An opportunity to buy in a growth industry
Visit a farmers market in California and you might find locally grown avocados, dates or grapefruit. OK, so we don’t have those here, but that’s what makes our radishes, corn and tomatoes all the more precious.
The fact that Berkshire farmers can wring such incredible delicacies from such an intense and finicky climate in so few months is all the more testament to their skill and know-how.
Year-round sunshine? Come on, that’s cheating.
The only thing more satisfying than hopping from farm stand to farm stand to stock up in the thick of the growing season is finding it all laid out for you at one of our many farmers markets. The Berkshires are home to several markets teeming with some of the country’s finest ingredients.
“We try very hard to have vendors who produce locally, and then we ask the food producers to put some local into their food products, so the whole emphasis is on supporting local agriculture,” says Rose Levine, who manages both the Great Barrington and Lenox markets, two of the region’s heaviest hitters.
At the ripe age of 22 years, the Great Barrington market is housed in a historic train station behind the town hall. There you’ll find fruit and vegetables, picked or cut at the pinnacle of seasonality by farmers like those at Taft Farm of Great Barrington and Indian Line Farm of Egremont. Berkshire Mountain Bakery of Housatonic sells breads leavened by sourdough both here and at Lenox, and Berkshire Wildflower Honey of Great Barrington supplies both markets with its radiant, liquid gold.
If you’re hungry, and you probably will be, grab a grilled sausage from North Plain Farm and Blue Hill Farm, which operate jointly here in town and are market regulars. This year an additional, entirely new Great Barrington market is also popping up at Berkshire South Regional Community Center.
After a bit of wandering, last year the Lenox market found a new home on the grounds of Shakespeare & Company, where it hopes to stay. In addition to produce, bread and honey, here you’ll find pies made with locally grown, seasonal fruits by Klara’s Gourmet Cookies of Lee, and more sausages made by Raven and Boar farm, just across the New York border in Northern Columbia county.
“That’s great, you can have your lunch at the market,” says Levine, her Irish accent seemingly lending an extra air of authority. Two new additions to the Lenox market this year are mushrooms from Zehr & Sons farm, who offer cultivated fungi including oyster and shiitake mushrooms, as well as hard cider from Carr’s Ciderhouse in North Hadley, Massachusetts, which uses a refurbished cider press over 100 years old. Both markets also feature cheeses from vendors like Cricket Creek Farm, a grass-based dairy in Williamstown.
These two markets are emblematic of the region’s offerings, but they’re far from the only options. There are over a dozen markets throughout the Berkshires that feature a similar range of products and vendors particular to their immediate surroundings, including locations in Adams, North Adams, Lanesborough, Pittsfield, Otis, Sheffield and Williamstown.
In the nearby Pioneer Valley, there’s an entirely different set of markets, including the Northampton farmers market, which operates year round and runs bi-weekly throughout the summer, and the Amherst farmers market. Head to any one of them to support your local farmers while procuring real food at the height of freshness, avocados be damned.
AARON KAGAN is the editor of Eater Boston and is a freelance food journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Smithsonian.com, Meatpaper, Stuff Magazine Boston, Boston Magazine, the Boston Phoenix, Edible Rhody, the Forward and Th e Jew and the Carrot. In his previous life he toured the U.S. with the sketch comedy group the Late Night Players and he recently had his first play, Beep… Doot, published by the Boston Theater Marathon XII. He has also worked as a teacher, a cook and a personal chef, is an ardent forager and is thrilled to have discovered his first patch of wild asparagus this past spring.