In fact, Palumbo enjoys giving people a tour of his approximately 100-acre farm and introducing them to his chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, sheep and geese. And he loves to talk and teach the principles of sustainable agriculture, offering farm tours, workshops, internships and educational programs.
Palumbo is one of the luckiest farmers in Berkshires, whose businesses have survived the pandemic.
“It’s a time of flux,” he says. “It’s really hard to see where small-scale organic farming is going. “
During the pandemic, Palumbo tried to meet the immediate needs of the community by bringing everything online and offering a drive-thru pickup service at the farm. “It was incredibly stressful because we had limited resources and people were desperate for healthy food.”
Business has slowed, almost to a halt, with the reopening of traditional stores, but he hopes that the desire for locally produced organically produced foods will increase and local farms can become stable and expand again. “It’s like throwing a deck of cards in the air. Who knows? ”He said of the future.
But we were here to do our best to support him and other local farmers in an area long known for its strong farm-to-fork philosophy. We were also eager to explore places off the beaten track, along scenic backcountry roads. We had stuck a cooler full of ice in the trunk of the car and headed west on our own DIY Berkshires farm tour.
After our stop at Moon In The Pond farm, we strolled through Great Barrington, stopping at the famous Bizalion Cafe and Market, known for its locally sourced provisions and gourmet specialties. We ordered fresh salads and an eggplant, tomato, melted mozzarella and pesto sandwich served on a freshly baked baguette from Berkshire Mountain Bakery. Owner Jean-François Bizalion was on hand to speak with customers and help with orders. We chatted with him for a while and he suggested a few must-see farms in the area including Highland Farm and Taft Farms. “I think the owner of Taft just wrote a book,” he said. Yes, we researched it: “Green: A Reflection on Love and Loss Through a Lifetime Relationship with the Land”, by Dan Tawczynski. (We’ve since put it on our reading list.) Tawczynski and his brother Stanley founded Taft Farms 55 years ago, pioneering sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture in the rich and fertile Housatonic River Valley. It’s our next stop, a market plentiful with baskets and boxes filled with freshly picked produce and coolers filled with local specialty items. There is a farmhouse grocery store and cafe with soups, salads and sandwiches; welcoming picnic tables overlooked the rolling farmlands. We loaded our bags with heirloom tomatoes – gnarled Great Whites, fun green sausages, and red and yellow Virginia candies.
That evening we settled into the Wyndhurst Manor and Club in Lenox, a large rambling mansion that once housed the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club and later the Cranwell Resort & Spa. Today the property comprises an imposing Tudor-style brick mansion, expansive lawns and gardens, tennis courts, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and an 18-hole golf course with views of the the Berkshire Hills. The recently opened Miraval Berkshires wellness complex is also on the property. Rooms at the historic mansion are lovely, with traditional furnishings befitting the property, but have been updated with modern baths, light and neutral tones, and plush, lush linens. The lobby is grand and the dining room on the ground floor, with an outdoor terrace overlooking the mountains, is elegant, with its large stone fireplace, marble floor and white linen tables. That evening we dined on bowls of fresh cucumber gazpacho, local greens from Lenox Farms, and rainbow fish from the Hudson Valley, served with pancetta and beans.
The next morning we chatted with the resort’s chef, Andrea Pang, while tasting slices of fresh sourdough bread and local High Lawn Farm honey ricotta cheese. The cheese was amazing. “Yeah, it’s almost like raising an animal,” she said of the cheese. “Crops are alive, and the way they are managed, how they are raised matters.
High Lawn was on our list of places to visit, but we checked out North Plain Farm in Great Barrington first. What a sweet place! The family farm is surrounded by rolling hills and pastures, a quiet and lush oasis to give up our daily jobs and become farmers in the Berkshires. One store contained the farm’s bounty, including grass-fed beef, pork, milk, eggs, chicken, vegetables and other local produce.
The historic High Lawn Farm in Lee was our last stop. The renowned family farm has been raising Jersey cows since 1923 and producing some of New England’s richest and tastiest dairy products. We visited the calves in the barn and enjoyed a platter of artisan cheeses and cold cuts from the on-site Farmstead dairy, followed by ‘in your dreams’ ice cream cones.
If you are going to: Moon in the pond, 413-229-3092, www.mooninthepond.org; Wyndhurst Mansion and Club, 877-781-7125, www.wyndhurstmanorandclub.com; Taft Farms, 413-528-1515, www.taftfarmsgb.com; Northern Plain Farm, 413-429-6598, www.northplainfarm.com; High lawn farm, 413-243-0672, www.highlawnfarm.com. For more information on the Berkshires, visit www.berkshires.org.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be contacted at [email protected]