In The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland, New York Times writer and columnist Dan Barry tells the harrowing yet uplifting story of the exploitation and abuse of a resilient group of men with intellectual disability, and the heroic efforts of those who helped them to find justice and reclaim their lives.

In the tiny Iowa farm town of Atalissa, dozens of men, all with intellectual disability and all from Texas, lived in an old schoolhouse. Before dawn each morning, they were bussed to a nearby processing plant, where they eviscerated turkeys in return for food, lodging, and $65 a month. They lived in near servitude for more than thirty years, enduring increasing neglect, exploitation, and physical and emotional abuse—until state social workers, local journalists, and one tenacious labor lawyer helped these men achieve freedom.

Craft distilling provides jobs to the agricultural, tourism and beverage industries – they also provide Federal and state tax revenue. Both New York and Massachusetts have distiller guilds, which serve to promote local spirits, interface with government and coordinate legislative goals.

We are joined today by two prominent and impressive distilleries in our region.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers was established in 2007 and has created a line of award-winning artisanal spirits including Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gins, Ragged Mountain Rum, Ice Glen Vodka, Berkshire Bourbon and New England Corn Whiskey, currently available in 19 different states. All products are handcrafted in small batches in Great Barrington, Massachusetts at the Berkshire’s first legal distillery since prohibition.

Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery was founded in 2008 on a third generation apple farm in Valatie, New York. Their Core Vodka, Cornelius Applejack, John Henry Single Malt Whiskey, Black Raspberry Core Vodka, Cornelius Cherry Applejack, Cornelius Peach Applejack, and Rare Pear Brandy are all made 100 gallons at a time in their German copper pot still.

Chris Weld of Berkshire Mountain Distillers and Derek Grout of Harvest Spirits join us.

  Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA is open for the with Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm, running daily, 10 am to 4 pm, through Sunday, May 8.

Home to several hundred Shakers from the 1780s to 1960, Hancock Shaker Village is now an outdoor-history museum dedicated to preserving the Shaker legacy.

Right now, the barns are full of chicks, ducklings, lambs, kids, and calves.

We went to Hancock Shaker Village earlier this week and spoke with Shawn Hartley Hancock, Director of Marketing and Communications. After oooing and awwwing at the baby animals, including two lambs born within half an hour our my arrival, we parked ourselves on one side of the round stone barn and talked about what is going on at the Village now - and about some things upcoming over the course of the summer.

Dairy cow
WAMC/Pat Bradley

A number of groups have been warning of dire consequences should New York’s minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour.  The New York Farm Bureau held simultaneous press conferences across the state on Monday, contending the higher wage would negatively affect farms and the cost of food.

  In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today, we will learn about Farm Values: Civic Agriculture at the Crossroads, a community project of the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in Athol, Massachusetts.

The project focuses on the history of six farms in North-Central Massachusetts and culminates at the Public Library in Athol next Thursday, December 10.

We are joined by Cathy Stanton, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Tufts University, and Project Director of Farm Values, a project that was funded by Mass Humanities. She joins us to explore the value of examining what we think we know about the history of agriculture in the Northeast and why it is important to understand the history of individual farms.

  United States Congress people aren’t subject to term limits.

In today’s Congressional Corner Alan Chartock speaks with New York Congressman Chris Gibson about his self-imposed term limit and potential future plans.

In all of New York State there are only 9-towns that are completely dry. No alcohol. New York specifically allows cities and counties to exercise a local option by public referendum whether to go dry. One of those towns is Argyle, in Washington County, NY. In Argyle, the measure has come up for a vote for decades – only to be defeated by voters.

  On the production line in American packinghouses, there is one cardinal rule: the chain never slows. Every year, the chain conveyors that set the pace of slaughter have continually accelerated to keep up with America’s growing appetite for processed meat. Journalist Ted Genoways uses the story of Hormel Foods and soaring recession-era demand for its most famous product, Spam, to probe the state of the meatpacking industry, including the expansion of agribusiness and the effects of immigrant labor on Middle America.

For The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, Genoways interviewed scores of industry line workers, union leaders, hog farmers, and local politicians and activists. He reveals an industry pushed to its breaking point and exposes alarming new trends: sick or permanently disabled workers, abused animals, water and soil pollution, and mounting conflict between small towns and immigrant workers.

  The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods.

  Berkshire Grown will host its first Winter Farmers’ Markets on January 17 and February 14 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington, MA. These events are an extension of the organization’s Holiday Farmers’ Markets, which enjoyed record attendance this past November and December. These popular events feature locally grown and produced foods, plus live music, lunch fare, and activities for children, during months when most farmers’ markets are not open in the region.

Here to tell us more is Suzy Konecky who manages the creamery at Cricket Creek Farm – her job includes cheese production, inventory, marketing and sales.

  From their humble beginnings as a 2 1/2-acre raspberry field, Earthbound Farm now grows and distributes organic produce nationally. Co-founder Myra Goodman and her daughter Marea are skillful home cooks, and the proximity to their fields of fresh vegetables and fruits made it easy to develop creative—and definitely delicious—dishes that are not only heavy on the produce, they just happen to be vegan!

