THE LOVE OF LOCAL FOOD, ‘TEA-LEAF’ MEETING FOR COUNCIL TONIGHT on IFFY PERSONNEL MOVES, & THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR DOWD-WAHCONAH PARK NAMING CONTROVERSY
BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, March 22, 2011) — Food. We need it to live. Many of us love it past the point of need. Food is the sun that had to shine on the planets. It’s a the soil that nurtured the seeds. Food is rain, wind, and weather. What we eat is a matter of nutrition. Where we get what we eat, as we learn in our guest column, is a matter of equal concern. Eating locally grown produce and products makes sense in myriad of ways. One of them is “The Locavore Way.”
The Locavore Way
By Amy Cotler
Like many of you, I’m a locavore, which is anyone who seeks out and savors local and regional foods. That includes all food grown, raised, foraged, hunted, or fished locally. A couple generations ago, locavorism was the norm. But America has been swept up in corporate foods trucked in from elsewhere. Now, most of our food comes from at least 1500 miles away.
It all started for me when I stayed on a farm as a young girl, eating eggs from the chickens in the farm’s kitchen. They were eye openers, with their rich stand-up yolks and a shockingly fresh flavor. And the story behind them — watching the hens fed, then eating their eggs at a farm table overlooking farm fields— set me off on what’s become my life’s passion, The Locavore Way.
A Guide to Local Food
Years ago, as a chef recently moved to the Berkshires, I become the founding director of Berkshire Grown, a non-profit supporting local food and farms. And I’ve continued my farm-to-table advocacy in my work ever since. I speak widely on the subject, using my latest book, The Locavore Way, which is a comprehensive guide to local food. I also teach locavore cooking classes and individuals, as well training schools to use farm foods from my book, The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook, which is free online. And of this year’s producer of the Berkshire Botanical Garden’s fabulous fall Harvest Festival, I’ll be working on bringing in a strong farm component.
Still, as chef and professional taster, local food’s main draw has been its fabulous flavor — think ripe tomatoes still warm from the sun —but I also care that eating local food from our neighboring farms invigorates the local economy, keeping food dollars close to home, where they’ll be spent. I love that our eco-sensitive farms enhance rather than deplete land, water, and air. They preserve a biodiverse working landscape and our rural farming traditions.
I enjoy the treasure hunt, searching out our community’s farmers at farm stands, farmers’ markets, and community-supported agriculture farms. It means dealing face to face with my neighbors, rather than some anonymous food company from far afield. These farm businesses give us choice in our food, so that all production isn’t placed in the hands of just a few large corporations. These farms are our ultimate homeland security
Farmers’ Markets and Farm Stands Abound
I’m not alone. In the last two decades, farmers’ markets and farm stands have blossomed, in many cases becoming new town greens where people meet and reconnect. In addition, another great local food source, CSAs (community-supported farms), started in the Berkshires. The concept is simple: pay for your seasonal membership to stake a farmer upfront then pick up your share of the weekly harvest. This is a great time to join one of the many CSA farms in the region, which are listed on the Berkshire Grown website. (See below)
True, the elephant in the room is price, and local food is often more expensive. One of reason is that our taxes finance larger industrial farms, thus artificially deflating the prices on food flown in from far away. However, there are tricks to making it more affordable like joining a CSA, buying foods during their peak, keeping your eye out for seconds, or buying in bulk then putting food up through drying and freezing. Moreover, bear in mind that local food doesn’t spoil as quickly, so there is less waste.
Make more cuts by dining out less or not at all, consuming less meat, and taking advantage of low-income programs like SNAP at a farmers’ market. Of course, there’s also growing your own. Hunting and fishing are also ideal for connecting to your food source and save money.
Local Food News
I’m not a fundamentalist. I eat foods from distant lands, especially in the winter, but I try to make local food the core of my diet when possible, and I’ve a weekly blog that features seasonal recipes, as well as local food news.
I love the locavore lifestyle. It reinforces nature’s flow and rituals, which become culinary traditions to share with family and friends, such as foraging for ramps in the spring or picking apples in the fall. It always comes back to pleasure. Even this time of year, I’m feasting on local cheese, meat, root vegetables, maple syrup and eggs, as well as a few goodies I put up last summer. Yum.
Amy Cotler is the author of The Locavore Way, Enjoy and Discover the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food, Storey Publishing, 2009. On the web, go to http://www.amycotler.com . For books, local food recipe blog, speaking engagements, private and group classes, event coordination. For Berkshire farm stands, farmers’ markets, and to join a local CSA farm now, visit http://www.berkshiregrown.org
Before the Council: Some Spicy Hot Personnel Moves
Tonight promises to be an tea-leaf reading, litmus-test revealing Pittsfield city council meeting, with the short but likely contentious agenda on tap, depending on how much is debated and how much referred or tabled. At issue are personnel matters. Agenda items 4, 5, and 6 list the mayor’s proposed appointments of Killian Flynn as commissioner of public services, Gregory Yon as director of maintenance, and Tricia Farley-Bouvier as director of administration.
The fact that the mayor has selected these three people speaks to his belief they are the right people at the right time for the right jobs. The mayor’s endorsement may be the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but each of the three candidates comes with serious baggage.
Flynn: No Bachelor’s Degree? Do the Math
Flynn is currently GM of Allied Waste. Mayor Ruberto said that Flynn would be taking a pay cut if the council approves his $85,000 a year job for the city, which suggests four possibilities:
- He’s independently wealthy and doesn’t need the money
- He’s got a heart the shape of Mother Goose and the size of Mother Teresa
- The city’s taxpayer-funded benefits package is so obscenely sweet that it more than makes up the difference in pay
- He flunked math.
