One Year Later –
How Berkshire Farmers Adapted in the Face of Pandemic

By Martha Jackson Suquet

Among their many admirable qualities, farmers are particularly resilient and flexible. Year after year, they face unpredictable weather, natural disasters, economic challenges, and more. They adapt. They persist. They come up with new ways to protect crops and livestock from climate change, they pivot when they discover a new enterprise that’s profitable, and they continue to nurture tiny seedlings and newly born animals each spring despite the uncertainties they may face.

Last year when the full force of the pandemic began to hit us in March, farmers were already deep in preparation for the upcoming season. It’s the time of year when greenhouses fill up with seedlings, livestock fences are put up or repaired, barns hold newly born lambs, kids, calves, and piglets, and farmers are selling those last few CSA shares and finalizing their farmers market applications. It’s an incredibly difficult time to face the kinds of changes and uncertainties that we all faced last March. At Berkshire Grown, we had just held our annual Networking Event and were looking ahead to our next Winter Farmers Market, scheduled for late March. Suddenly we found ourselves unable to hold our last two markets of the season, and our member farmers were faced with rapidly changing direct market and wholesale conditions.

Looking back, we’re inspired by the ways that our members met this challenge. From getting more fresh produce to food pantries, to jumping into the world of online sales and home delivery, to opening new farm stores, farmers rose to the pandemic challenge with their usual grit. We’re not trying to paint an inaccurately rosy picture: the pandemic has been a massive tragedy, and no story of resilience can make up for the losses it has caused. But our farmers kept the local food system going, and we want to recognize their efforts.
Image courtesy MX Morningstar Farm.
Many local growers, including MX Morningstar in Hudson, and North Plain Farm in Great Barrington launched their own online shopping options while expanding their on-farm retail stores. Other farmers, developed direct to consumer delivery services, virtual farmers markets, curbside pickup, and more. Demonstrating the cooperative strength of our local food economy, farmers and local food producers built creative solutions together during the pandemic. Old Friends Farm
in Amherst created an on-farm pickup with online ordering, and began offering products from over 70 other local producers. Square Roots Farm started a home delivery service, bringing their own products and a few other local options to their customers.

Berkshire Worms, a vermicompost and microgreens farm, was just launching their business as the pandemic hit. “We had just started out growing microgreens with the plan to sell to local restaurants,” said farmer Melinda Cruzen. “[We] were literally handing them samples as they were having to shut down.” They were able to sell their microgreens directly to consumers, as well as becoming part of Square Roots’ delivery service, enabling them to succeed in a challenging and uncertain first year in business.

As we approach this farm season with cautious optimism, we encourage everyone to continue supporting our local farmers and food producers. Keep shopping at farm stands, join a CSA, patronize retailers that stock local food, and shop at your local farmers markets. Amid all the disruption of the past year, we still have access to amazing local farm products, thanks to our farmers.
Berkshire Grown News

We wish Jess Camp the very best at MDAR and welcome Jordan Archey to Berkshire Grown!

Many of you may already know Jess Camp recently started a new job as the Beginning Farmer Specialist at MDAR. Jess will work out of the West Springfield office within the Farm Viability and Agricultural Business Training programs to coordinate the Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture (MEGA) program for beginning farmers and the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course for those planning to start a farm. We will miss Jess at Berkshire Grown, but we are proud of her, and grateful that she will continue her support of Massachusetts farmers and stay connected to Berkshire Grown as a technical assistance consultant.
It is hard to find just the right person who brings a balance of expertise in local food and farms along with the skills to help our business members grow and thrive. We are so pleased to welcome Jordan Archey as the newest member of our Berkshire Grown team -- Program Manager for Food and Farm Business Members.
Some of you may know Jordan – until recently she was the cheese monger and specialty products manager at the Berkshire Food Co-op. She also worked at the Berkshire Food Co-op as the produce manager in the old Co-op location, and more recently as the retail manager at Talbott & Arding in Hudson, NY. For those of you who start your summer Saturdays with an egg sandwich from Off the Shelf at the Great Barrington Farmers Market, you might recognize Jordan from the grilling crew. Locally grown in the Berkshires (she grew up in Lenoxdale and now lives in New Marlborough), Jordan brings a passionate interest in food and farming and a deep commitment to our community. We look forward to Jordan joining our Berkshire Grown team.
What a season!

