A gentle breeze floated leaves around the Stonewall Farm Learning Center and Farm Store in Keene on Saturday morning. Harp and violin melodies mingled with chatter as people flocked to the ticket table, ready for a day of the fall of all things.
The inaugural Harvest Festival, co-hosted by The Sentinel’s Monadnock Table magazine and Stonewall Farm, brought together community members in a showcase of local foods, crafts and activities. The event, a celebration of the rural community, provided visitors with plenty of opportunities to learn about local food and creators in an engaging – and often tasty way.
When they arrived at the festival, one of the first booths attendees passed was the Stonewall Farm produce table. Small cartons of berries were arranged in a grid, surrounded by bunches of leafy vegetables and next to an impressive stack of carrots.
Logan Hailey, a native of Texas who now leads a nomadic lifestyle, held the table. Since the spring, she and her partner, Justin “Cheezy” Taylor, have been managing the vegetable gardens at Stonewall Farm.
“Keene is full of really amazing people and a lot of support for local agriculture,” she said. “To be able to bring together so many different types of local vendors – everyone from artisans and farmers to musicians and crafts – I think that’s really important, of course, so that people can connect in apart from the standard big box type of grocery store. framework … and simply strengthen the local economy and get everyone to interact with the community. “
Saturday brought classic fall weather to New England – cool in the morning but warming considerably in the afternoon. Vendors took in the seasonal atmosphere with handmade quilts and hats and donuts with coffee.
And what would a fall festival be without fresh apple cider?
Children and adults gathered around Sam Bator, Assistant Director of Youth Education at Stonewall Farm, and helped her run the old-fashioned cider press.
With advice on the internet, Bator said she learned how to use the cider press in preparation for the demonstrations (“I watched a hundred videos, but damn it, you gotta try it first”), adding that she trained last week.
Besides being fun, the demonstration showed children and adults how to use additional products. Cider is not made from the apples on the trees, Bator explained, but rather from those that have already fallen to the ground and cannot be eaten otherwise. And when the cider is squeezed and ready, the collateral apple pulp can be composted or given to the chickens on the farm.
“This is one of our main missions, it is really to get people to see not only where their food comes from, but also to see the different practices that can be implemented to help regenerate the Earth. One of those things is making sure we don’t waste food, ”she said.
Beyond apple cider, food vendors offered a range of goodies, from garlic to granola, from vegan cheese to vegetables.
Jill Bezzant from Northfield, Mass., Buzzed around her booth, which offered honey from her bees, beeswax candles and fresh dahlias. She and her husband, John, donated samples of their honey and honeycomb. The Harvest Festival was Bezzant Bees’ first market event in nearly two years – since the start of the pandemic, Bezzant said. Honeycomb boards and the tools Bezzant used to collect beeswax and filter honey were on display.
Local honey is better for consumers, Bezzant said, noting that honey produced by local beekeepers – rather than large manufacturers – is the product in its purest form.
Danielle Scadova and Brian Vose, both of Marlborough, stood at an outdoor table with cups of coffee and cider. They noted the event looked “normal” – refreshing, they said, after the COVID-19 pandemic restricted large gatherings like festivals for much of the past two years. The couple said that aside from looking at the wares, it was also nice to talk to the artists.
“It’s a good sense of community,” said Scadova. “… It’s nice to see what everyone is doing. “
Even after stocking up on free samples or shopping for goodies, visitors still had plenty to explore: watching the boat building workshop hosted by Keene’s Mill Hollow Works, listening to live music from Randy Miller, Pamela Stohrer or Shana Stack Band, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the farm grounds, or just browse the work of local artists.
The main sponsor of the festival, Monadnock Food Co-op, shared information about the Indigenous Harvest Calendar, which is the calendar used by the Abenaki that connects time passing with seasonal foods. The cooperative’s booth also showcased Jerusalem artichoke, an “unsung hero” of root vegetables, according to Megan Lafaso Hercher, the organization’s events and education coordinator.
Lafaso Hercher said she wanted to introduce people to a lesser-known crop that comes from the fall harvest.
“We thought it was really, really helpful to highlight the indigenous harvest calendar and talk about Jerusalem artichokes and other root vegetables,” she said. “… It is very important for us to talk about local food systems as they were 13,000 years ago and as they are today. “
Lafaso Hercher, who once inhabited the West Coast, Hawaii and Massachusetts, said the festival reflected everything she loved about the Monadnock area.
“It’s families reunited, all different generations and artisans … it’s just special.”