Greenfield High School (at least for a few years, as they are getting ready to start a large renovation project).

It was a much calmer market (after the excitement of Winter Fare last month), with fewer shoppers, vendors and products.  But it was a great farewell market none the less.

I really enjoyed my internship as the assistant market manager.  I learned a lot, and made several important connections to people in the food and farming community.  All in all, it was a truly valuable learning experience.

Please plan on patronizing the Greenfield Summer Farmers’ Market.  It runs every Saturday from 8-12:30 in Court Square, Downtown Greenfield.  The first market is on April 27th. 





Working To Double SNAP Dollars

At the beginning of my internship, one of my first tasks was to work on the Double Your SNAP Dollars Program.  For those of you that don’t know what SNAP is, it is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly know as food stamps).  It is a government funded program to provide food assistance to low income individuals and families.

In the past several years, farmers’ markets across the country have started to accept SNAP benefits as payment at their markets.  According to the USDA, farmers’ markets have seen a 624% rise in SNAP redemptions in the last five years.  Farmers’ markets accepting SNAP payments is beneficial in so many ways.

People who may not normally have access to fresh local food can not only purchase nutritious, wholesome food with their SNAP benefits, but also meet the farmer that grew it.  The food is sold right in their town or neighborhood, limiting the need to travel great distances to shop (and making it more convenient for people relying on public transportation).  The benefit dollars stay in the local economy, and the markets get new customers.

Many markets now have a Double Your SNAP Dollars Program, which entitles SNAP customers to double their dollars….getting twice as much food.  In order to run this program, market organizers must do a certain amount of fundraising.  They seek out financial donations from local businesses and organizations.  As mentioned above,  one of my first tasks was to draft a letter for this purpose. The Greenfield Farmers’ Market’s Double Your SNAP Dollar Program received several donations this way, in addition to the proceeds from the Winter Fare soup cafe (see previous post).

By far, the success of the Winter Market fundraising effort was due to the generosity of one wonderful, kindhearted person named Eveline MacDougall.  If you have ever been to the Winter Market, you would have seen her at her Sweet Pea Cottage Industries booth, or read about her in the Recorder.  She crafts these amazing handmade greeting cards and envelopes, and donates some of her profits each month to the Double Your SNAP Dollar Program. 

Because of Eveline and our other sponsors and donations, we were able to double SNAP benefits (up to $10) at both the February and March markets, and we still have enough money in the account to kick-start the Double Your SNAP Dollars Program for the summer market season.

It was very rewarding to see the smiles on peoples’ faces and witness their gratitude when we were able to hand over an extra $10 in tokens.  I only wish that all of the generous people that donate to the fund could share in the joy.


Winter Fare

Winter Fare is a week-long celebration of local food that has been happening in Greenfield since 2008.  Every year, there are are lectures, film screenings, workshops, community potlucks, seed swaps and a Winter Farmers’ Market.

This year CISA, along with a loyal group of volunteers organized Winter Fare events not only in Greenfield, but also in Northampton, Amherst and Springfield.

In Greenfield, where Winter Fare has its origins, it is held in conjunction with the monthly Winter Farmers’ Market, where I am doing my internship.   Not only did we have our usual array of vendors, but there were also information tables, workshops, a barter fare and a soup cafe.

At the workshops, one could learn about food preservation, cheese-making, backyard sugaring and vermicomposting.  The barter fare offered an opportunity to trade something that you had a lot of (butternut squash, perhaps) for something that you wished you had (like some dill pickles).  I saw many happy people leaving with arm loads of goodies.  The soup cafe was awesome-four kinds of soup created with local ingredients made by area restaurants.  All proceeds from the soup cafe went to the Double Your SNAP Dollars program (more on this later).

All day long the market was bustling with shoppers…learning, listening (to great music), loving (the soup, coffee and conversation), and loading (their cars full of produce and other locally produced goods).  This year the Winter Fare was held on February 2nd.  If you came, you know how wonderful it was.  If you missed it, try to catch it next winter.





help feed the community by feeding the community

Community based agriculture is the answer to all of our problems. With a serious shift in our cosmology humans will be able to live symbiotically with the land. I recently saw a presentation by a UVM graduate student, Connor Stedman, describing the importance of applying permaculture on a large scale to repair Bioregions with Regenerative Agriculture. He described how control of the land should be shifted from seeing it as a commodity to be bought and sold to a resource to be used for food and shelter. The land that we live in is our “ecologial womb”. And society has cut the umbilical cord. We pull our nourishment from a global resource bank that we do not replenish. We do not recieve what we need from the land we live in anymore; most people don’t even know how. We must rebuild our “wombs” and the natural capital in those “wombs” through community based farming (agroforestry, urban ag, permaculture, and more).  Help feed the community by feeding them!