A Journey into Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley

pioneer valley. Connecticut River Photo by R A deLopez
Photo by Rhodi Alers de Lopez

The Pioneer Valley is many things – a key piece to New England’s Knowledge Corridor, home to many internationally-recognized educational institutions, a resilient economic powerhouse, and a scenic beauty.

At the center of the region (geographically, at least) is the Connecticut River, which is the longest and largest in New England. With the river, surrounding mountains, and lush forests, the valley is truly a sight to see. But it’s not just the scenery that’s flourishing. One of the Valley’s greatest assets is its diverse economy that’s seen a recent increase in both private and public investment.

What’s it like to live here? Each of the Valley’s three counties has its own character ranging from a rural agrarian community to a collection of college towns and even a booming urban landscape.

Franklin County

pioneer valley. Todd Diemer photo
Photo by Todd Diemer

As Massachusetts’s most rural county, Franklin is reminiscent of Southern Vermont in many ways. Here, agriculture is the center of the economy with sweet corn and asparagus as the major crops. Increasingly, people are retreating to the quiet life in this county and commuting to jobs in cities like Springfield and Chicopee. Although, there’s no need to go too far from home for some. Channing Bete and Yankee Candle both call South Deerfield home.

pioneer valley. South Deerfield Road by Todd Diemer
Photo by Todd Diemer

Hampshire County

There are a few institutions, known as the Five Colleges, you should probably get familiar with if you’re making the move to Hampshire County: UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College. Amherst and Northampton are college towns through-and-through and are the center of action in the county. Around here, you’ll find many independent bookstores and stationary shops as well as a great food scene. Many consider Northampton the culinary capital of Western Massachusetts. Be close to town and Smith College at Hilltop House.

pioneer valley. 91RoundHillRd
91 Round Hill Rd

Hampden County

The Pioneer Valley’s most highly urbanized county is Hampden. Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke all help drive the county’s economic resurgence. Around them, wealthy suburbs and rural exurbs have grown. Springfield especially is a major transportation hub in addition to being a medical, government, and high- education center. MassMutual is headquartered here, too. And, of course, you can thank Springfield for basketball; it was created here and the city’s now home to the NBA Hall of Fame.

pioneer valley. Basketball Hall of Fame
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame | Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, CC BY-ND 2.0

What to see in the Pioneer Valley?

Photo by Kyle Tran

There’s no shortage of sights to see and places to visit in the Valley. For the literary enthusiasts, you’ll find Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, the Emily Dickinson House in Agawam, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Spend time outside at Six Flags New England in Agawam, the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield (where New England’s collective state fair is held every autumn), and skiing at places like Berkshire East and Blandford Ski.

Have we convinced you to move here yet? Look through our Pioneer Valley listings or contact one of our local experts for more information: Cindy Welch | cwelch@landvest.com or Stanley Edwards | jsedwards@landvest.com.