Governor Baker Announces Agriculture Grants

The Recorder, January 26, 2017, by Andy Castillo

Mass. Nursery and Landscape Association in Conway and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture in South Deerfield have been awarded grant money to support local crops.

“The Baker-Polito administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, today announced nine grants totaling $319,524 for projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of Mass. specialty crops,” reads a state Department of Agricultural Resources press release.

Specialty crops are defined as “fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, and horticulture and nursery products.”

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture will receive $50,000 for “personalized assistance to specialty crop farmers in western Mass. to introduce them to food safety requirements and to enable them to implement the food safety required improvements needed to compete in wholesale produce market.”

“We know from talking to the farmers we work with that new food safety requirements require new systems and new documentation, and in some cases new facilities,” said Margaret Christie, special projects director at CISA.

Christie noted that “in many cases it might be that farmers are doing the right thing, but they may need to document it in other ways. It’s a lot of documentation, and people are really daunted by that because they’re already really busy.”

The statement said that Mass. Nursery and Landscape Association has partnered with the Bedford-based Growers’ Association for the grant. The two organizations have been awarded $10,376 for “agricultural education and outreach” through social media, in order to “create an awareness of the benefits of gardening and landscaping.”

According to the Conway organization’s website, Mass. Nursery and Landscape Association and Growers’ Association is “a statewide association dedicated to advancing the interests of ‘green industry’ professionals.” Also online, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture describes itself as a non-profit that “strengthens farms and engages the community to build the local food economy.”

“These grants will support the work of three great organizations in my district to work with farmers, growers, and food producers to strengthen their businesses and offer better agricultural products to consumers,” said state Rep. Stephen Kulik. “I thank the Baker-Polito Administration and MDAR for supporting these innovative activities to strengthen our state’s agricultural economy.”

The third organization Kulik referred to is Chesterfield-based Hilltown CDC, which has been awarded $20,000 for promotional purposes. Grants are made possible through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant, funded by the U.S. Farm Bill.

“Many Massachusetts farmers rely on specialty crops and these grants will allow both them and nonprofits to improve their marketing efforts and increase the overall value of the industry locally,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a prepared statement. “Our administration is proud to support local farmers and provide opportunities for small growers across the commonwealth to become more competitive and increase access to fresh foods to citizens in every municipality.”

You can reach Andy Castillo at:
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