Farming has never been an easy way to make a living. Fortunately, the rich soils of Hampshire County give its farmers an advantage over farmers in the rest of the State. More than 10% of the state’s farmland is located in Hampshire County, totaling 52,092 acres on 539 farms. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, agriculture in Hampshire County demonstrated growth, despite continued losses of farmable land.
A willingness to diversify products from traditional tobacco to timber, to niche vegetables to Christmas trees, has been one reason for the success of farmland here. Hampshire County ranks 49th among the top 100 counties in the entire US for direct sales of farm products to consumers at a value of $1.6 Million. The average agricultural sales per farm in 1997 was $65,888.
Community Supported Agriculture
The community supported agriculture (CSA) model has also brought in a new generation of farmers to the Valley. In a CSA, the farmer sets an annual budget, which is paid in advance by the CSA shareholders, usually $400 - $600 for the entire year.
By sharing the risk, the farmer has more financial security even when potential crops fail in rainy or dry years. The shareholders only challenge is to learn to cook the diverse kinds of organic vegetables they pick up in their weekly shares. Amherst is fortunate to have three CSA farms: Brookfield, Hampshire, and Simple Gifts at the North Amherst Community Farm.