Yum, Yum, in My Tum – I want to eat a delicious dinner…

The Assabet Village Food Cooperative is building a community through our connection to food.  We are making connections with farmers, food producers, businesses, and individuals of the 22 communities that our Owners currently hail from.  We are an enthusiastic bunch too, and we all have feelings about food, even if those feelings differ.  We are working together to build a community owned grocery store that will open in the town of Maynard, and serve the Metrowest/Assabet Valley region.

One of our enthusiastic volunteers, is Brian Clark.  He has volunteered his time for serveral wonderful IMG_0128(and delicious) events:

  • Cooking Class: Thanksgiving with Flair! Held Nov 2013
  • Taste of Maynard 2015 – won Best Entree for his dish “Everything is Awesome” Stir Fried Asian Noodles with Crispy Roast Duck

AND NOW he is preparing a “Thank-You for your donation to the Co-op” Dinner, made from locally sourced food, in his home on June 13th at 6pm.

Read below a note from Chef Brian Clark (CIA grad 1985) about this upcoming fund raiser for the Co-op:

I am so looking forward to this “pop-up restaurant” fundraiser . I am hoping to showcase some fun and innovative cooking and product sourcing to support the Assabet Valley Food Co-op with this fundraising dinner. I knew as soon as I heard about the Co-op that I wanted see if I could help out by supporting some fundraising and awareness. So please join my partner Kate and I at our home for this fun (and hopefully delicious!) event. We are excited to say that Crooked Row Fields in Concord is going to donate some produce to this event.

The menu is not quite done, but I will share one dish that is on the list: Harissa Rubbed Grilled Shrimp with “popcorn” grits and house cured bacon. The bacon is already underway!  I will be pickling, curing, foraging, sourcing, puréeing, mashing, grinding, fermenting and (Yes Kate!), testing right up until Saturday June 13th.

So please join us for this event. It will kick-off at 6:00 PM and our house is located in Stow, but we are very close to the Maynard town line. We will have everything laid out for a fun, group seating, community dining event, including stemware, but please byob!

– Brian Clark (Owner #19)

Come alone, with friends, or bring a date – but this event sounds like it is going to be AMAZING.  Thank you to Brian and Katharine Clark for donating their time and opening their home.  Thank you to Crooked Row Fields for being a part of our community and participating in this event.  Get your tickets today by making a donation to the Co-op!  Enjoy!

 

Sprout with Us

Flowers are sprouting, grass is growing, rain is falling and the Co-op is starting it’s next membership drive: Sprout with Us! This campaign begins tomorrow (Wed 5/20) and we are looking forward to springing up 18614_585021754973886_7909369627791311487_n-2everywhere!  We will be putting a new link on our website for this drive, so you can check where a Co-op member may be and come find out more about us!  Our intention with this drive is to spread the word and increase the exposure of the Co-op in the 22 communities that we serve.

Come hang out with us, ask your questions, learn more and have fun.  This membership drive will run from May 20 until June 30.

We also have many fun events happening during this drive.  Check out our events page to learn more, and we hope you will attend one of our two upcoming fundraisers.  Fun for you, money for us, and a chance for us to come together as a community.

Both of these fundraisers are open to ALL and tickets for the dinner (6/13) can be obtained by making a donation through this link.

11219478_1603229816590618_9103847084633229231_oJust like the flowers, lawn signs have already sprung up in yards, and you may have seen then as you walk, bike, or drive about.  We are starting to take orders for our second batch.  Donate today to get on the list!

Look for the Co-op springing up all over in the next 40 days.  If you would like to participate in this membership drive, let us know!  We look forward to meeting and talking with you soon!

Sprout with Us! – Help Grow the Co-op!

Farming for Fish, Part 1: A Little History

Ellen and Mike hiking near the Bay of Fundy in April 2015.

Ellen and Mike hiking near the Bay of Fundy in April 2015.

Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Ellen, I’m 23, I live in Maynard, and I have a degree in agricultural studies and economics. I’ve worked on Massachusetts farms and in food businesses since I was 13. If you’ve been to a farmers’ market in the last 5 years or so, it’s not unlikely that you’ve eaten something I’ve touched. Right now, my fiancé Mike and I work at the Boston Smoked Fish Company in Sudbury – I cut, smoke, and pack the fish, and he sells it at a farmers’ market near you.

At the end of April, Mike and I took a short vacation from the smokehouse and went to New Brunswick in Canada to visit a couple things that are important in our lives. One was a friend. The other was the company, True North, that supplies the Boston Smoked Fish Company with most of its its salmon. The salmon we use is sushi-grade, Atlantic salmon farmed off the coast of southeastern Canada. It’s the same stuff you’re likely to get in any of the sushi restaurants around here — beautiful fish with flesh the color of the salmon-pink crayon in your kid’s crayon box, neat lines of fat across the fillet, brilliant scales black on the back and blue-silver on the belly. I see dozens of these fillets every day I go to work and I’m not quite tired of them yet.

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Isn’t it pretty? Credit: The Boston Smoked Fish Co.

 But yes, it’s farmed salmon. Every time he goes to market, Mike fields pointed questions about fish farming — it’s a controversial practice. So let’s talk about it. Personally, I think fish farming is a good idea, and my job depends on fish farming. My writing here will reflect this fact. However, what we eat is arguably the most complex and meaningful decision we make on a daily basis, and I heartily encourage you to go out and learn more about fish farming and make your own decisions. This is what food co-ops are for, right? To engage the community in asking questions and sharing information about food. And so, here begins what I think will be a 3 or 4 part series discussing how fish gets on our plates, focusing on the process I’m most familiar with, the sea-to-table chain at The Boston Smoked Fish Company.

Fishing and poetry in the 1600s. Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_salmon#/media/File:Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Salmon_fishing_(State_1).jpg”>Wikimedia Commons

Fishing and poetry in the 1600s. Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_salmon

In this first chapter, let’s talk about history: it’s hard to understand the ins and outs of fish farming today without first looking back at how people have fished in the past. Fish is an important part of our history and, really, mythology in New England, so right here is a good place to start. (You can read up on this history in chapter 3 of A Revolution in Eating.) Native Americans in the coastal US relied heavily on fish, especially at this time of year when most plants were just starting to come back and most animals were hungry and thin. And there were lots of fish: when the colonists landed, they famously commented on being able to walk across the bay on the backs of cod, and on alewives packed so tight in the rivers that they couldn’t swim. In a one-sentence summary of a couple hundred years, they proceeded to catch them all. (You can read a longer version here, for example.) Alewives were buried in fields to fertilize corn. Cod was salted and shipped south to feed slaves. When we ran out of cod, we ran through the haddock, then the hake. Dredging for ground-dwelling species like cod, flounder, and shellfish accelerated the process by wiping out the seafloor communities that many fish depend on for food and safe places to breed. The invention of refrigerators in the late 19th century only accelerated the process by connecting Boston Harbor to the rest of the fish-hungry country via refrigerated boxcar. Heavy water pollution also took its toll. By the early 20th century, New England’s fish stocks were badly depleted.

Atlantic salmon in a Norwegian aquarium. Credit: Wikipedia

Atlantic salmon in a Norwegian aquarium. Credit: Wikipedia

Including its salmon stocks. New England’s rivers once teemed not only with alewives, but also with salmon. Like Pacific salmon today, Atlantic salmon spent most of the year at sea and swam upriver to breed. They live on both sides of the Atlantic. However, as fishermen and watermills proliferated in New England, the salmon died out. The story was similar up and down the northeastern coast of the continent–while Atlantic salmon held on in parts of Maine and Canada, what stocks still exist are too depleted to fish, and are declining, possibly due to warming oceans. In Maine, the salmon species in 11 rivers are listed as endangered species. The story across the pond is only a little better. European stocks have held on longer against overfishing, and healthy wild populations still exist in Scotland and Scandinavia. But fishing is tightly controlled to prevent depletion, and even so, the stocks are declining due to habitat destruction and climate change. Throughout its range, efforts are underway to reintroduce or supplement salmon populations by releasing fish from hatcheries into the wild, but they have usually been unsuccessful. Just a few years ago, a reintroduction campaign on the Connecticut River called it quits after 40 years of failure to establish a sustainable population.

