Three small farms in Amherst and Hadley get boosts from $10,000 state grants


Thursday, April 17, 2014

AMHERST — Customers who come to the first Amherst Farmers Market on Saturday will have the opportunity to purchase a variety of greens harvested from three high tunnels and four greenhouses at Danya Teitelbaum’s North Amherst farm, known as Queen’s Greens.

But as the recipient of a $10,000 state matching grant for constructing a much larger, better insulated and warmer high tunnel, Teitelbaum will be able to offer an even better selection from her Russellville Road farm, pushing the boundaries of crops she can grow year round.

“It will be a very large high tunnel that we are planning to use to expand our winter growing and also use for summer crops,” she said.

Teitelbaum already raises spinach, kale and salad mix, and is able to grow hardy crops all winter, as well as lettuce, radishes and other crops toward the end of the cold season.

Queen’s Greens is one of three small farms in Amherst and Hadley that are getting $10,000 grants as part of a state program aimed at improving the chance for success for beginning farms — those in their first through fifth years of operation.

The other local grant recipients are Carr’s Cider House on River Drive in Hadley, which is getting $10,000 for improvements to its hard cider processing facility, and Slow Tractor Farm on Middle Street in Hadley, also receiving $10,000 to upgrade its malt and soybean roasters.

The $94,000 in Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture through the Department of Agricultural Resources were announced Wednesday by Richard K. Sullivan Jr., secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Sullivan said in a statement that the grant program is about investing in sustainable farming and represents a commitment to local agriculture by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration.

“Developing business planning skills, upgrading equipment and making strategic improvements give our farmers the opportunity to grow their businesses and our economy,” Sullivan said.

Andrea Stanley, who runs Slow Tractor Farm and Valley Malt with her husband Christian Stanley, said the matching grant will be used to replace the small roaster that has been producing the malt that goes to brewers, distillers and bakeries and the soybean being used in animal feed. “We built up a market and then the next step was to get a larger-sized roaster,” Stanley said.

Once the roaster is running, by the end of April, Stanley said she hopes to go from roasting 200 pounds each month to more than 1,500 pounds per week. The grain, soybean and corn is grown on 70 acres of fields, about evenly divided between Hadley and Northampton.

At Carr’s Cider House, owner Jonathan Carr said about half the grant will be used for adding onto and finishing the barn that contains the processing facility, with the other half being used for new equipment, such as stainless tanks and bottling line improvements. “This will allow us to increase our efficiency and output,” he added.

An orchard with about 3,000 trees allows Carr to produce both traditional American and European-style hard cider. While some juice and apples are brought in from other orchards in the Valley, the hard cider is fermented on site, bottled and then sold at both retail outlets, such as Provisions in Northampton, Liquors 44 in Hadley and Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst, as well as farmers markets, including the Tuesday Market in Northampton and, later this summer, the Amherst Farmers Market.

“We are grateful the Department of Ag is helping farms like us and we are putting it to good use,” Carr said.

Other farms selected for the grants are in Ashfield, Dartmouth, Lunenburg, North Dartmouth, North Falmouth, Westford and Westminster.

The program was established in fiscal year 2010 under the Farm Viability Enhancement Program and farmers can apply between April and June.