Sara Swan of Abode Farm in New Lebanon, N.Y., helps a customer at a Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers' Market in February. Photo courtesy Berkshire Grown

Berkshire Grown winter farmers’ markets start season in new locations

The winter markets have been well-planned to account for state and local board of health regulations. The number of visitors allowed indoors will be limited; everyone entering the market area will be required to wear masks; and shoppers are encouraged to plan ahead by making shopping lists and sending only one or two household members to the market.

Lanesborough — Pasture-raised turkeys are but one part of the (very big) picture at Square Roots Farm. Every year customers rave about the difference a fresh, local turkey makes in their Thanksgiving feasts; farmers Michael Gallagher and Ashley Amsden can explain exactly why: since the birds live outside, on pasture, their diet of locally grown, GMO-free grains is supplemented with tons of grass, plants and bugs. This diverse diet makes all the difference in creating a noticeably more tender, flavorful and healthy product when compared with commercially produced supermarket turkeys. Then, to reduce stress and ensure humane handling, Gallagher and Amsden process the turkeys directly at their Lanesborough farm in their state-inspected processing unit before pick-up on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Not coincidentally, Berkshire Grown has announced the launch of it 2020-21 Holiday Market and Winter Market seasons for Great Barrington on Saturday, Nov. 21, and Williamstown on Sunday, Nov. 22. Its mission — to keep farmers (like Gallagher and Amsden) farming — is more timely than ever, as is the goal of connecting consumers with an abundance of locally grown and produced foods from the Berkshires.

Produce at a Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers’ Market in February. Photo courtesy Berkshire Grown

“We are thrilled to offer these indoor winter markets to support our Berkshire farmers,” executive director Margaret Moulton said in a recent statement. “Even the brief exchanges between farmers and shoppers at the socially distant market remind us how lucky we are to know the farmers who grow our food,” she added. Knowing the source of one’s food and the individuals responsible for growing and/or raising it has become increasingly valuable — if not priceless — during the ongoing pandemic that rages on as winter sets into the once-verdant Berkshire Hills. Case in point: Square Roots is completely sold out of turkeys for the season. “We raised about the same number of birds this year as last —roughly 130 — and sold out about a week later than usual,” Amsden told The Edge, citing a perceived “decrease in holiday gatherings due to the pandemic [that] sort of canceled out … the parallel increase in demand for local food since the start of the pandemic.” She and Gallagher will be at the Williamstown winter markets with eggs, chicken and cuts of pork and beef including bacon, sausages, chops, steaks, roasts and more. They will also be selling handmade holiday wreaths made from farm-grown dried flowers and locally foraged greens and grapevines. It is this type of in-person exchange that “gives community members the opportunity to support our farmers and local food producers, and to thank them for their hard work year-round,” said Moulton.

The Holiday Markets will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Sundays of Nov. 22 and Dec. 20 at Greylock WORKS in North Adams. The Winter Market begins Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and runs monthly through April 2021 at Eisner Camp in Great Barrington. Both markets will feature an abundance of locally grown and produced foods from the Berkshires, ranging from winter squash, greens and root crops to apples, meats, cheeses, honey and maple syrup as well as baked goods, jams, fermented products and cider. Admission to the farmers’ markets is free and SNAP/EBT is accepted at all markets. While no food or drink can be consumed in the market area, Off the Shelf Farm and North Plain Farm will be selling egg sandwiches and grilled sausages to take home and enjoy. At Greylock WORKS, the Break Room will be open during the market, offering coffee, pastries and full breakfast and lunch menus focused on regional farms.

Produce at a Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers’ Market in February. Photo courtesy Berkshire Grown

“It has certainly been an unprecedented year, in many ways,” said Amsden, who, with her husband, remains “deeply grateful for the outpouring of interest and support from the community [which leaves the pair] honored to be able to safely feed [their] neighbors healthy, delicious food during this challenging time.” As holiday traditions inevitably evolve this season, Amsden is encouraging her customers to get creative and learn how to cut up their own turkeys — a process she deems “pretty easy, if a little messy the first time”— to add into exciting new recipes for leftovers or to freeze for another occasion. No matter the choice, choosing to shop and eat locally is a win-win for foodies and farmers alike.

The winter markets have been well-planned to account for state and local board of health regulations. The number of visitors allowed indoors will be limited; everyone entering the market area will be required to wear masks; and shoppers are encouraged to plan ahead by making shopping lists and sending only one or two household members to the market. Both venues offer indoor shopping with plenty of parking.

Berkshire Grown Great Barrington Winter Farmers’ Market
Eisner Camp
53 Brookside Road, Great Barrington
Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Nov. 21, Dec. 19, 2020
Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 27, April 10, 2021

Berkshire Grown Williamstown Holiday Farmers Market
Greylock WORKS
508 State Road, North Adams
Sundays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Nov. 22, Dec. 20, 2020

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!” The nonprofit is deeply grateful to this year’s Winter Farmers Market sponsors: Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives at Williams College, Berkshire Bank and Jane Iredale Skincare Makeup. It has deep gratitude to the Berkshire Food Co-op, Herrington’s and Mountain One, all of which support the Market Match program for SNAP dollars at the Berkshire Grown Holiday and Winter Farmers Markets. Berkshire Grown is also very grateful for very generous support from the Bookloft, Greylock WORKS, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Lee Bank, the Prairie Whale, Rolling Rock Salt, Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and Williams College Center for Environmental Studies.