When Joe Boisvert was ten years old, he and his older brother John began working on their parents’ farm. They tapped trees, boiled the sap, and learned how to produce maple syrup. Later on, Joe would create the North Hadley Sugar Shack which has now been in operation for over twenty years!
Joe and his wife Shelly have no problem staying busy. Along with the Sugar Shack, they run the North Hadley Market featuring a host of local products from other small businesses in the area. During the sugaring season in the early Spring, they operate a restaurant and give tours of their evaporator room.
Furthermore, from May to October they open “The Farm Tale”, a place for fun family outings including mini golf, a baby chick hatchery, a picnic pavilion, and more. They also have seasonal weekend events like the Harvest Pumpkin Festival and Tractor Parade.
Despite all of this, at the heart of what they do is maple syrup. You can use it as a local alternative to sugarcane and it holds many nutritional benefits that sugar can’t claim. Maple syrup is gluten free, allergen free, fat free, and rich in manganese, zinc, riboflavin, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Joe and Shelly have made conscious efforts to minimize their environmental impact. For example, they recently installed a new machine which recaptures the black smoke from burning wood in the sugaring process so that it isn’t emitted into the atmosphere.
They have also started drilling smaller holes in their maple trees so that the trees can heal more quickly.
If you live in the Amherst/Hadley area, there is a good chance that you have tried Sugar Shack maple syrup. Several of the Five College foodservice programs use it as well as many restaurants including Lone Wolf, Henion Bakery, and Johnny’s Tavern.
Read more about the North Hadley Sugar Shack.
Are you a UMass student, faculty, or staff member with a green idea?
Founded in August 2013, the Sustainability Engagement and Innovation Fund (SEIF) was created in order to establish a strong campus culture of sustainability and foster community-based involvement in sustainability initiatives. To date, the SEIF has funded initiatives on campus like:
As well as 8 other projects. The SEIF accepts proposals that provide either economic payback or community engagement.
Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis until November 30, 2015.
Click here for more information.
Click here to apply.
Contact Ezra Small
Campus Sustainability Manager
To call someone “crunchy” or a “crunchy granola” type of person is to say that he or she doesn’t accept the mainstream way of doing things; they aspire to live a more holistic, natural life; and they tend to be environmentally and socially conscious. Nat and Aaron of GrandyOats are a good example of crunchy granola people — and they proudly wear that label. They even advertise themselves as “real granolas”.
They took over GrandyOats in 1979 and expanded the business to include homemade granola, trail mix, roasted nuts, and hot cereals. Instead of guiding their business by the principle of profit, they chose to go a more unconventional route. They run GrandyOats with the principle that they should help nourish people, the planet, and our communities. They are also really into having fun.
As for the environmentally conscious aspect of being “crunchy”, GrandyOats has that covered. In 2004, all of their products became USDA certified organic and verified non-GMO. With how substantially their business has grown (40 times as much revenue relative to fifteen years ago!), the impact that GrandyOats has on agriculture is significant. They purchase about 300 acres worth of oats annually which otherwise might be converted to conventional agriculture using pesticides and fertilizers.
Speaking of agriculture, GrandyOats commits itself to using as much locally as possible. With the New England climate, it’s impossible to source everything locally, but creativity helps. For example, they sweeten their granola with local honey or maple syrup rather than sugar from sugarcane.
Their most recent achievement as an environmentally conscious business is the installation of 288 solar panels at their new production facility in Hiram, Maine. This renewable energy will make them the ONLY net zero carbon food production facility in New England. The system will offset over 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year, or the amount of miles equivalent to driving from Hiram, Maine to San Francisco, California and back 25 times.
As they made the transition to a brand new facility, Nat and Aaron could have decided to move away from Maine to a more strategic location based on the distribution of their products. However, they’re true to their roots; rural Maine is home and their community is family.
You can find GrandyOats granola at all four DCs on campus!
Read more about GrandyOats here.
While the American Dream can sometimes be a fuzzy concept, especially given the hardship that Jorge Sosa and Dora Saravia have endured, it’s hard to deny that their path fulfills it.
Jorge, who had moved from Mexico City in 1992, saved up enough through odd jobs to open a small grocery store in Springfield in 2001. Dora, who emigrated from El Salvador in 1989, met her future husband Jorge a few years later and they opened a small restaurant serving authentic Mexican food in Hadley.
While the restaurant only had four tables for patrons at first, word quickly spread and they didn’t have the capacity to keep up with the demand. They would name the restaurant Mi Tierra, meaning “my land”.
In 2010, they began producing their tortillas with real corn grown by local farmers in Hadley, Amherst, and Ashfield. Most tortillas you’ll find in the grocery store have a long list of ingredients, many of them preservatives, so that they can remain shelf-stable for months. Here’s an example of an ingredients list from a store-bought tortilla: corn masa flour, water, cellulose gum, propionic acid, benzoic acid, phosphoric acid, guar gum, amylase.
What separates Mi Tierra tortillas from the rest is their simplicity — the ingredients list reads: corn, water, lime. No preservatives, no genetically modified ingredients — nothing that you wouldn’t find in a traditional Mexican tortilla. Being authentic to the indigenous recipe they use for their tortillas is important to them. While Jorge admits it took customers a while to get used to the taste of a real tortilla, people have come to appreciate and prefer them.
In August 2013, Dora and Jorge purchased a $40,000 machine that rapidly accelerates the tortilla-making process. Instead of having to make every single tortilla by hand, this machine allowed them to exponentially increase their output to meet the demands of their wholesale customers, including UMass Dining and a host of local grocery stores.
Tragically, just two months later, the building complex which Mi Tierra was part of was destroyed by a fire started in the laundromat next door. Twelve small businesses, several of them also restaurants or markets serving foods from various cultures, were claimed in the flames. Jorge and Dora had invested everything into their restaurant, so it would have been understandable if they had thoughts of giving up and moving on.
However, just hours after the fire took place, they posted to their followers on Facebook that “we believe that there is an American Dream and (it) is possible. This tragedy only postpone ours”. That day, Jorge and Dora began the long planning process to rebuild and reclaim their dream.
While they lost everything in their restaurant to this fire, including the newly purchased tortilla machine, Mi Tierra’s story precipitated a groundswell of support from the local community to help them rebuild. Through donations and loans from people and organizations in the Pioneer Valley, the Mi Tierra restaurant would eventually rebuild in a new Hadley location.
Fast forward to 2015, and Mi Tierra is once again thriving. The rebuilding process was arduous and full of uncertainty, to be sure. Their reopening in November 2014 could have gone more smoothly as they worked out the kinks of reopening a restaurant with more than double the seats as the previous location — but they persevered.
Now, their tenacity is paying off and they don’t have to postpone the American Dream any longer.
Visit their website to see their menu: http://mitierrahadley.com
Visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/mitierrahadleyMA
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.