Livestock Farming in the Berkshires
by Martha Jackson Suquet
Graylight Farm in East Chatham, NY, where Martha Jackson Suquet and her husband, Eric Suquest, raise pigs and grow vegetables.

Can you list all of the animal products produced by farmers here in the Berkshires? Some favorites immediately come to mind: meat, eggs, and dairy. But there’s so much more—our local farmers also produce fiber, pelts, charcuterie, milk- and lard-based soap, and even emu eggs.

As a farmer who has worked with both vegetable crops and livestock, I know that raising animals is a uniquely satisfying (and challenging) experience. Watching pigs rooting around in fresh pasture, being present as your animals give birth, and having a connection to these living beings who delight in your presence (even if you suspect it’s mostly because you feed them) - these are the pleasures of livestock farming. The challenges include crafty animals who love to escape, pressure from predators, and the logistics of meat processing.
At Yundwell Farm in Canaan, NY, Mike Yund has grown his pasture-based poultry operation from fifty meat chickens to a couple thousand (in addition to 1,200 laying hens and 100 turkeys). Yund says that in his first year of raising chickens, it was the superior flavor of the meat that got him hooked: “the taste of the birds was a revelation.” What keeps him and his partner Michele going is “the joy of providing food to our community, seeing improvements in the land each season” and working with their five Maremma livestock guardian dogs.
“We’re unique in the poultry world in that we never have our birds closed up in a house,” says Yund. “They always have shelter but no closed doors. Our livestock guardian dogs are the only reason we can do that.” With the dogs protecting his birds, Yund’s biggest challenge is extreme weather conditions. (Picture at right - one of Yundwell Farm's five Maremma guard dogs doing his job in the chicken pasture.)

Jordan Archey, Berkshire Grown’s Program Manager, is also a livestock farmer, breeding Mangalitsa pigs at Swallowbelly Farm in New Marlborough. Her pigs are a wooly, cold-hardy breed that produce excellent lard and marbled meat. She started the operation hoping to educate others about raising animals sustainably. “There is a misconception that meat production cannot be friendly for the planet and that's just not true,” says Archey. “Through regenerative farming models, livestock can in fact be good for the planet.” By intentionally rotating animals so they are making the most of the natural resources growing on the land, farmers ensure that their livestock add nutrition to the soil instead of damaging it. Archey acknowledges that setting up solid infrastructure for rotating pigs is a challenge, but the benefits can be worth it.
Mangalsita boar and piglets foraging at Swallowbelly Farm
Farmer Kate Pike also uses livestock to create a thriving farm ecosystem. At Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton, there’s only a small amount of land that’s well-suited to growing crops. While the rest of the farm’s acreage was previously used to produce hay, Pike has found that “by incorporating sheep and cattle...we were able to generate nutrients for the farm, and retain and recycle these nutrients into our land management plan.” Holiday Brook also incorporates animal waste into their composting program and sells the high-quality compost to local growers and gardeners.
If you attended the most recent Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers’ Market at the Housy Dome, you might have noticed an unusual offering at Holiday Brook Farm’s booth: a large, gorgeous emu egg. In addition to its many other enterprises, the farm is also raising a few emu. That’s not the end of unexpected animal products from local farms, either: many farmers who raise sheep and goats, including Dandelion Hill Farm, Ashford Heights Farm, Brattle Farm, and Mayflower Farm, offer stunning sheepskins and goat pelts for sale. At Jacuterie and Raven & Boar, you’ll find creative sausages and other charcuterie products that take local meat to the next level.

Emu egg grown at Holiday Brook Farm and sold at the Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers Market.
There are many paths that lead people to livestock farming. For some farmers, it’s what they grew up with. Others are drawn to it because of a passion for working with animals and an interest in raising livestock sustainably and humanely. As part of a regenerative farm plan, animals can help maintain soil fertility and make use of land that’s not suited to growing crops.

The quality of the products is a factor, too—once you taste your own home-grown meat or eggs, it's hard to go back. Mike Yund says his favorite product is his farm’s chicken wings, especially braised. For Jordan Archey, the lard from her Mangalitsa pigs is “beyond anything else I’ve ever tasted.”
Ashford Heights Farm
Raven and Boar
Support Berkshire Grown – ROUND UP
your total at Guido’s Marketplace during
January and February and support our
Share the Bounty program!
ROUND-Up in 2022 at Guido's!! When you shop at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in both their Great Barrington and Pittsfield locations during January AND February, 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.
What we are reading:
Can $1 billion really fix a meat industry dominated by just four companies?
By Jessica Fu for The Counter

The Biden administration’s newly announced investment in small, independent processors is intended to level the playing field. But without addressing the root causes of market concentration, critics fear it may have limited impact.
The Biden-Harris Administration announced on Monday that it would dedicate $1 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to curb consolidation and boost competition in the livestock industry, which it blames for rising prices at the grocery store.
The plan was well received by farm groups and some supporters of stronger antitrust laws, including organizations like the Farm Action and the Open Markets Institute. But it also received pushback from some of the very factions the move was intended to please. For cattle ranchers and anti-monopoly advocates who’ve long been concerned that a tiny handful of global food corporations control prices on both ends of the supply chain, the news represented a missed opportunity to address the root causes of industry concentration. 

To understand these divergent responses, and why “consolidation”—a decades-long trend that narrowed the market to a small group of processing giants—has become a newly urgent flashpoint amid persistent supply chain frustrations, you need to know how the meat industry became so concentrated in the first place, and how the White House plan fits into that larger picture.

Big Meat: Big problem?

Beef prices have jumped an eye-popping 21 percent over the past year, according to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest food price outlook report; prices for pork increased by almost 17 percent and poultry by more than 8 percent in the same period. White House economic advisors last month estimated that meat is the single biggest contributor to rising food costs right now, accounting for a quarter of total price increases. 

At the same time as meat’s gotten more expensive, cattle prices have gone down. In theory, that shouldn’t happen—and critics say the concentrated power of a small cohort of multinational meatpackers is to blame. 

Read the full article here.
Berkshire Benchmarks Survey for County Residents
Berkshire Benchmarks is surveying county residents to understand better the issues facing us all. This survey covers economics, education, the environment, local government, health, housing, social environment, and transportation. The survey will take an estimated 20 minutes. Once complete, you can enter for a chance to win one of ten $50 gift cards. Each member of the household over age 15 can take this survey.
Para la versión en español, por favor visite

Support the farmers who grow your food:
Shop at the next indoor
Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers Market!

Saturday, February 19, 2022
Housy Dome, 1064 Main Street, Housatonic, MA
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Berkshire Grown Winter markets offer opportunities for consumers and farmers alike. Shoppers have access to fresh locally grown food in the coldest months of the year, and farmers increase their winter income by selling at the markets. 

Farmers and food producers bring a wide array of locally grown foods to each indoor market, from winter greens and root crops to apples, meats, cheeses, honey and maple syrup, as well as bread and baked goods, jams, ferments, and cider.

Shoppers, may pre-order from many of the market vendors through What'sGood in order to save time and insure you get the fresh products you are craving before they sell out! Prepaid orders are picked up via the curbside pick-up service. Of course all shoppers are welcome in the market. Masks are mandatory for everyone.

For the February 19 farmers market, pre-orders on What'sGood will open on Monday, February 14 and close Thursday, February 16 at 11pm. Shoppers using SNAP can pre-order online, and pay at the Market Manager's table on market day.

Admission is always free and SNAP benefits are available (with 1:1 Market Match up to $25) at both markets. HIP benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables are available, too. Visit the Market Manager's Table for tokens and more information.
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.
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Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
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.

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