Hancock Shaker Village is the only cultural institution in the Berkshires that can say it is both a museum and a working farm, and Jennifer Trainer Thompson, President and CEO, is probably the only museum director who can say “I have a lamb eating my coat” in the middle of an interview. The Village is celebrating 60 years this year, and what a strange year to do it. Although, the Village and grounds are closed to the public right now, the farm is fully operational, baby animals are being born, and the gardens have been planted to provide fresh food for our community. With any luck Hancock Shaker Village hopes to be open in June and they promise there will still be baby animals to enjoy, but, for now, they are finding creative (and successful) ways to share the baby animals with us online.
“We obviously are all feeling so sad that we’re in this time of social isolation,” says Thompson, “and yet those of us who are working here feel this joy in the gardens being planted and this new life in the barn and we wanted to share it, and we recorded the birth of a lamb. We live streamed it and we had about 13,000 views and we realized that we needed to share it more, so we’re doing a live stream on Facebook every Wednesday morning at 11 am. Each week we’re picking a different animal that Billy (Director of Farm and Facilities) talks about, and we’re also doing Zoom meetings…. We were in the middle of a Zoom meeting and very wide-eyed people saw a baby goat being delivered.”
In this video from the Dairy L of the Round Stone Barn, Jennifer Thompson, Director of Hancock Shaker Village, and Bill Mangiardi, Director of Farm and Facilities, introduce us to their newest arrival – a baby goat 10 minutes old. Learn about the oldest working farm in the region and how Hancock Shaker Village is coping with COVID-19 and moving forward with their gardens and CSA program. Plus, did we mention, there are tons of cute baby animals.
Hancock Shaker Village is made up of 20 buildings, 2 barns, and 750 acres. There is a restaurant on site (Seeds Marketplace Café) and a gift shop (Shaker Mercantile) which offers a variety of handmade Shaker reproduction furniture, crafts and other items.
“The Hancock Shaker Village collection, begun in 1960, has grown through purchase, gift, and bequest to become the largest documented and representative collection of Shaker artifacts available to the public at an original restored Shaker site” with over 22,000 objects including furniture, tools and equipment, household objects, art, textiles, commercial graphics, imprints, photographs, letters, and manuscripts.
“Today Hancock Shaker Village operates a vibrant working farm that continues the Shaker tradition by practicing a distinctive kind of farming, based in both historic Shaker farming principles and modern regenerative agriculture.” Visiting the baby animals at the farm each spring has become a Berkshire tradition over the past 18 years.
“(The farm) is not to be mistaken for a petting zoo or anything like that. This is a real farm. I run it like a real farm,” says Bill Mangiardi, Director of Farm and Facilities. “The gardens are a big part of the Village and this whole farm runs with sustainable agricultural (practices). We don’t use any chemicals or fertilizer. We make our own compost (Shaker Village Black Gold)… which makes a very rich fertilizer and our gardens thrive on that.”
Hancock Shaker Village offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that allows the public to buy produce in the summer and meat in the winter directly from the farm. The summer vegetable and herb CSA is already sold out for 2020 but shares in the winter meat CSA are still available.
“We give away about 15% of our produce each year to local food banks to help people with food insecurities,” says Thompson, “and we made, we thought, a really important decision. Billy came to me and even though we weren’t open and even though we had to lay off people, we had to make a decision in March just as the COVID virus was hitting of whether or not to plant for the year and we decided that it was really important (to do so).
And I would also say that we think that this site is so important for the history of Pittsfield. The Shakers settled here in 1783, and it sprawls over Hancock, Richmond, and Pittsfield, and it’s the oldest working farm in the region. And it’s the only place, when we’re open, you can come 7 days a week and ask a farmer questions and see how regenerative farming really works.”
Hancock Shaker Village is celebrating 60 years in 2020. The collection and museum began in 1960.
“In 1959, the last of the Shakers left and there were 3 elderly Shakeresses,” says Thompson. “Amy Bess Miller who was the wife of the publisher of the Berkshire Eagle led the charge to save this historic property. A developer wanted to buy it and raze all of the buildings except the Round Stone Barn and turn it into a horse track, and Amy Bess Miller told the Shakers that she would turn it into a museum. When it became a museum the Round Stone Barn was uninhabitable, and the Beinecke family led a restoration effort which restored the barn completely. We have 20 historic buildings on 750 acres… so (the Village) is part of our heritage but it’s also a way to show the Shakers through a contemporary lens. We have a lot of programming today with music, with exhibitions, with performances, with workshops, with lectures, and we cannot wait to welcome people back.”
Interview conducted by Kimberly Gritman, Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.
Learn how Baby Animals are born, behave, and grow during a Facebook live stream with Farmer Billy and others in the barn every Wednesday at 11 am. This free 10-15 minute Facebook live feed is perfect for school groups, teachers, parents, and kids at home. Watch as Farmer Billy teaches you about the baby animals — learn about their care and see them romp, eat, and even get into a bit of mischief every once in a while. Visit our Facebook page (Hancock Shaker Village) or watch us on YouTube or Instagram after the live stream.
How about a baby animal to brighten up your virtual meeting or make your online birthday party pop? We’re here for you, and your support helps keep our farm going. How it works: We will join your Zoom call and introduce you to the animals. You can ask questions or just enjoy them. You’ll just need to send us a Zoom link when you book. Options include 15-minute session for up to 6 people (Tuesdays at 10:30 and 11 am, $50); a 15-minute session for up to 20 people (Tuesdays at 12, 12:30, 1 and 1:30 pm, $150); and a 20-minute VIP tour for an unlimited number of participants (Wednesdays at 11:20, 12, 12:30 and 1 pm, $300).
Hancock Shaker Village
1843 West Housatonic St., Pittsfield
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