Thank you to everyone who came out to support our local farmers all winter long at the Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers Market. Outstanding vendors, hard-working volunteers, community-minded shoppers, and our generous market sponsors all contributed to making the Winter Farmers Markets run smoothly and safely.

A huge shout-out and thank you to Jane Iredale Skincare Makeup, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, Berkshire Bank, Lee Bank, the Berkshire Food Co-op. Also thank you to the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives at Williams College, Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, and Williams College Center for Environmental Studies for their support of the north county Holiday Farmers Markets. We are also grateful to Herrington’s and MountainOne Bank for their on-going support of our Market Match program of SNAP & HIP.

Generous support for the Winter Farmers Markets also comes from local businesses and institutions including The Bookloft, Guido's Fresh Marketplace, the Prairie Whale, Rolling Rock Salt, and Greylock WORKS. Thank you one and all!!
On the Way Soon: Berkshire Grown's 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms !
Keep your eyes peeled for the 2021 Guide to Local Food & Farms - it will be out in early May. The Guide is our 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 will be mailed directly to Berkshire Grown members and donors and on the news stands in early May. Meanwhile you can find the 2020 Guide digital version and the Find Food and Farms searchable map on the Berkshire Grown website.
Get ready for summer and all our Berkshire Farmers Markets!

Click here for Berkshire Grown's complete listing of 2021 Farmers Markets in the region - from VT, through the Berkshires, into NY and down to CT.

Here are the opening dates for the summer markets:
May 8 - Great Barrington Farmers Market and Lanesborough Farmers Market
May 15 - Pittsfield Farmers Market, Powered by Roots Rising!

Shop Local. Shop Fresh. Keep Farmers Farming!
What We Are Reading:
How Food Banks Succeeded and What They Need Now

Photographs and Video by Lucy Hewett, New York Times
The people who run America’s charitable food banks take pride in what they’ve accomplished over the past year, and the numbers justify it: They distributed roughly 50 percent more food in 2020 compared with 2019, a considerable portion to first-time visitors. They served millions of people even as they dealt with supply-chain interruptions and health risks for their volunteers and employees.
But they also say they are tired, and worried about donor fatigue and long-term stability. The pandemic made clear that food banks work best as a complement to, not a replacement for, government assistance. Yet it was December before Congress increased its main program for combating hunger, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A newly created Department of Agriculture program brought a windfall of food — but many logistical headaches.

The private-public partnership worked wonders in fighting hunger this past year, but has hardly erased the need.

Chicago’s experience is instructive.

In the earliest days of the stay-at-home order last March, the leaders of the city’s main food bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, met with the mayor’s office to discuss a crisis that would be measured in months, not weeks.

“They were telling us, ‘This is going to be long,’” Kate Maehr, the depository’s director, recalled. That prospect shaped the food bank’s strategy.
“We need these food pantries to be strong, not just during the Covid crisis, but six months, 12 months, 18 months from now,” said one food bank leader.
As the city shed jobs and thousands fell into need, Ms. Maehr and her team made a crucial decision: They would keep open its network of more than 700 food pantries and soup kitchens across Cook County, Ill., rather than shift to large food distribution sites, as some places had. Read the full article here.
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. 
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Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Jordan Archey, Program Manager, Food and Farm Business Members
Kate Burke, Project Coordinator, Farm to Food Access
gramAndrea Caluori, Program Manager, Workshops, Mentorship, Technical Assistance
Sharon Hulett-Shepherd, Community Membership and Office Manager
Join Berkshire Grown here.