Somerville Local First

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Johnny’s Joe

Aug 06 2:38 pm

by Maggie Kaiser and Louis Epstein

Walking along Holland Avenue one day, we noticed something unusual.

Johnny D's coffee grounds

See something, say something?

Since our new approach to Somerville living demands that we pay attention to easily overlooked details of our surroundings, we decided to take a closer look. Someone had taken the time to explain the pile of yogurt containers, so we might as well take the time to read about it!

Johnny D's coffee grounds

That's one handsome sign.

It’s a good thing we took that closer look, because Johnny D’s has managed to combine a few of our favorite things in one fell swoop.

Gardeners alert!

We heart Johnny D's

Nutrient-rich, organic coffee grounds from a local business intended to be recycled as compost by local gardeners? Way to go, Johnny D! We almost hate to share this find with all the other urban farmers in Somerville, but there’s way too much black gold for us to keep to ourselves. Grab some for yourself next time you’re around Johnny D’s - or make more for everyone else by grabbing a coffee there instead!

Check it out:
Johnny D’s
17 Holland Street
Davis Square

Filed under: Blog Posts, Featured Homepage Post — SLF @ 2:38 pm

Help Intern Julia Make Friends With Vegetables

Aug 04 11:48 am

by Julia Stimeck

A course on food security is what really opened my eyes to the local movement. I wanted to get involved to take power away from big companies who do scary things with seeds and cows and corn. Although it took a Tufts class to bring these issues to my attention, the more I looked around, the more it made sense. When was the last time there had been any cows grazing at the intersection in my town we still call “Cow Point?” Why do food ingredients sound more like they belong in a science lab than in my kitchen pantry?

I responded to my fear by searching for alternatives, and trying to convince my housemates to join a CSA with me. While some considered the idea and others balked at the price, one made the strongest argument of all. “Julia,” she reminded me, “you don’t like vegetables.” It’s true! I have a long history of ignoring everything green on my plate. How am I supposed to break free of the corporate giants when Pop-Tarts and Easy Mac make up two of my main meals of the day?

Nevertheless, I put the date of the first Davis Square Farmers Market on my calendar. I would prove my housemates wrong! I would eat vegetables, and I would like them! So on the first day, I took my shopping bags, I went to the market, and I bought…nothing. If I don’t know how to eat vegetables, I certainly don’t know how to cook them. For the next few weeks, I continued to marvel at shoppers who were confidently weighing out vegetables I had never seen before. I was jealous of their shopping bags full of colorful bounty, while all I had was a block of cheese or bar of chocolate.

These savvy shoppers clearly had knowledge on their side, but I had the internet, too. A few Google searches later, I found out what was in season and how to cook it. I wrote myself a shopping list and even made some impulse purchases on summer squash and heirloom tomatoes. My final preparatory step was to call my mom and ask for more cooking advice. I finally began chopping, sautéing, baking, and generally pretending I knew what I was doing.

The meal wasn’t perfect, but my housemates claimed to enjoy it (not that it’s hard to get people to say nice things when you’re giving them free food). The important thing is that I’m over my fear of the food. Me and vegetables aren’t best friends yet, but I can definitely make room for them next to the Easy Mac.

Readers - Help our Intrepid Intern Julia Shift her Shopping to More Local Produce - Comment Here With Suggestions For Her

Filed under: Blog Posts, Featured Homepage Post — SLF @ 11:48 am

Shift and Save With A Coupon from Sherman Market & Somerville Local First

Aug 03 1:06 am

by Joe Grafton

We’ve had a lot of conversations recently about reaching outside the community of local shoppers with whom we’ve already connected.  The launch of our new website is a convenient time for us to test out different ways to do this, while at the same time rewarding those who are already talking to their friends and family about going local.  So with no further ado, Somerville Local First is excited to introduce Shift and Save Coupons and our first offer for Sherman Market.

