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Mass. Agricultural Commissioner to take annual tour of Berkshire County farms next week

 Robinson Farm in Becket, Massachusetts.
David Robinson
Robinson Farm in Becket, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner will visit farms in Berkshire County next week.

John Lebeaux’s visit to the state’s largely rural, westernmost county is being organized by Berkshire Grown.

“Berkshire Grown is one of nine ‘buy local’ organizations across the state of Massachusetts, and our organization supports agriculture and local food in the Berkshires,” said Executive Director Margaret Moulton.

Moulton says Berkshire Grown is eager to show Lebeaux how state funding is being used in the region.

“The other thing that we're trying to highlight this year is our own program, which is called Farm to Food Access, which is really focusing on both supporting local farmers and getting their local food in large quantities to food pantries, food access sites, community kitchens, meal programs all across the county,” she told WAMC.

The first of the three farms the commissioner will tour is Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton, which is taking part in the Farm to Food Access program by supplying Elder Services of Berkshire County and the Berkshire Dream Center with produce.

“This is a fourth generation farm currently owned by Ruth and Dicken Crane," said Moulton. "And they have contracted with farmer Kate Pike and Chelsea Vigue to really reinvigorate their vegetable production program and also grow their CSA program, Community Supported Agriculture, farm shares. And they got money to install two new high tunnels that extends their growing season both in early spring and late fall.”

The tour continues with Robinson Farm in Becket. Moulton says David Robinson is the only Black farm owner in the Berkshires to her knowledge.

“He's a retired rodeo rider, and he's ridden and competed all over the country for decades," she said. "And he retired to his family farm that his great-grandfather bought, over 160 acres, in 1906. And the family still owns that land and has added to it. He's literally reclaiming that land into pasture, where he is starting a beefalo herd, both for breeding and meat production. He's doing it all by himself single handedly. He's an amazing person and he's really utilizing his knowledge of large animal, bull management, horse management, and transferring that into breeding these animals. And the relationship he has with these gigantic beefalo- It's like pets.”

The last stop will be at Woven Roots Farm in Tyringham.

“It’s a diversified vegetable farm that is very, very focused on community engagement, and they've been in that site, I think, for about 10 years now," said Moulton. "It took them a really long time to find land to be able to farm as their own significant land. They built a house there, they have a long term lease on the farmland, and they have a lot of state money and other grant income for a new barn that they're building that is so beautiful. It's like a little chapel in praise of agriculture. So we're going down to see that barn project, have lunch, tour the vegetable fields, and talk to them about their experience and their connection to community and what they're doing for low income families to get them connected to local nutrient-dense food and the land that's growing it.”

Massachusetts Agricultural Commissioner John Lebeaux’s visit to the Berkshires is set for Wednesday, July 20th. The tour is not open to the public. You can find WAMC’s coverage of his 2021 tour of the Berkshires here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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