Buy Local For Your Seasonal Décor
by Martha Jackson Suquet
Image courtesy Windy Hill Farm, Great Barrington
The December holiday season is, for many of us, a time of celebration and tradition and seasonal decorations make the onset of winter’s cold weather and shorter days feel a bit less daunting. Whether your celebration is religious or secular, there are many reasons to warm your home with seasonal décor, gather with friends and family, give gifts, and enjoy locally grown holiday food.
Bringing home a freshly-cut tree to deck out with ornaments is a time-honored tradition for many families. Farm-fresh Christmas trees benefit the environment and the local farm economy: they can be grown on land that isn’t suitable for other crops, and while growing they protect soil and provide wildlife habitat. When the holidays are over, trees can be composted or fed to livestock (check your area for goat farms or composting sites that accept trees). Plenty of Berkshire farms offer pre-cut trees and the always-popular cut your own option, although you’ll need to hurry, trees are selling fast!

Looking for wreaths and other colorful décor? Local farm stores have you covered. Holiday feasts? Winter farmers markets will have everything you need to delight your guests with locally grown food, from main dishes to vegetable sides, desserts, and even the drinks. And for gifts, what could be better than a jar of local honey, a sampler of jam, or a gift certificate to a local farm store?
Seekonk Tree Farm in Great Barrington, where the Sweet family has been farming for 42 years, offers one-stop shopping for holiday decorations. Customers can pre-tag trees early in the season or order early to get extra-tall trees. For the rest of the season, two lots are full of cut-your-own trees through early December, and now their pre-cut trees are available. Greenery, accessories, and local farm products can be found in their cozy Christmas Shop.
Carol and Peter Sweet, Sr. of Seekonk Tree Farm, Great Barrington.
Natural décor like evergreen garlands, kissing balls, and wreaths can round out the holiday spirit in your home. Many tree farms offer these accessories in their farm store (see details below). For a unique touch, try a local winterberry wreath from Windy Hill Farm. The bright red, yellow, and orange berries add a pop of color on their own or combined with greenery.

At Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, visitors can trek to the fields to cut their own trees or grab a pre-cut tree. A warm fire welcomes shoppers into the farm store, where the farm’s maple syrup and other products are available. Several Berkshire Grown member farms offer pre-cut trees, including Holiday Brook Farm, and Forthill Farm.
Image courtesy Fort Hill Farm, Pittsfield
Here are some local farms and shops for holiday décor. We recommend calling to check on availability and store hours at this point in the season. (You our Guide to Local Food & Farms to find their contact information.)

Canaan Conifers, Canaan, NY
Crane Hill Tree Farm, Washington
Frederick Christmas Tree Farm, Hinsdale
Forthill Farm, Pittsfield
Ioka Valley Farm, Hancock, NY
Jaeschke's Fruit and Flowers, Pittsfield
Seekonk Tree Farm & Nursery, Great Barrington
Tafts Farm, Great Barrington
Windy Hill Farm, Great Barrington
Woodlife Farm Market, New Lebanon, NY
Shop for farm-inspired crafts and local food products at the Berkshire Grown Winter Markets this weekend in North Adams and Great Barrington!
Market Vendors
Great Barrington, December 17

Market Vendors
North Adams, December 18
Berkshire Farmers Tell Their Stories
Sharon Wyrrick, Many Forks Farm
Topher Sabot, Cricket Creek Farm
Bruce Howden, Howden Farm
Melissa and Peter Martin, Dandelion Hill Farm
Jim Schultz, Red Shirt Farm

Keep Farmers Farming!
What We Are Reading:
Cutting Down the Impact of That Christmas Tree
Which is better for the planet, a real Christmas tree or an artificial (but reusable) one? Here are the key factors to weigh.
By Cheyenne MacDonald for Scenichudson.org
   
For those who celebrate one of the year-end holiday biggies, the time of year has come back around to ponder an age-old (okay, few-decades-old) question: real Christmas tree, or fake? 
Locally grown evergreens store carbon dioxide and provide wildlife habitat while they grow. (Photo: Courtesy Fabulous Firs)

Sales of real and artificial Christmas trees in the U.S. each number in the tens of millions every year, and the American Christmas Tree Association expects that demand to keep going strong. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, and one may be more suitable than the other for your particular lifestyle — but if environmental impact is your main concern, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Research suggests you can do no better than locally grown. It takes years for Christmas trees to reach ideal sellable heights — as many as 8-10 years for a 7 1/2-foot tree, for example. And so farms function as mini-forests, with acres upon acres of trees. For every tree that’s cut and sold, another seedling (or several) will be planted to replace it. New York State, which ranks sixth for dedicated Christmas tree land, is home to about 750 such farms. 

Read the full article here.
For Young Farmers, Land Access Will Make or Break the 2023 Farm Bill
As the upcoming farm bill takes shape, advocacy groups are pushing for what they want. For young farmers, it comes down to acreage.
by Emily Baron Cadloff for Modern Farmer
For many young farmers, getting access to land is the biggest hurdle to farming. Photo: Shutterstock.

The average age of American farmers is roughly 58 years old, and it has been increasing every year. According to the 2017 USDA census, only eight percent of the farmers surveyed were under the age of 35, and the majority of producers—73 percent—identified as having more than 10 years of on-farm experience. 
 
But to keep the industry growing—and adapting to both climate and food supply changes—more young people will have to take up the profession. According to the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), there’s one key way to encourage them do that: land access. 
 
“We’re asking Congress to make historic investments in equitable access to land for farmers and ranchers across the country,” says Holly Rippon-Butler, the lands campaign director for the NYFC. Having available land to grow farms is about more than just building a business, she says. It’s also about confronting deep-set inequalities in access. “We know that 98 percent of agricultural (acres) in the US are owned by white landowners. And that’s a direct result of federal policy. We believe it’s imperative and critically important that the 2023 Farm Bill takes action to address this injustice and makes investments that will really help our next generation succeed.” 

Read the article here.
This 2022 Guide to Local Food & Farms is the region’s most comprehensive guide to local farms, farmers markets, and restaurants offering local foods - use it to find farm stands, CSA farms, pick-your-own farms and orchards, as well as locally sourced value-added products like charcuterie, preserves, and fermented foods and locations and hours of food pantries spread across the county.

You can also find the best in locally grown food and products near you on Berkshire Grown's searchable map!



Keep your Guide to Local Food & Farms handy and use it frequently!
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PO Box 983, Great Barrington, MA 01230 or call (413) 528-0041
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Berkshire Grown's e-newsletter comes out monthly. 
Please send information to  buylocal@berkshiregrown.org.
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Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Jordan Archey, Program Manager, Business Members
Maeve Dillon, Food Access Program Manager
Martha Jackson Suquet, Winter Farmers Market Manager
Sharon Hulett-Shepherd, Membership and Office Manager
Join Berkshire Grown here.