Planning for Local Food and Farms
Many municipalities, organizations, states and regions are including local food and farms in their plans for the future. Here are a few recent examples of plans and tools for planning that are relevant to our region.
Planning for a geographic region
American Farmland Trust’s Cost of Community Services studies, for example, have examined the fiscal contribution of different types of land use, including agriculture, in several Pioneer Valley communities.
In the Berkshires, several communities are working together on “Keep Berkshires Farming,” a project that prioritizes wide community engagement, and in Franklin County, a Farmland and Foodshed Study was completed in 2012.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission recently completed a Valley-wide Food Security Plan with twin goals: “No one goes hungry. We grow our own food.”
At the state level, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council is currently devising a strategy for creating a statewide food system plan, using the recent example of Vermont’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan.
In the New England region, a group of food system advocates is refining a New England Food Vision which outlines changes in diet and land use that could allow New England to produce up to 70% of its food by 2060.
Planning for local food can also be approached through the lens of a particular sector or resource.
Since farmland is a limited and essential resource for farming in New England, planning related to land protection and access is especially important. Land for Good and Equity Trust are two New England-based organizations that have developed tools for farmland protection that allow farm business owners or families, towns, regions, or land trusts to plan for farmland protection that also prioritizes access, affordability, and secure access for farmers.
The New England Sustainable Farming Project has developed a mapping tool that makes it easier to identify tracts of land suitable for farming and helps communities, farmers and landowners find each other and develop appropriate protocols for leasing and land use.
Hunger and food access are another important planning lens. Springfield residents, led by the Mason Square Health Task Force, are planning and advocating for a supermarket in their neighborhood, which currently has no full-service grocery.
The Healthy Incentives Pilot is a USDA-funded research project conducted in Hampden County intended to inform federal policy. It examined whether Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients bought more produce if those purchases generated a rebate of SNAP dollars, and initial results show that this incentive does lead to increased purchase and consumption of produce.
The Massachusetts Workforce Alliance recently completed a study of a study of job creation in the local food system, Local Food, Local Jobs: Job Growth and Creation in the Pioneer Valley Food System. Based on interviews with a wide variety of farms and food businesses, the report outlines the kinds of jobs currently being created in the food system and describes training options which could help low-skill workers access those positions.