Dairy in the Berkshires

By Martha Jackson Suquet
A cold glass of milk. Yogurt for your morning granola. A cheese platter shared with friends. Oh, and ice cream... This month, we’re celebrating everything dairy. And if those examples had you thinking of cow’s milk, don’t forget the many products that can be made with goat and sheep milk, too (mmm, chevre...). As part of National Dairy Month, we’re exploring the spectrum of dairy products and dairy farms in the Berkshire region.
Berkshire dairy producers range from small operations hand-milking their cows, to larger farms supplying milk to national distributors, to goat farmers crafting artisanal cheeses. These farmers have their work cut out for them. They care for their animals and their farmland. They handle the daily milking chores and attend markets. Many of them develop enticing new value-added products, like aged cheeses and yogurt.

Despite farmers’ hard work and passion, the dairy industry is struggling. It was once the backbone of agriculture in New England, but falling milk prices, changing consumer preferences, and real estate development pressure have changed the outlook for dairy farmers. There are plenty of success stories, especially from farmers who diversified to stay afloat, but there are also many stories of farms lost and massive mental health tolls for dairy farmers. “Between 2012 and 2017, we lost 21 percent of dairy farms in Massachusetts”, writes Claire Morenon of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) in South Deerfield. “The practical impact is alarming, and still it doesn’t capture the depth of these losses... it’s a deeply personal tragedy to the farmers and their neighbors.”
At Berle Farm, farmer Beatrice Berle has been dairy farming since 1993. “When I handle the organic milk produced on the farm, I am in awe of how much is created by the magic of sun, soil, grass and water,” she says. Berle feels lucky to be a dairy farmer, and is proud of her products that are customer favorites like yogurt and aged, raw milk cheese including BerleBerg and HayMakers. (Images courtesy Berle Farm, Hoosick, NY.)
While people appreciate the bucolic charm of a dairy farming landscape, that doesn’t translate into sustainability for the industry. As Sarah Gardner, Chair of the Williamstown Agricultural Commission, explains in the short film ‘Farms For the Future’, “[farmers] can’t necessarily afford to hold on to farmland because it’s beautiful for us.” As consumers, we can help support the local farming industry by seeking out local dairy products and, when budgets allow, paying a premium for them. And if you’re thinking that you can only get those products at farmers markets and farm stores, think again. Many local dairy farms supply national dairy cooperatives like Cabot, Hood, and Organic Valley. You might not know it, but some of the milk at the grocery store or in your children’s school cafeteria might be coming from local farms. You can find out more about your milk by entering the product code at Where Is My Milk From?
High Lawn Farm is a third-generation family-owned farm, getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023. The farmers at High Lawn have carefully managed their Jersey herd’s genetics, graze their cows seasonally, and produce a range of products, from plain milk to artisan cheeses to inventive ice cream flavors. Farmer Caitlyn Moriarty says that having a passionate team of farmers and a skilled culinary team contributes to their success – along with their “happy, healthy cows.” During the pandemic, High Lawn has helped support the community by donating and selling milk at low cost to local food pantries and schools. (Image courtesy High Lawn Farm, Lee.)
Dandelion Hill Farm goats.
Many dairy farmers work with goats instead of cows, with an appreciation for goats’ smaller land requirements and the unique qualities of goat milk. At Dandelion Hill Farm, Melissa and Peter Martin found that their daughter, who was allergic to cow’s milk and other alternatives, thrived on goat milk. They started raising their own purebred Nubian goats and have been growing their herd ever since. “We love offering our goat milk to families because their children love the taste,” says Martin. The Martins also make a delicious chevre with their goats’ milk.
(Image courtesy Dandelion Hill Farm, Sheffield.)
Laurie Cuevas of Thomas Farm and Dairy also raises Nubian goats, and says that their “milk is truly ideal for making cheese”, with a “fresh, clean flavor." The farm’s chevre, made in a variety of flavors, is their star product. “We have to be very diverse in order to be successful with such a small amount of acreage," says Cuevas. This means that she and her husband wear many hats as they produce, package, and market their cheeses. The realities of dairy farming can be tough, but Laurie says they “love the animals and the land” and are proud of their products. (Image courtesy Thomas Farm and Dairy, Sunderland.)
So, whether you shop the farmers market for your favorite cheese, grab ice cream at the grocery store, or stop by a local farm stand for jug of milk, know that you’re supporting the Berkshires' local farm economy. When our dairy farms thrive, landscapes and livelihoods are preserved.
(Image Courtesy of High Lawn Farm, Lee.)
What We are Reading

Not by the Book
A Beloved Bookstore Owner Shares Her Passion for Cooking
Story and Photographs by Ellen Spear for Berkshire Magazine
June 2021

FARM OWNER, antiquarian book dealer, attorney, bookstore proprietor, and devoted home cook Pam Pescosolido appreciates her ingredients. Cradling a Melogold grapefruit grown at her California family farm, she says, reverently, “Somebody spent a lot of time to put this thing into your life.” Because of her involvement in the family fruit business, she is particularly attuned to how hard it is to get quality food from farm to table. Her approach to inspired home cooking celebrates the process of growing, tending, harvesting, catching, butchering, processing, and transporting ingredients in a way that keeps the food’s integrity.
She begins her cooking adventures with a recipe that intrigues her, an inventory of what she has on hand, and the question, “What can I make with….?” If it turns out well, chances are you will see a glamour shot on her Instagram feed.

