People like you who are interested in strengthening the resilience of our region
Thank you for attending our FEED the Berkshires Kickoff Event!
You may have noticed a slight name change, now FEED the Berkshires, is the official name of the initiative which is utilizing the Keep Farming program structure.
Farming + Urban Gardens
Economy + Environment
Education + Outreach
Diet + Nutrition
We had a great event with 60 people from six northern Berkshire communities (Williamstown, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Adams, North Adams, and Florida) as well as Stamford VT. This is just the start of an exciting effort and new participants are always welcome to the process.
Thanks to Andrea (of Glynwood) for helping present the overview of what’s to come and to the dedicated set of Northern Berkshire residents that helped to organize, publicize and bake delicious pies and desserts to make the event a success: Jay Walsh, Lee Venolia, Kathy Keeser, Sharon Wyrrick, Stephanie Borns, Sarah Gardner, Frances Duncan, Tony Pasano, and Caroline Scully.
Thank you also to our wonderful musicians for the lively entertainment and to Wild Oats Co-op for providing warm coffee on a chilly evening!
I hope that everyone had an interesting discussion at the team table you chose and got to meet other potential team members. As a refresher, the four Assessment Teams are:
Volunteers (like you!) will work in these teams over the next few months to gather information on north Berkshire. The information you gather will help inform the strategies that we’ll develop next year (2012) to help strengthen agricultural economics and access to healthy, local food in the future. The entire planning process should be complete in 12-18 months – and then we’ll start making things happen!
The 4 FEED Teams are open to join at any time. You can stay informed and find out when the Teams will be meeting by contacting Andrea Burns of Keep Farming email@example.com.
Soon we will have additional information about our progress and a calander of meeting dates posted on the Sustainable Berkshires web site http://sustainableberkshires.org/.
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On October 24, 2011 Northern Berkshire Keep Farming Initiative will hold their Kickoff Event to introduce the residents of Northern Berkshire to the process of community involvement in identifying, defining and supporting our local food system.
Keep Farming Kickoff Event Details Here...
March 31, 2011 Northern Berkshire Transition joins forces with the Glynwood Center, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and other local community groups and local governments boards to evaluate and expand upon our locally produced food resources. The Keep Farming local food system evaluation will become the agricultural component of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commissions long range planning document Sustainable Berkshires.
A Little About KEEP FARMING
Keep Farming is founded on the principle that the best solutions to our community’s issues will come from within the community itself...
The Glynwood ICenter's Keep Farming program assissts communities with hands-on training, guidance, and materials to help organize and develop grassroots evaluation of the local food system. Keep Farming is unique and powerful because it starts by building an open, collaborative atmosphere in the community and a constituency that includes all stakeholders – including farmers. This constituency – the Community Agriculture Partnership, or CAP – becomes the foundation for community consensus and the political will needed to create and implement a plan for strengthening farming.
Keep Farming is also unique for training and equipping volunteers in the community to do the essential work of research and fact-gathering about the local farm economy. This means that the Keep Farming constituency will possess the intellectual capital of first-hand information, which can be used to break through conflicts based on uninformed opinion.
See the attached Keep_Farming_Berkshires.pdf
Find out more about the KEEP FARMING Program here...
Our August 2011 trip to the Western Mass Food Processing Facility - Greenfield
One of project that keeps coming up in meetings about our local food economy is the need for a food processing facility. This would be a place where farmers and individuals coule process their produce for market and/or prepare value added products such as breads, jams, pickles etc. There might also be room for dry and clod storage of goods. To get an idea of what a facility like this would be like. Look over the details of the facility currently operating over in Franklin County. Western Mass Food Processing Center
Here are notes from our visit.
The director of the Franklyn County CDC John Waite gave us the grand tour (over 1 1/2 hrs) and explained the many details of the operation we never would have imagined were necessary to make the facility work. Lessons Learned, sometimes the hard way. Of the ten years it has been in operation there have only been a couple where they were in the black. They offer storage services (dry, cold and freezer), kitchen usage and even will produce your product for you (copack). The operation draws clients from a hundred mile radius, though it appears that the majority of their clients are from within a 25 mile range.
The Food Processing Facility is just part of their 30 year old CDC, they also offer business financing services and business education workshops and other business support services. Part of their 45, 000 SF facility (which was purchased back in the 1980's) is a Venture Center offering for rent/lease light industrial and office space and is home to another half a dozen or so small businesses like Co-op Power, Northeast Bio-Diesel Company, Our Family Farms , Pioneer Co-op of Franklin County, Quality Cleaning Services , Spooky Bikes. They have one good sized well established anchor tenant, Silver Screen Design that helps pay the monthly mortgage on the complex. The CDC also has their eye on a building across the street for possible expansion.
