2023 Local Hero Awardee: Clarkdale Fruit Farms

Each year, CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify our mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. We applaud their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.

The whole Clarkdale gang at CISA’s 2023 Annual Meeting. Stephanie Craig Photography

Clarkdale Fruit Farms is a fourth-generation orchard located in Deerfield, known for the quality of their fruit and for the generosity and the civic- and community-minded orientation of the Clark family.

Clarkdale is run today by father-son duo Tom and Ben Clark. It was established over 100 years ago by Tom’s grandfather, Webster Clark, who was an entrepreneurial doctor who lived in Greenfield. Tom’s father, Fred, took over in the 1940s and he continued with the business model established by his father, which was to sell fruit to regional wholesale markets in New York and Providence, while he continued to expand the orchard. By the time Tom came back to the farm in the 1970s, the fruit business had started to shift, with more global competition and fewer regional wholesale markets. So throughout the 80s Tom shifted the business towards the farm-based retail operation that is still booming today, along with some limited wholesale sales directly to schools, grocery stores, and restaurants. Ben’s return in the mid-2000s marked an opportunity for some modernization, like the farm’s first website, revamping the farm store, planting new varieties, etc.

The Clarkdale story tracks with the types of transitions that every multi-generational farm family experiences as markets and opportunities around them shift. Throughout it all, the Clarks have kept pace with changing tastes and needs, and that warrants celebration on its own. But they are truly exceptional in the way that they show up and give their time – and their fruit – to make Deerfield, Franklin County, and the whole region better. From service on the town school board and selectboard and as volunteer firefighters, to supporting The Food Bank and Monte’s March every year, to Ben’s nine years on the CISA Board, to using their position as trusted community members to speak out against the Kinder-Morgan pipeline that would have been laid under many miles of Franklin County, the Clarks show up for the things they believe in. Ben says that they see this as a symbiotic relationship: they give their support to their community, and the community supports the farm – and gets some pretty beautiful fruit out of it too. So for all of this, CISA is honored to present a 2023 Local Hero Award to Clarkdale Fruit Farms.

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