Pescosolido, the proprietor of the Bookloft in Great Barrington, moved with her family from Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the Los Angeles area in 1972, where her father was a grower for the Sequoia Orange Company, then a commercial packing house for Sunkist. Three years later, they relocated to Exeter, California, when he became a partner in the business, which became an independent, major citrus growing company, expanding under her family’s ownership to 5,000 acres of fruit orchards. Pescosolido spent the winter months during high school in California and summers at her grandparents’ Blueberry Hill Farm in the Berkshire village of Mount Washington. Read the entire article here.
34 Noteworthy Food and Farming Books for the Summer of 2021
Your ready-made summer reading list is here, courtesy of reviews by our editors and reporters.
June 8, 2021

As summer kicks off, we found inspiration in new books that explore the landscape of food and farming. With the hope for some relaxing time in the weeks to come, our editors and reporters share brief reviews of some of the best books we’ve read this year, our recent book coverage, and a number of notable books that will hit bookstores and library shelves this summer.

Shop Local – buy your books at an independent bookstore!!
Read the full article complete with reviews and Civil Eats editors' comments here.
Support Berkshire Grown – ROUND UP
your total at Guido’s during the month of June – those $$ and cents support our Share the Bounty program! 
ROUND-Up at Guido's!! When you shop at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in both their Great Barrington and Pittsfield locations during June, please round up your change for food security -- Share the Bounty, a Berkshire Grown program, will benefit from these proceeds. Thank you Guido's!

What is Share the Bounty? Berkshire Grown purchases CSA shares from farmers in the winter months, tiding them over with funds to help purchase seeds and supplies prior to market season. During the harvest season these farmers provide fresh, locally-grown food to local food pantries and community kitchens. You can learn more about Share the Bounty here.
Take a drive to hear some farm stories – at the Drive-in!!
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s storytelling event Field Notes returns June 22nd at the Northfield Drive In! Join CISA for an evening of stories about local food and farming in western MA.
This year’s show features six amazing storytellers from around the region sharing their adventures (and misadventures) in farming, cooking, navigating new cultures and relationships, building community, and more. Captured on tape at the Academy of Music in Northampton, we’re excited to share them with you in this safe and wonderful setting – Did you catch that it is at the Drive-in? What could be more fun?

More info and tickets at bit.ly/FieldNotes2021
Find Food and Farms Near You - all across Massachusetts
The Eat Local MA Mobile App Launches on June 30th

This month, Berkshire Grown and the Massachusetts Coalition of Local Food and Farms are launching the Eat Local MA mobile app to help eaters find local food and farms. Starting on June 30th, download the app on your iOS or Android device, and use the map directory or mobile searchable directory to find farms, markets, fisheries, specialty food producers, craft beverages and more -- all locally made!

"The Eat Local MA mobile app is an excellent example of a new initiative from the Buy Local grant funding that helps consumers find local food and farms, supporting the local food system throughout the Commonwealth," said John Lebeaux, MDAR Commissioner.
The 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms is here, pick one up and keep it handy!
The 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms is the Berkshire region's most comprehensive reference for finding local food, farms and restaurants that source from local farms and food producers.

This valuable resource connects you to farmers markets, CSA's, farms stands and farm stores, specialty producers, Berkshire County food pantry sites, local food & lodgings, and other business members who support Berkshire Grown and its mission to keep farmers farming.

Complete with contact information and a handy map, the 2021 Guide is now on the news stands throughout Berkshire County and the surrounding region. In addition you can find the 2021 Guide digital version and the Find Food and Farms searchable map on the Berkshire Grown website.
Berkshire Grown connects you with local farmers, restaurants, and food producers. DONATE TODAY to celebrate local farms and food, sustain our Berkshire food economy, and Keep Farmers Farming! Support your favorite local eating establishment.
  To pay via check or phone, make payable to Berkshire Grown, mail to:
PO Box 983, Great Barrington, MA 01230 or call (413) 528-0041.
Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
Stay in Touch
Berkshire Grown's e-newsletter comes out monthly. 
Please send information to buylocal@berkshiregrown.org
Follow us at Instagram@berkgrown

Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Jordan Archey, Program Manager, Business Members
Kate Burke, Program Coordinator, Farm to Food Access
graSharon Hulett-Shepherd, Community Membership and Office Manager
Join Berkshire Grown here.