Keep Berkshires Farming Goes Regional
There's no shortage of local farm advocacy in the Berkshire. But there's an effort afoot to take some of the common wisdom floating around and quantify it into hard data that could fuel a county-wide strategy for growth
From farmers' markets to chic restaurants boasting of their farm-to-table fare, Berkshire County has a very visible local food movement. But in an effort to make connections among the players, a program called Keep Berkshires Farming is taking a regional planning approach.
"Big ideas that take a lot of collaboration and a lot of partners working on this."
Amy Kacala, senior planner with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, is helping the Keep Berkshires Farming initiative identify big-picture items that may be a drag on the growth of the farming sector. She cited things the average farmers' market customer may not consider, like access to slaughtering plants or availability of food processing centers.
"Just some of those realities of what farmers are facing right now, given different regulations and different infrastructure gaps, is something that I think people would be more mobilized if they knew some of these challenges."
It's building off a similar program in New York state. Part of the effort is to round up detailed survey data about what consumers are looking for, and what farmers need.
Matt Novick, of the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, says Keep Berkshires Farming takes much-needed methodological approach
"I think what's important about what they're doing, is they're clarifying and quantifying things that a lot of people assume they know but they don't necessarily know. So through the surveys with farmers and consumers and people who buy the vegetables and consumers at restaurants and all of those sorts of things, they're really trying to map out what the agricultural economy means to this area."
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has been in touch with its other counterparts in Western Mass about ways to tie together the region's farm economy even further.