Somerville Local First

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Eating at Home in Somerville

Feb 16 10:48 am

Bagels at True Grounds

Winter blues getting to you leaving you too down to cook, but short on cash? Check out Community blogger Abbe Cohen Dvornik’s ways to “eat out” without actually “eating out” Somerville style. It just might be what the doctor ordered:

With snow, slush and cold — and a new baby — complicating family trips to a local restaurant, we’re eating at home a lot. Most of the time, this works great for me, since I discovered some time ago that cooking is one of the things that keeps me sane. But even a person who loves to cook can use a break, and that break isn’t always for dinnertime pizza delivery.  We bring all sorts of things home from Somerville restaurants to add to the variety in our meals.

Recently I found some smoked whitefish in the fish section at Market Basket and it ignited a small craving for a bagel with whitefish salad, so I brought it home.  It was easy enough to figure out how to turn it into whitefish salad (mash the fish up with a mix of mayonnaise and sour cream – or Greek yogurt in a pinch) but I wasn’t about to start making bagels from scratch, and I don’t love supermarket bagels.

Fortunately, we live right around the corner from True Grounds, who in addition to their great coffee, offers all kinds of delicious toppings on tasty bagel (theirs come from Bagel Land in Winchester.)  But if you want to stay home, like I did,  maybe you can send out an obliging family member to bring some fresh bagels straight to your dining room table to be topped with the delicious things in your own fridge. Also, if you happen to get lucky, their day old bagels are one of the best bagel bargains in Somerville at $2 for a half a dozen.

Our favorite winter items at Wang’s come delivered right to our door – check out the “soup noodle” section on the back of the menu.  We usual order Peking Meat Sauce Noodles or Da Lu Noodles, but they’re all interesting.   You get a quart of soup with tasty seasonings and plenty of thick rice noodles. One order is easily a meal for two, leaving room for your favorite appetizer.

For sandwiches, there are times we like to get takeout from any of Somerville’s sub shops, and times that we make PB&J or bologna sandwiches at home. But when I get bored of making the same old sandwiches at home,  Sessa’s in Davis Square will slice me up some nice Italian cold cuts – different kinds of salami, capicola, proscuitto, and more. Pair it with some good bread (also available at Sessa’s), a jar of pickles, cheese, and onions and you can have a classic Italian sub at home in less than the time it takes you to call for delivery.

The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Somerville Local First, its board or staff

Filed under: Local First — Tags: , , — SLF @ 10:48 am

Calling all Somerville Business Owners: What are we here for, anyway?

Feb 15 11:47 am

by Henry Patterson, SLF Board Member

As a member of the SLF Board of Directors, I have recently taken on the Business Owners Membership Chair. My instinct to grow membership is to create an exciting new SLF program that would entice non-members to join. I have been asking myself, and others around me: “What the hell are we here for, anyway?”

Neighborhood Networking Chapters in SLFs Future?

Neighborhood Networking Chapters in SLFs Future?

SLF is about staying local. Perhaps, when thinking about what a new program would look like we should get even MORE local? There are nineteen identified neighborhoods in Somerville. 19! I believe the businesses in those neighborhoods could reap some serious benefits from networking with their immediate business neighbors.

We could foster “chapters” of SLF which are neighborhood based. Since I am rooted in the restaurant business (for the last 35 years anyway) my idea is to recruit the restaurants to become the chapter clubhouses. I envision the restaurants in a neighborhood each hosting 1-2 monthly meetings per year.

The business owners would convene at 11:00am on, say, the first Wednesday of the month, with a simple agenda of each attendee taking one minute to inform the group about his or her business mission and goals – in other words, practice the proverbial “elevator speech” – and then have a simple soup and sandwich lunch.

These meetings would be open only to SLF members in that neighborhood, so interested qualifying non-members would have to join SLF to participate. (That’s my simple membership growth strategy.)

I expect it wouldn’t be long before the chapter members cook up plans for a neighborhood logo, neighborhood events, cross promotions or other ways to help each other realize their goals.

And since I am rooted in Union Square (the same 35 years) my obvious next step is to try to prove this concept in Union Square. Anyone who like to would like to help create the Union Square SLF Chapter, please email me.

Henry Patterson is an SLF Board Member and, as a Union Square landlord, only works with local independent businesses. He has founded and operated and consulted with successful restaurants for over 30 years. Currently he is focused on the financial management and growth of several restaurants, including, in Somerville, Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar. He lives in Concord with his wife Claudine.

Filed under: Local First — SLF @ 11:47 am

An Organic Debate: The Weight of Our Food Choices

Feb 09 10:23 am

(Editors Note: Recently the USDA approved a plan to allow Monsanto to introduce Genetically Modified crops engineered to work better with their Round Up Product.  The Natural Foods and Organic communities have been buzzing ever since.  Cambridge Local First Executive Committee Member and Co-Founder of Cambridge Naturals, Michael Kanter, wrote in an email to me and some others:

“Our health and welfare and that of our future generations depends on conscientious people who care deeply for what it means to be “natural.”  And how “natural” is genetic modification of seeds with toxic chemicals? To that regard we support the work of the Organic Consumers Association and their challenge to businesses that seek to control the future of our agricultural production and ultimately our health and well being.”

Our post today is from a SLF member, mother and locavore Renee Thomas Scott, who is trying to organize community support for a change of plans.  If you run a business or would like to get involved, her contact info is below ~jG)

By Renee Thomas Scott

Originally posted on Cooking the Seasons, a Somerville food blog. Renée is looking for local stores that are willing to have a petition up. If you are interested, please email her at [email protected]

We began this blog two and a half years ago with the idea that we wanted to make our small impact on the world, or rather, NOT make an impact on the world, by supporting local agriculture, growing some our own food, and making a concerted effort to be more aware of what we ate, where it came from, how it was produced, how it lived.

Now we are faced with a crisis that is forcing us to fully acknowledge all aspects of our food: Monsanto is successfully attempting to introduce a Round-up resistant alfalfa seed; has already introduced “suicide seeds” whose plants are unable to produce viable seeds of their own, preventing seed collection, which has allowed the human species to survive for thousands of years; farmers are being strong-armed into buying from Monsanto; those that attempt to go it alone will have their fields compromised by genetically engineered seeds, eliminating organic and heirloom and all other non-Monsanto crops from remaining pure; and to top it all off, we have no labeling legislation to inform the public when they are buying food that does contain genetically modified ingredients.


Just in the past week, Whole Foods, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms pulled their dogs from the fight to prevent genetically engineered crops, saying, in effect, that it was hopeless, yet, ironically, remaining hopeful that if the USDA has some regulation, it’s better than nothing, so we should celebrate! You can read here what they actually said, but I think I’m summarizing it fairly accurately, though admittedly snidely.

The New York Times had an article, which you can read here, saying that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack caved into pressure from Monsanto.

There is a very interesting organization I have just learned about this week, called The Organic Consumers Association, and they are a wealth of information about this topic. Whole Foods feels wronged by them, and they have an interesting comeback on their blog.

This article explains the whole story in better detail than I do.

I could go on, siting interesting reading, but the point is, we need to do something. This is one of those times that if we choose to ignore the problem, it will not go away, now, nor ever.

My overall impression is that first and foremost, we need to do all we can to get labeling legislation passed and try to prevent Monsanto from being given carte blanche to grow GE seeds wherever they like. At first I felt very angry at Whole Foods, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms from caving, but I’m backing off my original intent to boycott them. They are not sticking their noses out farther than they need to, but they are also not the problem. Lack of regulation is the problem.

So, I have volunteered to be a distributor and collector of the Organic Consumer’s Association petition to get labeling laws for our congressional district (8th district, Massachusetts). I ask you to please sign this petition if you see it. If you, too, want to help distribute it, please do. Ask your friends in other parts of the country to do so, as well. Here is a link for more information. I also am asking any local stores, especially food oriented, though any store would be great, to allow me to put petitions up on your premises. This affects us all.

This is probably near-impossible to succeed, but if we don’t try, it definitely won’t, so please take a few minutes to read some of these articles and do anything you can to help.

(This is reposted from Cooking the Seasons, a Somerville food blog. Renée is looking for local stores that are willing to have a petition up. If you are interested, please email her at [email protected].  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Somerville Local First, its board or staff)

Filed under: Local First — SLF @ 10:23 am

BUY THIS BOOK ~ Save Money. Support your Community.

Feb 04 11:00 am

We are really excited to announce the distribution of our 2nd annual coupon book!  This year’s project was done in collaboration with our sister  network Cambridge Local First, and we think you’re going to love it.  For just $10, you can save at some SERIOUS money at some of of your favorite local businesses.

The 2011 Coupon Book Where The Locals Go

The best part about this project:  Everybody wins!

  • You win by saving money pretty much right off the bat.  Almost every offer is worth at least $5 and % discounts START at 15%.
  • Local Businesses win by meeting you.  By exploring new local businesses with our coupon book, local businesses get the opportunity to make you a  loyal customer.
  • SLF & CLF win by raising much needed capital with your purchase, to support our work in the community.  To see what SLF did in 2010, check out our Annual Report

To purchase your book, head  over to some of these local faves:

And finally…

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Wendy Friedman, our Publication Designer and de facto Creative Director for her amazing contributions to our work….and stay tuned for our fav Wendy design yet in this year’s Local’s Guide to Somerville!

Filed under: Local First — SLF @ 11:00 am

A Somerville Psychotherapist’s Guide to Keeping Sane While Managing a Local Business

Feb 02 11:33 am

Running your own local business is no easy task. Between the long hours and the hard work it’s quite easy to lose sight of yourself while focusing on your business goals.  That’s why we invited local psychotherapist and SLF member Ruth Faris to share her advice to business owners on how to prevent yourself from losing steam. Read Ruth’s story and find out ways you can recharge your own batteries once in awhile:

Ruth Faris

My dining room table is littered with receipts as I organize for meeting with my tax guy….and oh yeah is it part of my gas bill or my electric bill that I get to deduct?

More snow is coming, again, and its me that has to get out there to shovel, and no one is going to call to tell me ‘stay home, don’t worry about trying to get in,’ and if I want to take time off later this week for yet another chiropractor visit for this aching back, I have no bank of sick time to use.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing at all, really; I’m self-employed, and very happily so for most of the time. But yes, there are special pressures that all of us on this brave adventure feel. My business is probably pretty different from most of yours; I am a clinical social worker and I have a private psychotherapy practice. I have a cozy office that I had  built into my home  in 1985 (after doing therapy out of a spare-bedroom-turned-office for a year or two). Its a pretty simple operation: just me, and my clients who come for sessions.  I do my best to help them feel better, live better, achieve some of their goals. I truly love this work and feel myself  privileged to do it, right here on my tiny Somerville street.

Of course, its also ‘just me’ who cleans the bathroom, spreads the snow melt, spends an awful lot of time on the phone with insurance companies. I have important outside support from a group of  other therapists that has met bi-weekly for over 25 years, to consult and guide each other through difficult and confusing issues.

Another huge support is my billing service, people who I have never met but am in constant communication with; how else to navigate the complicated requirements of each insurance company? And yes, you might hear me complaining about how I have to run downstairs to pull up the rugs just in case the rain floods in yet again, or how one of the insurance companies reduced payments by 15%.  But, there is no doubt that I love being self-employed and happily go through these difficulties as part of the package….’part of the price of doing business’ as they say.

I know that every small business has its own version of  hassles and joys, but one  thing we surely have in common is the need to keep ourselves steady and healthy and balanced through it all. We are the ones responsible for our own well-being and this is one task that cannot be delegated.

Your responsibilities are many and never-ending: inventory and staff management and payroll and insurance and so on… forget any one of these at your peril. But, how often do you think about taking care of yourself as one of the items on your daily ‘to do’ list? Do you have ‘scheduled maintenance’ for yourself just as you do to keep your vehicles, computers, and other equipment in good working order?

There are some basics of self-care  and stress-reduction that we have all heard a million times: sleeping and eating well, getting exercise, having some amount of fun and ‘down-time’ ….  there are books and blogs and CD’s and entire industries set up to tell us how to do that.

Taking self-care seriously is as at least as  important to your bottom-line and success as any other upgrade or improvement you are planning for your business this year.   What this self-care will look like for you, I’m not sure; for me, its daily yoga; long walks; thrift store shopping; appreciating the humor in life; and so forth.

It would be great to hear from any of you who care to tell us how you deal with stress day to day, and how you take care of your SLF-business and yourSELF in the process!

Filed under: Local First — Tags: , , , — SLF @ 11:33 am

‘Villen in the works

Feb 01 10:47 am

by Katie Riedman

About 4 months ago when I began my search for a spring internship, I found myself scrolling through pages of gofer jobs at law firms and libraries with descriptions reading “daily responsibilities include running the dish washer, sending faxes , and making coffee.” And while I am quite good at doing the dishes and I love a good cup of coffee, I felt my intern experience needed a little more substance. After a few weeks of discouragement, I stumbled upon a marketing internship at Somerville Local First. The SLF job description sounded motivating and fun and after doing my research, the company description sounded moving and exciting and I wanted to be a part of it.

Before moving to the greater Boston area, I grew up in a Seattle suburb where going green wasn’t a trend, but a lifestyle and most of my friends had worm bins in their backyard. Needless to say, moving to Boston was a huge transition. I love living in a new city and getting to explore a new part of the country. However, I still missed the comforts of home and felt that something was missing.

Now 4 months later, I’m going into my 3rd week at SLF and I already feel like a part of the Somerville family. The city itself has a Seattle-esque atmosphere and offers the vibrancy and variety that I miss in Boston.  And the opportunities I’ve been given within my internship have broaden my perspective and allowed me to participate in the community. Currently, I’m working on a Public Service Announcement video that will capture Somerville’s local businesses and connect them to the community. Next on my agenda is the annual Coupon Book that offers a lot of great promotions that will be sure to entice a Somervillin’ into checking out new place or going back to an old favorite. And even though it’s not until June, I’m already excited to start planning for our Somerfun festival.

I still have 6 months of my SLF internship to go and I’m looking forward to learning more about the community, the organization, and taking on all the future projects to come.

Filed under: Coupon Book, Local First, Our Members — SLF @ 10:47 am

A Sermon From The Saddle

Jan 26 12:49 pm

by Wenzday Jane, CEO - Metro Pedal Power

Sometimes, especially in the coldest months of January and February, I ask myself WHY.

Sometimes I wonder if I am a moron or just completely insane. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain confidence that what we are trying to do is worthwhile or that this business can be profitable or compete in the current market. I honestly don’t know. Just as I don’t understand the universe or humans place in it, so I do not know, except by a leap of faith, that I am ever doing the right thing.
This morning, I hopped on the trike and did our Recycling pickups around Cambridge. As I pedaled out of the Casella recycling facility, above the soft, slow, steady sound of my crank and chain turning, all I could hear was the sound of oil burning. Motors burning oil. Motors burning oil. Motors burning oil. If I listened more deeply, I could also make out the underlying “black-noise” of rubber on bituminous ground. As pedaled along Cambridge St, under the I-93 overpass, I thought of how much easier our lives are now in the oil age. Where we just flip a switch and push a gas pedal and can “effortlessly” move thousands of pounds in an instant. Wow, that’s nice. So easy and convenient. Anyone can do it. It levels the playing field, in a way. You do not need strength or guts or determination or even good health.
Anyone can drive a truck.

My next thoughts were of the wars that have been fought for this privilege. The wars that have been fought for oil. And I suppose this is where I would start sounding like a hippie. But it made me realise anew why i do what I do. Why I do not take the easy way out and just get a car or a truck to do my work. Because I would rather push myself to my limit every day and struggle against the odds than support the oil industry and the industrial-military complex that backs it. I just do not want to be a part of that cycle of war and the corporations that are killing people for access to their oil.

Even if I am wasting my time, even if nothing matters, even if we fail, at least I will die knowing that I did my best to live in accordance with some morality that values community over commodification and one that puts people above profits.

That’s my sermon from the saddle this morning. I leave you with this picture of Chris on our new blue recycling truck. He is a star.

Chris (Metro Pedal Power)

(Ed. Note - The views expressed in this piece are held by its author, and are not necessarily the views of Somerville Local First or its staff)
Filed under: Local First — SLF @ 12:49 pm

Taza Chocolate Rolls Out Carbon Neutral Shipping

Jan 25 9:10 am

The following post comes from Somerville’s resident stone ground, organic chocolate makers Taza Chocolate:

Taza Chocolate

We like to think of ourselves as an environmentally friendly company and wish that every package of chocolate we send out into the world could be loaded onto a cargo bicycle and delivered by Metro Pedal Power. But of course our bike delivery program can only reach relatively local Taza customers, so the bulk of our packages must be shipped. It’s not perfect, but shipping allows chocolate lovers nationwide and even worldwide to enjoy our unique stone ground chocolate, and just as importantly, creates a larger market and more sustainable livelihood for the farmers who work so hard to grow the premium quality organic cacao we use to make Taza Chocolate.

Given that shipping is a fact of life, we intend to do it as sustainably as possible. To that end, Taza has kicked off 2011 by committing to carbon neutral shipping. As of today, 100% of the UPS shipments leaving our factory will be Certified Carbon Neutral.

Simply put, UPS Carbon Neutral is a program that aims to counter balance the carbon dioxide emissions generated by package transport via carbon offsetting. Shippers like Taza pay an incremental amount to equivalently offset the climate impact of the delivery of each package, by investment of that surcharge in a verified emissions reduction project elsewhere in the world. We encourage you to learn more about the UPS CarbonNeutral program, its third-party certifier, and the carbon reduction projects it supports.

We hope you’ll also read more about Taza’s sustainability efforts and Direct Trade program.

Filed under: Local First — Tags: , , — SLF @ 9:10 am

The Somerville Local First Annual Report ~ See what we did this year

Jan 24 10:54 am

When Somerville Local First put out the call for volunteers to work on their first ever annual report, I responded for a simple reason — I liked what I knew of the organization and wanted to help them out while also learning a bit about how they work. I attended several SLF events over the past year and I had seen their influence grow in local businesses and the community as a whole. SLF’s work has made me love the community here in Somerville even more than I did before, and has made me feel like a part of something important and growing.

Our sincere thanks to Shannon for helping us document our work this year!

Working on this report over the last month or so, I came to realize how many amazing strides SLF and its members and partners have made towards a more sustainable economy focused around local independent businesses. Local businesses are thriving and supporting one another in their successes. People are shifting their buying habits to small neighborhood businesses, and are feeling more connected to their communities as a result. Check out the annual report and see for yourself how SLF’s campaigns have helped shift buying behavior, how their events have rallied the local community, and how their publications have given people the resources they need to be informed local consumers!

To view the report in your browser, click here.  Feel free to right click and save as to read on your device.

(Ed. Note - We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again:  we are incredibly blessed to have so much support in the community.  Doing this project with no budget and not much time invested on our side, an engaged community member helped create something that tells our story for our members (existing and prospective), our community partners and potential supporters/funders of SLF.  Thank you Somerville, we <3 you too!!!)

Filed under: Local First — SLF @ 10:54 am
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