Farms in Hadley, Leyden, and Amherst Win State Infrastructure Grants

MassLive, January 7, 2017, by Mary Serreze

Without successful farms, the New England landscape would be more developed, the region would be importing more food, and the six-state economy would be less resilient.

With that in mind, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture awards annual infrastructure grants to farms that are not only committed to economic success, but to land conservation. The Baker administration on Friday announced $375,000 in such grants.

The grants will fund diverse projects, including orchard development, hay barn construction, farm stands, and improved milking operations — all capital investments designed to improve viability.

Cook Farm in Hadley won a $100,000 dairy infrastructure grant. The money will improve the calf barn and farm store, which is popular for its homemade ice cream, lunch restaurant, and raw milk, said Bess Cook. “It’s all about diversifying our operation,” she said.

Cook Farm owns about 150 acres, about two-thirds protected under the state’s Agricultural Protection Restriction program.

Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden, with its 350 acres, was awarded $100,000 to improve its dairy infrastructure. The Facey family in 1997 helped found the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative.

Owner Warren Facey, 73, has long been committed to land conservation. Facey recently helped protect hundreds of contiguous acres in Leyden, gaining the cooperation of a dozen neighbors, marshaling a state grant, and working with a coalition of stakeholders and conservation experts.

Small Ones Farm on Bay Road in Amherst will build a new farm stand with its $25,000 grant. The 63-acre farm grows over 40 varieties of apples as well as pumpkins and garlic. The hilltop farm is well-known for its delicious pies.

Walker Farm in New Braintree won $25,000 for a farmstand; Kip’s Christmas Tree Farm in New Braintree gained $25,000 for a livestock barn, Stasinos Farm in Haverhill will use $25,000 to improve its orchard, and Ayrhill Farm in Adams won $50,000 for a hay barn.

The grants are reserved for farms with land permanently protected through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. The farmers must also take part in technical and business consultation.

According to the American Farmland Trust, there are about 4 million acres of farmland in New England, but around 16 million would be needed for the region to become food self-sufficient. The region still imports around 90 percent of its food.

New England farm operations are challenged by high land prices, development pressures, aging farmers, and federal agricultural policies that favor large operations in the midwestern, western, and southern states.

“This isn’t Iowa,” said U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) during a recent tour of local farms. “The needs and concerns of New England farmers are very different.”