Schools try ‘Just Soup,’ Just Roots Community Farm’s New Product

Oct 24 2015

1062015_13701_0The Recorder, October 21, 2015 by Chris Curtis

GREENFIELD — The Just Roots community farm’s new Tuscan bean soup had a test run in Greenfield’s elementary schools this week.

The soup was one of the six to emerge from 10 sample varieties the nonprofit farm on town-owned land taste-tested around the community this spring as it worked to launch a soup line, a product the schools are interested in.

Greenfield Food Service Director Madison Walker said the test went well, and the schools will be trying out the other varieties and holding taste-tests to find out what the students like.

Walker said the local soup isn’t the same price as other options, but it’s within their range and the cafeterias are able to keep the per-plate expense about the same. The value is in teaching students healthy practices for later life, she said.

“We really want Greenfield students to know the importance of eating healthy food and also to understand why eating food that’s grown locally is beneficial to where they live … so we see this as an educational tool,” Walker said.
Just Roots, on the former town poor farm land on Glenbrook Drive, off Leyden Road, began its soup experiment this year with a $100,000, two-year grant from the Community Benefits Advisory Council at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

After a four-day production run, working with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, Just Roots has 500 gallons of Just Soup stored in freezers locally and in a Westfield facility, while the nonprofit completes its own barn freezer. Part of the idea, said Just Roots director Jay Lord, is to create a strong market for local produce seconds; a blemished tomato won’t sell well in the grocery bins, but it still makes good soup.

The winners were Valley Chili corn and bean soup; asparagus, leek and rice; Tuscan bean; spicy black bean; carrot ginger and butternut apple ginger.

They hope to sell the soup from grocery frozen foods sections and through a winter CSA or farm-share model, currently enrolling through their website. Lord said they will include more local ingredients in the next production run, when they will be better aligned with the growing season.

Monday’s soup offering was also part of a week-long special emphasis on local food, part of a state- and nation-wide Farm to School Month, with at least one locally sourced menu item each day.

Menu items included fresh broccoli, carrot slices, pears and apple cider. Taco Tuesday featured fresh local lettuce and tomatoes. Butternut squash and bacon pasta is on today’s menu.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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