Thank You from GTC!

There’s nothing like the sweet smell of pancakes and warm syrup on a Saturday morning. Especially if you wake up at dawn to cook enough of them to feed 150 people, like we did on November 2, when Gardening the Community celebrated its annual Harvest Fundraiser and Pancake Breakfast. We were thrilled to find that once we opened up our doors, it wasn’t long before cheerful lines of people began trailing out of them, waiting for hot pancakes.

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Kyle and Tyler cooking up delectable harvest pancakes.

We sliced boxes of fair trade bananas and whisked up a giant bowl of homemade whipped cream. The youth chopped bright orange carrots and diced up our very own sweet potatoes from our gardens in Mason Square to fry up into our special healthy Harvest Pancake. (Check out the recipe below!) Local apples simmered on the stove and strawberries mixed into sauces to add to the bountiful table of pancake toppings. We raffled off fruit baskets, pastries, handmade ceramics and overflowing bins of local vegetables. Kids played with balloons and made cornhusk dolls. And finally, after most people had eaten their fill of pancakes, the youth took the stage to share their stories and gave out awards to honor all of the hard work that went into yet another successful season.

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We’re thrilled to be able to say that this year, we actually sold out of tickets. In fact, so many people wanted to come at the last minute, that unfortunately we even had to turn a few away. People came from many places and had a lot to say about what brought them there. We had curious newcomers who drove in from up and down the highway to learn about our work for the first time. We had a solid showing of our neighbors from the immediate community and our families. We also were glad to have the help of dedicated volunteers from Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges, along with our friends from Live Well Springfield and our dedicated Board members.

As we gear up for the Valley Gives campaign, which is our next big project coming up in mid-December, we’re feeling very grateful. It is that time of year when now that our harvest has come and mostly gone, we want to stop and take stock of all that we have to be thankful for. And once again, we are tremendously grateful for all our supporters.

We see that generosity in the patience that many breakfast-goers showed by staying late to help clean up the kitchen and sweep the floors. We see that generosity in the flood of warm notes that we received after the event, as many wrote simply to tell us how glad they were that they came. We see that generosity in the commitments that people made to chip in and become what we call “sustainers” of our work by making regular contributions, even and especially when those monthly contributions are relatively small.

This is what we mean when we say that we are grateful for much more than just the core financial contributions that helped us get near our fundraising goal. What we set out to do and mean to keep doing is to cultivate community. We think a lot about what this means. It is in our name, and is also woven into every element of our work, both the day-to-day scramble as well as the long-term vision. So here’s to that. Let us continue to work hard to bridge divides between people of all backgrounds so that we can better face the overlapping issues at the center of our mission: food justice, youth empowerment, undoing racism, and building healthier, more equitable communities.

Let us continue to cultivate all of these things together.

Harvest Pancake Recipe:
From the kitchen of Gardening the Community

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred or sifted before measuring
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 medium carrot shredded
  • 1 small apple shredded
  • 1/4 cup shredded sweet potato

Preparation:

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk; add to flour mixture, stirring only until smooth. Blend in melted butter, sweet potate,carrot, and apple. If the batter seems too thick to pour, add a little more milk. Cook on a hot, greased griddle, using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, a little dry around the edges, and lightly browned on the bottom; turn and brown the other side. Recipe for pancakes serves 5.

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Harvest Celebration this Saturday!

pancakes

Tickets are selling fast for our Harvest Celebration and Pancake Breakfast this Saturday, November 2!
You won’t want to miss this wonderful event. Click here to register and buy your tickets today!

We hope to see you there!

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Gratitude from GTC…

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Hot air balloons soared over Next Barn Over Farm during our Shared Harvest event.

Our hearts are full after a wonderful Shared Harvest event. Thanks to everyone who was able to make it – we loved meeting you and sharing the important food justice work GTC is part of in Springfield.  It was a stunningly gorgeous fall evening – and so wonderful to enjoy delicious food and conversation together, good music and a bonfire under a beautiful starlit sky.

A special thanks to all who gave generously to help support Gardening the Community. And especially to our new sustainers!!!  We value the trust you have placed in us and also the spirit of partnership and shared commitment that you expressed for our work. We could feel the love in the room, and it meant so much to us all.

If you were not able to attend, we hope we get to meet you another time.  If you would like us to come speak to your organization, faith community or workplace, we are always up for the adventure! GTC will be having our annual Harvest Celebration and Pancake Breakfast in Springfield on Saturday November 2.  We hope many of you will join us then!  We have a lot of fun — and of course good food (featuring our own harvest pancake) – and we will be celebrating the work of our youth and our many accomplishments over the past year.

Again, we are grateful for the many ways our community supports us.  And appreciative of the Gardening the Community/Next Barn Over partnership and all the good things flowing from it. Thank you!

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Springfield Food Policy Council’s Annual Meeting and Celebration: Thursday, October 24!

Springfield Food Policy Council's Annual Meeting and Celebration: Thursday, October 24!

