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great barrington: photo exhibit shows local food renaissance in poland

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Photojournalist Erik Hoffner will display a collection of limited edition black and white and color images never before exhibited in the Berkshires beginning this month at Galerie Giroux in Great Barrington. They derive from a magazine assignment in Poland that documented heritage breeds of livestock that U.S.-based Heifer Project International saved from extinction and the lives of small-scale farmers to which the animals gave new strength and hope.

Poland’s agricultural landscape has undergone massive changes in recent times, and the heritage breeds of farm animals – locally adapted over centuries through careful selection to survive the brutal winters and thrive on the region’s generally poor soils – were nearly lost under communist rule and subsequent market reforms. But the international hunger relief charity Heifer Project International found and reintroduced these rapidly disappearing creatures to many remaining small-scale farms that benefit from their practical hardiness.

“I thought it was important to portray the subjects of this story primarily with old-fashioned black and white film, since this is a venerable relationship between the farms and these traditional breeds which is now being rekindled. Many of the portraits I was able to create have an antique feel and seem to speak through the centuries,” says Hoffner.

For more background, view the cover story (“A Proud Heritage”) here. And you can view some of the images at the photographer’s website:

Gallery Giroux owner Paul Giroux says of the planned exhibit that, “In our effort to support socially and environmentally conscious movements, we are very excited to host Heritage Homecoming, one story of Heifer Project International’s work. Additionally we eagerly wish to highlight the talents of Erik Hoffner and his evocative photography.”

Heritage breeds of cows, chickens, geese, pigs, and more play an important role in today’s local food movement, both here and abroad, as farms rediscover the multiple benefits of raising such animals, from their natural disease resistance to the improved quality of their meat, cheese, and eggs. Many Berkshire farms, restaurants, and shops proudly offer products from such vintage bloodlines.

The opening reception takes place on January 24th and Hoffner will give a gallery talk and slide show about the project and his travels in Poland on February 5th.

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