Charissa Fay

At Moon in the Pond Farm, an agricultural oasis in western Massachusetts, visitors are invited to meet the animals, learn about the land, and leave with a scrumptious bounty. 

Tess Taylor
July 27, 2017

Every weekend in the summer, the Berkshires of western Massachusetts fill up with visitors who drive from Boston and New York to go hiking, buy Shaker furniture, or catch a performance at Tanglewood, before shuttling frantically back to the city. But at the end of a dirt road near the village of Sheffield, the pace of life is slower. Here, Scottish Highland cows, fat black pigs, and heritage-breed chickens roam amiably among small vegetable plots. Farmhands chat about hay and tomatoes in front of a cabin hung with antlers. A marigold 18th-century farmhouse sits in a dell, its green window moldings a little crooked.

It was late afternoon when my family and I arrived at Moon in the Pond Farm, a 150-acre spread near the Appalachian Trail that is devoted to spreading the gospel of sustainable agriculture. Visitors come to purchase fresh meat and produce, take part in educational programs about organic principles, or just poke around. Rich Ciotola, one of the farmhands, ambled up to say hello. We’d come to buy food, but I knew I’d be chatting awhile first. That was okay. I’d been rushing, but now I felt myself begin to slow down.

Besides Ciotola, I’d come to see Dominic Palumbo, who started this place in 1991 after leaving a landscaping business in New York City. Years ago, when I worked as a farm intern in the Berkshires, this was my favorite place for meat — life-alteringly good bacon and pork butt, exquisite turkeys. This time, a leg of prosciutto hung on the porch. Palumbo and his nephew had cured it over the winter.

Palumbo introduced my son, Bennett, who is five, to Rex, an Australian cattle dog; Ulysses, a Scottish Highland bull; and Honeysuckle, a glossy black milk cow. As we passed the greenhouse, Palumbo bent to gather a few hazelnuts that had fallen from the tree he planted more than 20 years ago, then pointed out a bird in the sky and told Bennett how to tell the difference between a vulture and a hawk by the wing tips.

For Palumbo, Moon in the Pond is all about living in a connected way. Soon, the little farm made us feel more connected, too. We admired how everything in its ecosystem had its place. Chickens, let out to fertilize next year’s field with their manure, happily ate weeds from the vegetable gardens. In the farmhouse, an intern sorted seeds from the harvest to be planted next spring.

After throwing sticks for Rex to fetch, we got on the road with fresh sage and pork, two dozen speckled eggs, and a Mason jar of fresh yogurt made from Honeysuckle’s milk that tasted of hay and sunlight and rich, whole fat. Bennett declared it the most delicious thing he’d ever eaten.

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