This satellite image of part of the Bay of Fundy shows the salmon farms that raise some of the fish we buy at the Boston Smoked Fish Co.--the circles off the coast. Credit: Google Earth.

This satellite image of part of the Bay of Fundy shows the salmon farms that raise some of the fish we buy at the Boston Smoked Fish Co.–the circles off the coast. Credit: Google Earth.

This is a familiar story. After centuries of poor management, getting healthy, sustainable protein for everyone from wild fish stocks is just too much to ask. On land, we had an answer to increased human population density and the depletion of huntable animals — farming. And throughout history, people have been applying the same logic to the water. Aquaculture is old. The first evidence of the practice comes from China, more than 5000 years ago. It was also practiced among the ancient Egyptians, native Hawaiians, and Medieval Europeans. Julius Caesar ate farmed fish. Today, fish farming is our last best hope for getting any fish at all onto our plates.

And, at least at the Boston Smoked Fish Company, we think it’s the most sustainable option — which matters to us. As a startup (we’re almost two! aren’t we cute?) we’re pretty interested in being around for the long term, which means we need a sustainable supply of fish. In the next chapter, I’ll get into the ins and outs of salmon farming today. But based at least in part on the lessons of history, my boss has made the decision to focus on farmed salmon. We do use some wild fish: we make a (wicked good) smoked bluefish pâté using wild bluefish, and during the summer spawning season we smoke up wild sockeye and coho salmon from the American northwest. According to our best research, these wild populations are doing pretty well, and we’re willing to rely on them. But for the bulk of our production, farming makes the most sense. Our forebears haven’t left us with many alternatives.

– By Ellen Green

Coming in 2 weeks: Farming for Fish, Part 2

Building a Community of Gardeners

Community gardens and community-owned markets have much in common. They often start small with a dedicated core of believers and grow into integral parts of the community with impact far beyond their boundaries. This is the story of one local community garden.

The Hudson Community Garden

A small group of Hudson residents with a common goal of growing plants (for many reasons: to eat local, healthy, organic foods; to improve the Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 8.00.29 AMenvironment; to get outdoors; to meet other Hudson residents; to grow the perfect tomato) searched for a suitable site in July 2011. They found a piece of Town land that had once been used for agricultural purposes, but which had become an untended dumping ground. The property abuts a wetland area a short walk from downtown, just across the stone bridge which crosses the Assabet River in Wood Park.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 8.00.43 AMIn February 2012, the Conservation Commission gave their permission for the Hudson Community Gardens to use a half-acre of this land. That spring volunteers and the Town DPW cleared the site of trash and brush, and volunteers built 32 four-foot by eight-foot organic, raised garden beds with materials donated by local businesses. These raised beds mirror those described in the Square-Foot Gardening class sponsored by the AV Food Cooperative.  Two dozen gardeners and their families, who each paid modest fees to rent plots, participated in the inaugural season.

The overwhelming response to the initial efforts of the Community Gardeners, from both the Town and local businesses, made many more people aware of the availability of gardening space in Town. The need to expand for the 2013 growing season added thirty more raised beds.  A permanent six-foot high fence installed around the entire plot used funds allocated by the Town’s Community Preservation Committee and a vote of the Town Meeting.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 8.00.59 AMCommunal strawberry, blueberry and raspberry patches were planted at the garden and  many flower beds were planted both inside and outside the newly-fenced area. Several Eagle Scout projects added a composting bin and bat houses to the garden area, and school projects added birdhouses which grace the fence posts around the plot.

Continuing interest led to the creation of 34 new raised beds for the 2014 growing season, maxing out the space at 96 beds. The Community Gardeners then added a shared herb garden.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 8.01.08 AMIn August 2012 the Community Gardeners began weekly donations to the Hudson Food Pantry.  They now dedicate four plots to grow produce for the Food Pantry and individual gardeners can also donate from their own plots for twice-weekly pantry distribution.

The 280-foot by 90-foot property remains under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission and is leased from the town for a nominal fee on an annual basis.  Since its inception, the garden has been fully maintained by gardeners and volunteers.  An oversight committee of gardeners manages financial and administrative tasks.

The Hudson Community Garden holds several community work days – to remove brush, weed the community plots, and to “meet the neighbors”. Whenever more than one gardener is on the site a discussion is sure to ensue. As an NPR commentator said in a broadcast about community gardens, “the community that forms around a garden is, in fact, far more valuable than the vegetables.”

The growth of the Hudson Community Garden exemplifies how the Assabet Village Food Cooperative has grown and will continue to expand – to the store opening and beyond. A small group of people with a common interest band together, seek help from a wider community, get the message out about what a great resource they have created, and give back to the local community.  In the case of the Hudson Community Garden a vacant, trash-strewn lot turned into a beautiful collection of garden plots which feed 50 families and adds fresh vegetables to the food provided by the Hudson Food Pantry.

If you don’t have a yard or don’t have space for a garden in your yard, look for a community garden in the town or city where you live. If not, see if there are others in your town – who may be members of the Food Coop – who might like to start a community garden. For more information about the Hudson Community Garden, the board can be reached at hudsonmacommunitygarden@gmail.com.

-Tom Green (Owner #295)

Membership Drive Recap: 100 Owners in 100 Days

Our membership drive, 100 Owners in 100 Days ended today (May 11th), and while we fell short of our goal, we had a lot of fun and created many connections that will lead to future growth in our community.  Our official number was 61 new Owners during this time (Feb 1st – May 11th). Way to go New Owners and everyone who helped us reach this point in our development!

Here is what we did during this drive:
We have two events scheduled for this weekend and we would love to hear from YOU.  Tell us your thoughts, help us improve and move forward.  Volunteer to help out in some way – there is a lot you can do behind the scenes and in front of them.  We are a building a community through our connection to food, and we look forward to talking with you.
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Our next membership drive will start May 20th and run through the end of June and is called “Come Sprout With Us” and during this promotion the Co-op will be springing up everywhere!  If you would like to help out with this promotion, or learn more please contact us or attend our training session this Tuesday (5/12) evening at 7pm in Maynard.

Thanks for everyone who helped us grow our community.  Welcome to our New Owners and look for us at an event near you!

-Heather Nickle, Board of Directors

“After Hours” at Serendipity Cafe a Big Success

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Approximately75 owners and other interested folks gathered in Maynard at Serendipity Cafe for an evening of great food, great music, and great fellowship.  Serendipity owners Laura and Johnny Hobson opened their doors for the Co-op c ommunity on a night they are generally closed and are donating back a10981911_582535145222547_6012439893385415569_n portion of the night’s proceeds.  It was a perfect night weather-wise, and many folks took the opportunity to sit outside where they could still hear the fantastic music of Chris Renna.  Inside, we kept the crew busy by ordering off of their locally-sourced menu.  I personally sampled far too many items on the menu, and even brought cinnamon rolls home for breakfast this morning – a rare treat!

IMG_9734In addition to eating, drinking, and listening to music, the Food Co-Op community spent time getting to know each, and welcoming new members.  Two people joined during the event, and several others took owner agreement forms with them.  Additionally, we handed out lawn signs to those who had already ordered them, and took new donations from many people who had not yet taken advantage of that opportunity.  We signed up volunteers and took owner pictures and got their testimonials as well.  Rounding out the evening, we gave away two door prizes:  Owner Lois Tetrault won a lawn sign, and Owner Hope Rubin won a Co-op sweatshirt.  Congratulations to both!!

Board members Jason Sobel, Nichole Felix and Mark Koenig having fun at Serendipity After Hours.

Board members Jason Sobel, Nichole Felix and Mark Koenig having fun at Serendipity After Hours.

As in always the case, a lot of volunteer hours went into making the night a success.  Huge thanks to the following:  Owner Maren Calzia for her help in organizing the event, Chris Renna for his beautiful gift of music, Owner Michael Sanders and Owner Joe Cioni for taking pictures, Owner Sadie DeSimone for helping out with the door prizes.  Thank you to my fellow board members who were present handling various tasks and a thank you to the young folks who stood outside holding signs for us! Lastly, thank you to  Johnny, Laura and their crew at Serendipity!!  We had a great time, and hope to do it again in the future.

