Liz LaBrocca

Hand Knit Beanie Portrait

My love of food and cooking goes way back. Way back like my first sentence was, “Can we eat at the restaurant?”

I started cooking seriously when I was old enough to use the stove unsupervised. My high school girlfriends looked forward to sleepovers at my house because I made some killer pancakes on Sunday mornings. By my senior year at Vassar College I was devouring America's Test Kitchen videos and annoying my friends with critiques of their college apartment cooking.

A deep interest in the food I ate evolved into an equally passionate interest in where my food comes from. I spent that spring growing herbs and tomatoes in buckets on my small square of cement outside my first apartment. I must have thrown a record number of dinner parties as my love of food and the preparation rituals surrounding it eclipsed my interest in political science and sociology.

After I graduated I lived out on the North Fork of Long Island (think vineyards and spillover from the Hamptons). I worked at Borders and then managed marketing part-time for a hot tub and sauna company, but my day job(s) wasn’t doing it for me. Then one day on my drive home from work, there was a “Help Wanted” sign outside the organic farm and garden center I passed every day. It was a a farm with a hand-painted sign, a barn cat named Cashew, and the support of a wonderful manager. I spent an amazing season working there. I learned how to drive a tractor, I got really strong from hauling plants around, and I found a pull towards another life gently tugging my heart strings. I was made to be in the sun with dirt underneath my fingernails, between my toes, and in the creases of my iPhone.

I took it to the next level: I earned a second bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Food & Farming from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From there I explored the world of growing even more: I was a field hand on a wholesale and market mixed vegetable farm. I took care of dahlias and picked bouquets on a small flower farm. I helped restart a student-led, one-credit course called GardenShare at UMass where I co-taught non-majors about small-scale farming. I interned with a local herbalist and helped her layout garden beds and make tinctures. Now I grow vegetables and herbs every summer in my community garden plot.

Throughout these years, during the winter months and slow, hazy summer evenings, I’ve spent many hours knitting, sewing, and making whatever I could get my hands on. My mom taught me to sew when she began quilting when I was a kid. Quilting wasn’t really my jam, but I was fascinated by making clothes. I spent approximately 75% of the fifth grade wrapped in leopard print fabric pretending to be a Spice Girl.

I started making my own costumes for high school musicals and whenever I wasn’t on stage during my summers participating in Shakespeare in the Valley, I was in the costume tent learning more about mending, sewing, and crafting. When I got to college, I worked as a seamstress in the drama department’s costume shop my first semester of my freshman year. I designed shows for student theater productions, including Vassar’s Shakespeare Troupe and a production of The Skriker for the drama department.

My focus on sewing and craft rekindled my interest in knitting and I began to teach myself more advanced techniques. Soon I was knitting socks and sweaters for myself, my partner, friends, and family. It was rare to find me without needles in my hands.

Now I’ve relocated to Easthampton, Massachusetts. I may not be a farmer by trade anymore, but I spend every summer growing veggies and herbs for myself and my fiancé, Peter. Craft and DIY remain a huge part of our lives: the coffee table and book shelves in our living room are all handmade and Peter moonlights as a print maker when he’s not designing packaging for Lego. When we’re not crafting we’re cooking, traveling, biking, hiking, going to museums and concerts, and hanging out with our miniature Australian shepherd, Zeppelin.

Interested in chatting more or working together? Contact me here!

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