It’s a basic philosophy that buying local helps the local economy. For me, the most fulfilling way to do this is by shopping at the area’s farmer’s markets. Not only am I supporting local vendors, but I am also getting my produce and food products at their freshest point, and as someone who tends to be a bit overly concerned about nutrition, this makes me very happy.
Because weather plays a big part in everything here in the Berkshires, most of the farmer’s markets are seasonal, generally running from May through October. The past few years have seen more winter holiday farmer’s markets, but they tend to be more like ‘pop up’ shops, setting up for a day or two in various locations during the holiday season. The outdoor markets, during the warmer months, are in the same location every week, ensuring that customers can depend on them as a weekly shopping destination.
Earlier in the year, there are more plants and flowers for planting, and early season fruits and vegetables, like strawberries and green peas. However,this time of year, as the weather grows crisp, is my favorite time to go to the farmer’s markets, because there is a huge variety of harvested vegetables, like carrots, winter squash and eggplant and fruits such as plums and apples.
The different farmer’s markets vary greatly in their locations and in the products that they carry. Some are right in the heart of the city, and some are in more rural, even historic locations. The one in Lanesboro is in the parking lot of the Berkshire Mall, and it is a ‘must’ stop for me most weekends. I always pick up a loaf of chocolate bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery and a bag of shitakes from another area vendor. It’s always enjoyable to see the large selection of produce that this farmer’s market has. From apples to zucchinis, whatever you’re looking for, chances are they will have it. The farmer’s market in downtown Pittsfield is a recent addition, and proving to be a very popular one. This market (situated in the heart of the city), has a wide variety of goods, including produce and plants, but also carries food products like meats, breads, a good looking wine selection from Balderdash Cellars, and eggs and cheeses from Cricket Creek Farm. They also have a nice selection of artists selling their art works, and on a recent visit I saw beautifully collaged flower pots and note cards by artist, Diane Firtell, handmade earthenware from Circles within Circles Pottery, brightly painted coasters, herbal blends and healing salves, among other creatively minded booths. The Lenox farmer’s market, which runs on Friday afternoons, is set on the grounds of Shakespeare and Company’s property, making it not only a great shopping experience, but a gorgeous destination as well. There is usually a group of people playing music in the center of the market, giving it an especially festive feel. The farmer’s market in Great Barrington is at the old, historic train station, another fun location, and has been known to be frequented by some of the Berkshires more famous residents. There are also farmer’s markets held regularly in other towns in the Berkshires, and a complete list can be found here: http://berkshires.org/farmers-markets-enjoy-the-flavors-of-the-season-and-eat-local/.
Whichever farmer’s market that you choose to visit, you will not be disappointed. When you bite into the taste of farm fresh produce, it is not something you will soon forget. Never is this fact more clear to me as when, after eating delectable farmer’s market tomatoes all season long, I am forced, sometime around mid-autumn, to buy that first ‘grocery store’ tomato. Though they try their best to look good and be tasty, they are just not from the farmer’s market, and all of a sudden I find myself dreaming of next year’s local produce and wishing springtime, and the next farmer’s market, wasn’t so far away…