-Mark Koenig, Board of Directors

Building Community

What does it mean to be building a community through our connection to food?

To me it means many things.  Making connections between:

  • towns and farms
  • different towns
  • young and old
  • producers and consumers

This initiative to start a member-owned grocery store is incredibly compelling as I see it as a way to connect us to our food, to each other, and to strengthen the economy of our area.  And the lovely thing photo-3.jpgabout it all is WE are doing it together.  Through volunteering our time, we are creating this grocery store that will connect us to our food, farmers, families, and build a community space for us all to come together. I am volunteering my time to help build this store (figuratively) and I hope to have more people join me in this effort.

We have a small band of dedicated volunteers in place now, and if we grow this volunteer base, then we can grow our initiative exponentially.  There are MANY ways to help out.  If you like to talk with people one-on-one, or in small groups, then I encourage you to join us for our training session on Tuesday May 12th at 7pm.  Click here to learn more.  If you are not comfortable talking with people, not to worry – we are also forming the following groups:

  • fundraising (helping to plan and organize events to gather money for the Co-op)
  • membership campaigns (meet every 6-8 weeks as a collaborative group to plan out our membership campaigns)
  • town outreach (be a team leader for your town – help identify and arrange places and events for the Co-op to be present)
  • marketing (write press releases, help build up the membership campaigns, handle promotions online, write a blog for the Co-op)

There are many options for every personality, and the time commitment is what works in your own schedule. Click here to help out with one of the above efforts. The important thing is to join in the effort, and before you know it we will have built our store (literally) and be shopping in our very own Food Co-op!

-Heather Nickle, Board of Directors

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs – But These Ones Are Awesome!

The lawn signs are coming, the lawn signs are coming!CoopYardSignFinal

That’s right!  If you ordered a Support Local lawn sign to help promote the Co-op they will be here next week and available for pick-up at our fundraising party at Serendipity Cafe on Thur May 7th!  Join us on Thursday for Serendipity After Hours – A Fundraiser for the Food Co-op at 1 Nason St in Maynard from 6-8:30pm.  Enjoy dinner, a cup of coffee, community, and live music from 7-8pm AND pick up your lawn sign!  Lawn signs will also be available that night for a minimum donation of $15 to the Food Co-op. And if you are lucky you might get one for free – one will be offered as a door prize, along with another exciting Co-op branded item. Anyone who attends is eligible for the door prize!  There is no cost to attend this event, just pay for your dinner or drink as you normally would, but this time a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the Co-op.

clipart-for-teachers-yes_you_canWant to support the Co-op with your time?  Then come to one of our training dates to learn how to “talk Co-op”.  Siobain and Heather will be holding a training session on Tues May 12th at 7pm.  Click HERE if you want to come to the training sessions (one hour in length), or if you wish to be trained at an upcoming event.  This is a great way to help promote the Co-op.I Own My Grocery Store

Don’t forget to come see us this Sat (5/2) at the Spring Art Walk in Maynard from 5-7pm.  There will be art, music, food, community…and the Co-op will be hanging out in LOOK Optical (56 Main St, Maynard) during the event.  Check out all the places we will be on our events page.  See the signs, grow the Co-op, open our doors!

Welcome Spring with Soup and Parcheesi

Soon we’ll enjoy those harbingers of the local growing season—peas and asparagus.  In the meantime, eating local and seasonal ingredients has its challenges.  If you have tired of broccoli and kale then turn to fresh and lively flavors during this transitional period.  Lemon juice, fresh parsley or cilantro, and bright herbs banish the doldrums of winter for the promise of spring.

Planning for the week I found myself wandering around the produce department, looking for anything grown “locally.”  At best, I could hope for veggies grown on the eastern seaboard, in Florida or Georgia.  Green beans, zucchini and more!  To get a jump on the week it helps me to cook on the weekend.  That prevents the angst of figuring out dinner at the last minute on the busiest evenings of the week, provides lunch and gives the kids a go-to food instead of snacky junk.  When relaxed I am free to experiment and so I transformed a winter soup into the recipe below.