Buy a Shift and Save coupon to redeem at Sherman Market (not cafe) for all your Local Food Needs and Wants

It seems like big discount, online coupons are a hit with consumers these days, so we’re going to give it a shot.  First, here’s some info on the beta version of Shift and Save Coupons:

  • Price – All coupons cost just $10
  • Discount – All coupons offer at least a 50% discount (i.e. $10 for $20)
  • Quantities – Initially, there will only be 100-200 coupons available, and no coupon will be offered for longer than 30 days.

We hope these coupons will help you save some cash, support local businesses, and discover new businesses.

We’re hoping you love this idea, but maybe you won’t.  Please feel free to post comments here and elsewhere on the site (or email us)to let us know if you’re using them and what you think.


Filed under: Blog Posts, Featured Homepage Post — Tags: , , — SLF @ 1:06 am

Alt-Weeklies and Localization

Aug 02 12:15 pm

by David Day

As an editor at an Alternative Weekly (Boston’s Weekly Dig in Boston, MA), I spent a lot of time thinking about how print can remain relevant. And I’m not talking about how it can compete with the internet or how we can get people to read more of it, but how to bring readers and businesses together.

The word magazine originally means “storehouse,” a store house of ideas and business leads, where the community can meet each other out on the street.

Then Localization began to take hold, and the proverbial light-bulb went off.

And it went off in the heads of editors across the nation.

While not all alternative weeklies can stand as true independents, Dig Boston most assuredly can. And, as I’ve learned recently, it’s only newspapers which are truly independent who can truly support localization.

I don’t need to tell you how obvious Localization is the way forward-you’re reading this website, after all-but I can tell you that the future of print, in fact, the only future of print, lands squarely in line with the mission of localization.

At the recent AAN convention, where the alt-weekly community gathers to discuss ideas, Jody Colley of the East Bay Express in Oakland gave an inspiring presentation about Localization.

She began with this:

Then Jody moved through the shocking number of things her newspaper is doing to support localization (as she called it). She asked for help passing around a Local First guide, then a Eco Metro Guide, then a Buy Fresh Buy Local guide, then a Local Film Festival guide, and so forth (even a Local Coloring Book page). It was astounding.

But perhaps more astounding was the reaction of the crowd of publishers who had gathered in the massive ballroom. Silence. Despite a few eager participants, myself included of course, Colley was met with a stone wall of silence. It was shocking to me and it’s taken me a little bit to process the info, but now I have realized the main concern was that

Most of the other alt-weeklies in attendance, the ones who were silent, were not independents.

To a corporate-owned alt-weekly, Localization is frightening as hell. They will have to give up the multi-million dollar ad deals with their corporate buddies. They will need to get to know the local business owners. They will need to go out into the streets again and, you know, sell ads.

It strikes me as the difference between something like a Local First group and a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, like the mammoth, listings-stuffed, whore-ad driven alt-weekly, is looking for the big fish. They want to bring the Ikea to town, they will meet eagerly with Home Depot or Target. But maybe not us, and certainly not Local First. To focus on rebuilding the economy and, ultimately, all of our own bank accounts, shopping local is crucial. It is beyond neccesary, it is the only way forward.

So alt-weeklies like Jody’s, and like the Dig, have to give up the full-page ads for the giant new box shop, and fill them with smaller ads for local businesses. It means working harder, but it also means fulfilling the true mission of a magazine-being the storehouse.

That is not to say the corporate weeklies won’t come around to Colley. Indeed, I would expect her talk at AAN 2011 to be packed to the rafters with cheering publishers.

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: , , , — SLF @ 12:15 pm

Harvest Fest: The Second Glass In The House & Local Designer/DJ to Manage Fashion Performance

Aug 01 2:02 pm

by Joe Grafton

We’re just over two months away from Harvest Fest 2010 and the participant list continues to add some of the best and brightest from Greater Boston.  One thing we’ve learned in our 2+ year history:  The more great people we can surround ourselves with, the more fun and success we have.  Along those lines, we are incredibly excited to announce two new partners for this years festivities.  Note:  We do expect the event to sell out,  and suggest you buy your tickets in advance.

