I’ve been photographing what is beautiful to me in The Berkshires for a long time, including plenty of farms and tables. My town in this western region of Massachusetts began as Shawenon, named for a Mohican chief who had an eye for gentle majesty.
The 1780’s-ish dairy farmhouse my family bought years ago sits on a dirt road with deer trails all around. The surrounding fields and farms are bountiful. In August, the corn is ten feet high and the autumn pumpkins take shape. Before farmers markets were hipster havens, before lavender ice cream was even a thing, the Berkshires held seasonal markets because it was the best way to buy and sell fresh food. My time here (off & on 40 years so far – I feel lucky!) features wild turkeys, apples from the orchard, tomatoes, Shakespeare plays, cider donuts, concerts, and maple candy – all thoughtfully produced. The New York Times recently heralded Berkshire’s farm-to-table practioners, and the James Beard Foundation awarded local chefs top honors for sustainably-produced, high quality cuisine. I worked along side this crew at the markets for a bit, often bartering dark chocolate for loose onions and rainbow chard at closing time. My city kids got to experience an extraordinary kind of nature and a reclaimed way of life. Here are photos I think capture the spirit of the markets and the scenery, and I hope they give you a sense of what it feels like to be a part of this genuine farm-to-table community:
A few family shots:
Berkshire farm-to-table chefs honored by the James Beard Foundation:
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA
Sommelier Dan Thomas
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA
Prairie Whale, Great Barrington, MA
The Old Mill, South Egremont, MA
The Meat Market, Great Barrington, MA
John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, South Egremont, MA
Firefly, Lenox, MA
Can’t you just smell them?
Last of the cherries, first of the nectarines.
ARTISAN FOOD & DRINK: A few of my favorites:
With earthy sourdoughs in European style and chocolate ciabattas, this bakery has been a steady at the markets and health food stores in the area for decades.
These craft spirits hit the national market and swept top honors. Gin, Vodka, Whiskey, Rum – the owner tells me it is all in the water, but I know his clear-headed science and creative commitment to flavor also drive their success.
Life-long New Yorkers stop by this shop for bagels on the way BACK to the city. They are that good. They are amazing. Try them with nova (lox).
A local paradise of gourmet food. Organic everything, local suppliers, well-prepped food for picnics or loading up a household kitchen.
Another local favorite, this grocery is small and well-focused on the highest quality foods, home and health products, with a cafe in the back.
Legendary! When you visit Rawson Brook Farm in Monterey, you will meet the goats (and people) responsible for this creamy, versatile, award-winning goat cheese.
A long-time market staple, these gourmet soups nourish weekenders and locals with seasonals like Apple Butternut, Farmhouse Lentil, & Borscht.
A leader in local agriculture and education, this farm supplies us with top-quality vegetables and meats.
This Williamstown farm brings cheeses to the markets that make you understand the relationship between sweet green grass, happy cows, and sharp, nuanced, cheddar style.
Proudly raising pigs and selling pig products.
Other Local Restaurants of Note:
A casual cafe on the site where Guido’s prepped foods are made – a perfect lunch spot.
Quaint and seasonal, this bakery supplies baguettes, cookies, and quick breads.
Of course it literally was a stagecoach stop once upon a time, and now features an inviting bar and seasonally-inspired meals in moody New England style.
For coffee, for kale salads and burgers, for a center-of-the-action view of what’s happening in Great Barrington.
The children in your life will lead you to this spot. If not, find your way. It is the after-dinner hub of Great Barrington.
Chocolate Springs is one of the finest chocolatiers in the country, with a well-earned reputation for superb European chocolates and a local’s understanding of the importance of a good, rich cup of cocoa.
For further reading, visit the New York Times recent piece on The Great Barrington Farmer’s Market and environs, or Eye of the Shawenon, a colorful, regional epic by a local historian that is proudly featured at the counter in the Old Egremont Country Store.
And more artisan wares for home, garden & self:
My dear friends Barbara Bockbrader & Robin Norris have created an emporium of originality and garden beauty.
High-end & handmade pieces from exotic wools and fabrics
Designer & friend Jenna O’Brien creates vivid gardens in authentic Berkshire style
For plants, ideas, & tools
Hand-crafted gifts on Main Street, GB
Part jewelry store, part spiritual retreat. Walk in to experience fully.
Food & Wine on The Berkshires
Travel & Leisure on The Berkshires