Parcheesi bd2How does Parcheesi fit in?  A bowl of soup on the table looks a bit lonely.  The garnishes included in this recipe will round it out a bit.  You can also add a fruit salad and/or cheesy garlic bread, staples in my meal planning to fill up older kids.  Otherwise this soup stands heartily enough on its own, which makes it perfect for dinner-and-a-game night.  Parcheesi pairs perfectly as it takes less than an hour to play and is suitable for all ages.  (I never bothered with “Sorry” but taught the kids Parcheesi, lent tips to the younger one as needed, and helped everyone develop their own strategy.)  Homemade soup, garnishes for everyone to create their own flavors, and a board game breaks the work-/school-week routine.

WELCOME SPRING SOUP                                     serves 4-6

3 T Olive oil 2 Red potatoes, 1” dice
2 medium Onions, ½” dice 1 Green pepper, ½” dice
4 cloves Garlic, crushed 1 zucchini, quartered and sliced 1”
2 – 15oz. cans Chickpeas Handful green beans, 1” pieces (1C)
½ – 15oz. can Diced Tomatoes (¾ C)
4 C Water
½ t. Salt
4 Bay leaves 4-6 Lemon wedges
1 T Marjoram Bunch Parsley, chopped
1 t. Thyme 1 C Plain yogurt
  1. Heat an 8-quart pot over high heat.  Add olive oil once heated.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add onions.  Sauté 3-5 mins. until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and stir for 30 sec.
  4. Add chickpeas (with liquid), tomatoes, salt, herbs, potatoes, green pepper.
  5. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 mins.
  6. Add zucchini and green beans.  Cook 5 mins. more.
  7. Serve with garnishes of lemon, parsley and yogurt.

SUBSTITUTIONS

Making soup allows you to cook with what you have on hand.  Simple ingredient changes keep you from getting bored with the same flavors.  Here are some easy substitutions to make:

  • Chickpeas – Cannellini or navy beans; Pinto or Black beans (plus add 2t. cumin and put Cholula hot sauce on the table)
  • Potatoes – Parsnips or winter squash, starchy and sweet!
  • Marjoram – Thyme only (just 2t.) or Rosemary, chopped, (2t. only)

COOKING FOR ONE

Soup recipes work just as well halved.  For one person use 1 can of chickpeas, 1 potato, etc.  You can opt to use a whole green pepper or a whole zucchini only and eliminate the other.  Omit the tomatoes and add a parsnip for a sweet background flavor.

-Nancy Teasdale (Owner #294)

The 45th Anniversary of Earth Day

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  ~Native American Proverb    (quotegarden.com)

Where were you on April 22, 1970?  I remember the excitement in my small town in Pennsylvania. There was going to be a demonstration with marching, music, and speeches on the nearby public square. Earth Day was launched on that spring day, in major cities and small towns all across the country.

History

Earthday.org remembers the day as one where 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passages of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Otter artwork by Bruce Davidson (Owner #240)

Otter artwork by Bruce Davidson (Owner #240)

Today, the goals of Earth Day celebrations have not changed. There is a continued urgent need for each individual to do his or her part in protecting our planet for the next generation.

The Assabet Village Food Co-op envisions a community grocery store that will:

  • Practice economic and environmental sustainability
  • Empower our members to support the local economy and our local food producers

The Board of AVFCO and its owners intend to strive to make business decisions through an environmental lens. Supporting local farmers and food producers will be part of the Co-op’s mission. The Owners of the Co-op will also make decisions about how the grocery store can develop as a community resource. Join us and share your ideas.

Local Earth Day Celebration

The Assabet Village Food Co-op will be participating in the 45th anniversary festivities at the Musketaquid Earth Day celebration, on Saturday April 25 in Concord, on the grounds of Emerson Umbrella. Stop by our table, say hi, and learn more about AVFCO. There will be food, music, and activities for children and adults. See you then.

-by Hope Rubin (Owner #311)