Diemand Farm in Wendell hopes to expand egg production with state grant

Published in the Greenfield Recorder November 8, 2021

Staff Writer

Diemand Farm in Wendell hopes to expand egg production with state grant

WENDELL — With support from the Selectboard, Diemand Farm is applying for state grant money that would allow it to expand its egg production by 25%.

Anne Diemand Bucci, who co-owns the business with her siblings, said daughter Tessa White-Diemand, employee Kelcie Hillard and local grant writer Judy Hall are helping her apply for a Food Security Infrastructure Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. If Diemand Farm receives the grant — applications for which were due Sunday — it would be used to refurbish a 200-foot-long former cage house.

Diemand Bucci said half the structure houses meat chickens, and the plan is to use the other half as a laying area sectioned off for hens of different ages. Money is needed for lumber and feeders, as well as plumbing and electrical work, and cement to build walls.

“Things are expensive,” she said, adding that this planned setup would enable the farm to produce 25% more eggs. “At one time we were talking about growing mushrooms (in the structure).”

Diemand Bucci said she expects to hear back early next year regarding whether her farm has been awarded a grant. With an amount uncertain, she said she is unsure to what extent a grant may offset the cost of the project.

The Wendell Selectboard voted unanimously in October to craft a letter documenting its support for Diemand Farm to receive the state grant to increase capacity, production and upgrades.

“This project will make facility adaptations to Diemand Farm to increase capacity by renovating, upgrading and automating the existing laying house to increase flock numbers, remain in compliance with new legislation and reduce labor costs,” the letter states. “These steps will enable Diemand Farm to contribute to a stronger and more resilient commonwealth food system, and increase the availability of fresh, locally grown, cage-free eggs as a source of inexpensive, quality protein for Massachusetts children and families.

“The Selectboard encourages the support of small, rural, local agricultural businesses, like the Diemand Farm as they are vital to our small rural community,” the letter continues.

Two years ago, cages were removed from the farm’s 200-foot-long cage house, built in 1986, to comply with a 2016 ballot initiative creating a minimum size for cages and prohibiting farm owners or operators from knowingly confining egg-laying hens in a way that prevents them from “lying down, standing up, fully extending (their) limbs or turning around freely.” Compliance was mandatory by 2022, but Diemand Bucci said her family decided to get out ahead of the requirement.