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The beauty of New England living is that each season offers a new way to learn and engage in our communities. Locally grown and produced food is a community-base resource that can help us understand how to connect to the seasons through local agriculture. Farmers’ markets bring farmer and neighbor together in placemaking events on town commons, plazas, and street corners. Each week, seasonal produce holds center stage while skills are shared and intergenerational engagement takes place. Sharing knowledge and skills is a type of collaborative consumption that not only connects neighbors but also expands our sense of place and connections with people of all ages. — Where are your local farmers’ markets or farm stands?

Community meals and family suppers connect us through the sharing of food and stories. Add a trip to the local farmers’ market to select seasonal produce grown locally and add another dimension your culinary adventures! When we authentically engage with that which sustains us (seasons, food, community) we expand our awareness of what it means to be in community and strengthens a sense of self within the context of the places we live and visit. Farmers’ markets are seasonal reminders of these connections and community-based educational resources that allow us to direct our learning through our senses.

The act of cooking calls upon centuries of cooking methods, ingredients, spices, and flavors that have shaped our distinct cultures and traditions. Within our families, recipes are passed down and certain dishes are often considered an important part of our unique family gatherings and holiday celebrations. What story do your recipes tell? Who will inherit the recipes you discover and invent this summer? What stories will they tell of the food that grows near you in Western Massachusetts? How will future generations 100-200 years from now understand the cultural and food traditions we practiced? The art of recipe collecting and writing is something that allows the generations to share their family’s culture through the legacy of food.

The act of growing food, the experience of living on a farm, and the process of cooking have all inspired writers to ponder how the cultivation of land has influenced the stories we tell and the moments we remember. Here is a short list of literature inspired by farming and food to add to your reading lists.

Think about this:

How do recipes unfold the stories of our ancestors? What do they say about our agricultural practices and the places from which our families came?
What if you were to do a 10-mile diet like Vicki Robin in her book Blessing the Hands that Feed Us? Where would you find your produce? What farms would provide you with your food? Imagine the extended community you would become familiar with!
How can the purchasing of food locally help build a stronger and more resilient community?
Have you ever thought of growing your own food? Container gardening is a great way to get started!

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