Thanks to Jennifer Foley, Marketing & Owner Services Manager, for conducting this interview.
How does Berkshire Co-op Market link with local producers?
In each issue of our quarterly newsletter, the Co-op features a local grower/producer, which again allows readers to learn more about the local people who are producing their food. We also invite and encourage our local vendors to come in to the store and demo their products and meet our Owners and shoppers face-to-face. The Co-op is also a member of Berkshire Grown and attends meetings and events with local farmers and producers which allow us the opportunity to mingle and brainstorm throughout the year.
We currently have a thriving “Healthy Snacks” program that we bring to local schools to teach children about healthier choices in snacking. We bring natural and organic versions of “conventional” snack items as well as different seasonal, local fruits and vegetables with which the children may not be familiar. In addition to the tasting, the children learn to read nutritional labels, and in some instances help to create simple recipes. We have been collaborating with the Community Health Program (CHP) Nutrition Center to present some of these classes, as well as partnering with schools as a part of their grant initiatives.
Again, our Farm Tours are very popular and educational. Just this year we have brought groups to Mead’s Maple Syrup Farm in Canaan, CT where participants learned the process of maple syrup production and enjoyed a pancake breakfast featuring Mead’s Maple Syrup, and to Berkshire Mountain Bakery where we learned what goes into creating the delicious breads we sell at the Co-op. More Farm Tours are being scheduled for the rest of the season.
Also, each year we send “Free Local Apple” Coupons to the 2 school districts with an educational piece about why local is better for the environment and for the local economy. As a regular practice, we also participate in tabling at various events in the community, always promoting healthier choices, local choices and sustainability.