September 22: Meeting on Northampton’s Agricultural Future

We are pleased to share this press release with you:

Please Come to a Meeting on Northampton’s Agricultural Future

On September 22, 2010 at 7:00pm in the Northampton Senior Center at 67 Conz Street, there will be an important public meeting for all members of the Northampton community concerned with local food and agriculture. At this meeting we will consider undertaking a program of the Glynwood Center, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in helping communities plan for their agricultural futures. Glynwood is offering to help Northampton engage in a community-wide assessment and planning effort through its program called “Keep Farming”. The Northampton Agricultural Commission has endorsed this program and is sponsoring the September 22 meeting.

Why should we consider bringing the Keep Farming program to Northampton now?

Many of us share a widespread belief that our country’s food system is broken. Statistics tell us that the American diet is not healthful. Taste and nutritional value suffer as our food travels great distances from unidentified places. Our confidence in the safety of our food has been undermined. The practices that have brought us to this place have also gone a long way toward wiping out the small, diverse farms that have historically been the backbone of our healthful and sustainable food supply.

Perhaps as a result of this situation, Northampton has become a community deeply engaged in efforts to support our local farmers and bring fresh, healthful, local food to our tables. Many groups, organizations, and individuals are committed to these efforts.

But while we have broad concerns about our food, and deep interests in improving access to local food and supporting area farmers, we have not yet come together as a whole community around these issues. With the Glynwood Keep Farming program, we have a unique opportunity to take a broad, systematic look at where we are as a community in our efforts to support local agriculture and build a stronger local food system.

The Glynwood Keep Farming program helps communities improve their agricultural systems by gathering important information about what agricultural assets they already have, analyzing the results, and engaging in informed discussions aimed at setting priorities for how to strengthen farmers and the local food system.

More detailed information about Glynwood and the Keep Farming program may be found at the website, (Click on Programs, then on Keep Farming.) There is also a ten-minute video that describes the purposes of the Keep Farming program and Glynwood’s work in the Hudson Valley. Here’s the link:

The purpose of the September 22 meeting is to present and discuss the Keep Farming program and determine community interest in bringing the program here. Please come, listen to the possibilities, and share your views.

Prepared by Fran Volkmann, a volunteer on behalf of the Agricultural Commission, 08-17-10. (

See also:

Grow Food Northampton

“Bringing Agriculture Back to Water – A Sustainable Solution for the 21st Century” (PDF) 
Because of water supply concerns, many observers and agricultural scientists (Postel 1992, Reisner, 1986) point out that desert irrigated agriculture is unsustainable. Salt build up due to evaporation in an arid climate eventually makes soils useless. Only enhanced flushing of the soils requiring ever-increasing amounts of water can stave off the inevitable poisoning (Postel 1992, Arax and Wartzman 2003)…

Based on the past, present and gloomy outlook to the future, we believe that the more natural and sustainable agricultural system for the U.S. is irrigated assisted rain-fed agriculture in the east and not desert irrigated agriculture in the west. Because of natural rainfall in the south only 6-9″ of irrigated water are needed for crops rather than the four feet needed in Arizona and California…

Gazette: “Northampton council approves $990,000 for farms” (2/5/10)
The city took a big step forward Thursday in its quest to buy a pair of neighboring farms near downtown Florence for future use as an athletic complex, farmland, open space and possibly community gardens.

The City Council agreed to appropriate $990,000 in Community Preservation Act money for its portion of the acquisition of the Bean and Allard farms off Spring Street.

August 7: Ward 3 Neighborhood Association to Sponsor Ward 3 Vegetable Garden Tour

Springfield Republican: “Victory gardens fight price wars” (6/24/08)
In Northampton, which has a community garden of more than 400, 20-foot square plots on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital, competition for the few spots that come open each March is intense. The waiting list is currently 30 to 40 names long and growing, said Christine Kostek, who maintains it for the city’s Recreation Department… 

Gazette: “As food, other costs rise, more stake hopes on home gardens” (6/14/08)
According to the Associated Press, W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the nation’s largest seed company, has sold twice as many seeds this year compared to last year…

For [home gardner Sigalit] Tornovish of Leverett, reducing her family’s food and gas expenses is a serious goal. ‘I had to drive often to the food stores, so by growing my own things I save money on gas and I don’t waste,’ Tornovish said…

Video: Best Practices Forum Studies Evolution of Meadows Plan

Today’s Urban Planning Debates Echoed in Northampton’s Near Past 
Debates about infill and urban land use have lately become hot topics, spurred by the Sustainable Northampton Plan and the prospective Hilton Garden Inn. Some of the underlying issues have been in play for many years. On the eve of Design Northampton Week, let’s revisit some of the voices from Northampton: Reflections on Paradise (1988), a book of photos and interviews by Lionel Delevingne and Faye S. Frail.

John Szawlowski, with son, John, Jr. farmers (p.19)

“People are fortunate in this area, that’s some of the best land, we grow some of the best vegetables in the area. It’s too bad when you see people selling all this land for buildings… You look around now, you drive through the Industrial Park, when we were kids, we had cows and vegetables–it’s gone, and nobody even knows it was there.”