We’d love to see you at the Springfield Food Policy Council’s annual meeting and celebration! Join GTC as we collaborate with the Springfield Food Policy Council in their work to make healthy, affordable food available in Springfield. Come learn about the initiative and make your voice heard as we discuss this critical issue. Please RSVP to Johnetta Baymon by Monday, October 21. We hope to see you there!

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Shared Harvest: Saturday, September 28!

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Please join us for a fall evening of good farm food, music, and company at our Shared Harvest Event!

When: Saturday, September 28 from 6-8 PM
Where: Next Barn Over Farm
              15 Lawrence Plain Rd.
              Hadley, MA 01035

Hear from GTC’s youth, staff, and board about their work for food justice and youth leadership in Springfield. Learn about the GTC EATS! farmshare, a collaboration between GTC and Next Barn Over.
To become sustainable over the long term, GTC needs to extend and deepen its network of support. Help us build bridges across the divides of our valley.

Please let us know whether you can join us by registering for the event here. Bring friends, neighbors, kids, and anyone else you’d like! We need a headcount for food, so it’s helpful if you sign up. Last minute guests are welcome as well!

Hope to see you there.

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GTC’s Fall Garden Party: Thursday, September 19!

GTC's Fall Garden Party: Thursday, September 19!

Please join us next Thursday as we share fresh veggies and the latest information about our program. Hope to see you there!

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Mason Square Library Program

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Youth from Dunbar tilling the ground.

Gardening the Community works with the local Mason Square Library in establishing raised garden beds and planting and cultivating vegetables and herbs in their plot of land. So far the fruits of our labor this season have been ripe. We have corn coming in, tomatoes, yellow summer squash, blueberries, raspberries, sunflowers, parsley, peppers, basil, and much more! Moreover, we also engage the

Tomatoes coming in in one of the raised beds.

Tomatoes coming in in one of the raised beds.

local youth from the Dunbar Community Center in urban agriculture education, food education, and a variety of garden activities to apply their knowledge in the garden. The program is all summer long on Wednesdays from 10:30-12 p.m. and you’d be surprised to see how much the kids learn and do in a small span of time! I’ll give you a rundown of  last Wednesday’s activities.

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It was a partly cloudy and breezy Wednesday, which seemed to add to the kids’ excitement as they entered the garden in a single file line with one Dunbar youth coordinator in the back and one at the front. Some of them smiled instantly at Mabelline and I upon recognizing our faces, and Ifi asked, “So what are we going to do today!” There are usually about 10-13 kids that come every Wednesday, some are what we call the “regulars” and others are new kids. Nevertheless, they always seem to be in the same age range-around 8 to 12 years old. We greet them them and lead them to the room where we usually set up and do some of our education activities. Mabelline and I shout, “Okay kids! Let’s go outside and play some games!” Before we began the new kids introduced themselves, and we played the icebreaker game “2 truths and 1 lie”. After getting better acquainted, we played Simon Says and laughs and screams filled the garden. After our game, I say, “Okay guys, we’re going to do some watering, harvesting, planting, and making parfaits today.” We heard a loud “Yaaay!” and instantly questions about whose going to pick what and accusations of who picked what last time bombarded us. To make it fair, we had the kids separate by counting themselves off into ones, twos, and threes. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But usually the kids who work with the food preparation usually harvest the veggies and berries. And there’s always flexibility to join the planting crew or watering crew. Since there were so many tomatoes last Wednesday, everyone got to harvest their own tomato and pose and take pictures.

Tomato Circle

Tomato Circle

Meanwhile, the food prep crew harvested some of the blueberries and one gigantic yellow summer squash that we would eat with ranch dressing. Before making the food, we announce what we’re going to make and the ingredients we use. Afterwards, two kids would wash the veggies or fruit together. And another would pass out cups and utensils to eat. And depending on the type of veggie, others could “cut” or break up the veggies into smaller pieces. For example, one Wednesday we made salsa, so there were three girls breaking up the cilantro with their hands into smaller pieces. However, we made parfait this week so everyone got a chance to customize their own parfait and add their own fruit and berries. As I was cutting up the strawberries, one of our GtC youth passed out yogurt as the youth decided on which fruits to incorporate. I asked them, “How many of you have ever eaten parfait or heard of parfait?” Tatiana responded, “I’ve never had parfait,” along with Stefanie who said the same thing. Ifi shouted, “I’ve had parfait and it’s so good!” Ifi began to show the others who to layer their parfait and how to add the granola at the top. After the planting and watering crew were finished, they came in and ate their parfaits and some summer squash. Tatiana went around encouraging some youth to try a piece of summer squash with ranch, and after they tried-they loved it! Carlos said, “I never ate squash like that before. It’s good with ranch!” 

After we all cleaned up and put away the supplies, the kids thanked us and hugged us goodbye. Ifi shouted as she walked out the door, “Can’t wait till next week!”

Tatiana washing summer squash

Tatiana washing summer squash

Homemade Parfait

Homemade Parfait

 

 

Thanks for reading!

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Veggie of the Week! Cucumber!

Cucumber

This week at Eats! we served quick pickles, which is a simple recipe to follow. But before we get to the recipes, here are some quick facts.

