Who said kids shouldn’t play with their food?
This November, UMass Dining staff and about two dozen UMass students visited Lambert-Lavoie Memorial Elementary School in Chicopee for the Fun with Food Fest. A collaboration between UMass Dining and ChicopeeFRESH, the event sought to teach 4th and 5th graders about local, healthy food in all sorts of fun ways.
The event started off with the school’s cafeteria manager demonstrating how to make smoothies in front of the intrigued students. Most of them have tried the smoothies during lunch, including the popular strawberry yogurt smoothie, but none of them had actually seen the smoothies being made behind the scenes.
One of the activities that the kids loved was called The Real Mr. Potato Head. The kids pinned vegetables like kale, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts to a potato and make a face. Not only was this activity really fun for the kids, it may have exposed them to vegetables that they didn’t know about before. You wouldn’t believe how many different facial features a grape can be!
Another activity the kids enjoyed was "veggie stamping", where kids made cards for family members using handmade stamps carved out of vegetables.
At each activity station, there was a UMass volunteer dressed as a vegetable. Among our brave veggies were a carrot, tomato, and corn on the cob. According to the carrot, living underground isn’t too bad but it’s better when people uproot it to eat because it is fulfilling its life purpose.
This event was a great opportunity to bring the UMass Dining and Chicopee Public School programs together to celebrate local food in an exciting, collaborative way. Both programs are grantees of the Kendall Foundation, whose goal is to establish a healthy and resilient New England food system.
Hopefully, the kids who participated in the Fun with Food Fest know a little more about where their food comes from and that eating healthy and locally is fun!
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to celebrate our local turkey supplier, Diemand Farm!
Located in Wendell, MA (15 miles north of Amherst), Diemand Farm is run by siblings Annie, Faith, and Peter. Since 1936 when the farm was founded, the Diemand family has been providing food for their local community.
Until recently, Diemand Farm produced and sold eggs in large quantities, but recent rules by the FDA made it more difficult to do so. Since then, the farm has transitioned to a well-balanced approach of eggs, meat, hay, lumber, compost, and value-added products.
These value-added products include turkey pot pie, chicken noodle soup, and many other products that locals clamor for.
UMass has been partnering with the farm for almost 15 years which has given the farm the flexibility to expand production to earlier in the season and have a market for it. Having an institutional partner like UMass provides a stable source of income for a product that tends to be seasonal.
The question many farms that raise animals are often asked is how are the animals treated? Well, The Diemands make sure that their turkeys have a good life. When weather allows, the turkeys are allowed to roam around the land as much as they please. Also the turkeys eat an all-natural feed containing locally grown corn (when available) from Central Connecticut Co-Op. Even turkeys want to eat local!
This Thanksgiving, give thanks to your local farmers by eating locally-raised turkey. Gobble gobble!
Pine Hill Orchards, located 30 minutes north of Amherst in Colrain, MA, is a 75 acre orchard run by David and Matt Shearer.
Of course, apples make up a big component of their farm. During the fall, you can visit their orchard to pick your own apples and ride on their tractor. For wholesale purchasers like UMass Dining, they can keep apples of all varieties fresh for up to ten months in their temperature-regulated storage facility. They also make their own sweet cider and cider donuts!
In addition to apples, they also produce peaches, blueberries, pumpkins, squash, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Like many of the other farms featured in the Farmer of the Week program, Pine Hill employs Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in order to protect their food, workers, and land to the greatest extent possible from pesticides.
Nonetheless, the orchard founded in 1972 is only one aspect of their business. They also have their own restaurant, bakery, and market right on their property. Just by reading their breakfast menu, their commitment to local businesses is evident. They serve locally roasted coffee, local maple syrup, local milk, and yes, their very own fresh-pressed apple cider. The market features even more local products, including grass-fed beef and unique crafts handmade in Western Mass.
UMass Dining is fortunate to have a partner like Pine Hill Orchards that demonstrates a strong commitment to its neighbors and local community.
For more information, visit www.pinehillorchards.com or search Pine Hill Orchards on Facebook.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.