The health and robustness of an agriculture or harvest can be measured by the depth of consumer knowledge about that crop. For too long, consumers have been separated from their harvesters by generic commodity practices and labels; it is clear to us that this gap must be closed. We consider customers to be an integral part of this agroforestry where your knowledge drives best practices on land. As the farmer-poet Wendell Berry said, “eating is an agricultural act.”
Brooks' family moved to Heath in the early 1970s, settling in a New England farmhouse (circ.1797) where they began part-time farming using antique and artisanal equipment. Brooks did not attend high school; instead, he worked on local farms, did correspondence courses, apprenticed for a meticulous old-time maple harvester and spent much of his time in the forest training in woods skills and understanding wildlife behavior with an elderly mentor. Brooks enrolled at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine earning a degree in Human Ecology, which concerns relationships between humans and their natural and social environments. His wilderness experiences, farm work, work-related travel and scallop diving during those years were formative. He met Janis at the school and they eventually married in 1987. After a year in Manhattan working for the Victim Service Agency, Brooks moved to Berkeley, California in 1984 to obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. He worked in numerous clinics and private practices in the Bay Area, returning to Western Massachusetts with Janis in 1990 to develop the Shelburne Falls Clinical Group with his parents, Leighton and Martha, and to pursue agricultural and forestry interests. He and Janis built their timber frame home on family property in the mid 1990s. Seeing a now mature maple forest on the land, they began building a maple agroforestry, at first harvesting sap to sell to others. Meanwhile, they welcomed Connor in 1995, and then Rowan in 1997. Gradually, Brooks' private practice gave way to the full development of BSG-Farm. The decision to take on the full experiment and have the farm be the family's sole livelihood was made in 2001 in conjunction with making the farm a primary educational setting for our children. In 2002, Gavin was born.
Janis comes from Montreal, Quebec. During high school she became interested in interdisciplinary education and after graduating, moved to Maine to attend College of the Atlantic and earn a B.A. in Human Ecology. As part of her program, she interned with the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal and subsequently wrote her senior thesis for COA on documentary film. Following graduation, she joined Brooks in California and eventually worked her way into the documentary film industry in the Bay Area. She served as Associate Producer on two productions, living and traveling across the US, in England, and Russia. When Janis and Brooks moved back East, she entered graduate school in cultural anthropology, another interdisciplinary field which offered both academic and applied approaches. In the early years of her program, she worked in France conducting ethnographic research. In 2000, Janis earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, writing a dissertation on culture brokering and identity in Montreal. Her theoretical interests continue to evolve with focus in recent years on food, agriculture, and the environment. She continues as a full member of the American Anthropological Association and its subsection, Culture and Agriculture. She is also a member of theAgriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS).
Other Activities and Research Interests:
The family undertakes travel projects with an educational focus.
In 2005, we made a cross-country road trip to the Nez Perce Reservation in Lapwei, Idaho, to bring home horses, Achilles and Lochsa.
Descriptions of further professional activities and resumes are located at:
Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple & Marine
1 (888) 576 2753