Integrated Pest Management - what is it?
by Martha Jackson Suquet
Image courtesy Berkshire Food Co-op, Great Barrington
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by food labels at the farmers market or local farm store? The wealth of information we have about our food is clearly important, but it can be hard to know what to make of every single label.

While terms like “organic” and “non-GMO” have become familiar, Berkshire Grown wanted to explore a category that’s important to many of our member farmers but may not be as familiar to customers: Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM describes a range of strategies that farms use to deter pests and grow successful crops. Growers using IPM rely on chemical, biological, and cultural pest control strategies. They use careful monitoring of pests and diseases to identify the appropriate strategy for each threat, and generally save chemical pesticides for situations where other methods aren’t effective. Timing of pesticide application for peak effectiveness reduces excessive pesticide use.
"IPM is more than just the use of chemicals on crops, it is a process focused on the importance of environmental and human health while preventing, reducing and treating pests,” says Jessica Vila, Farm Manager at Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, NY. “We bear in mind biological, cultural, physical and mechanical approaches prior to chemical control. Chemical control is used when deemed most effective for long term control.” For example, managing weeds in an orchard can reduce threats from certain insects. At Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, “common sense practices such as weeding and trimming help keep the pest populations down without the use of harmful chemicals.” (Image courtesy Samoscott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY.)

Because IPM is a complex set of practices, farmers often benefit from technical assistance and support from outside organizations. Extension programs like UMass’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) help farmers with their IPM practices. In addition to conducting ongoing research on specific local pests, diseases, and climate challenges, they also put out regular alerts to let IPM practitioners know when to act against certain threats. Farmers can request one-on-one assistance from UMass Extension programs to help them create their IPM plans.

Why do producers choose IPM instead of farming organically? For many crops in our Northeast climate, especially fruit crops, organic growing is intensely challenging. A berry farm or apple orchard faces insect and disease pressure that could wipe out entire fields, and organic measures aren’t always able to provide enough protection. Farmers use IPM to effectively manage threats to their crops while working to protect their soils and farm ecosystems. Pesticides can harm the diverse ecosystem that exists in farm soils, and excess pesticide use can lead to runoff that contaminates nearby waterways. By monitoring threats, prioritizing other control practices over pesticide use, and carefully timing pesticide application, IPM farmers can balance the benefits and harms of pesticide use.
At Samascott Orchards, Jessica Vila reports that the farm uses IPM to address its greatest threats: Spotted Wing Drosophila on berry crops and fire blight on apples. “We implement IPM to ensure we are taking the right steps to properly manage pests,” she says. “We hope consumers understand that we have them and the environment in mind when considering our options, especially when we use pesticides.”

Spotted Wing Drosophila, a type of fruit fly, is a berry grower’s nightmare. The tiny insects have rapidly spread in the Northeast over the past 10 years and can cause serious crop damage. Many growers spray pesticides to control this serious threat, but one farm in our region has developed and refined an innovative control method that allows them to avoid spraying while fully protecting their berry crops.
At The Berry Patch in Stephentown, NY, farmers Dale-Ila Riggs and Don Miles were in the same boat as many berry growers when Spotted Wing Drosophila first hit their blueberry field in 2012. They lost 40 percent of their crop that year and resorted to spraying the following season. They weren’t set up to spray efficiently, however, and Dale-Ila says that she realized quickly that it wasn’t a feasible long-term solution for them.
After learning of preliminary research conduction by Cornell, Dale-Ila converted a bird netting system into a fruit fly exclusion setup in 2014. Using old high tunnel hoops, she attached fine mesh insect protection netting to completely cover her berry field. She collaborated with Cornell entomologists, sending weekly fruit samples to be tested for infestation. At the end of that first season, the farm had only seen a .67 percent infestation rate. “It’s the first time an invasive agricultural insect pest has been beaten in a very short time frame without spraying,” says Dale-Ila.
Since that first promising season, Dale-Ila has refined her system, making it more effective, longer-lasting, and easier to set up and take down each year. Other growers were interested in replicating her system, but they didn’t always have easy access to the high tunnel hoops she was using to support the netting. With the help of a Sustainable Agriculture Research (SARE) grant, she tested variations on a post-and-cable support system, eventually settling on wood posts and heavy-duty cables.
In addition to collaborating with Cornell, The Berry Patch has worked with the manufacturer of their insect netting to improve the product. Dale-Ila convinced the producer to make the fabric more rip-resistant and to add zippers along the edges for easy connections between netting panels. She’s able to store the netting right in the field over the winter: she unzips the panels, scrunches them up against the cables and secures them there, then covers them with UV-resistant pallet wrap plastic. In the spring, it’s relatively easy to uncover them, reconnect the panel edges, and have a fully protected blueberry field with less than a day’s work.
(Image courtesy The Berry Patch, Stephentown, NY)
While an invasive insect pest continues to be the main motivation behind The Berry Patch’s protective system, Dale-Ila has been pleased with other positive effects of her innovation. The fine-mesh netting protects her berries against heavy rain and winds, and she has seen increased yields since setting up the covers.

Unlike organically grown food, IPM products aren’t always labeled as such. While organic standards are well-defined, IPM is a spectrum of practices and doesn't have an official certification program. You’re most likely to see IPM used on labels and signs at farmers markets, farm stores, and local food co-ops rather than at larger grocery stores. That’s because local farmers using IPM want their customers to know that while they aren’t certified organic, they are using practices to minimize ecological harm.

In the Berkshire area, odds are that your favorite U-Pick berry farm or apple orchard uses IPM practices. If you want to know more about a farm’s management practices, ask the farmer or a staff person at the market, farm store, or U-Pick field.
Berkshire Grown Hosts Massachusetts Agricultural Commissioner for Farm Visits
On Wednesday, July 20, Massachusetts Agricultural Commissioner John Lebeaux and other MDAR staffers headed to the Berkshires for an annual farm tour hosted by Berskhire Grown. The tour highlighted a cross-section of Berkshire Farms located in the central part of the county: Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton, Robinson Farm in Becket, and Woven Roots Farm, in Tyringham.

“Farm visits like these are crucial to helping our state government get a clear understanding of the challenges facing farmers in the Berkshires,” says Margaret Moulton, Executive Director of Berkshire Grown. “This year we will visit farms in various states of change and growth, from new high tunnels, to improving pasture land, to building a barn. We are excited to showcase these three farms and help state officials understand how farmers and communities intersect.”
Located in the heart of Berkshire County, Holiday Brook Farm is made up of 1,300 acres of forest and farmland that has been sustainably managed for four generations of the Crane family. Farmer Kate Pike, working with owners Ruth and Dicken Crane, follows sustainable, natural models to enhance the health and productivity of the farm’s crops, livestock and fields. They produce vegetables, “Black Gold” compost, pork, beef, and maple syrup. The farm delivers fresh produce to two food pantries in the Dalton/Pittsfield area. Farmer Dicken Crane shows MDAR staff Holiday Brook Farm High tunnel.
In Becket, David Robinson’s great-grandfather bought 100+ acres of farmland in 1906, adding to it gradually over the generations to a current holding of 160+ acres. Robinson is one of few Black farm owners in Berkshire County, and as a retired professional rodeo rider, he utilizes his understanding of large animals to develop a beefalo herd (a cross between buffalo and beef cattle) for breeding and meat production, while he gradually rebuilds the soils and improves the pasture and manages the surrounding woodlots on the family farmland.
Woven Roots Farm, run by co-founders Jen and Pete Salinetti, is no-till, hand-scale vegetable farm on 10 acres in Tyringham, MA. Focused primarily on its CSA program, Woven Roots supplies vegetables to the new Vegetable Prescription Program at CHP, and partners with Berkshire Grown’s Share the Bounty program to create equitable access to CSA shares for all community members. A team of seven farmers uses sustainable methods rooted in Indigenous farming practices to produce vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Are you ready for summer? Shop the local harvest at Berkshire Farmers Markets!

To find fresh locally grown food and local food products, shop at a Berkshire farmers market all season long. Visit for dates, locations and details. Find updates about indoor and outdoor farmers markets throughout the year at BerkshireFarmersMarkets.
Find local food by using Berkshire Grown's Find Food and Farms searchable map. Farm stores & stands, farmers markets, U-Pick farms, grocers, restaurants, and specialty food producers are just a click away!
Berkshire Grown's

Every time you buy directly from a local farmer, you eat the freshest farm products and you support local agriculture as a vital part of the Berkshires economy.
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. Within these pages and online at, you will find descriptions, addresses, and a detailed map.

Keep your Guide to Local Food & Farms handy and use it frequently!
What We Are Reading:
Pig Years by Ellyn Gaydos

Author Ellyn Gaydos, was a staff member at Abode Farm in New Lebanon, NY and reflects on her time and wisdom gained while working the Berkshire soils and tending animals.

Penguin Random House writes this ABOUT PIG YEARS

This captivating memoir is a “startling testimony to the glories and sorrows of raising and harvesting plants and animals” (Anthony Doerr, best-selling author of All the Light We Cannot See), as an itinerant farmhand chronicles the wonders hidden within the ever-blooming seasons of life, death, and rebirth.

Pig Years catapults American nature writing into the 21st century, and has been hailed by Lydia Davis and Aimee Nezhukumatathil as “engrossing” and “a marvel.” As a farmer in Upstate New York and Vermont, Ellyn Gaydos lives on the knife edge between loss and gain. Her debut memoir draws us into this precarious world, conjuring with stark simplicity the lifeblood of the farm: its livestock and stark full moons, the sharp cold days lives near to the land. Joy and tragedy are frequent bedfellows. Fields go barren and animals meet their end too soon, but then their bodies become food in a time-old human ritual. Seasonal hands are ground down by the hard work, but new relationships are formed, love blossoms and Gaydos yearns to become a mother. As winter’s dark descends, Pig Ears draws us into a violent and gorgeous world where pigs are star-bright symbols of hope and beauty surfaces in the furrows, the sow, even in the slaughter.
In hardy, lyrical prose that recalls the agrarian writing of Annie Dillard and Wendell Berry, Gaydos asks us to bear witness to the work that sustains us all and to reconsider what we know of survival and what saves us. Pig Years is a rapturous reckoning of love, labor, and loss within a landscape given to flux.

Find Pig Years by Ellen Gaydos at your favorite local Berkshire bookstore.
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
Follow us at Instagram@berkgrown

Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Jordan Archey, Program Manager, Business Members
Kate Burke, Program Manager, Farm to Food Access
Martha Jackson Suquet, Winter Farmers Market Manager
Sharon Hulett-Shepherd, Membership and Office Manager
Join Berkshire Grown here.