Myra Goodman joins us to talk about Straight From The Earth: 100 Irresistible Vegan Recipes For Everyone.


  Kathy Stevens has an abounding love of animals that is the foundation of compassion upon which the Catskill Animal Sanctuary is built.

More than 2,000 animals have lived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary since it’s founding in 2003. And while the love Kathy Stevens and her staff have for them is stunning, more remarkable is who the animals become at this place where kindness rules.

Hancock Shaker Village

Apr 11, 2014

    The 750-acre Hancock Shaker Village operates as a living-history museum open to the public with 20 authentic Shaker buildings, costumed interpreters, rich collections of Shaker furniture and artifacts in rotating exhibits, a full schedule of activities and workshops, a mile-long hiking trail and picnic areas, a Village Store and Village Cafe, and a working farm with extensive gardens and heritage-breed livestock.

They kick of their busy season this Saturday, April 12th with Baby Animals!

Shawn Hartley Hancock is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Hancock Shaker Village and she joins along with Shaker Singers - Todd Burdick, Margaret Carlough, Jim Day, Stephanie Guelpa, and Julie Smith.

    No one brings to life the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs like New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz.

He has gained great readership with enchanting tales and keen observations of his animal menagerie—the dogs, sheep, chickens, and other residents of Bedlam Farm. Now, Katz is back with his new book: The Second Chance Dog: A Love Story.

With his signature insight and gift for storytelling, Katz explores the power of second chances for both people and dogs. Jon Katz joins us this morning to celebrate today’s release of the new book he will be signing and reading from the new book tonight at 7PM at Battenkill Books in Cambridge.

Feast of the Fields takes place this Thursday, September 19th, from 5:00 to 8:30 PM at Saratoga National Golf Club to benefit Saratoga PLAN.  

Continuing its eight-year tradition, Feast of the Fields pairs area restaurants and farms, in an effort to promote sustainable agriculture, support the regional economy, and provide greater awareness of conserving regional farms and the importance of buying and eating local. For the sixth straight year, Feast of the Fields will be set amid the beautiful grounds of Saratoga National Golf Club with spectacular views of 135 acres of forest and wetlands protected through a conservation easement held by Saratoga PLAN.

To tell us more, Saratoga PLAN Executive director Maria Trabka joins us with two farmers participating in the Feast of the Fields: Jan King of Kings Ransom Farm and King Brothers Dairy, and Joshua Rockwood of West Wind Acres.

    Summer is wrapping up, and the season is inching toward fall and harvest time. Which means - it is also time for the annual benefit for Berkshire Grown on Monday September 16th at 6:30 pm at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington, MA.

The Berkshire Grown Harvest Supper features delicious dishes prepared by local Berkshire Grown member chefs using fresh ingredients from local farms. The evening also includes a silent auction and a drawing for shopping sprees and gift certificates to Berkshire Grown member stores and restaurants.

To tell us more – we welcome: Daire Rooney, Chef at Allium Restaurant + Bar; Ted Dobson, farmer at Equinox Farm; Laura Meister, farmer at Farm Girl Farm; and Barbara Zheutlin, Executive Director of Berkshire Grown.


  Liz Neumark is the CEO and Founder of Great Performances, rated Zagat's Top Catering Company in New York City. Originally intended as a staffing service for women in the arts, Great Performances has evolved into one of the nation's most recognized and trendsetting catering companies.

Liz's commitment to supporting sustainable agriculture and good earth practices led her to establish Katchkie Farm, her sixty-acre organic farm in upstate New York, in 2007 - as well as providing fresh produce for catering events.

She speaks with Alan about her new book, Sylvia's Table: Fresh, Seasonal Recipes from Our Farm to Your Family.

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Food and Drug Administration officials heard from hundreds of farmers from Vermont and New Hampshire during a listening session earlier this week on new food safety rules under consideration by the federal agency.

USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says rain in late summer and early fall of 2012 helped save crops in most of the state.

The USDA says production of grain corn, soybeans, wheat and oat crops all increased from the previous year. Soybeans were estimated at a record high 14.4 million bushels, 20 percent more than was harvested in 2011.

Longtime North Bennington resident, museum curator and author Tom Fels is back telling farm stories, specifically about the Montague Farm. His new book is Buying The Farm: Peace and War on a Sixties Commune.

Fels is following up on the success of his book Farm Friends in which he told the story of the many of personalities of Montague Farm, a commune in western Massachusetts where he spent four years, from 1969 to 1973. His latest offering is a comprehensive history of that same cooperative from its inception to the present day.

In 2008, farmers grew enough to feed twice the world's population, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers.

Blue Star Equiculture

An organic farm in western Massachusetts is the officially designated retirement place for the carriage horses of New York’s Central Park.  Blue Star Equiculture of Palmer Massachusetts is participating in an event this weekend where people will have a chance to learn more about its unique mission to help working horses.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Blue Star Equiculture’s executive director, Pamela Rickenbach.

Vermont to Expand Farm to School Program

Apr 24, 2012

Vermont is planning to expand a program that connects schools to local farms.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

Since 2006, the Vermont Farm to School program has provided nearly 50 Vermont schools with funding to get more nutritious food into cafeterias and nutrition and agriculture education into classrooms.