How can we help create a healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley?

February 16, 2011

Who is working on Western Massachusetts farms?  Where will we grow our food?

The many answers to these questions are the focus of “Things are Looking Up Down on the Farm,” a food and farms spring speakers series co-sponsored by Greenfield Community College and the Conway School of Landscape Design. The series will include presentations onfarm economy and healthy food systems, farmers and food cooperatives’ contributions to healthy food systems, and keeping farm land available for farming.

  • Farm Economy: What Are We Waiting For? Now is the Time to Rebuild Our Healthy Food System by Tom Stearns, President, High Mowing Organic Seed Company, Wolcott, VT and President, Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick, VT. Wednesday, April 13, 6:30 to 8 p.m., GCC Downtown Campus, 270 Main Street, Greenfield, MA
  • Farm-Hers: Growing A Healthy Local Food System. . .From The Ground Up: A Panel Presentation with Deb Habib, Seeds of Solidarity, Orange, Sorrel Hatch, Upinngil Farm, Gill, and Caroline Pam, The Kitchen Garden, Sunderland. Moderated by Suzette Snow-Cobb, Franklin Community Cooperative, Greenfield and Shelburne Falls. Monday, April 25, 6:30 to 8 p.m., GCC Downtown Campus, 270 Main Street, Greenfield, MA
  • Farm Land: Sustaining Farms and Farm Land for the Future by Cris Coffin, New England Director of American Farmland Trust. Thursday, May 19, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Place TBA.

 Tom Stearns, one of the primary subjects of Ben Hewitt’s book, “The Town That Food Saved,”  stresses the urgency of addressing food and farms issues, saying Agriculture is the biggest user of energy, the biggest user of water, the biggest user of land, and the biggest polluter on the planet. It’s also the biggest contributor to our health, or, depending on what we eat, the biggest contributor to our ill health. We’ve spent the last 200 years on this planet going in a pretty dangerous direction. We have an opportunity in a limited amount of time to steer in a new direction. The best way to that new direction is through the food system.

“We’re all part of and dependent on the ‘food system,’ if for no other reason than the fact that we all eat,” says GCC President Bob Pura. “We must learn from people who can help us transition into a more resilient and sustainable future. We saw a tremendous response to GCC’s inaugural ‘Foodies of Franklin County’ workshop series. There are many people eager to learn and connect with others around issues related to food and farms. GCC’s mission is to provide accessible and excellent education that serves our community’s needs. We are exploring ways to provide meaningful education around food and farm issues.” 

According to Paul Cawood Hellmund, Director of the Conway School of Landscape Design, “Some of the most important uses of land and landscape today are about production—about growing food where people live, protecting farmland, and addressing community needs related to food and agriculture. This requires a great deal of creativity, especially in the face of dramatic economic and environmental changes. We hope residents of the Pioneer Valley will come to these talks and get more ideas about the many exciting local and regional efforts underway to grow sustainable and resilient food systems.”

For information about this food and farms speakers series or GCC’s exploration of sustainable agriculture education, contact: Sandra Thomas, Assistant to the President for Special Projects, or (413) 775-1847.

For information about the Conway School of Landscape Design’s work on food security and farmland conservation, contact Priscilla Novitt, Outreach Coordinator, or (413) 369-4044 x5, or visit

By Mary McClintock, ’82