Donald Gallagher: Good farmers make good neighbors

  • Freshly-harvested asparagus from Plainville Farm awaits purchase June 3, 2017 during the WGBY Asparagus Festival in Hadley.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Good farmers make good neighbors. I want to thank Noah Baustin from CISA for his article on May 16 “Shooting star: Asparagus springing forth.” The article in the Gazette gave us some insight on the crop that makes Hadley “the asparagus capital of the world.”

It also gave us a picture of Plainville Farm, the 2017 Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Farm of the Year. I first got to know Wally Czajkowski and Mary McNamara 15 years ago when they helped transition the fields acquired by North Amherst Community Farm.

Wally had great respect for that land and the Dziekanowski family, one of the last farm families in North Amherst Historic Village. His spirit along with efforts of community volunteers passed on what Jeremy Barker-Plotkin and Dave Tepfer have manifested in their Simple Gifts CSA, Farm Store, training for future farmers and how they celebrate community.

Wally was always available with equipment, transportation for tents that NACF used for fall harvest festivals in North Amherst and most important his humble advice. I have seen Wally’s respect for his farmers who return year after year from impoverished nations to help to make Plainville Farm the award-winning enterprise it is. His compassion for those facing food insecurity is always at heart.

Last spring, Mr. Czajkowski had one of his field leaders named Pacheco welcome 50 students to harvest squash and pumpkins while conversing in their native Spanish for a farm-to-table event held at Chestnut Academy Middle School located in the poorest of food deserts in Springfield’s north end. Weeks later one of his farms flatbed trucks served as a stage for “CelebrandoNuestrasRaices” (Celebrating the roots of the valley’s Hispanic community.)

I could go on about how this neighbor thinks globally and acts locally. The mutual loyalty he shows to his farmers, customers and distributors is shown in the last frames of the Big Y television ad where Wally says, “It’s more than farming, it’s about community.” 

We all have a chance to support our local farmers who work tirelessly to bring fresh produce to our tables while helping to feed families who are really struggling during this pandemic. There’s a message in that bunch of asparagus that have shot up all around the Valley. “Hope Springs Eternal.” Buy local. Our farmers are among the heroes on the front lines.

Donald Gallagher