Showcasing the annual Berkshire Grown Festival
Wednesday September 7, 2011
For a few hours on Monday evening Sept. 19, the Tally-Ho barn at Eastover Hotel & Resort in Lenox will turn into a wall-to-wall frenzy of Berkshire farmers, chefs and foodies celebrating the harvest, a successful summer season and the best food and drink they can produce and share.
"I think the Berkshire Grown Harvest Supper is really one of the nicest events of the year," said chef Michael Ballon, owner of the Castle Street Café in Great Barrington and longtime Berkshire Grown member. "There is a wonderful feeling of camaraderie in the room with [all the chefs] doing their best to show off and feature local products."
It is also a chance for farmers and chefs, who have been working all summer in their own fields or kitchens, to dress up and party. Laura Meister, Berkshire Grown board member who owns Farm Girl Farm in North Egremont, said: "I like to scrub my nails, don a party dress and some shiny earrings and leave the soil and sweat behind for a few hours. I love connecting with the other growers and the chefs.
"It is an elegant event, but not in a superficial way," Meister said. "The supper is elegant from the inside out because the building blocks -- the fruits, flowers, vegetables and meats, the passionate, artistic, masterful growers, producers and chefs -- have so much integrity. A room filled with wonderful food, flowers and fascinating people who love what they do is a recipe for a very enjoyable evening! It is something that I look forward to all season!"
Adam Zieminski, chef and owner of Café Adam in Great Barrington, said: "The turnout at the Harvest Dinner only increases year after year. Most times it is standing room only. The noise level of the crowd is deafening by the end of the night. It must be largest assembly of Berkshire food professionals on record."
"It's like an early Thanksgiving," Ballon mused. "When you think about it, late November isn't such a great time for a harvest supper [around here] -- but September in the Berkshires is perfect!"
The Harvest Suppers, originally known as Beautiful Bountiful Berkshires, began when the Berkshire Food and Land Council developed into Berkshire Grown in 1999. It is the nonprofit's primary fundraiser each year, supporting programs such as Share the Bounty, which buys shares in local farms for area food pantries to have fresh produce for low income residents .
Berkshire Grown now connects nearly 300 area farmers, artisanal food producers, restaurateurs, innkeepers, school food buyers and retailers from Vermont to Connecticut and New York to the Pioneer Valley.
"It is important to appreciate Berkshire Grown bringing farmer's and restaurants together," said Zieminski. "It is crucial to have this network with such a short, intense growing season.
"It sets the Berkshires into a class of its own in the farm to table world."
"This explains the high caliber of restaurants in the area. By keeping farmers farming, Berkshire Grown preserves our beautiful Berkshire landscape, preventing unwanted development."
Brian Alberg, food and beverage director and executive chef at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and active Berkshire Grown board member, says the organization has nurtured "relationships so that farmers could understand what the chefs needed and vice versa.
It maintains a directory for chefs, farmers and producers to be able to source business and products."
Berkshire Grown maintains and updates its website (www.berkshiregrown.org) so it is always a useful tool. Their "map-o-licious" map/directory of professional members is a good example. They also keep a Facebook account for a Berkshire Grown online farmers' market and send a hard copy directory of farmers and producers to their restaurant members.
William Metcalf, food and beverage director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, said, "Whenever we are looking to add a new product we maybe able to source locally, our first point of contact is often BG to see who they know."
Barbara Zheutlin, Berkshire Grown director, keeps the organization going, but, she said, "I'm one person and there is a 21-hour-a-week outreach coordinator. We are not an institution. Like we live on air? We're fragile.
"People need to have events like this," she said, "positive events that make them feel they are building a better world as an alternative to this grim time -- that is how we build our new economy. These are people celebrating the local economy in grim times."
To the very end the Harvest Supper will be caring and conscious: Berkshire Grown will create a Zero Waste Event.
Bob Daley of Daley & Sons in Lee. will donate his services to take any waste to Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton. There, it will be added to the farm's wastes -- along with biodegradable plates, spoons and glasses -- to become part of Holiday Brook Farm's famous "black gold" compost.
What: 13th Annual Harvest Supper, a tasting dinner involving 23 Berkshire Grown member chefs, to benefit Berkshire Grown by supporting its Buy Local campaign as well as its Share the Bounty project which benefits area food pantries.
Where: At Eastover Hotel and Resort Tally-Ho Room, 430 East St., Lenox.
When: Monday, Sept.19, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: Dinner by reservation only; $40 for farmers, $65 for Berkshire Grown members, $75 for non-members.
Reservations: (413) 528-0041.
Information: (413) 637-0625 www.berkshiregrown.org.
Membership: Basic -- $40; professional (farmer, food producer, restaurant, inn, school food buyer, retailer -- $50. One membership allows two discounted ($65) tickets for the Harvest Supper.
To join online: www.berkshiregrown.org/
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