By Amelia Ritner
With all the current news hype about the dangers of GMOs and factory-farmed meat, I know I’m not the only one looking for places to buy safer food. How much safer can you get than buying local meats, vegetables, and other products from farms near your own back door?
The Berkshires is host to an exceptional number of small farms, many of which will be present at the indoor Berkshire Grown Winter Market in Great Barrington on January 17th. I went to the winter market in Williamstown last December, and was astounded by the variety of products for sale. I went in search of some fresh veggies, but found so much more! Maple syrup, local artisanal cheeses, wine, dips, honey, yarn, jams, eggs, and even local bacon were just some of the offerings available to supplement the wide variety of local vegetables and fruits. I had no idea that it was such a large market, and did not bring enough money to spend; I won’t make that mistake again!
Much of today’s diet advice suggests people make some major changes in their lives: eat fewer processed foods, cook more of your own meals, and eat more vegetables. If you combine this diet advice with the movement to create more sustainable agriculture, you get the local food movement. Berkshire Grown is the main proponent of the local food movement in the Berkshires, organizing these large winter markets and connecting farmers with suppliers, restaurants, and the public.
I am on my own personal quest to start a small farm, after spending a full season apprenticing last year. But not everyone is capable, or has the time to grow their own food. “The community has been very supportive. People love animals and we are open to folks helping and offering advice. I think that many people would like to live this lifestyle and either are reluctant to make the leap or are a bit scared of failure,” says Katie Barbeau of Mountain Girl Farm in North Adams. Mountain Girl Farm is run by a mother-daughter combination who just decided to “go for it.”
I certainly support their effort to “go for it,” and intend to follow their example as best I can, and grow some of my own vegetables in my back yard. But for those of you who don’t have the time, space, or energy to do so, you can still support local sustainable agriculture by shopping at farmer’s markets, which generally run every weekend from April through October. Until April, please take advantage of the special upcoming Winter Markets January 17th and February 14th at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington. Check Berkshire Grown for more announcements and to keep up-to-date on other upcoming indoor markets during this cold, but still productive winter season.