The Future of Working Lands in the Berkshires
A series of virtual discussions with invited audiences
The Berkshire Community Land Trust (BCLT) needs your input to create a vision of equitable access to land in Berkshire County.
BCLT and its sister organization the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires are non-profit organizations that date back to 1980. Together they hold and administer leases on two parcels of land restricted to year-round residents – an eleven acre site on Jug End Road in South Egremont with three private homes and two non-profit buildings and Forest Row, a twenty-one acre site off of Christian Hill Road in Great Barrington with eighteen homes in a combination of quadruplex, duplex, and single family buildings.
In 1997 Indian Line Farm in South Egremont came up for sale following the tragic death of its owner, Robyn Van En, founder of the Community Supported Agriculture movement in the US. A group of friends of the farm wanted to keep the excellent farmland in active production to supply vegetables to the Berkshire community. Individuals donated so that Berkshire Community Land Trust could purchase title to the land; The Nature Conservancy purchased an overlaying conservation easement; and two farmers took out a mortgage to purchase the buildings. The farmers lease the land on a 98-year lease and own the buildings. The lease requires organic vegetable production. The result: quality farmland stays in permanent active local food production, supporting a family and several seasonal workers.
The question before us now is: where should the BCLT place its efforts in the future? What do residents see is a priority for land use to ensure a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable Berkshire economy where those who grew up in the region wish to stay and build their lives? Help us answer these questions given what you have seen and observed in talking with your peers.
The BCLT is undertaking a series of virtual discussions with invited audiences. The question posed by these convenings on the Future of Working Lands is: If Berkshire Community Land Trust had an unlimited budget to purchase working lands in Berkshire County and then lease these sites, what kind of lands do you believe should be prioritized?
We have some thoughts to prompt your thinking – but let your own experience and reflections guide you and do not feel limited.
1. workforce housing (essential workers, intentional communities)
2. regenerative agriculture (vegetable production, animal husbandry, slaughterhouse)
3. local business (storefronts, office buildings)
4. appropriate-scale manufacturing (food or fiber processing, furniture production)
5. creative economy (performance venues, museums)
6. expressing identity (Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBT, youth, elderly)
The 90 minute discussions will be held on a Wednesday of each month at 7PM using a modified World Café model for convening. Each session will have up to 50 invited participants.
The first focus group is Youth. You are invited to nominate three persons who reflect the experience and perspective of Youth to join the discussion at 7PM on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The hosts for this first session are Rob Putnam and Amy Taylor.
If we can help facilitate academic credit for the participant because of this participation, please so ask.
Future Focus Groups will include:
• Business Community
• Non-profit Community
• Cultural Community
• Health Care Community
• Immigrant Community
• Second Home Community
• Religious Communities
Please send the names and contact information for those you recommend to: firstname.lastname@example.org or register directly here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApce6qqz4uG93eMRr7PmnGNRCtiQIibNSz