Photography has always been of interest to me and my work. Four years ago, my husband and I moved from the Washington DC area to the Berkshires in rural western Massachusetts, near NY and CT. We were ready to live a much simpler life in the country, while still maintaining our separate careers from a Great Barrington location. We were looking for a region where locally-produced food is appreciated – both in production and consumption. The local restaurants and farmers work and live well together here as a community, and our backyard garden is a constant source of pleasure. We find ourselves in the midst of a unique region of farmers and food artisans.
For many years, I've worked for PBS and NPR stations, both full-time jobs and on special assignments, and have been fortunate to experience the evolution of new technologies through the eyes of public broadcasting. But, there has been a shift in the source of the voices we listen to and where we are drawn to return. Today, waves of interesting content are coming from a multitude of sources, and this creates a fertile media environment.
This site intends to address two interests:
1) To profile the unique community of people in the Berkshire region. I am inspired by Sim van der Ryn, a Dutch architect who states:
"The heart of ecological design is not efficiency or sustainability. It is the embodiment of animating spirit,
the soul of the living world, as embodied in each of us waiting to be reborn and expressed in what we design."
These portraits of individuals, and the work that they do, are intended to reflect an energy generated by that "animating spirit."
2) People are looking deeper to find out more about where their food comes from. This site is one person's perspective on interesting people and the stories behind their work.
With her website Berkshire Food Journal, Caroline Alexander is exploring the traditions and contemporary innovations in the region’s agricultural economy and food system, while also cultivating strategies and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging landscape of online media.
She sees Berkshire Food Journal as one example of the ability of new media to cover a specialized subject in depth.
“Today there is huge potential to reach people in ways that go beyond traditional media outlets,” said Alexander, whose professional background is in administration and development for public broadcasting. “You no longer have to be affiliated with a broadcast station to create and distribute quality content with high production values. With the Internet and affordable production technology, it’s now possible for individuals to create stories and deliver them directly to an audience, both on a local level and beyond.”
Berkshire Food Journal includes multimedia profiles of farmers, chefs, vendors and others involved in food production, preparation and marketing in Berkshire County and nearby sections of adjacent states. It also includes original written articles, related stories from other sources and links to relevant websites and resources.
Alexander, who lives in Great Barrington, said her goal is to explore our relationship to food in a larger context that also touches on other subjects such as economics, the environment, the connections within communities and other topics.
“Food is connected to many different aspects of life, and it touches on many issues,” she said. “The website focuses on food, but it’s not a recipe site or a restaurant guide. Rather than being about dishes, it’s about people. My goal is to present the breadth of what people are doing to produce quality food locally, including farmers and artisans and the chefs and vendors and organizations who bring it to the public.”
She also sees the subject of food as a vehicle for portraying the qualities of the Berkshires as a region.
“This region is especially active in the movement to develop vibrant local food systems,” she said. “There is an incredible agricultural community here, and many other people and organizations who are working to bring quality local food to the public. I hope that by piecing together these stories, Berkshire Food Journal is also creating a larger portrait of the community and the people who live and work here.”
The core of the site is a library of audio-visual presentations that average between three and five minutes in length, and can be watched directly on the site. She conducts interviews and then edits them into first-person narratives in the subject’s own words accompanied by photographs she takes.
She has produced about 15 stories over the past year, including profiles of farms in Berkshire County and Columbia County in New York, such as Indian Line Farm and Equinox Farm, among others. There are also profiles of the cheese-making operations of Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in New York state, the Berkshire Mountain Bakery, and an interview with Davide Manzo, the chef/owner of Trattoria Rustica restaurant in Pittsfield.
Other content ranges from a presentation on canning fruit by Lauren Gottlieb of Mezze Restaurant group (which was part of the Preserving the Bounty series of workshops sponsored last autumn by Berkshire Grown) to a written article on fresh local eggs by Judith Lerner. The website also includes a section about the environment and natural world.
Alexander said she is currently producing new stories and she will be adding content on an ongoing basis.
She noted that the site’s emphasis is on feature stories rather than news or other content with a short shelf life. “I see our role as supporting the daily news that people get from other sources by providing the back story,” she said.