Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and Adamah Farm staff tour the grounds for proposed tree plantings. Photo courtesy BAV

Nonprofit News: Berkshire Agricultural Ventures awards agroforestry grant; LitNet adds staff; Crandell Theatre announces fundraising plans; Hancock Shaker Village strengthens internship program

A grant from the Feigenbaum Foundation will allow Hancock Shaker Village to offer paid internships for up to 10 people during the 2021 season. An additional gift will support intern housing for the first time.

Berkshire Agricultural Ventures plants the seeds for local agroforestry 

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) recently announced its first agroforestry grant was awarded to Adamah Farm, located in Falls Village, Connecticut. This grant is a first step in promoting and funding agroforestry practices — the intentional integration of trees onto farms — in Northwest Connecticut, and Berkshire, Columbia, and Dutchess counties. A priority area for BAV, agroforestry is a way to grow food while yielding environmental conservation benefits such as water and air quality, habitat, and soil health.

Adamah Farm operates a 3-acre organic vegetable operation with a sliding scale CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model, a food access project, goats, chickens, herbs, fruit, and a fellowship program that teaches regenerative ways of living with the land in the context of an intentional Jewish spiritual community.

Glenn Bergman of Berkshire Agricultural Ventures hands a check to Shamu Sadeh of Adamah Farm. Photo courtesy BAV

The BAV grant will assist Adamah in transforming a 25-acre parcel of sloping grass into a food-producing orchard centered around Chinese chestnuts, a blight-resistant variety increasingly popular in the Midwest and Northeast regions.

“This project will help us in our educational mission to highlight the importance of long-term thinking about land and food systems with a focus on regenerative solutions,” said Adamah Farm Manager Janna Siller. “The trees will offer us an opportunity to talk about perennial agriculture, carbon sequestration, plant-based regional diets, investing in the future in a time of uncertainty, resilient land designs, and honoring indigenous foodways.”

“Agroforestry is widely practiced throughout the world but is less common in North America despite its potential for producing food in a way that regenerates soil and ecosystems,” said Mark Phillips, program coordinator at BAV. “It is our hope that Adamah Farm’s orchard will serve as an example and inspiration for the adoption of agroforestry in the Berkshire-Taconic region in the decades to come.”

Over the past four years, BAV has given over 100 low-interest loans (0-2%) and/or grants to farmers and food businesses. For more information, please visit its website or call Glenn Bergman, interim director, at 413-645-3594.

—A.K.

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Crandell Theatre announces $3 million fundraising plan for renovation, endowment

CHATHAM — The Crandell Theatre board of directors recently announced it has raised $2 million of its $3 million Capital Campaign goal, which will allow it to renovate the theater and establish an endowment to sustain it. One million dollars has been raised towards the renovation cost of $2 million, and an initial pledge of $1 million has been received for the endowment. The theater renovation will include upgrading the audio system, expanding the lobby and concession area, adding modernized restrooms, replacing seats, and creating a functional staff workspace and storage.

The Crandell Theatre, photo courtesy the theatre

The Crandell is currently closed because of the pandemic, but the board anticipates reopening in summer 2021 (based on state health guidelines and financial feasibility) and producing the FilmColumbia Festival in the fall. Depending on fundraising campaign progress, construction is scheduled for January 2022, with a reopening in time for FilmColumbia in late 2022. Joel Merker is the architect for the project; Chad Lindberg, principal of Taconic Engineering, is doing the engineering work. Both are based in Chatham.

Lydia Kukoff, president of the board of directors, said, “We are very much aware of the important role the Crandell plays in the community and in the region. The Crandell has provided a vibrant beacon on Main Street for nearly 100 years. We look forward to preserving the historic character of the Crandell, while enhancing the current movie-viewer’s experience.”

The Crandell was built in 1926 as a venue for traveling vaudeville shows and movies, then America’s principal mode of popular entertainment. In 1929, sound speakers were added in order to screen “talkies.” The Spanish Renaissance-style building has been largely unchanged since it opened. With over 500 seats, the Crandell is among the few remaining single-screen movie theaters in the country.

In addition to producing the annual FilmColumbia festival, the Crandell hosts a series of community screenings, including the Farm Film Festival in conjunction with the Chatham Agricultural Partnership and the Columbia Land Conservancy.

—A.K.

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Literacy Network of South Berkshire adds two new staff members

Amanda Giracca. Photo courtesy LitNet

LEE — Amanda Giracca and Miguel Silva have joined Literacy Network of South Berkshire (LitNet) as development & communications associate and learner liaison, respectively.

Giracca, a Berkshire County native, is a writer and former writing professor who most recently taught at the University at Albany. She has been a volunteer tutor for LitNet, and served as an intern for the organization’s annual appeal.

Miguel Silva. Photo courtesy LitNet

Silva, who came to the Berkshires at age 10 from Bogotá, Colombia, currently teaches Spanish at Berkshire Country Day School. The newly created role of learner liaison is tasked with improving outreach between the organization’s staff and largely Latinx immigrant learners.

Those interested in becoming a volunteer tutor with LitNet can email info@litnetsb.org.

—A.K.

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Hancock Shaker Village strengthens internship program with gift from Feigenbaum Foundation and intern housing

PITTSFIELD — A grant from the Feigenbaum Foundation will allow Hancock Shaker Village to offer paid internships for up to 10 people during the 2021 season. The Village’s internship program engages undergraduates in a living history museum and farm to develop professional skills and connect to career opportunities. In addition to the gift from the Foundation, an anonymous donor in 2020 supported the creation of on-site intern housing, providing interns the option to live on campus beginning this summer. The combined total of these two gifts is $230,000.

“This recent gift will allow us to continue with this robust program while also extending our commitment to making our programs more accessible,” said Jennifer Trainer Thompson, director of Hancock Shaker Village. “Paid internships are an important step towards creating opportunities and building equity and offering housing as an option further opens doors.”

The Village’s historic trustees building, in the past. Photo courtesy HSV

The anonymous gift enabled the Village to make critical repairs on one of its historic buildings, the Trustees’ Office & Store, the second floor of which will house incoming interns. Updates were made in heating, plumbing, electrical, and security. Initially used by the Shakers to transact business with the “outside world,” the building was constructed in 1813, enlarged in 1852, and then again in 1895 when it was “Victorianized.”

By providing both housing and stipends, the Village hopes to increase its intern candidate pool by removing previous barriers. “Our goal is to offer local interns the opportunity to learn more about operating a cultural organization, given that culture is one of the fastest growing businesses in the Berkshires,” said Thompson, “and to also make the experience available to interns who are new to the region and who … may realize the benefits of living in the Berkshires and choose to stay or return after college.”

The Village’s historic trustees building, in modern times. Photo courtesy HSV

Begun with three interns in 2017, the 10-week program has graduated several dozen interns with focus in areas such as Farm & Garden, Curatorial, Education, and Development. The program has many alumni who continue their work in the museum and not–for-profit world post-graduation. Although the program is predominantly college undergraduates, the Village has also hosted graduate students and mid-career professionals looking to shift or bolster their occupations.

Barring any additional limitations with COVID, the 10-week program runs from June to August. More information about applying can be found online.

—A.K.