GREENFIELD — After a hiatus last year, the town’s Free Harvest Supper has been revived by a group of dedicated residents.
This year’s community event, which features a free meal of locally sourced dishes, will be held Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the Town Common. The supper, now in its 12th year, is an effort by 45 local farms and food producers and more than 100 volunteers.
It will feature live music, children’s activities, informational displays and a “Really, Really Free Market,” to which local farmers and gardeners donate their extra produce that attendees are invited to take home and enjoy.
“First and foremost, we want to keep the vision alive that there is a bountiful harvest to share here in the valley, and when we come together and eat, we create a community, in a way, that attending town functions or rallies doesn’t necessarily do,” said Kirsten Levitt, executive chef at the Stone Soup Café, who helped spearhead this year’s effort. “There’s a reason to come together and just have a good time, and we want to make sure we stop and have those celebrations with one another.”
The Free Harvest Supper was started in 2005 by Juanita Nelson as a way to celebrate the local harvest and encourage people to eat locally grown food.
“We did it for 10 years, and in the winter between 10 and 11, Juanita passed away, so we had the 11th (be a) memorial for her and at the end of that year, all of the old guard said, ‘We just can’t do this anymore,’” Levitt said.
The following year, in 2016, Levitt said she and a few other dedicated people tried to revive the supper, but that didn’t happen. Instead, people were encouraged to bring their own food for a picnic-style, placeholder event on the common.
Beginning in late March of this year, Levitt said the emails started flurrying around again. A group of organizers came together and held three meetings in April, and continued to meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis beginning in May to plan the event.
“We basically searched our souls and tried to get enough people on the committee to see if we could even sustain the planning, and I’m happy to say ‘yes,’” Levitt said.
This year, Levitt plans to do all the cooking for the event and has worked with Maggie Zaccara of Hope & Olive restaurant to develop recipes. Levitt said all the food preparation will be done Saturday evening at All Souls Church, which houses the Stone Soup Café. In past years, food was prepared Sunday morning at Hope & Olive.
Levitt said she’s still looking for volunteers to help with food preparation, as well as at the event itself.
The Free Harvest Supper is also a trash-free event, and attendees are asked to bring their own plates and utensils. Two years ago, Levitt said, more than 800 people came to the supper, and generated less than one full bag of garbage. Martin’s Farm will be composting after this year’s event.
The meal will feature something for everybody, including vegan and vegetarian dishes. Diemand Farm has donated a “huge” amount of turkey, according to Levitt, who added that attendees will find their old favorites at the supper, including turkey and peach salad.
Although the food is donated, Levitt said the event still costs $1,000 to $2,000 to put on. Expenses include portable restroom rentals, signs, name tags, insurance and more. She said there will be collection jars at the supper, and any proceeds above and beyond the cost of the event will be donated to local agencies that work toward food security.
The Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center also held a benefit for the supper, raising $300.
Levitt said the Free Harvest Supper is something that makes Greenfield unique.
“Other places have food fairs — this is not a food fair, this is like Stone Soup on steroids — this is everybody who, whatever they had in their garden or however big or small their farm is, has donated to the pot that everyone sits down and shares,” she said. “Sharing is hugely important, but people understanding that they have value and worth and that we want to be with them is even more important.”
Those wishing to volunteer can contact volunteer coordinator Shirley Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.