November 2020 News


Direct Investment & Growth in the Local
Food Economy
BAV's priority areas for support include strategies that promote regenerative agriculture to help keep farm systems healthy and resilient in the face of climate change; improve land access and make farmland affordable for farmers; create season extension greenhouses and cold storage; fund on- and off-farm processing facilities; and support other means to strengthen the viability and sustainability of local farmers.
Impact of Resilience Fund to Date
In April 2020, thanks to a generous grant from a local family foundation, we established the Resilience Fund to help farmers adapt to the business challenges of COVID-19 by providing no-interest, forgivable loans or grants.

As of November 2020, we have provided over $60,000 of support to several projects, benefitting 58 farmers in all 4 counties and 3 states of our service area. The projects we have assisted through the Resilience Fund include Roots Rising’s Virtual Farmers Market, Northwest Connecticut Food Hub, New Lebanon Farmers Market, Abode Farm (both Columbia County, NY), and Rock Steady Farm (Dutchess County, NY).

Not only has the Resilience Fund enabled more farmers to strengthen their viability and increase their income, it has also helped more consumers gain access to healthy local foods, including low income
families and the elderly. Through online markets, subsidized CSA shares and increased SNAP benefits, as many as 50% of these consumers have been food insecure families. Collectively, across all projects, nearly $200,000 in income was generated for farmers.

Our success with this Fund has been possible because of your donations, the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of our client farms and food businesses, as well as the collaboration of our partner organizations.

If you wish to contribute to the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers, click below or mail a check to Berkshire Agricultural Ventures at 314 Main Street, Office #11, Great Barrington, MA 01230.

Thank you for your support!
Photo: Select scenes from the Roots Rising's Virtual Farmers Market. Credit: Roots Rising
Roots Rising Virtual Farmers Market Transition
Photo: Distribution day at the Virtual Farmers Market. Credit: Roots Rising
We at BAV admire Roots Rising’s leadership, ingenuity, and the teamwork of their committed volunteers to make the Virtual Farmers Market a great success. It is a wonderful example of collaboration to meet countywide food needs during challenging times.

At the end of November 2020, Roots Rising will transition the management of the Market to BAV. Beginning in 2021, the Virtual Farmers Market will reopen under BAV’s management as a year-round online market and e-commerce platform for farmers and consumers.

Join the BAV mailing list here for all updates!

For any questions related to the Virtual Farmers Market please contact vfm@berkshireagventures.org.
Project Spotlight: New Lebanon Farmers Market
With support from Resilience Fund donors, BAV awarded $15,000 to the New Lebanon Farmers Market to bolster food access and farm viability in Columbia County, New York. The grant will help purchase food directly from seven producers in the New Lebanon area to supplement both the Farmers Market's Market Match program and ongoing food giveaway efforts operated at the New Lebanon Town Hall and Elementary School.

Via the New Lebanon Farmers Market's online store, those with SNAP benefits and Senior & WIC Coupons can quadruple their purchases of local produce, dairy, and meat products for direct pickup or free delivery. "Helpers" Eleanor Young and Josh Young estimate that 80 families have been served by Market Match and food bank giveaway support.

BAV applauds their efforts!

Photo: Farmers at Abode Farm load produce for the New Lebanon Farmers Markets' food access program. Credit: Josh Young
Project Spotlight: Robinson Farm
David Robinson has been around farms his entire life but only recently assumed full ownership of his family's beautiful 164 acre, century farm on Route 8 in Beckett, Massachusetts. Robinson grew up in the area but spent much of his career out west as a professional rodeo competitor and horse trainer.

Five years ago, Dave's father asked him to take over the family farm, and now Mr. Robinson is determined to make the farm financially self-sustaining.

This summer BAV supported Robinson's vision with a loan from the Community Revolving Fund to purchase a used tractor. The tractor has been essential for Mr. Robinson’s firewood business, which has helped generate about $14,000 of sales thus far. Mr. Robinson is reinvesting this income into a roadside farm store and a growing herd of beefalo, a domestic hybrid cattle breed, 3/8 bison and 5/8 beef. These livestock have developed a strong following for the farm, and when he is able to finish his farm store along scenic Route 8 in Beckett he will have a consistent outlet for this unique and delicious meat. 

If you would like to learn more about BAV’s community revolving fund or about Robinson Farm in Becket, MA please email Dan Carr at Dan@berkshireagventures.org

Photo: Robinson Farm Stand in Becket by Dan Carr.
Kitchen Table Consultants and BAV to Explore Regional Meat Processing Needs
With COVID-19, regional meat processing gaps have been brought sharply into focus throughout the nation, with particular impact on our local livestock producers.

In response to these challenges, BAV will undertake a rigorous study of the region's existing meat processing ecosystem to better understand where interventions can be made to improve outcomes for small producers and local consumers.

Thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, BAV will work with Kitchen Table Consultants and Brian Zweig of Business Opportunities Management Consulting to conduct a four month-long meat processing feasibility study with the input of farmers, processors and other knowledgeable stakeholders in the region. Working with an advisory committee, the consultants will investigate what array of options will best help overcome bottlenecks in meat processing, increase farmer incomes, and enable more consumers to buy more local meats.

The study will be concluded in February 2021.
Introducing Mark Phillips
BAV welcomes Mark Phillips to staff as our Program Coordinator. Mark spent the last three years with Hosta Hill, a Berkshires-based producer of sauerkraut, kimchi, and hot sauce, and has served as an advisor and contributing writer for Hudson River Flows, a story telling project focused on the regenerative food economy in the Hudson Valley.

Before moving to the Berkshires in 2017, he worked in small business and community economic development in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. He is an Americorps VISTA alumnus and is passionate about the long-term development of agroforestry in the Berkshires and adjacent regions.

Mark was recently accepted to the Climate Adaptation Fellowship's Vegetable & Small Fruit program, a peer to peer learning program aimed at improving farmer support for climate change adaptation in the Northeast region.

Learn more about the program here.
Special Thanks to our Supporters

Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundation of New Jersey, Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, The Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, The Thompson Family Foundation, The Whitehead Foundation, Anonymous (3), and the numerous individuals who have contributed to us over the past three years.
Berkshire Agricultural Ventures | info@berkshireagventures.org | www.berkshireagventures.org