Long Row in Fertile Ground on WGBY, Springfield
A Long Row in Fertile Ground
Premiering Wednesday July 9 at 8pm
Western New England’s agricultural legacy has persisted for more than three centuries, through waves of migration, technological innovation and economic uncertainty. In many ways it is the birthplace of American agriculture that exists to this day. A new WGBY production examines the history and present day status of agriculture in the region. The documentary, produced by Emmy Award-nominated WGBY producer Dave Fraser, will premiere on WGBY on Wednesday, July 9, at 8pm.
The Connecticut River Valley is home to New England’s longest river, a remnant of the last Ice Age. But the receding glaciers also left behind another gift—some of the richest soil on Earth. This fertile valley has attracted Native Americans and settlers since the early 1600s. It remains a commercial provider of products such as tobacco, tomatoes and corn. More recently, the idea of Community Supported Agriculture—community members and farmers in a relationship of mutual support based on an annual commitment to one another—was born in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Interviews with a number of farmers, land preservationists and agricultural scholars from Deerfield to Great Barrington help provide a comprehensive view of this treasured resource and illuminate the complex story of the land, its people, its culture, and its agriculture. This WGBY production begins to tell that story.
Contributing to the program are John Brady, geology professor at Smith College; Kristin DeBoer, executive director of the Kestrel Land Trust; Joanna Ballantine, regional director for the West Division of the Trustees of Reservations; Phil Korman, executive director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture); and Rich Hubbard, executive director of the Franklin Land Trust.
Local producers featured in the program include Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, Luther Beldon Farm in Hatfield, Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, Szawlowski Potato Farms in Hatfield, Red Fire Farm in Montague and Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, the first CSA farm in the country.
The premiere broadcast of A Long Row in Fertile Ground will be followed at 9pm by a documentary originally broadcast on WGBY in 1973, titled Root Hog or Die. This newly restored film captures the lives and stories of the old-time horse farmers in Franklin County Massachusetts in their own voices, faces, ingenious technology and well-tended land.
“Root, hog, or die” was once a common saying in rural America, suggesting that coaxing a living from the land requires hard work. Through the words of the farmers themselves, the film paints a wistful but honest portrait of family farming’s history in western New England. Following farmers though a year’s cycle of logging, haying, dairying and sugaring, Root Hog shows a life that was as challenging, simple and spare as it was rewarding, harmonious with the land, and an integral part of local communities. The evening’s broadcast will also include a special panel discussion led by WGBY General Manager Rus Peotter. He’ll be joined by Dave Fraser, producer of A Long Row in Fertile Ground; Rawn Fulton, producer of Root Hot or Die; Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture); and Nancy Hanson, Farm Manager at Hampshire College.
Congratulations to Berkshire Farm & Table for today’s article in The Boston Globe encouraging people to think of the Berksires as a place to go for fresh local food!
“Think Napa Valley, and what comes to mind? Rolling vineyards, luscious wines, and gourmet food. Vermont? Flavorful cheeses, best-quality maple syrup, and solidly built crafts. Cape Cod? Sand beaches, fresh seafood, and spectacular sunsets.
For many people, a defining feature might not jump immediately to mind. But this region in western-most Massachusetts, often overshadowed by other New England travel destinations, wants to change that and build a brand as recognizable as Napa, Vermont, and the Cape. The idea is to tap into the burgeoning interest in food tourism to become a year-round destination, with the most ambitious dreamers envisioning the region as New England’s equivalent of Napa Valley.
The strategy taps into three trends: the local food movement, the popularity of farm-to-table restaurants, and the growth of small-scale, specialty farms, and agricultural products. Farms in Berkshire County now number more than 500, a jump of more than 30 percent in the last decade and nearly 65 percent in the past 20 years, according to US Department of Agriculture.
About a dozen restaurants in the Berkshires are exclusively farm-to-table, getting nearly all the meats, vegetables and other products on their menus directly from nearby farms. Many other restaurants emphasize local products on their menus, and the number of locavore establishments are expected to grow, said Angela Cardinali, founder and director of Berkshire Farm & Table, a nonprofit that highlights food culture in the Berkshires.
