Hilltown Families


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Food connects us. It’s an integral part of our cultural identity and is often prepared with the idea of sharing, giving, and enjoying together. Nothing indicates the beginning of autumn and the fall harvest in Western Massachusetts like the crisp bite of a local apple picked right off the tree, or the sweet taste of a freshly baked apple pie. Traditional recipes, the scenic orchard landscapes, and the representation of apple-picking in literature and art remind us of how the apple has become a rich part of our cultural heritage.

Participate in the tradition of apple-picking and support local agriculture! Check out these orchards and farms in Western Massachusetts for Pick Your Own Apples!

Poetry of William Cullen Bryant “The Planting of the Apple-Tree” Did you know that William Cullen Bryant, a 19th century poet (and Schoolhouse Poet like John Greenleaf Whittier) planted over 800 apple trees on his farm property? While the orchard is no longer active, you can still visit the poet’s homestead in Cummington, MA. A property of The Trustees, The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is open for house tours and other activities… Read More

What family recipes do you still make that have been passed down generation after generation? Can you recall and share the history of their origin with family and friends?

Apple Chutney When our vegetable garden begins slowing down, we begin apple season. We harvest our own apples, visit friends who have apple trees, and gather apples from wild trees and abandoned orchards. It’s apple time early in the morning before work, late at night when we return home, and on our day off. We dry dehydrators full of apples and line our shelves with many glass jars full of delicious apple… Read More

Apples, apples, everywhere! New England is rich in over 100 varieties of apples, just waiting to be pick, munched, cooked & baked! This month in “Oak & Acorn,” Leslie gives us a delicious simple recipe for apple cake. Consider making two and give one away… spread the love of apples around!

A Bushel of Books about Apples ‘Tis the season when orchards bear autumn fruit, and cider is poured into eager cups, and the smell of pie beckons from the oven. ‘Tis the season for apples. Hand-picked from dozens of titles, here’s a bushel of picture books that celebrate the apple. There are a few new books, books about the life cycle of apples, apple–picking, and America’s mythic hero, Johnny Appleseed, plus some… Read More

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, August 29, 2016. This month Sienna and Lauren talked about agricultural fairs, fall festivals, one room schoolhouses and apples featured in the debut of “Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.”

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Funded in part by Mass Humanities, Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a NEW bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

By emphasizing place-based exploration through humanities inquiry, these cultural itineraries connect residents of all ages to their place, helping to shape a more comprehensive understanding of our cultural identity, heritage, and history. This contributes to establishing meaningful relationships between young people and elders, and more active citizens.

With these FREE downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history and a strengthened sense of place. Click through to download a free 38-page PDF!

From apples to skillet tossing, jack-o’-lanterns to leaf peeping, western Massachusetts is full of opportunities for community-based learning during the fall. Families can visit farms for pick-your-own opportunities, explore the local landscape for signs of the season, or take part in community celebrations to honor the fall harvest and the cultural traditions that it brings.

QUESTION AND ANSWERS Wanted: Organic PYO apples! Pilar Goldstein-Dea of Easthampton writes, “We’re wondering where we might pick organic apples locally. Where’s your favorite organic pick-your-own orchard?” Erin Brainard writes, “Outlook Farm (Route 66, Westhampton). Can’t wait, the kids love it.” Chip Konowitz writes, “Bear Swamp Orchard in Ashfield.” Marissa Tenenbaum Potter writes, “Apex in Shelburne.” Annie Bob DeCoteau writes, “If you don’t mind the pretty drive- Dwight Miller in Dummerston, VT… Read More

Apples to Alpacas. Quillwork to Dinosaur Tracks. Medieval to Colonial…. These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library! APPLES When you… Read More

Local Apples Highlighted at Greenfield Farmers’ Market this Weekend In celebration of apple season, the Greenfield Farmers’ Market is hosting an Apple Bake-Off on Saturday the 24th! Any recipe that uses local apples is eligible, and entries will be judged based on presentation, taste, and texture. Prizes range from a Farmers’ Market gift certificate to t-shirts to tote bags! In order to be eligible, entries must be brought to the market by… Read More

Head for the apple orchard this weekend to PYO apples with your kids! It’s a fun way to learn about local food systems and a great excuse to follow up in the kitchen for lessons in the culinary arts! Here our reader recommend their favorite apple orchards in Western MA…

Apples! Apple season is here and there are many great orchards your family can visit to pick your own peck of apples. Ireland Street Apple Orchards in West Chesterfield use to be where my family would go, but after 20+ years of being in the apple orchard business Fred and Millie Chick have retired. You can pick your own apples at a number of Local Hero farms or pick some up at… Read More