For people working in the marble halls of the Massachusetts State House, the Berkshires sometimes seems like the Wild West – no air conditioning, no mass transit, and plenty of folks who will defend their way of life ’til the last breath.
On Tuesday, July 16, several Massachusetts government dignitaries and their staffers will head west for a day of farm visits in the Berkshires. Expected attendees include the Secretary of the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Kathleen Theoharides, Agricultural Commissioner John Lebeaux, Representative John Barrett, Alfred Enchill (from Senator Adam Hinds’s office), as well as staffers from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
“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. The nonprofit organizes an annual visit with the Commissioner every summer. “We are so pleased that the Commissioner has invited the Secretary of Energy and Environment this year. The agricultural landscape is a huge part of the environmental picture in the Berkshires.”
The Secretary and the Commissioner will tour three farms in the region. The day will begin at Broadlawn Farm in Adams, a family-run dairy farm owned and run by the Ziemba family for over 75 years. The fire destroyed a barn, a bull, and most of the winter feed in a disastrous fire last fall. During the one hour visit, the Commissioner will talk with them about their struggle to rebuild the dairy farm, and get a first-hand look at the life of a Berkshire dairy farmer.
Next on the schedule is Caretaker Farm, a diversified CSA farm tucked into a valley south of Williamstown. It’s CSA pick-up day so visitors will see the community members in action at the farm.
What makes Caretaker Farm unusual is the innovative transfer of ownership. Developed with the assistance of Equity Trust Inc., ownership is shared by four different parties: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchased an APR, the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation purchased all of the land, both the farmstead land and the land subject to the APR, the original farmers Sam and Elizabeth Smith retained ownership of one of the two houses on the farm and hold a 99-year ground lease to the land beneath and immediately around that house, and Don Zasada and Bridget Spann purchased the main farmhouse and all of the barns and other agricultural improvements, and hold a 99-year ground lease to the rest of the land. In its detailed structure, this arrangement insures that the farm will remain affordable to future generations of farmers in perpetuity and protects the community’s investment in the farm.
The last stop on the Berkshire farm tour will be at Red Shirt Farm in Lanesborough. Jim Schultz is a farmer, an educator, an entrepreneur, and inventor. A visit to his farm is like a trip through Charlie’s chocolate factory, with innovative solutions to the many challenges for a small-scale organic farmer in the Northeast – all in the interests of growing delicious food. For example, Shultz’s “climate battery greenhouse” collects and stores humid, warm air in the summer, and cycles it back to the indoor growing space in the cold winter months. Jim will give a tour around the farm, sharing and demonstrating some of his innovative “farm hacks.”
Berkshire Farm Tour Schedule, Tuesday, July 16:
10:00 – 11:00 am – Broadlawn Farm, 46 Walling Road, Adams, 01220
11:45 – 1:15 pm – Caretaker Farm, 1210 Hancock Rd., Williamstown, 01267
1:30 – 2:30 pm – Red Shirt Farm 60 Williamstown Rd, Lanesborough, 01237
About Berkshire Grown
Berkshire Grown supports and promotes local agriculture as a vital part of the Berkshire community, economy, and landscape; its mission is to “Keep farmers farming!” Through events, workshops, promotions, advocacy, and education highlighting locally grown and produced food, Berkshire Grown helps to create a thriving local food economy. For more information, go to berkshiregrown.org or call 413.528.0041.