Cardinali and her organization are the driving forces in the effort to boost Berkshire tourism through food. In the last two years, Berkshire Farm & Table has established three taste trails that wind through the countryside of rolling green hills. They feature farm fresh, locally made products along a cheese trail, charcuterie trail, and a beer and cider trail.
Others, possibly featuring chocolate and fresh-baked goods, are on the drawing board. READ MORE IN THE BOSTON GLOBE
“We are at a point in time where the Berkshires need to take a look at itself,” Cardinali said, “see what we want to be known for.”
The Berkshires, of course, are not exactly obscure. The area is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which plays at Tanglewood in Lenox. It has a thriving arts scene, including the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. It offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, canoeing, and camping, not to mention the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock.
More in the Boston Globe
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provides a summary of what the NEW Agriculture Census reveals: Read here. While the word census sounds dull – imagine a SNAPSHOT of LOCAL FOOD, and BEGINNING FARMERS, and FOOD,
Who is The National Sustainable Ag Coalition? The NSAC is a coalition of organizations that advocates for federal policy reform for the sustainability of food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. Berkshire Grown participates in the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group which works with NSAC.
The NSAC summary on Organic Food and Local Food is here and the section on Local Food is copied below:
& for “What does the new ag Census reveal about the next generation of farmers and the future of agriculture?” click
Direct to Consumer Agriculture
Sales of agricultural products through direct-to-consumer outlets such as farmers markets and roadside stands have grown rapidly over the last decade. In the 2002 Census, direct-to-consumer sales equaled $812 million, climbing to $1.3 billion in the 2012 Census, an increase of 60 percent. Additionally, the number of farms selling directly to consumers has increased from 116,733 in 2002 to 144,530 in 2012. When compared with the 2007 Census, the current Census shows an increase of 8 percent for the number of farms selling directly to consumers and 5 percent for the sales in dollars of directly marketed agricultural products.
Direct to Retail and Value-Added
For the first time, the 2012 Census provides a more detailed glimpse into local food marketing, providing categories such as direct-to-retail marketing, production and sales of value-added commodities, and marketing through community supported agriculture (CSAs).
For CSAs and direct-to-retailer marketing, many of the top 10 states, such as California, Wisconsin, New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, were the same ones that were among the top 10 states for the number of organic farms or organic sales. In the direct-to-retailer category, however, southern states also make a strong showing, with Texas, North Carolina and Virginia making the top 10 list, while Texas and North Carolina round out the top three states after California for CSA marketing. In the production and sales of value-added commodities, the southern states dominate, with Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia among the top ten states.
The Importance of Data: Local Data Initiative and Organic Data Initiative
All farmers, regardless of production practices and supply chains, need sound market information about the state of agriculture, consumer trends, government assistance programs, and the agricultural products they produce to understand the shortfalls and opportunities in the agricultural marketplace and to maintain and strengthen the viability of their farms. The 2014 Farm Bill provides several ways for USDA to collect valuable data to help not just farmers, but farming-related and food businesses, policymakers, and planners make sound policy, business, and marketing decisions. NSAC, along with allies and partners, advocated for the following Farm Bill data initiatives:
- Organic Production and Market Data Initiative funds basic data collection activities on organic agriculture. NSAC helped to ensure a restoration of $5 million in mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Additionally, the recent farm bill directs USDA agencies that collect data on the organic sector to coordinate with agencies that may be able to use the data, such as the Risk Management Agency’s need for data on organic crop prices. This pricing information would allow them to develop better crop insurance policies that reflect the organic premium and more fairly and effectively cover the costs to producers of organic crop loss.
- Local Food Production and Program Evaluation Initiative is a new initiative that directs USDA to collect data on the production and marketing of locally or regionally produced agricultural products, monitor the effectiveness of programs designed to expand local food systems, and identify barriers to local and regional market access due to regulations aimed at small-scale producers. While NSAC is pleased that the initiative, which we championed in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, made it into the final Farm Bill, we are disappointed that no farm bill funding was provided for these additional data collection activities. The launch of this critical new data initiative will depend on funding being secured through either the annual appropriations process or a future farm bill.
