Farmers Market fun: Wellness focus alongside local produce

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PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Common was almost certainly the healthiest place to be n Berkshire County on Saturday morning.

In addition to the weekly Downtown Farmer's Market, there also a host of "wellness" programs that literally appealed to residents of all ages and all degrees of physical ability.

"This is usually one of our biggest weekends," said Jessica Vecchia, director of the Alchemy Initiative, which has been sponsoring the Downtown Farmer's Market for the past five years. "We bring in a number of community groups to showcase how people can be healthier, and in turn, make a healthier community."

"This is one of the best farmer's markets in the area," said Steve Isaac of Claverack, N.Y, , a self-described farmer's market junkie. "Love coming here. Great produce."

In addition to the food, there were yoga classes for adults and children, health lectures, cooking demonstrations, exercise classes, holistic health booths and at mid-morning, a two-mile run with members of the Berkshire Running Center.

"We're looking to make this a weekly thing," said Shiobbean Lemme, who runs the Berkshire Running Center with her husband, Kent. "we're talking with Jess [Vecchia] to see if we can work that out."

On Saturday, the runners navigated a two-mile loop through the downtown, ending up back st The Common.

"Then," said Lemme, indicating the Farmer's Market, "we'll shop for dinner."

A few dozen feet away. Katherine Miller of Lee was preparing for her cooking class. This particular class, said Miller, featured ways to use parts of vegetables that most people generally throw away.

"Carrot tops are a good example," she said,holding up a clump of greens. "You don't have to toss them away. You can use them in a [soup] stock. There are a huge number of minerals and vitamins in carrot tops."

There were several yoga classes through the morning, including kid's yoga classes.

"It improves flexibility, core strength, digestion, circulation, it relaxes them, there are a lot of benefits for kids," said Rachael Plain, director of Berkshire Yoga, Dance and Fitness of Pittsfield. Plain's organization also offers Zumba, exercise and dance classes.

"A little something for everyone," she said.

There was also a booth for the Wellness Underground, which is not a subversive organization, but a Wellness Center located in the Allendale Shopping Center Underground, according to co-director Heather Juby.

"It does have a somewhat dual meaning," said Juby, noting that her group advocates natural healing processes, with out the use of drugs.

"We actually don't advertise," she said. "We find that people come to us when all else fails."

The event was well attended, with a few hundred visitors throughout the morning. This included Courtney Gagne of Plainfield, who was attending with her chocolate Labrador Retriever, the aptly-named Fudge.

"I thought it would be fun," said Gagne, as Fudge burrowed under table, seeking shade. "I've never been here and I just wanted to see what was going on. It's pretty fun."

Gagne held up a plastic bag filled with squash and leeks.

"And I got some fresh veggies," she said

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-629-4621.


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