Made in the Berkshires | Hosta Hill Foods cultivates success with fermented vegetables

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GREAT BARRINGTON — It's hard to describe exactly what Hosta Hill owners Maddie Elling and Abe Hunrichs do. Are they farmers? Are they fermenters? Are they doing something else?

"We call ourselves homesteaders," Elling said. "Hosta Hill isn't a farm; it's a production facility. We grow our vegetables on fields we lease from other people."

Also call Elling and Hunrichs award-winners. For the second year in a row, the couple have won a Good Food award, a prestigious international award that celebrates, as its website proclaims "all the food that's good to eat."

Both their awards were in the pickles category, one of about a dozen in which awards are presented. Categories also include coffee, confections, beer, and chocolate among others.

In 2015, Hosta Hill won the Good Food award for its kimchi, which in American terms is basically a Korean-based sauerkraut. In 2016, Hosta Hill won for its Gocha Curry Kraut, a very spicy type of sauerkraut.

State grant

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has also taken notice of Hosta Hill. Earlier this month, Hosta Hill received a $10,000 grant from the state Department of Agricultural Resources' Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture program, according to Commissioner John Lebeaux. Elling and Hunrichs will have to match the funds.

"The funds can be used for equipment and infrastructure upgrades," Lebeaux said.

Elling said the money will be used primarily for equipment purchases, including upgrading their tractor, new tractor attachments and a grain silo.

The Hosta Hill operation, based in Housatonic, began about four years ago. Elling is a Berkshire County native who graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School. Hunrichs is a California guy. With the demand for locally grown products at an all-time high, the two decided to get into the fermented vegetable side of the business.

The couple grows red and green cabbage, onions, turnips, peppers, carrots and radishes on farmland they lease across the Berkshires, Elling said.

Hosta Hill's kimchi and Gocha Curry are distributed to more than 50 stores in the Berkshires and the surrounding area. Other Hosta Hill products include tempeh, hot sauce and a jars of sauerkraut-based juices called Krautonics. These products also are available online.

Elling said she and Hunrichs are still trying to figure out the finances to see if the business can work.

"We're still trying to work out the money side of this," she said. "Can we do enough business to make a living? Is there enough of a market? We think so."

Last year Elling and Hunrichs purchased a vintage tractor, acquired more farmland and grew more vegetables, according to their website.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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