We tend to be a bit South County-centric in our food shopping and field trips, but there is one NoCo destination that we make an exception for, and that's Cricket Creek Farm.
CCF is a dairy farm in Williamstown, MA, that produces amazing cheeses, raw milk and butter, as well as fantastic beef, veal, and pork products. At their charming farm store, which is within eyesight of the milking parlor and cheese-making room, you can also pick up a host of yummy local food products like Hosta Hill kraut, Fire Cider, eggs, maple syrup, whole grains, and bread.
Our love and admiration for Cricket Creek started with the products themselves. Whenever we put together a cheese plate, we always serve their unctuous Tobasi, gooey and creamy Berkshire Bloom, and delicate alpine Maggie's Round. But then we visited the farm! We couldn’t get over how beautiful and transparent the whole operation was - the cows grazing, the young apprentices carefully forming cheese, the pigs slurping up whey, a stray cat, and smiles everywhere. At the helm is the lovely Suzy Konecky, farm manager, who enthusiastically works everyday toward building a stronger, thriving agricultural community in the Berkshires.
In our view, Cricket Creek is a model for the future of sustainable local food production - a vertically-integrated farm that focuses on the production of a well-made value-added product. While the farm's focus is on high-quality artisanal cheese production, they need to make good use of their waste products to remain sustainable. So they feed their whey to a small herd of heritage breed pigs, which are then processed and sold frozen from the store. They also sell fantastic beef, which comes from their culled cows and male calves. And looking toward the future, CCF is constantly experimenting with their herd, introducing different genetics and working towards finding the perfect cow for their operation.
But, of course, they don't stop there! Cricket Creek is also exceptionally community oriented. Between the community potlucks they host every Thursday, the farm's generous public open hours, the work they do with several other farms in the area to provide full diet CSA’s, and the educational workshops they host with organizations like NOFA, there's always something going on.
It's a dizzying array of systems and yet, through all of it, Suzy and her team maintain incredibly welcoming smiles - while buying eggs from local farmers, instructing apprentices on when to add rennet, experimenting on cheeses washed in Fire Cider, herding some mischievous calves, getting ready to open an all-local cheese counter at Berkshire Organics, putting together an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, and taking the time to explain how they make our favorite cheeses. It is so exciting to watch this visionary farm grow, and we are so lucky to be a part of its support system.