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GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agriculture Ventures (BAV), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting local agriculture and resilient food systems in the Berkshire-Taconic region, announced the appointment of Patrick Grego as its full-time Communications and Development associate.

Grego comes to BAV with a background in nonprofit communications. After moving from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Hudson, N.Y. in 2021, he served as a Communications coordinator at Time & Space Limited, a community arts center in Hudson, and later as Communications assistant at the Olana Partnership.

Grego has a passion for storytelling. His writing has been published in several regional newspapers, including the Times Union and Chronogram’s River Newsroom. He recently won the New York Newspaper Publishers Assoc. award for distinguished feature writing.

“We are thrilled to welcome Patrick to the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures team,” said Rebecca Busansky, executive director of BAV. “We are excited to work with him to help share the stories of our farmers and amplify our work in the food system. His enthusiasm provides great promise in advancing our work to create a thriving local food economy.”

Berkshire Agricultural Ventures has been a driving force in the Berkshire region, providing farmers and food producers with vital resources, technical assistance, and financing opportunities. The addition of Grego to the team will further strengthen the organization’s ability to engage the community, expand its network, and advance its mission of creating a resilient and sustainable food system for all people.

“I am honored to join Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and contribute to their impactful work in sustainable agriculture,” Grego said. “I believe that supporting local farmers and promoting environmentally friendly practices is crucial for the health of our community and our climate. I am excited to help raise awareness and foster connections that drive positive change.”

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV), a growing nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting local agriculture and a resilient regional food system, announced the appointment of Martha Page to its board of directors. With her extensive experience in nonprofit, government, and private-sector management, Page brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to further strengthen BAV’s mission and impact across the Berkshire-Taconic region.

Page joins the board following her successful tenure as executive director of Hartford Food System Inc., where she spearheaded innovative initiatives to address food security, promote equitable access to nutritious food, and foster community development. Her deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the food system will be invaluable in helping guide BAV’s strategic vision.

Throughout her career, Page has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to collaborative problem solving. Her multi-disciplinary background has allowed her to navigate complex landscapes and build strong partnerships across sectors that will play a vital role in helping to shape BAV’s initiatives.

“We are thrilled to welcome Martha Page to the Board,” said Tom Gardner, BAV board president. He emphasized her impressive background and steadfast commitment to enhancing food systems, which strongly resonates with BAV’s mission. “Martha’s extensive expertise in the government and not-for-profit sectors will help BAV foster the development of a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable food system within their service area.”

Page will collaborate closely with other board members and BAV staff to ensure that BAV continues to make a significant impact on the agricultural communities of Berkshire, Litchfield (Conn.), Columbia (N.Y.), and Dutchess (N.Y.) counties.

“I am so excited to join the board of Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, I have followed the work of this impressive organization and have been a fan for several years,” she said. “What they do to ensure strong farms and food businesses in this region resonates so strongly with my ongoing commitment to help build a resilient New England food system. I look forward to working closely with Rebecca and the other board members to promote and support the work of BAV’s dedicated and talented staff.”

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agriculture Ventures (BAV) has awarded over $140,000 in grants to support SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Access Program) matching programs at 10 Berkshire-area farmers markets. This financial assistance plays a pivotal role in bolstering food equity and ensuring that all community members have access to fresh, local, nutrient-dense food, especially at a time when SNAP benefits nationwide have been cut to pre-pandemic levels.

Through BAV’s Market Match Fund, an economic-development and food-access program, funding is provided to farmers markets to enhance the effectiveness of SNAP benefits throughout the Berkshire-Taconic region. BAV’s grants enable awarded farmers markets to implement a dollar-for-dollar SNAP match program, doubling the purchasing power of SNAP at participating farmers markets. Beneficiaries can withdraw $30 in SNAP and receive an additional $30 in match, for a total of $60 to spend.

The following farmers markets received a 2023 grant from BAV’s Market Match Fund: North Adams Farmers Market, Williamstown Farmers Market, Pittsfield Farmers Market, West Stockbridge Farmers Market, Lee Farmers Market, Great Barrington Farmers Market, Sheffield Farmers Market, Millerton Farmers Market, New Milford Farmers Market, and Berkshire Grown Winter Farmers Markets.

In 2022, the Market Match Fund was launched as a pilot project to test the effectiveness of centralizing fundraising efforts for SNAP matching programs at Berkshire-area farmers markets. Within a year, the project successfully enhanced farmers markets’ operational efficiency and boosted revenue opportunities for local farms, all while ensuring consistent, affordable access to locally produced food for low-income households.

“Farmers markets are often misconceived, and SNAP is an aspect of farmers markets and local food sales that isn’t talked about enough,” said Ciana Barnaba, BAV’s Market Match Fund manager. “Part of BAV’s efforts is to grow public awareness that SNAP is not only accepted at farmers markets, but it is welcome and encouraged. We want all farmers markets in our area to accept SNAP because it makes the statement that farmers markets are for everyone. Farmers farm to feed all people, and we want to make it easier for farms to feed their entire community without having to undersell themselves.”