The facility has a fulltime staff of one and uses a local temp agency for their labor for the copack and farm-to-school production.
The kitchen can handle 4-5 separate users at one time so long as they don’t need the same equipment. Often there are more than one user in the kitchen at a time. Users of the facility vary from: Daily production for the local Meals-on-Wheels, Copack for a variety of small wholesalers, Annual usage by some and daily/weekly usage by others. One of their client’s production is located right on premise, Katalyst Kombucha. See the list of other users at http://www.fccdc.org/fpcmemberbios.html
A new in-house operation is the CDC’s food processing to supply local contracts for the Farm-to-School program. This day they had 5-6 4x4x4 boxes of broccoli from a farm in Hadley that they were chopping, bagging and freezing. They can do this only because they have a contract with (???) who are the food service contract holders for many of the local schools.
It seems that the combination of services help a great deal to balance finances out as well as the director and accountant salaries are split among the CDC three main service areas. No one department could alone carry the weight of their salaries.
Fully equipped modern production facility that meets federal, state, and local standards. List of facility equipment:
100- and 60-gallon steam kettles
Convection and conventional ovens and range
Large scale baking capacity
25-gallon tilting skillet
Large capacity mixers, choppers, shredders
Dry, cold and frozen storage
Shipping & receiving area w/loading dock
24-hour secure access
Vegetable wash and prep areas
Complete sanitation program and equipment
Shared office space and equipment
Monthly Membership Dues* $50.00
Hourly Kitchen Production:
All Operations $38.00
Monthly Dry Storage:
Pallet or Small Cage $35.00
Large Secure Cage $45.00
Weekly Cold Storage:
Linear Foot $8.00
Rolling Rack $16.00
Dishwashing: No hourly fee as they want the clients to do the best job of cleaning not the fastest. NOTE that the facility was very very clean.
Incident reports are part of the users procedural requirements and provides a means of quality control.
*If you are an occasional user of the facility you do not have to pay the monthly member fee but you do pay a higher hourly usage fee for the facility.
If NY City can grow food on roof tops and in vacant lots, what is stopping us here in the lush hills and valleys of the Berkshires from growing a substantial amount of food locally?
Small Farm Financing
Small Farm Sustainability
New Land Conservation Incentive
Click here for the Conservation Land Tax Credit application
BOSTON – September 19, 2011 – The Massachusetts Conservation Land Tax Credit Program, a new initiative designed to boost land conservation by offering state income tax credits in exchange for conservation land donations, is now taking applications from eligible land donors today, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. announced today.
“With the rollout of this tax credit program today, we have added another tool to further the Patrick-Murray Administration’s ambitious land conservation agenda,” said Secretary Sullivan. “With more than 85,000 acres protected since the Governor took office, we have made outstanding progress and we anticipate continuing that trend through this new program that rewards the generosity of private landowners across the state.”
New Tip Sheet Guides Farmers Looking to Accept SNAP benefits
Many farmers and farmers' markets are interested in becoming eligible to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps), but are intimidated by the complex process involved in becoming authorized retailers. CISA's new tip sheet helps farmstands, CSA farms, and farmers' markets understand the process. Our web page on SNAP and EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) includes links to other valuable resources as well.
Northern Berkshire Local Food Study
The project’s first phase is a local food study, leading to a comprehensive report profiling our community’s food needs and the local resources available to meet them.
The second phase is a community food planning process, during which we will use our assessment to identify projects, partnerships, and policy changes which will use local resources to meet the food needs of the citizens populating the Northern Berkshire region (population roughly 35,000) and provide expanded economic opportunities for community residents.
This process will create greater organizational capacity to influence local policies including outreach to and education of the population served by local foods, zoning for urban gardens, and economic support for new and existing food-related businesses including farmers markets, CSA's, Community Gardens and School Garden Projects. Meeting the goals of this project will provide a solid framework to evaluate current local efforts to meet the food needs of Northern Berkshire* residents and will provide a model for future efforts to address further need. The process will broaden the coalition of individuals and organizations addressing these needs and enable us to move forward with future projects in a strategic way.
The NB Local Food Security Study we are looking to conduct will be based on the established model developed by the Conway School of Landscape Design based in Conway, MA. In addition, we are looking to involve students from both MCLA and Williams Colleges to produce additional independent areas of study to feed into the larger study. This final report will present pertinent baseline data on nutrition and crop-growing requirements; analyzes town and city development and social patterns; evaluates natural conditions that affect food-producing potential; offer case studies and existing models of localized food production; and create conceptual designs for food production in the Northern Berkshire region.
You can review similar studies recently conducted by the Conway School below.
Cultivating Resilience -Shelburne Falls, MA
*Northern Berkshire Region consisting of the towns of Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown. The study may include some bordering communities in New York and Southern Vermont.