The Berkshire Visitors Bureau new focus for 2014 is Taste Berkshires, and we’re happy to see Berkshire Grown members featured! Their first spotlight article takes a look at Cricket Creek Farm, Chocolate Springs and Table Six restaurant at the Kemble Inn. Looking forward to more local food heroes in future Taste Berkshires posts!
MORE INFO at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau
Berkshire Grown: A Case Study of an Organization Vital in Creating a Local Food System
(Huffington Post) by Rafi Bildner – With a staff of just one full and two part-time employees (along with a dedicated volunteer board), Berkshire Grown has established itself as a true umbrella organization for local food in Western Massachusetts. They provide essential resources for small farmers, and have created a true brand for local food in the region. While they do an incredible job, they’re not unique: Organizations like Berkshire Grown operate all over the country, filling a key role in our national small-scale food system, making them bedrocks of the “local food” movement. Yet while the latest Farm Bill continues to provide substantial resources for large, commodity-producing farms, it does not do enough for small (and sustainable) operations, that could most use the support.
Thursdays at 5:30 at Murdock Hall, Room 218 MCLA in North Adams, free and open to the public
Creating Sustainable Food Systems
For more information 413-662-5303413-662-5303 Elena Traister
If you miss this first of a series, watch online.
Thursday March 6 at 5:30Susatainble Business as a Vehicle for Social Change
Thursday March 20th at 5:30
Current Status of Farming in Berkshire County
Melissa Adams, Keep Berkshires Farming Program Coordinator and Sarah Gardner, Williams College Center for Environmental Studies Associate Director.
Click on the poster for details.
Courses Thursdays at 5:30 through April: 4/24/14.
For hundreds of years Massachusetts sugarmakers have been making pure, sweet, all-natural maple syrup, and cooks have been using it for baking and cooking in endless ways. Maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes! This delicious, all-natural sweetener can be used in marinades, in baking, and for many other cooking purposes. Now you could win a prize if your recipe featuring 100% pure Massachusetts Maple Syrup is the best!
To coincide with our annual March is Maple Month celebration, Massachusetts Maple Producers Association is holding a contest and inviting anyone in Massachusetts to let us taste your most creative and delicious creations. The contest will be held at Williams’ Sugarhouse in Deerfield, MA, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18. Contestants will bring their dishes to the event and our panel of judges will taste and choose the winners.
- Entries may be submitted in three categories: Main dish, Side dish, Dessert
- Entries will be judged based upon taste, originality, and visual appeal.
- Each entry must include pure Massachusetts Maple Syrup as an ingredient.
- The recipe must not have knowingly been previously published and the right to submit the recipe to the contest must not be restricted in any way.
- Recipe submissions may be published by the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association in electronic or paper form, with credit given to the contestant.
- Each entry must be brought to the contest, to be held at Williams’ Sugarhouse at 491 Greenfield Road (Routes 5/10) in Deerfield, MA, by 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18.
- Entries must be presented as a completed dish, with enough quantity for four judges to taste. Facilities to warm entries will be available at the contest site.
- Submissions must include the name of the recipe, a list of ingredients with standard U.S. measurements for each, and complete, step-by-step cooking instructions.
- Contestants must submit entries to email@example.com or Mass Maple, PO Box 6, Plainfield, MA 01070 before Friday, March 14 at midnight. Entries must include contestant’s name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as the recipe(s) being submitted. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Mass Maple, PO Box 6, Plainfield, MA 01070.
- Contestants must live in the state of Massachusetts.
- Prizes will be awarded in each category, and an overall winner will be chosen as well. Prizes include: gift certificates for meals at Ioka Valley Farm, South Face Farm, and Gould’s Sugarhouse; pure Massachusetts maple syrup; and a grand prize of a night at Parker’s Bed & Breakfast and Sugarhouse.
Please contact MMPA coordinator Winton Pitcoff at email@example.com or 413-628-3912 with questions.