They don’t call it the “Happy Valley” for nothing! The Pioneer Valley made up of three counties: Franklin, Hampden & Hampshire; collectively feature much of New England's most fertile farmland. Nestled along the Connecticut River this region is known for its scenery and as a vacation destination, however its agricultural heritage dates back to the 1600’s. On a recent beautiful fall weekend, Agricultural Markets Program Coordinator Julia Grimaldi traveled west from Boston to pick pumpkins and celebrate a lesser known but emerging crop, barley.
Her first stop, with niece in tow, was to Fletcher Family Farm in Southampton, a dairy farm that also offers a pumpkin patch with pick-your-own pumpkins and a seasonal farm stand. Bob and Cheryl Fletcher along with their three children, Nicole, Elizabeth & Mathew farm over 100 acres of land. They are the recipients of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Agricultural Improvement Program Grant resulting in a new modern dairy facility completed in spring 2011 and in 2010 they received NECN favorite distinction award for “Best Pumpkin Patch in New England”. Pick up a MassGrown & Fresher pumpkin at a local farmers’ market (most are opened through Thanksgiving week) a farm stand near you, or at a number of pick-your-own pumpkin patches.
The fall’s foliage complemented Valley Malt’s 2nd year anniversary party at the 1st annual “Barleyfest” at the Young Men’s Club in Hadley. Valley Malt‘s goal is to reintroduce small grains and hops to the area and produce beer that would possess the unique characteristics and flavor from grains and hops grown on native “Valley” soil. This year’s celebration featured eight beers all produced with malt made from a combination of Massachusetts hops and grains.
The festival also featured Four Star Farms from Northfield who produce sustainably grown sod, hops and small grains, an antique tractor show, wood fired pizza made with local wheat, apple cider donuts and kettle corn from the North Hadley Sugar Shack, home brew demos, and lives music.