The Second Glass to bring their love of local wine and penchant for partying to Harvest Fest 2010 and their own Wine Riot on October 22nd & 23rd.

The Second Glass is your unpretentious, badass source for baller wine information.”  Sounds like a match made in heaven, and we think it will be.  Tyler and Morgan, the founders of SG were recently featured in Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30, a list of some of the country’s best young entrepreneurs and have lots of local roots and connections.

It is also worth thanking the recent hot and sweltering weather for facilitating this bad-ass partnership.  For were it not for Tyler’s need to get out of his hot apartment and into an air conditioned office, and my response via the social interwebs that he was welcome to chill (pun intended) at the SLF office for the day, we might not be talking about this.  But a short conversation later, Tyler was emailing Morgan about the potential of running the local wine parade at Harvest Fest, and a day later it was official (entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, like to act quickly).

Finally, it’s not just about these guys rocking our wine world.  Remember, Harvest Fest is about local first and foremost.  And Tyler is excited to show our guests just what Massachusetts can do.  In discussing the format, Tyler said “Massachusetts wineries are making GREAT wine right now.  But not enough people know this“.  We have a feeling that at least 700 folks will know a lot more about it after 10/9/10.

Find the Second Glass on the web, on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Fashion Performance Manager Ari Paoletti is the Founder of Deconize Style...

...and a Basstown resident at one of Boston's best dance parites, Make It New

Last year, the fashion show at Harvest Fest featured a TON of stylized and fashion forward looks from some of our favorite local fashion shops and boutiques.  Looks from poor little rich girl, Artifaktori and Black & Blues Boutique filled the Armory with style and beauty.

The looks were great last year...

And like most things from Harvest Fest 2009, gave the organizers some indegestion as we tried to create something spectacular,  without really knowing what we were doing.  We think the guests probably were more likely to notice the lovely looks parading up and down the runway, but this year we’re bringing in an expert to help us enjoy it too.

...and with Ari's help, they'll be even better at Harvest Fest 2010

As part of my work as Director of Operations for the 1st Annual, Together Music Festival, I got a chance to work with Ari Paoletti, a renowned local fashion designer and DJ (Volvox).  Ari managed the Get Together: a record fair, trade show and, you guessed it, fashion performance.  Watching what she coordinated that day at the Villa Victoria, I knew that we had to find a way for her to work on Harvest Fest.  A few emails and conversations later, we had ourselves a Fashion Show Manager.  With Ari in the fold, not only will the show be visually stunning, but I and the other organziers won’t have to worry about it, and might actually be able to enjoy it from the Super Supporter Box on the Mezzanine.

Note:  You can find Deconize products in our very own Grand in Union Square.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Featured Homepage Post, Harvest Fest — SLF @ 2:02 pm

The Secret Gardens of Somerville

Jul 30 12:16 pm

by Maggie Kaiser and Louis Epstein

We haven’t been back from Paris that long, but we already miss its vast, manicured parks. We spent hours every week gallavanting through greenspace, cherishing moments of peace in the midst of urban bustle.

Somerville may not boast the same monumentally-proportioned and expensively-maintained parks as Paris, but it offers plenty of oases for the weary urbanite. The only problem is that, unlike in Paris, many of Somerville’s most exciting greenspaces are private. This weekend we were lucky enough to participate in a yearly event that opens up some of Somerville’s hidden greenspace to the public.

Lina Morales of Spring Hill teaches Louis about ground cherries.

Gerardo Ciriello of Winter Hill unveils 4-foot-long Sicilian zucchini.

This year, the Somerville Garden Club recruited several dozen urban farmers to show off the fruits and vegetables of their labor during the “Incredible Edible Gardens of Somerville” tour. It was self-guided - our $10 ticket came with a tour booklet that includes descriptions of each garden and a map for convenience. In around five hours of touring, we managed to hit 12 of 31 possible destinations, which gives you a sense for how much time we spent talking with gardeners and oohing and aahing over produce.

Jeffrey Harrington's cabbage and chard

Linda's colorful peppers

Robin and David Ray's grape arbor

We learned about an exciting endeavor called Groundwork Somerville/, the local branch of a network of non-profits that builds community by growing gardens (among other things). We visited two Somerville schools, where we spoke with high school and college students maintaining gardens over the summer. The produce from the gardens is available for purchase every other Saturday at the Union Square Farmers Market (we bought a tasty summer squash from them just last week).

Winter Hill Community School Garden

Argenziano School Garden

Though exhausted by the end of our 5-hour romp in 90-degree heat, we were also touched and inspired by the generosity of the gardeners who opened their yards and shared their knowledge. We ended the day with renewed motivation to join this incredible community of Somerville gardeners (through the Somerville Garden Club) and support the work of local organizations like Groundwork Somerville. And who knows? Maybe with a little help from our new, green-thumbed friends - plus a few shopping sprees at Ricky’s Flower Market - we’ll have our very own urban oasis to share during next year’s tour.

Filed under: Blog Posts — SLF @ 12:16 pm

Local First: It’s About Community

Jul 29 11:05 am

To my mind, there can sometimes be a misunderstanding of the intentions behind the local movement. Some assume that we are attempting to make some sort of political statement or that our primary concerns are financial ones. Or, that the motivation for what we do is purely in self interest. It’s not.

Of course, there’s elements of both politics and economics embedded in our activities. How can there not be, these days? We live in a political world and, what with the struggling economy, finances are never too far from our minds. And it’s true that a thriving local economy would revert power back to individual communities by making them more politically relevant; it’s true that the more money spent on a local, independent business, the more money that stays in the community. But, really, those talking points are just a means to an end.

The local movement has to do with something that beats with a much more human rhythm. We aren’t a pamphlet, or a website, or a mission statement.

Here’s what we we:

Local First - About the Handshake, not just the transaction

We want to bring the handshake, the friendly conversation back into business. We want to bring back the business environment where everyone knows your name. We want to reach a warm voice on the end of the line when we call a business, not deal with entering numbers on a keypad for an automated voice. We want our shopping experiences to be defined by human connection, empathy and sympathy, not policy and corporate structure.

Essentially, we want to ensure that the market environment is tailored to fit the needs of the good people who make up the customer base. And so, yes, while the local movement has to do with politics and economics on a grand level, what it’s really about is YOU. It’s about you the customer and you the business owner. It’s about community.

Filed under: Blog Posts — SLF @ 11:05 am

Eating Local Like It’s Hot, When It’s Hot

Jul 28 10:19 am

by Abbe Cohen Dvornik

For much of July, Somerville’s been hotter than usual. Despite the heat, I still like to keep my eating “local” (even local to our fridge and our kitchen, when I can)! Here are a few suggestions for Somerville summer meals to keep cool with when it’s too hot to cook - from the farmers’ markets and your neighborhood independent grocers, to the restaurants around Somerville.

Asian Spring Rolls

Pop into Reliable Market in Union Square for some round rice paper wrappers, a sweet chili or peanut dipping sauce, and some basil. Then, chop up crunchy vegetables into thin strips - cucumber, cabbage, carrots, and lettuce are all good options that you’ll find in season at the farmers’ market. You can also slice up some leftover meat - even plain sliced turkey from the deli counter at McKinnon’s, if you haven’t got leftovers and don’t want to cook!  Tofu cut into little strips works well too, and you can buy locally-made tofu at The Dairy Bar in Davis Square, as well as at Reliable Market.  The only “cooking” to do is the rice paper wrappers, which soak one at a time in a flat pan of hot water for about a minute until they’re soft and translucent.  Our family loves to eat this as a make-your-own dinner; each person can choose what to put in his or her own rolls.

ingredients for asian spring rolls from Reliable Market

Cool Market Suppers

Pick up a loaf of crusty bread and combine it with any of these cool or room temperature options for a simple market supper!  I love to eat caprese salad with farmers’ market tomatoes and basil, and a ball of Somerville-made fresh mozzarella cheese from Fiore di Nonno (also available at the farmers’ market). Stack slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella, add leaves of basil on top, and then drizzle with olive oil and salt - that’s it!

caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella from Fiore di Nonno

Or pick up some prepared foods. At the farmers market in Davis Square, Seta’s Mediterranean Foods (based in Jamaica Plain) has some nice prepared options: hummus, lentil salad, and a lemony potato salad among them. We’re also in love with Naragansett Creamery’s Olive Treasure, a salty olive-flavored feta cheese spread. Or, at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, you should try a container of artichoke and lemon pesto, another great spread on bread. And if you fancy doing a little more of your own cooking, there are lots of simple vegetable and grain dishes that taste delicious served cold. Make them when it’s cool in the morning or late evening, and stick in the fridge for dinner another day.


And of course, when the hot weather is making you more sluggish than that, there’s always takeout, or a trip to a local restaurant’s air conditioned dining room.  In the summertime, I love Indian buffets such as India Palace in Union Square, Yak and Yeti in Ball Square, or Namaskar and Diva in Davis Square.  I make sure to pile my plate high with foods that are eaten cool rather than steaming hot -  fresh vegetables and raita (a refreshing yogurt sauce), pakora (fried vegetable fritters), and tandoori chicken.

And to get dinner to my hot dining room table, I might call up Redbones (bike delivery!), or order chicken fingers and sides from Eat at Jumbo’s, which I can easily let cool a bit and then eat with something green from my fridge.  Or for a fully cold meal, I might choose some sushi rolls from Yoshi’s.

Take your pick, and stay cool!

Filed under: Blog Posts — SLF @ 10:19 am

Help the ‘ville get Googled

Jul 27 11:28 am

by Sarah Rossi.  Intern, City of Somerville Communications Department

Attention Somerville Residents:  Help bring ultra high-speed internet to Somerville!

Google plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. This program, called Google Fiber for Communities, will launch an extremely fast broadband network that will deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (over 100 times faster than what most Americans currently have access to).

Somerville has worked to bring this high-speed internet to our city (see video below), but it is our job as a community to drive the point home!  Here’s how:

We plan to drop a “Google Bomb” to emphasize our interest in this beneficial opportunity! Sign in to your Twitter (or a friend’s) and simply tweet the following message: “@Google #SomervilleGigSpeed”  Editors Note:  You can add a personal message of course

To show Google we are the perfect city for this program, we are developing a website that will keep track of the Twitter tags, so tweet often!

Feel free to check out this site for more information:

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — SLF @ 11:28 am

Local Product Design Firm Introduces Clean Drinking Water Technology

Jul 25 9:43 pm

by Chris Templeman

Templeman Automation is a Somerville based product design firm. We are committed to using our product development experience to develop technology that is beneficial to society.

Currently, we have an entry in the Create the Future Design Contest called SOLution, a device meant to improve SODIS low-cost water disinfection.

Everyday over 4500 children die due to a lack of clean drinking water. Solar Disinfection (SODIS) is an inexpensive and effective method of water disinfection. Exposing clear plastic bottles filled with contaminated water to a sufficient amount of sunlight disinfects the water, making it safe to drink. Ultra-violet (UV) light and heat from sunlight kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. Studies have shown that SODIS requires 6 hours of sunlight, but cloud cover, location and seasonal changes cause the time required to vary. Real-world implementations of SODIS have been limited by the lack of a mechanism to determine and display when water has been disinfected.

SOLution is a solar-powered device that accurately measures sunlight and clearly displays when water is safe to drink. SOLution displays a universally recognized “happy face” or “sad face” to indicate water safety.

SOLution is rugged, reliable and reusable. Constructed of parts typically found in a solar-powered calculator, SOLution is inexpensive (estimated < $5 USD), lasts for years and can be reused thousands of times and requires no maintenance (< $0.003 USD per use).

Templeman Automation is actively seeking partners to collaborate on real-world testing and community distribution of SOLution. For more information go to

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: , , , — SLF @ 9:43 pm
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