December 2019 News

Growing the Region's
Food Economy
BAV supports farmers and food entrepreneurs in the Berkshires including adjacent areas of Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut by providing low-interest loans, technical assistance and grants. 
BAV Earns GuideStar’s Highest Seal of
BAV has earned a 2019 Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. By sharing our impact and performance metrics, we are doing our part to help the sector move beyond financial reports to assess nonprofit progress. 
We are proud to have earned a Platinum Seal to share openly how we gauge our impact and progress. To reach the highest level of transparency, we added extensive information about us in GuideStar: our mission; programs; leadership structure; financial reports; qualitative information about goals, strategies, and vision; and our impact and progress we are making toward our mission.
Featured Matching Grant Project:
Berkshire House of Corrections Aquaponics
Aquaponics has been a bit of a buzzword in the sustainability conversation over the last few years. For those not familiar with the term, aquaponic systems are used for growing produce in an efficient, nearly closed-loop system where fish and plants work together to form a contained ecosystem.  

What may surprise people is that a state-of-the-art facility is being built for aquaponics production right here in the Berkshires and that it is being built by, at and for the Berkshire Education and Correction Services (BECS) in Pittsfield, MA.

Deputy Sheriff Robert “Robin” McGraw has been passionately working toward the design, buildout and implementation of an extensive aquaponics greenhouse at the Berkshire County House of Corrections and Jail in Pittsfield. On the food production side, the goal is to not only produce healthy, organic, local food to feed the inmates, but to produce enough to also provide a consistent and year-round source of greens to local food banks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. In addition, the project will provide job training and work skills development that would otherwise not be available to inmates.
Inspired by similar programs that have successfully launched in other parts of the U.S. (see photo, right*), Deputy Sheriff McGraw began pursuing this project in alignment with the BECS mission to prepare inmates to re-enter the community through job training, experiential learning and work ethic. The growing program will primarily focus on high risk/high need inmates that do not otherwise qualify for community service or work release. It will also be an educational/ training facility open to the community (eventually) who want to learn about this type of sustainable growing. It is the first project of its kind at any correctional facility in the Northeast.  

BAV has provided this project with a grant from our Community Matching Grant program and would encourage anyone that would like to learn more about the project and/or to donate directly to contact Deputy Sheriff McGraw at Berkshire Education and Correction Services is a 501c3 located at 467 Cheshire Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201.

* Photo: Healthy lettuces in floating raft beds. Credit: Marisa Pushee, SPP Conservation Coordinator. Courtesy of Sustainability in Prisons Project, The Evergreen State College, WA.
Agricultural Mediation Services Program
The Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) has provided the Dispute Resolution Center a grant to provide free mediation services to farmers, growers, producers, neighbors, government, businesses and others who may be involved in disputes that are any way connected to agriculture.
These issues can include things such as, boundary issues, USDA loans, issues regarding wetlands, credit issues, issues with vendors or employees, family farm transitions and other disputes that may arise. This mediation service is free and uses highly trained staff and volunteer mediators to facilitate the process. Please note that the Center does not offer legal advice.
Using mediation instead of turning your issue over to the court system can save you time, money and preserve relationships. Mediation is voluntary and confidential. A mediation creates a space for parties to resolve issues by talking face-to-face with a neutral third-party.
If you would like more information regarding this free service please call (413)344-4833 or email .
Project Update: Sweet Brook Farm
2019 BAV Community Matching Emergency Grant Recipient

In February 2019, barely a week before the maple sap started running, Sweet Brook Farm in Williamstown, MA suffered a catastrophic barn fire in that destroyed almost all of their farm equipment and maple syrup operations -- except for the trees. BAV provided an emergency grant from our Community Matching Grant fund to help the farm continue operating and salvage a part of the maple season. 
With the grant, they were able to purchase and install a new vacuum pump to resume sap collection after the fire. Ioka Valley Farm helped Sweet Brook process the sap. The sap collected was about half of a normal season yield, but sales from it have allowed the farm to maintain a revenue stream to sustain their operations through their fire recovery efforts. The pump purchased with BAV's grant will support operations for a few more years until the farm is able to invest in new equipment. 
"I think it was a great achievement for us to have pulled off a season last year thanks in no small part to the support of BAV." - Pete Phelps, Sweet Brook Farm
BAV 2020 Strategic Focus Areas
To help forge a strong and resilient food economy in this region, in 2020 BAV is encouraging farmers and food entrepreneurs to submit project ideas and requests for our capacity-building resources that will align with one or more of these strategies:
Regenerative agriculture Strategies that help keep a farm system healthy and resilient in the face of climate change such as integrated crop/livestock systems, agroforestry and protecting adjacent woodlands, rotational grazing, water management, increasing pollinator habitat, food waste reduction, solar power and carbon sequestration through no-till farming.
Improving land access Partnering with land trusts and others to make farmland affordable for farmers.
Season extension strategies - All-season growing, including cold storage, climate-controlled greenhouses using renewable energy and aquaponics.
Processing and regional infrastructure - On- and off-farm processing equipment and facilities to increase income and enhance economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Strengthening business viability - F or small to medium scale producers while encouraging use of sustainable practices and improving community access to cost-competitive local food.

Special Thanks to our Supporters
Special thanks to our generous donors including the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation, the Lennox Foundation, the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, the Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, the Thompson Family Foundation and the Whitehead Foundation, and the numerous individuals who have contributed to us over the past two years.
Berkshire Agricultural Ventures | |