Farm-to-Table To Benefit From $250K For Community Development Corp. Freezer Facility

The Recorder, October 21, 2016, by Richie Davis

GREENFIELD — With a new $250,000 state grant, the Franklin County Community Development Corp. plans to begin its long-awaited cooler-freezer construction project at its Greenfield food processing center.

Even with the Department of Agricultural Resources grant, announced Thursday, together with a $250,000 loan from the U.S, Department of Agriculture and a prior $50,000 grant, the $700,000 freezer project will still require the CDC to borrow the remaining money to get its freezer up and running, said CDC Executive Director John Waite.

“We’re very happy,” he said, adding that the CDC plans to do a fundraiser to pay back its loan. “This is almost the final piece. So we’re going to get moving. We’re just going to do it.”

He said that the CDC has had trouble finding foundation and public grant money for infrastructure in recent years, so having the economic development award announced Thursday is important.

The 2,600-foot freezer building, part of an effort to increase the marketability of the region’s agricultural products to serve year-round institutional customers, is more than a year behind because it proved to be more expensive than the $450,000 to $500,00 project originally estimated, Waite said.

The grant, one of five awarded as part of the Massachusetts Food Ventures Program to address food access and expansion of economic opportunities through new food ventures and enterprises throughout the state, will pay for a freezer-warehouse large enough to store 180 pallets stacked three high, for use by not only the Wells Street food processing center, but also Artisan Beverage Cooperative and Real Pickles as well as area farmers to store their frozen fruits and vegetables.

Mowry and Schmidt is expected to begin pre-construction and construction work in two weeks, he said.

This year, because of the costs of shipping produce to rented freezer space in Westfield, he said, the CDC kitchen was able to only quick-freeze about 10,000 pounds of produce, compared to 70,000 pounds a couple of years ago, Waite said. The new equipment, once installed, will allow it to process over 100,000 pounds next year.

“This is going to help us in our freezing of vegetables,” said Waite, explaining that cold storage has been a critical need for many growers, such as The Kitchen Garden.

“Improving food access and providing healthy options in rural communities for low-and moderate-income families will strengthen and innovate our rural economy, giving farmers and small business owners the tools they need to thrive in Franklin County,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst. “We must continue to revolutionize our agricultural enterprises to create an abundance of economic opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.”

Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru added, “This grant will help the Franklin County CDC continue to grow and expand the services it is able to offer in support of local food producers and local farmers.”