U.S. Treasury Catches Up With BerkShares


Following the example set by BerkShares, Inc., the U.S. Treasury announced last Wednesday that a woman would appear on the 10-dollar bill beginning in 2020. The announcement comes nine years after BerkShares, Inc. issued BerkShares, a local currency that features a woman.Robyn Van En, who graces the front of the 10-BerkShare note, was the organic farmer who founded the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement in the United States and applied the CSA concept at her farm in South Egremont, Massachusetts, Indian Line Farm. In the 30 years since Indian Line Farm was founded, CSAs have become understood and adopted by thousands of communities around the world, but when Robyn Van En was pioneering the model in the mid-1980s, it was revolutionary.

Photo by Clemens Kalischer

Robyn Van En died tragically young in 1997, but her work lives on at Indian Line Farm, which continues to produce abundantly for residents of the Southern Berkshires. The land is now owned by the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires and leased on a 98-year basis to organic farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp, who own the farm business, the farm house, and all improvements on the land. The Nature Conservancy holds the conservation easement on the property. Learn more about this ownership arrangement on our website.

Photo by Jason Houston

BerkShares were issued by BerkShares, Inc. in September of 2006 in partnership with community banks and locally owned businesses. Because the currency was created to encourage and allow for community support of the Berkshire economy, its design celebrates the region’s landscape and the accomplishments of its people.

Van En takes her place on the 10-BerkShare note among four other figures from the Berkshire Region of Western Massachusetts who made their mark nationally in the realms of politics, culture, social change, and environmental activism. The 1-BerkShare note features a Stockbridge Mohican, representative of the first people of the region. The 5-BerkShare note boasts W.E.B. DuBois, the civil rights activist and founder of the NAACP, who grew up in Great Barrington. The 20-BerkShare note displays a portrait of Herman Melville, the writer and environmentalist. Norman Rockwell, beloved illustrator of 20th-century American life, appears on the 50 BerkShare note.

W. E. B. Du Bois

The back of each BerkShare note features the work of a different highly regarded contemporary artist living and working in the Berkshires. Observers frequently comment on the beauty of the bills. “What could be better than money that has history on the front and artwork on the back? I mean, really! They’re not only beautiful, but the idea is beautiful,” remarked Van Shields, executive director of the Berkshire Museum, in a recent interview. The paintings by Bart Elsbach, Morgan Bulkeley, Jr., Janet Rickus, Warner Friedman, and Joan Griswold and the woodcut by Michael McCurdy represent different aspects of life in the Berkshires, from the mountains to Main Street.

“What’s so nice about BerkShares is that they’re telling stories about the community through the currency,” said Beryl Jolly, executive director of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, an arts organization that accepts BerkShares.

The announcement that a woman will appear on the 10-dollar bill in 2020 comes on the heels of an online campaign to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the 20-dollar bill with the portrait of Harriet Tubman. Although Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew will ultimately decide whose portrait will appear on the 10-dollar bill, he has welcomed input from the American people about who they would like to see.

One community in Massachusetts has already chosen to put the heroes, the artwork, and the images that best represent their values on their currency. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Treasury’s next redesign of the dollar will follow suit!