Picnic in style

Local products add Pioneer Valley flair to your picnic basket

By Alice Lee | Photo by Dominic Perri

Photo by Dominic Perri Photography

Photo by Dominic Perri Photography

Sure, paper plates and napkins are cheap and convenient, but if you’d like your summer picnics to have a little more “dinner party” appeal, these handcrafted local products will add some elegance to your gatherings. 

Anchor Goods at Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm

Emmet and Cecilia Van Driesche took over the Pieropan Christmas Tree farm in 2009. It originally belonged to Al and Mimi Pieropan, who began planting trees in 1955. These same trees continue to grow today, thanks to a growing method known as “stump culture.” Instead of cutting down the trees completely, much of the base is left to allow sprouts to grow into new trees. When the Van Driesches are not working on the farm, they produce goods from their home in Conway.

Anchor Goods are traditionally handcrafted objects made for everyday use, including a variety of clothbound notebooks, leather goods, jewelry, and other smaller items. Emmet also carves spoons and kitchen utensils from their farm’s birch trees. They are delicate, but strong. Emmet values the functionality of the objects he creates and believes that the best way to appreciate a handcrafted item is to use it. Be sure to check their website for the latest update on Anchor Goods.


Behrens Boards

Brothers Kory and Nick Behrens began making cutting boards in their father’s workshop for friends and family. After selling a few during the holiday season, they decided to pursue board making as a full-time business in 2015. Their boards combine different types of locally sourced wood to create stark contrasts in color. They’re finished with the Behrens’s own wood cream, made with beeswax from Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield. 

The Behrenses work with local artisans like potter Isaac Jude to make specialty bread boards that fit Jude’s bowls. The brothers also have teamed up with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit that plants trees and educates farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to revitalize soil that has been degraded by logging and improper land use. For every board that is sold, 50 trees are planted in countries like Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Behrens Boards can be found on their e-shop and at upcoming farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Check their site for the latest schedule.


Whimsy and Tea

Marilyn Webster believes in weaving beauty into everyday objects. Whimsy and Tea is a collection of kitchen towels, napkins, and other cloths handwoven in her Conway home. Each piece is thoughtfully made and named, and is inspired by art, nature, and daily observations. 

Her towels may look like they are meant to be hung or worn, but she insists that they be utilized, not just admired. Marilyn weaves these textiles to offer a sense of fulfillment that comes with using handcrafted home goods. She believes that just as better-quality foods provide better nutrients, handcrafted objects provide a similar kind of nourishment to your life. This philosophy of crafting and Marilyn’s use of vivid colors make Whimsy and Tea linens stand out from any conventionally made piece of cloth. Her towels can be purchased through her website.


Tiffany Hilton Pottery

Tiffany and her beautiful pottery were profiled in the Summer 2015 issue of Edible Pioneer Valley

“A well-made pot should feel like a balanced object,” Hilton says. It should be beautiful and useable both. And so, she puts tiny handles on her berry bowls for a better grip with hands wet after rinsing the fruit, she outfits her casseroles with big, sturdy handles to be felt through oven mitts, and she shapes the lids of honey jars and sugar bowls to withstand the daily use of tired hands clumsily sweetening coffee or little fingers sneaking sugar onto cereal.

Read more about her and her work: EdiblePioneerValley.com/pioneervalley/articles/to-the-brim.