Just Roots fest gets children outdoors to play

Jun 25 2018

The Recorder, June 24, 2018, by Joshua Solomon

Between games of hide-and-seek in the garden, Dante, 6, and Aminah, 3, got a chance to partake in their favorite part of the day.

“The herbs!” Dante said, noting he liked mint the best. He then showed off his blueberry tattoo and quickly added, “I made paintings that I have to go grab.” Before you knew it, Dante Hoiberg was off and running for his still freshly painted rocks with his baby sister.

Their mother, Jessica Hoiberg of Chicopee, said if they were home, they’d be talking about what show they were going to watch next. But, “it’s summer, so it’s the time to be outside.”

Jessica’s kids roamed the farm while she and Aline Lyra of Amherst worked a booth for Usborne Children’s Book, a group that advocates for the importance of children’s literacy.

“A lot of the time, kids are so focused on the technology, but just being exposed to the nature, it’s a great way to get back to the roots,” Lyra said.

It was all about the roots, Just Roots that is, Sunday on the grounds of the community farm as vendors from across the valley came to celebrate local, sustainable and mindful lifestyles.

Just Roots Fest, typically held in the fall, was under the summer sun Sunday, although it was originally intended for the spring. A rain-out pushed it to this weekend, which meant it ended up getting rolled into an even bigger day, with the Food Justice Bike Ride meant to raise money to fight hunger.

“It feels wonderful to know we’re creating a space where people want to be,” said Meryl LaTronica, director of farm operations, noting the range of ages, from tots to elders taking in the festivities together.

There were chances to join informational talks held by Greening Greenfield, find a novel at the table for Great Falls Books Through Bars, buy poultry from Bernardston’s Eden Pond Farm, learn more about renewable energy from Hatfield’s Northeast Solar, shop at Montague’s Sweet Birch Herbals or have food at the People’s Pint or the Stone Soup Cafe.

“I feel so blessed that this is the reality of our community,” said Amie Hyson, who helped out with the Stone Soup Cafe. “This is what we create here. It happens over and over here in Greenfield in various forms.”

Kaitlyn John, who also worked at the Stone Soup Cafe, agreed, saying it “feels really safe and really balanced, the way things are supposed to be.”

“There’s something that says grow gardens and now lawns,” said John, who has tended to her plot at the CSA farm for the past five or six years.

The farm is intended to be affordable and accessible to everyone in the community, Executive Director Jessica Van Steensburg explained. That’s part of why the Just Roots Fest was ticketed, but no one would be turned away. The Community Health Center of Franklin County, one of the main sponsors of the festival, also helped to shuttle people to the farm grounds, which are up Leyden Road near Camp Keewanee.

“It’s nice to see as the community diversification grows, to be better able to represent our whole community,” she said.

There are still plots open for this year at a prorated cost, Van Steensburg added.

In future years, the hope is to have the event exclusively in the spring to ring in the new season with the community. Just Roots may incorporate a walk around the farm grounds as well as move the Food Justice Bike Ride to be on the same day.

As Van Steensburg said, a “community farm needs the community.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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