Congressman McGovern Tours Local farms

The Recorder, August 31, 2016, by Andy Castillo

A small group of state, local and federal officials gathered on an overcast Wednesday morning at Bar-Way Farm to see the farm’s cutting-edge methane digester and learn what the machine can do to create a more sustainable Pioneer Valley.

Among the group stood Congressman Jim McGovern, who visited as part of his sixth annual 2016 farm tour, and Brad Pfaff, deputy administrator for farm programs with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

“It’s an environmentally good way to deal with all that food waste,” McGovern commented. “It’s a great example of the ingenuity of our local farmers.”

After it opens later this year, the methane digester will convert cow manure and food waste from local supermarkets and restaurants into energy: one kilowatt of electricity, and heat.

“It makes everyone’s operation sustainable,” said Peter Melnick, a partner in the farm. “There’s lots of little relationships that go on in the Valley, and it’s helpful for everyone.”

The group also stopped at other farms in Franklin County, including The Kitchen Garden farm, where owners Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox explained how they make sriracha using home-grown peppers, and Tanstaafl Farm.

McGovern’s yearly tour is intended to open lines of communication between farmers in Franklin County and the congressman, who’s the only majority member on the House Committee on Agriculture from New England.

“It’s the way that policies get formed,” said James M. Newland, Franklin County executive director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. “Lawmakers need to hear directly from the people who are affected by the laws.”

Next year, the congressional agriculture committee will vote on legislation that will affect farmers. McGovern said his tour comes in preparation for those decisions.

“Farmers in Massachusetts need to be more than farmers,” he commented after the tour ended. “They need to be businessmen and innovators.”

The congressman stressed that it’s important for the local community to get behind farmers, because they rely on public support to stay afloat.

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