We will let you pick which option sounds best to you, dear reader. According to city personnel officials, the newly created commission of public works job requires:
- BA degree in engineering, management, or comparable field
- Knowledge of and familiarity with civil engineering
- Familiarity (including use) of heavy equipment used in general construction work.
- Knowledge of applicable law
- Five years + in management of a comparably complex position
- Physical ability to visit and inspect city facilities, including challenging areas such as pits, ditches, elevated liquid tanks, uneven ground, and rough terrain.
There are two relevant questions: Does Flynn meets these qualifications? Is he the best candidate among all who applied? Will the council and the public be able to examine the resumes of all the candidates. This is a crucial point. If the selection process has been on the up and up, making resumes available for all three positions should strengthen the mayor’s three selections. Not making them available will force the council to operate in the dark. The Planet wonders, therefore, which of my 11 Right Honorable Good Friends will push to make public all resumes from all candidates, so that they may, as the People’s representatives, do the jobs for which they were elected?
We would advise my Right Honorable Good Friends to push hard for as much information as possible, because, as we shall now see, each of the nominees brings concerns.
It is rumored, though The Planet hasn’t confirmed, that Flynn does not have a bachelor’s degree. One source says he hasn’t been educated beyond high school. This is as simple and as straightforward as it gets. His resume and a fact check will determine this. He can also be asked, point blank.
If he does NOT have a BA, it would seem to eliminate him on the first consideration (a related BA degree). It is also rumored that Flynn is a personal friend of Mayor Ruberto’s. That, in and of itself, is not a problem. If Flynn is qualified, he shouldn’t be punished for his friendships. If he is NOT qualified, however, or if he is NOT the most qualified among candidates who applied, this particular friendship raises questions of payola.
Yon: Husband of a Councilor. How Much Does that Weigh?
Greg Yon is Ruberto’s choice for director of maintenance, to replace the outgoing Ernie Fortini. Full disclosure: The Planet had a long-time professional relationship with Yon when his packaging company was for years a sponsor of “The Dan Valenti Show.”
The first potential problem here is Yon’s marriage to Ward 1 city councilor Christine Yon. Again, in a vacuum and all other things being equal, a man’s spouse should not be a factor, one way or the other. One way of the other, we said, neutral at best. Again, it comes down to qualifications. Is Yon the best person for the job, and what role, if any, did his wife play in the mayor’s selection?
According to city watchdog Jeff Ferrin, Yon originally applied for the commissioner of public works job. The mayor offered maintenance instead.
Candidates for director of maintenance must fulfill eight requirements for consideration:
- Four years of maintenance supervisory experience
- Knowledge of and familiarity with maintenance procedures
- Knowledge of and familiarity with maintenance equipment
- Ability to work from plans and supervise multiphase jobs
- Ability to work from plans and specs, and be able to follow rough sketches and oral instructions
- High school of equivalent education
- License of certification of competency in one of the trades to be supervised
- Class D state driver’s license.
Does Yon meet all of these requirements? It seems a simple matter for Yon to prove and councilors to discern.
And TF-B to Boot
For director of administrative services, Ruberto has selected Tricia Farley-Bouvier, former city councilor and WHEN gal who squeezed her way into the corner office as junior assistant. She’s now up for chief of staff. Of the three appointments on tonight’s agenda, this is the most dubious and hardest to justify.
Councilors tried to make the case that resurrecting this moth-balled job as a step-up in position for TF-B would result in greater efficiencies, more productivity, sliced bread in the toaster, and a prize in every box. Their “blah-blah-blah” rhetoric failed to make the case of why taxpayers should give a $13,000 pay raise to what is still a glorified junior-staffer’s position.
A huge question: Was the job of director of administration posted in house and outside? Did the city honestly seek applicants, or did we do the usual “nationwide search” (i.e., none at all) and promise it to a chosen one. Councilors must ask this question tonight: Was the job advertised, as the mayor promised it would be? If so, let’s see the proof. If not, was this then not a done-deal, predestined from the start, a pod that rattled out of the cocoon of Ruberto’s political giveaway tour.
Let’s get real: This is Jimmy’s Ruberto’s parting kiss for Farley-Bouvier, a huge pay raise for a storm trooper’s loyalty. It will soon be budget time. We will hear about how “dire” the circumstances are. If the council approves this position as presented by the mayor, it will once again prove what a joke city government is when it comes to fiscal matters.
What’s in a Name? The Perfect Solution for Wahconah Park
The Stooley, one of The Planet’s most influential gumshoes and our greatest investigator, provides the perfect solution that will make everyone happy regarding the thorny issue of renaming Wahconah Park field after former minor leaguer and city councilor Paul Dowd.
The Stooley suggests that Mr. Dowd apply for a legal change in name. The Stooley says that Dowd should drop “Dowd” and take the last name of “Park,” ala former Boston Bruins great Brad Park. He then should get rid of “Paul” and adopt the native American Christian name of “Wahconah.”
The former “Mr. Paul Dowd” legally becomes “Mr. Wahconah Park.” The name of Pittsfield’s beloved stadium remains the same, and the bulbous, broken-down, barroom barristers Barry and Boyle touting the renaming of the ballpark can say: “See, they named the park for him.”
TOMORROW: THE PLANET TRACKS DOWN WHAT MAY BE A HUGE STORY INVOLVING HIGH-PROFILE ARRESTS, PLUS SILVER LAKE … SILVER LAKE … SILVER LAKE. LOVE TO ALL.