n The UMass Extension, Agricultural and Landscape Program, distributes information on resources for beginning farmers about finding land, land use and zoning, and related topics, says Amanda Brown, who teaches courses there. They have a website, www.Umassvegetable.org and publish a weekly newsletter, Vegetable Notes. Local colleges are a resource: MCLA and Berkshire Community College offer courses and degree programs (environmental studies, business, etc. Animal Care Certificate, etc). Williams College’s Center for Environmental Studies has conducted research on local farming.
n The USDA Farm Service Agency office in Pittsfield is a resource: (413) 443-1776, and includes local representation on its county committee. The national website publishes data and resources, and includes an outreach effort to women: www.fsa.usda.gov.
n Keep Berkshires Farming is a part of a regional plan for Berkshire County, Sustainable Berkshires, coordinated by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. BRPC sees local farming as beneficial to the region’s economy, community character, and health. Their partners are town agricultural commissions and Glynwood, a farm resource center in the Hudson Valley.
n The Berkshire Grown site lists many resources: www.berkshire grown.
n Farmer Maribeth Ritchie of Plainfield completed training run by Holistic Management International, which looks at profit, as well as how the farm affects the environment and community, she says. Much of the 10-month program is business training tailored to farming. Ritchie and her husband found financing to buy their Plainfield property through the Farm Service Agency, having already gone through the program.
n "Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources offers Exploring The Small Farm Dream, and other business planning courses for farm startups," says Douglas Gillespie, executive director of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. He mentions Cornell University’s online small farm program too.
-- Judith Monachina