Kind of a big dill: Real Pickles celebrating 20th anniversary

  • Real Pickles founders Addie Rose Holland and Dan Rosenberg with some of their organic fare. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Cole Gibson cores cabbage for sauerkraut at Real Pickles in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Some of the products produced at Real Pickles in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Founder Addie Rose Holland and worker-owner Russ Lilly with a tiny cabbage at Real Pickles in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2021 2:35:35 PM
Modified: 12/23/2021 2:35:22 PM

GREENFIELD — An idea that started around a kitchen table in Somerville at the end of the 20th century is now celebrating its 20th anniversary as a Greenfield business.

Dan Rosenberg dreamed up Real Pickles in 1999 after taking a workshop on lactic acid fermentation at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) summer conference, made up of practitioners and students engaged in organic farming and homesteading. In 2001, he and Addie Rose Holland, now his wife, moved to Western Massachusetts knowing the importance of strong organic agriculture and this area’s appreciation for local food and economies. That summer, they purchased cucumbers from Chamutka Farm in Whately and Red Fire Farm in Montague, and Real Pickles was born.

“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” said Rosenberg, whose business has expanded its network to include a half-dozen other local farms to source vegetables for its products. At the time, he said, there were only about five companies of this kind in the United States.

The name comes from the company’s use of lactic acid fermentation, the original pickling method before it became more common to use vinegar. Rosenberg said lactic acid fermentation — which creates the sour flavor and acts as a preservative — was prevalent before the industrialization of the food system and started seeing a resurgence two decades ago.

“It took a lot of customer education, to just kind of inform people as to what this kind of food was and get them interested in trying it,” said Rosenberg, 45. “It’s been really exciting to witness that transformation over the past 20 years.”

He and Holland had found some shops willing to take a chance on a small food business, and their first day of deliveries included stops at Leverett Village Co-op, Green Fields Market, Foster’s Supermarket and Brookfield Farm, all of which still carry Real Pickles. The business initially used a commercial kitchen loaned by an Amherst restaurateur and refrigerator space lent by a Greenfield ice cream maker before settling into the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s then-brand-new Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. Real Pickles operated there until 2009, when it outgrew the space and moved — all the way across the street to 311 Wells St., which Rosenberg and Holland transformed into a solar-powered, energy-efficient, organic-pickling facility.

“Business is pretty good. The demand for fermented foods, generally, and fermented vegetables has grown incredibly over the past 20 years,” Holland said. “We’re part of a category — a section of the grocery store.”

Holland, 42, said fermented food is a great way to get more vegetables into one’s diet.

“It can work alongside just about any meal,” she said. “It’s kind of a palate cleanser and goes with a lot of things.”

Real Pickles also dabbles in sauerkraut, kimchi and hot sauce. Rosenberg said sauerkraut is the top seller.

Eight years ago, the company became a worker-owned cooperative and now boasts 13 worker-owners. Kristin Howard, the sales and distribution manager, was one of the founding five worker-owners, having previously been with Equal Exchange in the Boston area, where she liked the vibe and accountability. She said Real Pickles’ values are the same as those of Equal Exchange and the employees have learned a great deal from becoming a worker-owned cooperative.

Holland said Western Massachusetts was a natural fit for her and Rosenberg, who were visiting roughly once a month to be a part of the contra dancing community. The two realized it was a fantastic spot for local agriculture and set down roots. They continued to attend food and farming events and contra dances, where word of Real Pickles spread across New England. Rosenberg and Holland recall how fiddler/dance caller David Kaynor, who died in June, would frequently hold up a bartered Real Pickles jar to a crowd of 200-plus dancers and speak eloquently about the flavor and benefits of fermented pickles.

More information is available at

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy