Community Potluck

Featured Article, Heroes, In Season, Local Heroes
on June 24, 2011
Community Potluck
Photo by Mark Boughton/Styling by Teresa Blackburn

Bushels of fresh food arrive at Hope and Olive, a downtown restaurant in Greenfield, Mass., where volunteers transform it into a feast for the crowds. Each year since 2005, the annual Free Harvest Supper in Greenfield, Mass has fed hundreds of people (704 in the peak year, 2008) with the intent of promoting local foods. It takes more than 120 people to turn the donated food into supper.

Roving volunteers offer slices of heirloom tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupe, cucumber and bell peppers as appetizers. Roasted eggplant and squashes, watermelon-tomato-feta, turkey-peach and pesto-potato salads, veggie slaw, meatballs, corn on the cob, and hard-boiled eggs brim from serving bowls. A local ice cream maker hands out free scoops and a nearby dairy farm provides yogurt cups. There’s even local soda to drink.

Tables and chairs line the closed-off road in front of town hall. From executives to the homeless, toddlers to elders, everyone eats free. People bring their own place settings and form a line that can snake around the town common.

“My father and I walk around during the meal and hand out apples to people waiting in line,” says Ben Clark, co-owner with his dad of Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, Mass. Clark says his family donates six to eight bushels of apples and a bushel of peaches to the supper each year. All the money raised is turned into farmer’s market coupons for clients of a local food pantry. Ultimately, that means the donations reach farmers, but on the way they provide fresh local produce to residents struggling to feed their families. Who says there isn’t a free lunch?

—By Amy Mayer