Hidden away in Western Massachusetts in the rich soil along the Connecticut River surrounded by forested hills, the Pioneer Valley may be the most overlooked food destination on the East Coast.
It’s located along the midsection of the Connecticut River Valley, stretching from the Vermont border to the city of Springfield and is full of farms, deep green forests, beautiful vistas and an abundance of great food.
As a former chef, I have lived in many places and the Pioneer Valley strikingly has better access to local agriculture and artisanal food producers than any of them.
The farmers and makers choose to be here because of the fertile glacial soil, the mild climate (for New England anyway) and the community’s appreciation for high quality and locally sourced food that allows a passionate dedication to their craft.
I began Pioneer Valley Food Tours to celebrate the incredible food community here in the Valley, introducing both visitors and locals to the farmers, producers and chefs through guided local food tours. Among the places we explore are artisan producers like Jonathan Stevens at Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton, whose wish for local grain started a renaissance in grain farming here in Western Mass. He sources much of his grain locally and also has it ground at a local mill. He is committed to making bread using only sourdough and fermentation (no added yeast) and he is a master at baking in his wood burning oven imported from Spain.
In addition to walking tours, we launched bicycle food tours that go directly to the source, stopping by farms, vineyards, orchards and breweries.
One beautiful stop is Glendale Ridge Vineyard, where guests taste a selection of the locally made wines along with a picnic while gazing at the Mount Tom Range.
Visiting local farms reveals the hard work and year round dedication to the land, the animals and the food they produce. At Thomas Farm and Dairy, Laurie and Jim have a herd of 80+ much-loved goats (each called by name) to make their delicious goat cheese, as well as several cows to make their cheddar cheese and gouda. They grow a variety of seasonal produce, flowers and they stock a farm stand filled with favorite local products. They are undoubtedly busy, but always welcome guests to visit their successful and happy farm.
Not far from major cities of the Northeast, the Pioneer Valley is well worth the short trip to find unspoiled natural beauty and exceptional food from its local farms and food producers.