Grant promotes statewide collaboration with Franklin County CDC

The Recorder, February 8, 2021. By MARY BYRN, Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — The Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) was recently awarded a $895,000 Agriculture Innovation Center grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), that will allow it to collaborate with food and farm businesses statewide.

“(The program)’s goal is to help farmers add value to their production,” said Franklin County CDC Executive Director John Waite.

Instead of just growing and selling peppers, for example, farmers would make peppers into a wholesale product, such as pepper jam.

“The grant is to provide them the business planning to help them do that,” he said. “(Franklin County CDC) is going to hire two people, who will be available throughout the state, that have experience in financial and marketing plans. A lot of farmers, they know how to farm and they do that really well, but they may not have the business experience to create and sell products.”

The Franklin County CDC was one of three recipients of the nationally awarded grant, according to a newsletter from the Greenfield-based economic development nonprofit. Waite said the other two recipients are based in New York and Maryland.

As part of the grant program, the Franklin County CDC will collaborate with agriculture-based organizations in Massachusetts, including Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) in South Deerfield, Waite said. Phil Korman, executive director of CISA, said his organization will be able to provide referrals for technical assistance to farmers all over the state, and in time, they’ll be able to report back their experiences with technical assistance providers.

“I think what’s most important is the difference it will make for farmers statewide, and in the region,” Korman said. “In the middle of a pandemic, the more support we can give to farms … is vital. It’s a good time for these resources to be coming to Massachusetts and the region.”

Waite said the fact the Franklin County CDC was awarded the grants shows the USDA considers the organization a leader in working with food and farm businesses across the state.

“This is sort of going to elevate that,” Waite said. “We’re really proud that little Franklin County, we’re a bigger player in the state now.”

Fisheries on the eastern part of the state — in Gloucester, for example — will coordinate with the Franklin County CDC to help grow their business.

“One of the things (the pandemic) has shown is that people need to eat, but where they get their food and how it’s packaged and stuff has been really important,” Waite said. “Farmers’ markets, even though they still did them, they weren’t attended as much — so farmers who also could package their food and sell it at a grocery store, that will help them.” Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @ MaryEByrne