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BRPC Senior Planner Amy Kacala outlines goals for the Feed the Berkshires planning meeting last week.

Feed the Berkshires Researching Local Food Production

By Stephanie FarringtonCommunity Submission
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — If there's one subject that touches everyone's life, it's food. 

Many of us are trying to eat healthy and often that means eating local. The Berkshires are known nationwide for fresh, local food and beautiful scenic farmland. But do we really know what we have? And maybe more importantly, do we know how to protect and support the production of local foods in our region?

As part of Sustainable Berkshires' developing community plan for our region, the new Feed the Berkshires group held a training session for volunteers in the basement of First Baptist Church on Nov. 14. The meeting was facilitated by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Amy Kacala and members of the farm activist, non-profit Glynwood Institute's staff, including Andrea Burns and Virginia Kasinki, Glynwood's director of community programs.

Originally called Keep Farming, the group will be working to add to the regional plan over the next one to two years.

Volunteer members of the group will be working to gather accurate information about local food availability, use and production in eight Northern Berkshire communities: Adams, North Adams, Savoy, Cheshire, New Ashford, Williamstown and Florida. 


More than 30 volunteers attended the training session to map out plans for acquiring data on local farming and food needs.
With more than 30 volunteers in attendance and nearly 60 at last month's launch, so far the group has attracted more local interest than any of the other planning sessions hosted by BRPC.

The first stages of the project will involve gathering information about supply and demand for local food in grocery stores, at community pantries, in restaurants and in schools. The agricultural economics group will be surveying local farmers about their current needs and challenges, their crops, their market and the ability to make a living as a small farmer in the Berkshires.

There will also be research projects launched on health and nutrition in the eight communities, natural resources and opportunities for distribution of local products to local consumers.


Keep Farming has been working with the communities of the Southern Berkshires for nearly a year. The concerns of communities in the south are not the same as those in the north; for one thing, Northern Berkshire residents often consider food grown in Vermont or New York State as local.

Kasinki said the Northern Berkshire community has a unique way of thinking about what is local and what is not. While the Southern Berkshires' Keep Farming initiative was firm that their interest would stop at the Massachusetts border, people in the Northern Berkshires are accustomed to thinking of Southern Vermont and eastern New York as part of the local range. 

For now, the goal of Feed the Berkshires is to help protect, sustain, support and encourage local food production. They are particularly focused on increasing support to small farms and producers. The first step is to see the landscape as it is now.

Kasinki summed up the goal of the project with a series of questions: "What do you have here? What's your foundation to grow on? Does your community have the same goals you have? Can we get there?"

Feed the Berkshires is working to support community health, community planning and the local economy by getting local food onto the plates of the people who live in our region and making sure everyone can afford to grow, serve and eat it. 

Stephanie Farrington is a freelance writer in North Adams. You can reach her at stephanie.farrington@gmail.com.


Tags: agriculture,   Feed the Berkshires,   Sustainable Berkshires,   

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Clark Art Lecture On The Mandylion

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — On Friday, Feb. 26, Beinecke Fellow and professor at Syracuse University Glenn Peers presents a talk through the Clark's Research and Academic Program's lecture series on "The Mandylion's Marital and Martial Message Machines." 
 
The pre-recorded lecture will be available on the Clark website from Feb. 26 through June 15.
 
Byzantine precursor to the Veronica, the Mandylion was believed to be a self-portrait made by Jesus and sent to Abgar, King of Edessa, with the apostle Thaddaeus. This talk focuses on the tenth century, when the Mandylion was a symbol of earthly and divine power within the new Christian dispensation. The Mandylion was viewed as a wedding veil, battle mask, weapon of mass destruction, king maker, and more.
 
Glenn Peers is professor in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University and emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a fellow at the Hebrew University Institute for Advanced Study in Jerusalem, a Whitehead Professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His publications include Orthodox Magic in Trebizond and Beyond: A Fourteenth-Century Greco-Arabic Amulet Roll and Byzantine Things in the World, which accompanied an exhibition he guest-curated at the Menil Collection, Houston. During his fellowship at the Clark, Peers is working on a study of the post-human and media theory in Byzantine culture.
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