Harvesting a good time: Costumes and fresh veggies aplenty at Pittsfield Harvest Festival

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PITTSFIELD — The Common was a quintessential autumn scene Saturday afternoon as flannel-clad families plucked gourds from farm stands during the city's second Harvest Festival.

The event, introduced last year as a replacement for the October Third Thursday, coincided with the last outdoor farmers market of the year.

On Nov. 11, vendors will move inside the adjacent Zion Lutheran Church for the Saturday morning market.

"This week, the winter squash is really going," said Cameron Hastie, owner of Trusted Roots Farm based in New Lebanon, N.Y.

While the biggest seller for Trusted Roots is generally greens such as baby lettuce, the farm peddles more root vegetables as the market moves indoors because they can be stored long after harvesting season ends, Hastie said.

A group of children, many donning Halloween costumes, crunched the few crimson leaves that had fallen on the Common on Saturday while they competed in a hula hoop competition hosted by the Berkshire Health Systems. Several feet away, amateur yogis practiced a tree pose, balancing on one leg and stretching their arms toward the gray October sky.

Christopher Wheeler and Kristen Tool, of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, used the festival as an opportunity to introduce their 6-month-old silkie hen, Maple, to the public.

Maple, whose silky black plumage overtakes her small head, sat calmly on Wheeler's hand while he educated a crowd about the breed.

"We don't have farmers markets where we live," said Janice Tortoriello of the Bronx, N.Y.

Unless the family makes a special trip to an "organic grocery store," it's not often that it gets to see fresh, locally-grown produce, Tortoriello said while her 6-year-old son, Austin, and 4-year-old daughter, Arielle, gawked at Maple.

As residents are attracted to the market for its produce and cuisine, business owners jump at the opportunity to get their products to the public before bringing them to a permanent location.

Lorraine Jones, who, along with the other women in her family, runs the pop-up barbecue restaurant Smokey Divas, said that the farmers market gives her the opportunity to test recipes while deciding whether to open up a bricks-and-mortar shop in the city. The overhead cost of pop-up stands and markets in Western Massachusetts is low, said Jones, who is also a project manager for a tech company in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The family offered an array of meats smothered in Jones' great-grandmother's barbecue sauce, which first debuted in Oakland, Calif., in 1974.

"We go through a lot of chicken," said Jones, 42, while her mother and aunt piled barbecue and macaroni and cheese onto customers' plates. "Pittsfield has showed us a lot of love."

Mariana Bergtold and Iris Kol, bakers at the soon-to-open bakery Tyler and Pine who met at a retreat in Hawaii, also used the festival to get the shop's name out.

The bakery, which will offer made-to-order doughnuts, pastries and other confections, is owned by Jessica Rufosof Dottie's Coffee Lounge, and expected to open by early December, Kol said.

"We're bringing some of those big city concepts of donuts and pastries to our rural community," Bergtold said.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com.


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