The 2023 Market Match Fund corporate and foundation sponsors include Greylock Federal Credit Union, the Feigenbaum Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation, the Berkshire Bank Foundation, Guardian Life Insurance of America, Adams Community Bank, and many individuals who have made contributions.

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agriculture Ventures (BAV) announced the appointment of Rebecca Busansky as its new executive director, following the successful tenure of interim Executive Director Glenn Bergman.

Bergman’s leadership during a critical period at BAV resulted in significant advancement for the organization over the past two and a half years. Under his guidance, BAV experienced solid growth as he built a team of experts to lead BAV’s programs and successfully secured support for the organization’s initiatives. Bergman will collaborate with Busansky over the upcoming month to ensure a smooth transition.

Busansky was formerly a program director at the Franklin County Community Development Corp. (FCCDC). Busansky joined the FCCDC in 2015, and her work focused on helping local farms thrive and increasing food access. During her time there, Busansky and her team launched the PVGrows Investment Fund, an innovative community-investment vehicle that provides financing and technical assistance to farms and local food entrepreneurs, primarily in Western Mass. She also managed the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, which provides financing to increase the availability of affordable, healthy food in underserved communities across the Commonwealth, since its inception in 2018.

“Rebecca’s experience could not be more aligned with BAV’s mission and offerings,” said Thomas Gardner, BAV board president. “She brings a wealth of knowledge on farming and food systems in our region. While Glenn’s presence and leadership will be greatly missed, we’re thrilled to welcome Rebecca, who we believe is an excellent champion to move forward our mission. We are very excited that she is joining us.”

Since its founding in 2016 BAV has played a critical role in supporting Berkshire-Taconic region farms and local food businesses. Overall, the organization has provided $1.6 million in low-interest loans and more than $85,000 in microgrants, and provided more than $500,000 (equaling approximately 150 hours) in direct technical assistance to more than 90 local farms and agricultural businesses.

“I am honored and excited to take on the role of executive director at Berkshire Agricultural Ventures,” said Busansky, who holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University and has worked in the community economic-development field for more than 30 years. “I look forward to working with the talented team here to build on the organization’s success and together continue to bring new ideas and innovations to our work.”

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) awarded Gould Farm a resilience grant of $5,000 to complete construction of a new hoop house that will enable the farm to extend its growing season. This grant was awarded in conjunction with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Services.

Gould Farm will use this hoop house (also known as a ‘high tunnel system’) to cover and protect crops from sun, wind, excessive rainfall, and frost, and increase spring and fall crop production in an environmentally safe manner.

Gould Farm produces crops as part of its mental-health programming, through which clients grow, cook, and consume vegetables from the farm. During the growing season, Gould Farm also supplies the multicultural BRIDGE food pantry.

With the hoop-house addition, Gould Farm will be able to increase the amount and availability of fresh produce for the farm and pantry. “Our program participants are hard at work building the hoop house and look forward to being able to spend more time doing what they love … growing and sharing fresh food for the community,” Executive Director Lisanne Finston said.

Ben Crockett, BAV’s program manager, who focuses on climate-smart agriculture, added that “BAV recognizes the importance of helping farms implement adaptive growing strategies, like hoop houses, to address the increasing challenges Berkshire farmers face due to climate change. Recent growing seasons provide multiple examples of increased extreme weather patterns that increase risks to Berkshire farmers.

“Farmers in our region will continue to see dramatic fluctuations in weather patterns for the foreseeable future” he added, “and supporting Gould Farm in completing this hoop house is part of BAV’s effort to improve local farm resilience to extreme weather events and ensure farms keep farming.”

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) announced it has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers.

This new fund was established in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting impact on local farmers, who are hurting right now as stores, restaurants, and other income-generating avenues like farmers’ markets and CSA are closed or operating in different, logistically challenging ways due to the virus. Despite these challenges, many farmers are reaching out to contribute healthy food to the neediest among us and sell as much as they can directly to consumers.

The goal of the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure that farms remain viable and sustainable so they continue to meet demand for healthy, local foods.

In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to pivot and establish the Berkshire County-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which in its first eight weeks served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system.

The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation.

“We are very grateful for this generous gift from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to our Resilience Fund for Farmers. The grant will allow us to provide deeper support to our key constituents, the farmers who are providing our neighbors with fresh, healthy, and local food,” said Cynthia Pansing, BAV executive director.

J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, added that the bank “is proud to support the work of the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and the Resilience Fund for Farmers during this extraordinary time. At a time when local food systems and healthy food is important to our communities more than ever before, we thank them for their work.”