Farmer-brewers hope to sell at farmers markets

The Recorder, July 27, 2018, by Joshua Solomon.

Justin Korby works his farm in the hills of Colrain to craft his cold brews. He doesn’t have a license for a tap room or anything really of the sort, but instead he’s busy selling his Stoneman Brewery beer across the region, store-to-store and sometimes person-to-person.

That wasn’t necessarily his intended business model all along, though. Korby, whose beer was the first western Mass. beer stamped with the Community Supported Agriculture Farms approval for its level of locality, has always planned on selling at farmers markets.

It’s possible now Korby and other local farming brewers will have the opportunity to join the fray at farmers markets, if a bill by state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, can make it through the House of Representatives following approval in the Senate this week.

The bill is meant to boost the business of farm brewers and distillers by allowing them to sell their beer, and offer samples, at indoor or outdoor agricultural events, like farmers markets. This would still be under the oversight of local licensing boards, but could open the door for many in a burgeoning business in the region.

“As more consumers choose to seek locally grown, healthy foods and products, the popularity of farmers markets continues to rise,” Hinds said in a press release this week. “We see no reason why our farmer-distillers and brewers should be prohibited from selling their unique beverages at local markets and events.”

Korby hopes this could mean he could sell his beer at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market.

“The hope of having beer at farmers markets you’d be able to attract more clientele at the farmers market,” he said, suggesting if he offered a special craft at the market, it could bring in a hundred extra people to the market that day, who might shop at the other stands, too.

Currently, cideries and wineries can apply for permits to sell and sample at farmers markets in the state, based on an economic development bill from the Legislature in 2010.

Ben Clark, of Clarkdale Fruit Farms, who is on the Steering Committee for the Greenfield Farmers’ Market, said they’ve never had any issues with the alcohol currently being sold at the market. Plus, he said samples are at a very controlled amount.

“As a farmer, I think it’s great that there’s potentially more support for people to find these small scale farm breweries at the farmers’ market,” Clark said.

If the bill, which was also introduced with Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, was to pass through the House, Clark said businesses will have to go through the same type of licensing and permitting that any other stand has to go through. And further, he said they often try to give preference to potential vendors who farm their product as locally as possible.

“The idea for me personally of being able to sell beer at a farmers market is a really good fit for what I’ve been doing as a business,” Korby said.