Cucumbers are summer vegetables that are available in the Northeast from June to August. Usually people think cucumbers are long and green, but some come in a variety of forms, like lemon cucumbers (which are yellow and round-yet they taste the same as green cukes). Cucumbers are thought to have been originally cultivated in India.

Storage: Cucumbers need to be stored in the refrigerator in order to retain their moisture. They will keep well for up to 10 days in the refrigerator drawer if they are kept whole. Once they have been cut, cucumbers will deteriorate quickly.

Preparation: Wash to remove any dirt, then you can either peel or leave the skin on. If the skin is tough but you don’t want to peel it, try running a fork over the skin. This will break the skin and soften the texture. Cucumbers are delicious when eaten raw in salads, made into a chilled soup/dip, or blended/pureed or grated into a chilled vegetable soup stock. Don’t enjoy the texture of the seeds? Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop them out.

Nutritional Information: Excellent source of vitamin K and good source of Vitamin C.

Recipes:

Quick Pickles: (courtesy of Next Barn Over) 1/2 cup white vinegar (or red wine or cider vinegar), 2 tsp sugar (or honey or maple syrup), 1 tsp mustard seed, 1 tsp salt, 1 clove garlic-minced, 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped, 1 bay leaf, 4 cucumbers (cut into 1-inch slices)

Heat vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt, and garlic in a saucepan until it begins to simmer and sugar dissolves. Toss the dill, bay leaf, and sliced cucumbers together in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the simmering liquid over the cucumbers and stir to evenly coat. Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.

Chilled Cucumber Soup (serves 3-4): 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 3 scallions or garlic tops thinly sliced, 1 tbsp fresh minced dill, 1/2 cup cold water, salt and pepper to taste, 3 medium cucumbers (washed and peeled if you prefer)

Slice 2 cucumbers and then put them in a blender with the yogurt and lemon juice. Blend until smooth Pour the mixture into a bowl and add scallions, dill, water, and season to taste. Grate the remaining cucumbers and add it to the soup. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Makes 3 or 4 servings.

Enjoy!

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Veggie of the Week! Swiss Chard!

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a beet grown for its leaves rather than its root. First cultivated in parts of Europe and in the Mediterranean. It’s appreciated for it’s acid-sweet flavor and there are several varieties: red, green and rainbow (red, green, yellow stalks all on the same plant!).

Storage: Wrap unwashed in a damp towel and place in refrigerator drawer and it will keep 3-4 days stored this way. To freeze, wash, chop, and blanch for 3 minutes, until bright green. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pack into freezer bags.

Preparation: Wash chard in cold water with a bit of salt added. Chop leaves and stems (larger stems will take longer to cook). Chard is best prepared sauteed or steamed and is ready when it’s wilted and tender. Chard can be substituted into any recipe that calls for spinach. *Chard will bleed its color onto other foods when cooked together.

Nutritional information: High in Vitamins A, C, and K.

Recipes:

Steamed Chard: 1 bunch chard, 2 garlic cloves-minced, 1 onion-diced, 2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash chard leaves well and remove discolored parts. In a pan with lid combine leaves and about 1/4 inch of water. Cover and steam until chard has wilted and remove leaves and drain water. Return pan to stove top and over medium flame heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until onions become golden. Add garlic cook 2 minutes more and add chard leaves, stir to mix. While chard is heated, serve immediately.

Swiss Chard and Dill Pilaf: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1-1/2 cups chopped onion, 3 garlic cloves-minced, 1 cup long grain-converted white rice, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, 1 lb chard leaves washed and de-stemmed, 2-1/2 cups water or vegetable stock, 6 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup fresh dill

In a 4 quart heavy pot heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook slowly until soft (about 6 minutes). Stir in rice, nutmeg, salt and pepper, mixing well. Stir in chard and water or stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and the dill, mixing well. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Enjoy!

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We’re doing big things! GTC Eats!

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We’re four weeks into our GTC Eats! program and there are exciting things happening!

Here’s a picture of last week’s share box:

veggies

Here we have yellow summer squash, cucumber, radishes, garlic, head lettuce, baby kale, etc.

You can expect to see the same type of veggie each week depending on where we are in the summer. For example, we’ve had garlic, yellow summer squash, garlic scapes for awhile.

In this Wednesday’s box (July 17th), there will be additional veggies such as: eggplant, dill, pepper, and chard.

Another feature that we’ve added is our food tastings/food demos on 256 Hancock St. during pick up times, so be sure to swing by and taste some of our delicious veggies. We have a featured veggie each week with tastings and recipes to show you how to prepare, store, and cook your vegetables.

Remember if you’re not apart of our share program, then it’s not too late to join now! For more information refer to our Eats! page or simply call 413.693.5340.

Don’t forget to stay in touch by joining our mailing list!

See you this Wednesday!

Join GTC EATS!

Posted in backyard gardens, City of Springfield Ma, class, Community Gardens, community partners, farmers market, food, Food Inc., Food Justice, Springfield, Uncategorized, Urban Agriculture, urban education, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment