Vol. 91, No. 1 February / March

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In this issue:

Commissioner's Column - Gregory C. Watson




Commissioner's Column

Commissioner Gregory C. Watson

Dear Friends,

Agricultural Census
The United States Department of Agriculture released its preliminary data on the 2012 Agricultural Census on February 20th. The Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally, would have been sold, during the Census year.

With that as a backdrop the numbers for Massachusetts show 1% increases in both farms and number of acres being farmed in the Commonwealth between 2007 and 2012. While these increases may seem modest, they are actually impressive when one considers that most states witnessed a decrease in the number of farms during that same time period according to the census. For the record, in 2012 there were 7,775 farms and 523,517 acres of farmland acres in Massachusetts. By way of comparison those numbers were 7,691 and 517,879 in 2007.

I’ll leave it our economist Catherine DeRonde to digest these numbers and provide an authoritative detailed analysis. My take is that Massachusetts agriculture remains strong and will continue to be a viable source of fresh nutritious food for us and for future generations. More below.

Massachusetts Food System Strategic Plan
While on the topic of the future of the Massachusetts food system, I am pleased to report that the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has inked its contract with MDAR to facilitate the development of a strategic plan for the state‘s food system. You may recall that was the recommendation made by the Massachusetts Food Policy Council. That body, created by an act of the Legislature in 2012 is charged with finding ways to increase access to fresh nutritious food for all citizens of the Commonwealth. The goal of the plan is to build on the strengths reflected in the latest ag census and propose policies and programs to ensure – as best we can - that our farm economy will be as robust and resilient as possible in the years ahead. For more information, contact Bonita Oehlke at Bonita.Oehlke@state.ma.us.

Urban Agriculture
No mention of urban agriculture in the NASS Agriculture Census, but it will surely be discussed In the Food System Strategic Plan. The second annual Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference will be held at Northeastern University this coming Saturday. Like last year’s event, the conference has sold out with a long waiting list of folks anxious to attend. I’m very excited by the fact that we recently announced that MDAR was able to fund nine of the twenty-nine proposals that were submitted in response to our first Urban Agriculture Request for Proposals. A total of $200,000 was awarded. The communities of Somerville, Boston, Everett, Springfield, Lawrence, Lowell and Worcester were among the grant recipients. The breadth of the projects is impressive ranging from efforts to establish zoning to enable commercial farming in urban communities to design and installation of hydroponic growing systems. For more information, contact Rose Arruda at Rose.Arruda@state.ma.us.

Commissioner Greg's Signature

Gregory C. Watson, Commissioner


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Patrick Administration Awards Grants to Promote Massachusetts Urban Agriculture

The Patrick Administration recently launched one of the nation’s first state-funded urban farming initiatives, awarding $200,000 in grants  for urban farm pilot projects in Boston, Everett, Lawrence, Lowell, Somerville, Springfield and Worcester.

“Urban agriculture is an important, developing component of the Massachusetts food system,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan.  “It can revitalize blighted neighborhoods, improve public health, promote local businesses, engage youth and provide all Massachusetts residents with access to fresh, nutritious food.”

“In Massachusetts, we produce 5 to 10 percent of the food we consume and are dependent on climate change-vulnerable areas like California for the rest,” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. “When paired with the trend of most Americans living in urban areas, supporting active commercial agriculture in our cities is a strong step in strengthening our food security.”

Administered by the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), the Urban Agricultural Program grants will encourage and help facilitate more cities to grow their own food. The program will address some of the challenges facing urban farmers, such as suitable land, confined space, limited sunlight, nutrient-poor soils, high start-up costs, restrictive zoning rules and lack of farming experience and business training. Awards and complete release here.

MDAR Solicits Proposals for the Specialty Crop Block Grant

The MDAR is soliciting proposals for projects that specifically address the goals the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) has for solely enhancing the competitiveness of Specialty Crops. Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture (including maple syrup and honey), nursery crops (including floriculture). Feed crops, food grains, livestock, dairy products, seafood products and oil seed crops are NOT eligible. A full definition and a list of Specialty Crops can be found on the USDA —Specialty Crop Website, www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp or see attachment A “USDA’s List of Specialty Crops”. The USDA is the final approver and funding entity for the Specialty Crop Grant Program. Although, MDAR shall conduct the initial review and award recommendations to the USDA, the USDA shall make the final decision concerning grant awards.


MDAR is conducting a competitive bid process through a Request for Response (RFR) process to award an estimated $400,000. 

MDAR’S Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has a two-phase application process.  The first phase is the development of a required Concept Proposal.  This step allows applicants to explain the main points of their project without the high level of detail that is necessary during the second phase of the application process.  Concept Proposals are competitively ranked and scored by a Review Panel.  Projects with the highest combined scores will serve as recommendations to the Commissioner as to which applicants should be asked to complete the second phase of the application process.  All projects are subject to the availability of funds.


The Request for Response (RFR) and all necessary documents and information can be found here.

Required Concept Proposal Application (Form A) 

Concept Proposal Instructions (Form B) 

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 2014 Solicitation Timeline

Phase IConcept Proposal Due April 4, 2014 by 4:30 pm
Phase IINotification by MDAR to submit grant proposals: April 24, 2014
Phase IIIFull Grant Proposal Due, May 30, 2014 by 4:30 pm

Boston Public Market Update

The Boston Public Market has taken a significant step forward. Local farmers will soon be able to sell their products at a year-round indoor market in a 28,000 square food space in Downtown Boston, and will become a cornerstone of the proposed Market District. The Boston Public Market Association closed 2013 having made great strides with fundraising, leasing and design. To date, the organization has raised $8 million in private and state funds and continues its fundraising efforts to complete planning, design, and construction of the Market. The board of the Boston Public Market just approved an 85-year lease on the site, a critical move towards beginning construction, and the organization has contracted Architerra, a local architectural firm, and design plans for the interior market space are almost complete.

Once open, the Market will house over 40 permanent vendors including local farmers, fisherman, ranchers, winemakers, and more. The Market will sell everything from meat and cheese to produce and flowers and recruitment for vendors is ongoing. “The diversity of the Market is an important reason why it is so unique,” said CEO Liz Morningstar. “Our local farmers grow a vast variety of crops and the Market allows them to sell their products direct to consumers, increasing their profits and the sustainability of our local economy.”

Construction on the site is set to begin this summer in order for the Market to open in Spring of 2015. Beginning in May, 19 vendors will begin selling their products at a new seasonal farmers market the plaza along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and will continue through November. This is just a small taste of what’s to come next year.

Vendors seeking more information on participating in the permanent market can join our growing list of interested vendors by visiting: bostonpublicmarket.org/#vendor. Those interested in the 2014 seasonal markets can reach us by visiting: bostonpublicmarket.org/seasonal_markets.php.

March is ‘Maple Month’ in Massachusetts

Season to Begin with the Tapping of the Ceremonial First Tree
Friday, March 7, 10:00 am, Town Common, Belchertown, MA

The annual kickoff event for maple sugaring season in Massachusetts will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 7 at the Belchertown town common gazebo, on Park St. across from the Congregational Church. Melissa Leab, president of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (MMPA) will welcome attendees, and guests will tap the ceremonial first tree. A proclamation by Governor Patrick, declaring March to be ‘Maple Month’ in Massachusetts will be read. Local officials will be on hand as well, and nearby sugarhouses will be open for tours following the event.

This year’s maple season will be highlighted by Maple Weekend, March 22-23, when sugarhouses around the state will be open to visitors who want to see syrup being made, learn about the process and history of maple production, and sample and purchase the Commonwealth’s sweetest crop. Many restaurants will feature menu items made with 100% pure Massachusetts maple syrup that weekend as well. Lists of participating sugarhouses and restaurants are available at www.massmaple.org. EEA press release: Patrick Administration Celebrates Maple Month With Maple Weekend March 22 - 23

Recipe contest: In conjunction with Maple Weekend, MMPA is sponsoring a recipe contest, inviting anyone in the state to submit their favorite recipe made with maple syrup. Entries are due by March 14 and the judging will take place on March 18. More details are available at www.massmaple.org.

Energy News

MDAR Announces New MFEP Partner

The MDAR is pleased to announce The Center for EcoTechnology, Inc., (CET) as their new partner for the MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP).  CET will carry on the initial efforts and responsibilities of Berkshire Pioneer Resource Conservation & Development (BPRC&D), the original program developer, administrator and partner who helped create and operate the tremendously successful MFEP in collaboration with DAR and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since inception as a pilot project in 2007.

The Center for EcoTechnology is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established in 1976 “to research, develop, demonstrate and promote those technologies which have the least disruptive impact on the natural ecology of the Earth.” From offices in Pittsfield, Northampton and Springfield, the CET has become a local, regional and national leader in promoting a sustainable path for our region, with 70 professional staff members having expertise in energy efficiency, waste reduction and renewable resources.

The MFEP is an energy efficiency and alternative energy service program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural operations for the implementation of environmentally responsible energy projects and strategies. This is accomplished through one-on-one consultations, workshops, the performance of energy and technical audits, the provision of incentives, and the collaboration with diverse relevant agencies, programs and other project resources, including the MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER), the Mass Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the electric and natural gas industries under MassSave, and USDA’s Rural Development (RD), NRCS and Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Since inception the MFEP has served 476 Massachusetts farms with technical and financial assistance, helped Install projects resulting in annual energy savings of 1,248,743 kWh electricity, 101,200 gallons of oil, 41,075 therms of natural gas, 133,600 gallons of  propane, 347 cords of wood, generating annual savings of $1,040,509, much of it reinvested into the local economy. The MFEP also assisted in clean energy projects, producing over 1.3 million kWh/year. Overall MFEP has reduced MA farm greenhouse gas emissions by an equivalent of 11,412 tons of CO2 and financially has assisted in leveraging $5.5 million or 55% of total project costs, paying $189,375 in MFEP incentives to farmers to implement energy efficiency upgrades worth $1,702,465.

As notable, MFEP has generated Energy Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Dairy, Maple Sugaring, Greenhouses and Nurseries, Orchards & Vegetable Farms, and Renewable Energy, all based on MFEP farm energy projects. The MFEP has also been honored to be recognized by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) as one of the nation’s best state-run energy efficiency programs in 2010.

New MFEP website and contact information will be soon forthcoming. Stay tuned!

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"MassGrown" Attends 2014 Boston Globe Travel Show

MDAR's "MassGrown" booth attended the three day Boston Globe Travel Show at the Seaport World Trade Center, February 7, 8 & 9 reaching over 20,000 travel minded consumers!

With funding from a Specialty Crop Block Grant, MassGrown designed a new eye-catching booth display, and over the three day event, offered attendees a variety of Ag-tourism resources including our Ag-tourism maps, seasonal recipes, calendars, and rack cards featuring the MassGrown website, www.Mass.gov/MassGrown. The agri-Google map site includes over 1000 farms, farmers' markets and agriculture fairs across the Commonwealth.

We were joined by the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association members Rob Leab and Russell Norton. Along with MDAR staff, they engaged hundreds of enthusiastic visitors with samples of grades of maple syrup and maple candies. Samples donated from the MA Cranberry Growers Association of plump sweetened Peaceful Meadows dried cranberries were gobbled up too! Together, we reached thousands of visitors to go out and find local farms to visit, all happy to savor a taste of Massachusetts.

Ag-tourism and retail farm reminder: Check your information on the Massgrown map. If edits are needed, please email Rick LeBlanc at Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us.


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MA Building at the Big E now Accepting Applications

Massachusetts Building at the Big E

The MDAR invites Massachusetts organizations and businesses to apply for the purpose of showcasing Massachusetts agriculture, commerce, culture, food and tourism through informational, educational, promotional and retail exhibits in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“ESE”) located in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The dates for the 2014 Big E are September 12, 2014 through September 28, 2014.

Each year, a blend of non-profit and for-profit entities are selected to occupy the exhibit areas. Limited additional space may be available in the backyard for educational purposes only. In order to uphold the mission of the Building, an effort is made to have a balance of exhibits featuring Massachusetts grown or produced food products along with exhibits featuring informational displays, manufactured hard goods and/or other Massachusetts products or services. For more information on exhibiting in the Massachusetts Building, please click here (.pdf). Contacts: Mary Jordan, Mary.Jordan@state.ma.us, 617-626-1750, or Howie Vinton, Howard.Vinton@state.ma.us, 617-626-1803.

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Options for Equipment to Process SNAP Payments at Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Market Managers and farmers who sell at farmers’ markets have two options this year to receive equipment to process SNAP (food stamp) payments. Farmers’ market managers and farmers are encouraged to compare each option to choose the best one for your needs.

Additional information, including eligibility criteria, pricing and program specifications on both options can be found on our website.

Option 1
MarketLink - USDA has provided funding to the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) to assist farmers and farmers’ markets, nationwide, with obtaining equipment. The NAFMNP has set up a website with program details at www.marketlink.org.

Option 2
MDAR offers wireless terminals through Bank of America Merchant Services. Applications from farmers’ markets and farmers will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis until the application deadline of April 1, 2014. For more information, contact David Webber, 617-626-1754 or David.Webber@state.ma.us.

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New Production Facility Available in Boston

Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp. is teaming up with CropCircle Kitchen, to redevelop the 2-acre former Pearl Meat Factory in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. This long vacant site will be a multi-tenant and shared-use food production facility as a means to create jobs with few barriers to entry, promote entrepreneurship, business development and community asset building, build the infrastructure needed to support local food systems, and improve access to healthy food to low-income families of Boston. The Pearl project will fill a major gap in availability of small-scale food manufacturing space in Boston, while providing invaluable opportunities for traditionally under-capitalized inner city entrepreneurs to start and grow a business. The facility will integrate shared offices and other common space to reduce business overhead costs. It will offer on-site training on topics including bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, distribution & product development. By creating this shared work environment & vertically integrated business incubator, the building will facilitate collaboration, mentorship, and networking; key elements to success for any business.

This $13.5 million redevelopment will support 50+ businesses and create more than 120 new full-time jobs within 3 years of opening. The Pearl Food Production Small Business Center includes: A shared-use kitchen operated by CropCircle Kitchen providing hourly rental to @ 40+ businesses. The kitchen will have large-volume production equipment including a combi-therm oven, blast cooler, steam and convection ovens, large capacity steam kettles, plus dry, cold and frozen storage available for monthly rental; A separate commissary kitchen operated by CCK, providing staffing to support 8-10 food trucks, plus contract processing for institutions, restaurants, local farms needing value-added processing, etc.

Shared common space including offices, meeting rooms, lockers, break rooms and loading docks; Separately leased space for 6-10 food production businesses ready to “graduate” into dedicated space (@ 1-3k SF each); Business support & technical assistance including menu development, ServSafe classes, marketing, product sourcing and bulk-purchasing; Coordinated efforts to maximize opportunities for local residents, including formal partnerships & apprenticeships with job training organizations and business TA providers; Integrated management processes to maximize bulk purchasing, coordinate distribution, limit waste and encourage recycling and composting.

To bring this project to reality, Dorchester Bay EDC is partnering with CropCircle Kitchen to run the shared kitchen and manage operations. CropCircle Kitchen operates Boston’s only non-profit shared-use commercial kitchen and food business incubator. The 4,000 SF Jamaica Plain facility is home to @ 38 small and start-up food businesses, employing over 80 people, with another 35+ businesses on the waiting list. Businesses operating out of the JP kitchen include multiple food truck operators, and producers of prepared foods like jam, cookies, chocolate, ice cream and other frozen desserts, fresh pasta, sushi, honey, sauces, salsas, hot sauce and dips, and fresh and frozen meals. Between 2010-2012, CCK “graduated” multiple businesses into dedicated kitchens off-site. Graduating businesses have created well over 250 permanent jobs, including: Down Home Catering, Clover Food Lab, Forklift Catering, Grillo’s Pickles, Nella Pasta, BATCH ice cream, Quinn Popcorn and Voltage Coffee.

To learn more, contact: Jen Faigel, project development consultant: jenfaigel@gmail.com; 857-231-1863

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USDA Organic Cost Share Program

USDA Organic Logo

The MDAR is pleased to announce that it has received $45,000 from the USDA – Agricultural Marketing Service (“AMS”) to reimburse certified organic crop and livestock producers for the Federal 2014 Fiscal Year. Due to Federal Sequestration, the Cost Share Reimbursement budget has been reduced by 25% for the 2014 Fiscal Year. Reimbursements are limited to 60% (sixty percent) of an individual organic crop and livestock producer’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $600 (six hundred dollars) for one (1) category of certification, for the program year. Three (3) categories of certification are eligible for reimbursement under the AMS cost share program.

Applicants must successfully receive their first organic certification from a USDA accredited certifying agent or have incurred expenses related to the renewal of certification between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, thus the 2014 Federal Fiscal Year.

For more information and a copy of the Organic Cost Share Reimbursement Forms, please visit website.

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Boston Area Gleaners Thank Farmers

Boston Area Gleaners would like to thank all of the farmers who donated their produce during the 2013 growing season! We were able to glean over 95,000 pounds of food for delivery to 20 different hunger relief agencies in the Greater Boston area. 

Our top crops gleaned by weight were: apples (a whopping 38,220 lbs!), winter squash (16,325 lbs), corn (4,960 lbs). Kale and chard were also top contenders, although they do not weigh as much – we harvested 220 bushels of each (equaling 5,292 lbs). 

The hunger relief agencies that received the most gleanings included:

If you are a farmer that hates to see your food go to waste before a frost, in between harvests for crops such as summer squash, kale, and peppers, or at the end of the season, please contact us! Boston Area Gleaners is a fully insured 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that quickly organizes volunteers to harvest and pickup excess crops from farms. All of the gleaned produce is donated to food access organizations and pantries in the Boston area.

If interested in our services, please contact Matt Crawford, Gleaning Coordinator, office: 781-894-3212, cell: 978-578-5647, coordinator@bostonareagleaners.org, www.bostonareagleaners.org

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Dairy Farm of Distinction Award

Time to nominate your dairy farm for the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation 2015 Dairy Farm of Distinction Award!

The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s Dairy Farm of Distinction program was established to recognize and present to the public those Massachusetts dairy farmers who set high standards and achieve a level of excellence in overall animal health, farm management, and compliance with public safety.

Application fee is $25 and the deadline for applications is May 15, 2014. See complete program overview, judging criteria & program rules here.

MA Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest Now Accepting Entries

2014 Agriculture Calendar cover

Did you snap a great picture of kids picking strawberries last summer? Or maybe your camera captured a herd of dairy cows on sunny hillside, or the vibrant color of a cranberry harvest in the fall. With a wealth of farm and horticultural products and landscapes to choose from, these are just a few of the possibilities for amateur photographers competing in the 2014 Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2014 and winning entries will be published in the 2015 Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar. Besides being featured in the printed Calendar, winning images are posted each month on the MDAR's homepage, and sometimes even in our Blog posts. It is a great way to get featured in many local news publications as well.

The calendar each year is produced in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), MA Ag in the Classroom (MAC), and MA Farm to School Project. It also includes sponsored pages by the many great Ag associations in the state. Last year included the MA Maple Producers Assoc. (March), MA Farm Bureau (April and November), MA Flower Growers Assoc. (May), MA Dairy Promotion Board (June), MA State Grange(July), MA Fairs Association (August), MA Fruit Growers Assoc. (Sept.), Cape Cod Cranberry Association (October), and the MA Christmas Tree Assoc. (December). View pictures of last year winners at aginclassroom.org.

Click here for entry form. Questions, contact Rick LeBlanc, Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us, 617-626-1759.


MAC Conference and Featured Book

Saturday, March 8 - Paul R. Baird Middle School, Ludlow, 9:00 - 3:30 pm.

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom (MAC) will hold its 13th Annual Winter Growing Minds Through Massachusetts and Connecticut Agriculture Conference this Saturday. There will be four workshop sessions, with eight concurrent workshops in each session related to the many different aspects of agriculture in the classroom. Each will be taught by a teacher or farm educator. The registration fee for the conference includes all materials; breakfast snack; lunch from Randall's Farm in Ludlow, along with professional development.

MAC is also happy to announce that through a special printing by National Agriculture in the Classroom we will be selling "Who Grew My Soup" by Tom Darbyshire starting next week. Who Grew My Soup? tells the story of young Phineas Quinn and his questions about the vegetable soup his mom serves for lunch. Phin declares he won’t slurp a single spoonful until he knows the answer to such questions as "Who grew these carrots? Who grew these tomatoes?" This entertaining and educational children's book is currently out of print but MAC will be selling a soft cover version of the book for you to enjoy in your classroom or library. Look for them online or at the Conference.

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Farmers' Market Manager Forums

Friday, March 14 - College of the Holy Cross, Hogan Student Center, Worcester, MA, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm.

Topics include: The Food Safety Modernization Act: Implications for Farmers Markets, Market Integrity, Tips and Tools for Managing the Urban, Suburban and Rural Markets, Effective Social Media Strategy and Tools, Getting Legal, Putting the Fun in Farmers Market Marketing, Bonding with your Board Of Health, and Managing EBT.

Registration and details here.

Thursday, March 27, Kittredge Center, Room 303, Holyoke Community College, 303 Homestead Avenue, Holyoke, 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm.

CISA invites you to a Farmers' Market Manager Forum. Planning for the 2014 market season is underway, and what better time than now to meet with other market managers to share how you operate your market, marketing ideas, vendor needs, EBT usage, increasing SNAP transactions, market structure, dot surveys, and much more. CISA is holding this meeting to give Market Managers and Steering Committee members the opportunity to talk and share successes and challenges for both new and returning managers. Come with questions, and be willing to share your thoughts and experiences.

Light dinner is provided for a donation. RSVP to Devon, devon@buylocalfood.org, 413-665-7100, ext. 22, by Wednesday, March 26th. Contact Devon if you have specific agenda items you'd like to discuss.

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Ag Commission Annual Meeting

Saturday, March 15 - Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions Annual Meeting, Old Mill Restaurant, 69 State Road East, Westminster. 10:00 am -3:00 pm

Topics include: Land Access For Farmers, Preserving land in your community for agriculture and considerations
for future agricultural needs, Annual Meeting of MAAC, Nuisance Complaints & Closing Remarks. All invited.
Complete agenda here.

www.massagcom.org; MDAR Ag Commission page. Contacts: Peter Westover, 413-665-4077, westover03@comcast.net, Cheryl Lekstrom, 508-835-6936/2452, clekstrom@mac.com.

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Cost Reducing Strategies for Dairy & Livestock Operations

Tuesday, March 18, UMass Crop & Animal Research Center, 89-91 North River Rd., South Deerfield, 10:30 am – 3:30 pm.

This is a collaborative event presented by the Extension Services of UConn, UVM, UNH, UMass and UMaine. Presentations will be focused on innovative ways to maximize the impact of every dollar you invest on your farm and how to manage your farm for long-term sustainability.  Presentation topics will include: Contribution of no-till methods to soil health, Evaluating nitrogen fertilizer needs, Grazing and harvesting cover crops, Management for more profitable heifer replacement systems, Nutrient Management, Integrating cover crops into corn silage systems, Animal nutrition, Producing high quality forage. 3.0 CCA credits will be offered. Details here.

Flower and Plant Programs

Greenhouse Pest Guide is now available at your fingertips! See UMass Extension’s new web-based App! Try our new mobile optimized website app that contains options for biocontrol and pesticides for commercial greenhouse production. This is a cooperative project with Leanne Pundt, UConn Extension. This website is optimized for use on your browser with your computer, cell phone or other electronic devices. See: greenhousepestguide.umass.edu/

Wednesday, March 19
Greenhouse Plant Disease Diagnostic Workshop (UMass Extension -Limited to 25 attendees) - Fernald Hall, UMass Amherst campus, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. This program for commercial growers of greenhouse crops will include a lecture to review the basics of diagnostic plant pathology followed by a hands-on workshop using diagnostic test kits for viruses and root diseases of greenhouse crops. We will also use microscopes to view fungal root pathogens such as Thielaviopsis, Rhizoctonia and Pythium and foliar pathogens such as Downy mildew and Botrytis that were covered in the lecture. 4 pesticide contact hours.Cost: $70. Program and Registration.

Thursday, March 20
UConn: Perennial Plant Conference
, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. A one-day conference for the landscape and horticultural professional horticulturist held at the Lewis B. Rome Commons on the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut. Contact: Donna Ellis at donna.ellis@uconn.edu or call 860-486-6448 or see www.2014perennial.uconn.edu.

Upcoming NOFA/Mass Workshops & Summer Conference Proposal Deadline

Winter Growing in New England
Saturday, March 15 - 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at First Light Farm in Hamilton, MA (North Shore)
More info & registration: www.nofamass.org/events/winter-growing-new-england-workshop

Learn the pros and cons of winter production here in New England. Topics covered will include winter CSA management and the nuts and bolts of winter production: bed preparations, seeding and transplanting, irrigation, and row covers in hoop houses.

Instructor Mike Raymond has been farming organically for 15+ years, growing winter produce for four seasons on his farm First Light Farm.

Artisan Cheese Making in the Berkshires
Sunday, April 6 - 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA
More info & registration: www.nofamass.org/events/artisan-cheese-making-berkshires

Come see how the cheese is made in our farmstead creamery and experience the science and art of cheese making. This class is perfect for home-cheese makers, avid cooks, cheese lovers, food enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a fascinating day in the life of a cheesemaker! We will be making our award-winning Maggies Round.

Bring a friend and enjoy a glimpse into the Cricket Creek creamery! Cricket Creek Farm is a growing, productive, multi-faceted organism. One of the oldest dairy farms in the region, we are a grass-based dairy farm infused with new life and energy. Our primary activity is raising dairy cows for their good milk. We are licensed to sell raw milk from the farm. The rest of our milk we make into artisanal cheese in our farmstead creamery.

Instructor Suzy Konecky received her Bachelor’s of Science from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science. Inspired by the vibrant agricultural community of the Finger Lakes region of New York, she has since been following her passion for nourishing food. She manages the creamery at Cricket Creek Farm – cheese production, inventory, marketing and sales.

Tasting Dinner 4/5 at 7:30 pm: Make a weekend of it and join us for a locavore tasting dinner at Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown. Chef Nick Moulton and the Mezze kitchen team will be cooking up a special dinner for pre-registered participants. The tasting menu will feature Cricket Creek Farm's Cheese and other local producers.

Call for workshop proposals for 2014 NOFA Summer Conference
Would you like to offer a workshop conveying your knowledge and skill in organic food and farming? If so, please consider submitting a workshop proposal for the 2014 NOFA Summer Conference - the Northeast's foremost conference for pioneers of organic agriculture and sustainable living. It will be held from August 8-10, 2014 at UMASS Amherst. The workshops are 90 minutes long.

For more info, visit www.nofasummerconference.org/callworkshop2014.php

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Ag Day at the Statehouse

Wednesday, March 26 - Agriculture Day at the Statehouse

On March 26, agriculture will once again take center stage at the State House in Boston. Massachusetts. Agriculture Day is the one day a year where farmers come together to focus legislative attention on our industry.  While it is a celebration that recognizes the hard work and many diverse products produced across the Commonwealth; it is also an important opportunity for the ag community to have issues of concern brought to the legislative body.  Details here.

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Massachusetts Poultry Enhancement Council Meeting

Thursday - March 27 - Auburn Public Library, 369 Southbridge St., Auburn, MA, www.auburnlibrary.org, 6:00 pm to 8:15 pm. Resources for Massachusetts Poultry Producers. Agenda includes Opening Remarks: MDAR Commissioner Greg Watson, Introduction of Contact Reps. for the Massachusetts AI response plan, MA/NE Poultry News; Overview of Salmonella pullorum reactor cases, Intro to understanding GMO’s,  2014 Feed Report, Rodent life cycle & control methods, along with open discussion on current events, questions and concerns. All welcome, questions, contact Ed at Edward.Hageman@state.ma.us.

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More events and workshops listed here: www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/events/


Preliminary Report from 2012 Census

Number of Farms in US declines, but not in New England

The number of farms in the US totaled to 2.1 million farms in 2012, a decrease of 4 percent from 2007, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in the 2012 Census of Agriculture Preliminary Report. “Nationally, the number of farms may have declined however, across the New England States, the number of farms actually increased 5 percent from 2007, up to 34,878 farms” accordingly to Gary Keough, USDA NASS State Statistician for the New England States.

This preliminary report contains just a fraction of information that will be available in the full report that is scheduled to be released later this spring. The preliminary report contains US and State level number of farms, total land in farms, total market value of crops and livestock farms by size as well as demographic information like the average age, number of principal farm operators by age group and years on their current farm, number of men and women principal farm operators, as well as number of farmers by race and ethnicity. “The preliminary report tells us what some of the overall trends are but we have to wait for the full report to identify some of the factors influencing the trends”, says Keough. “For example, the total land in New England farms increased 4 percent to 4.211 million acres. This is the continuation of a trend that started around 2002. But land in farms includes crop land, pastureland, woodland, and other land that can include streams, ponds, wetlands, and land in buildings. In some States, it also includes coastal areas used for producing shellfish and farm raised fish. We won’t know which of these factors are influencing the trend until the full report comes out.”

Other highlights include:

  • The number of beginning farmers, those with less than 10 years experience on their current farm, increased in New England but decrease at the US level. “While the nationally the numbers declined 19.6 percent from 2007, in New England the number of beginning farmers increased by 401 farmers. Those with less than 5 years experience increased by 549 but we also found a decrease of 148 with for those between 5 and 9 years.” added Keough.
  • The average age of New England farmers was 57.6 years, up from 56.5 years in 2007.
  • The number farms with women principal operator increased to 9,695, up 15 percent. The percent of farms with women principal operators was 28 percent, up from 25 percent in 2007.
  • Farms with sales of $1 million or more, at 507, increase 16 percent. Farms with $250,000 to $999,999 in sales decrease 2 percent. Farms with $50,000 and $249,000 in sales increased 4 percent and farms with less than $50,000 in sales increased 6 percent.

The full preliminary report is available at www.agcensus.usda.gov. For Massachusetts data summary press release, click here (.pdf), for presentation version,click here (.pdf).

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USDA Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Farm to School Grants to Continue Efforts to Increase Local Foods in Eligible Schools

National Program Continues to Increase Access to Local Foods in Schools and Provide New Economic Opportunities for a Variety of Producers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently the release of a request for applications for the third round of USDA's Farm to School grants, including the addition of a new funding track. These grants help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers.

Three different kinds of grants will be available, as well as a separate funding track to support trainings and events. Planning grants are intended for schools just getting started on farm to school activities. Implementation grants are available for schools seeking to augment or expand existing efforts. Additionally, eligible non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers may apply for support service grants in order to conduct trainings, create complementary curriculum, or further develop supply chains, among other activities. Proposals are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, April 30, 2014.

New in FY 2015, USDA funds will be made available to support meetings, trainings, and events intended to strengthen farm to school supply chains or provide technical assistance. The Training and Event funds range from $15,000 - $50,000. USDA expects to distribute approximately $500,000 in additional funds to support at least one statewide or regional meeting in all seven FNS regions and at least one national conference. Letters of Intent are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, April 2, 2014.

To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a series of webinars related to the application process:

  • March 11, 2014, 1:00 EST – Planning Grants
  • March 12, 2014, 1:00 EST – Implementation Grants
  • March 13, 2014, 1:00 EST – Support Service Grants
  • March 14, 2014, 1:00 EST – Training and Event Funding Track

The Farm to School Grant Program is a cornerstone of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department's work on local and regional foods. The grant program was initiated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which authorized and funded USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The Act provides $5 million annually to support grants, technical assistance, and the federal administrative costs related to USDA's Farm to School Program. In this funding cycle, USDA anticipates awarding up to $5 million in HHFKA grant funding and an additional $500,000 in program funds to support training and events. www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school

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FSA Microloans

FSA Microloans are direct farm operating loans (maximum of $35,000) with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche type operations.

In FY 2013, the first year of the program, Massachusetts FSA issued 63 microloans for a total of $949,050. FY 2014 YTD, 11 microloans totaling $192,000 have been funded. With a full-year appropriation now in place and demand remaining strong, these numbers are expected to grow.

See how the Farm Service Agency benefitted Massachusetts Agriculture last year, click here (.pdf). Additional information on the FSA microloan program may be obtained at local FSA offices or through the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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USDA to Survey Farmers Planting Intentions for 2014

What is on the horizon for U.S. farmers in 2014 as they finalize plans for planting this spring? The March Agricultural Survey conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will survey 82,000 of the nation’s farmers to determine their plans for the upcoming growing season.

“Each year, the agriculture industry eagerly awaits USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, which provides the first survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ planting intentions for the year,” said Gary Keough, NASS’s State Statistician for the New England States. “The March Agricultural Survey provides the factual data that underpins these projections, making it one of the most important surveys we conduct each year.”

NASS will mail the survey questionnaire in late February, asking producers to provide information about the types of crops they intend to plant in 2014, how many acres they intend to plant, and the amounts of grain and oilseed they store on their farms. NASS encourages producers to respond via the Internet or mail. Those producers who do not respond by the deadline will be contacted for a telephone or personal interview.

NASS will compile and analyze the survey information and publish the results in the annual Prospective Plantings report and quarterly Grain Stocks report, both to be released on March 31, 2014.

As with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential, as required by federal law. NASS safeguards the privacy of all responses and publishes only aggregate data, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified. These and all NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov. For more information call the NASS New England Field Office at (800)328-0179.

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Briefs / Classified

  • Farmers Markets Seeking Vendors - Many farmers markets are seeking vendors for the 2014 season. For a list click here. Check back periodically for updates, or for more information contact David Webber at 617-626-1754 or David. Webber@state.ma.us.
  • Farm Land For Sale:  80 acre parcel in Holden subject to an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR).  Approximately 42 acres open used for hay and corn.  If interested, please contact Jim Sandstrom at 508-373-4581.
  • Smith’s Country Cheese, Inc. (SCCI) - Business Opportunity - The owners of a successful farm is nearing retirement and would like to see their farm operation continue and are willing to provide a “young entrepreneur” with the opportunity to be the next generation owner. SCCI is a cheese operation located in Winchendon, MA. It has been in business for over 25 years and is actively looking for a new manager who will have the opportunity to be the ultimate owner of this business. Contact: Jon Jaffe, a Farm Business Consultant with Farm Credit east who has been hired to assist in this effort. Jon can be contacted  at OtterRiverHR@FarmCreditEast.com for more details or to apply.
  • Beef producers - Local Harvest, a division of Meyer Natural Foods the largest natural and organic beef company in the country, is looking to establish relationships with MA and New England beef producers to supply their growing demand for locally and regionally sourced beef. Several Local Harvest retailers are looking to work with area producers to further their “farm to fork” movement. This program is looking for beef producers both feeder cattle and finished cattle that are Angus genetics and raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. For more information please contact Erick Jensen at 207-385-3033.
  • Worcester County Conservation District (WCCD) 2014 Annual Seedling Sale. Will focus on plantings to attract and benefit native pollinators and honeybees. A contributor to their recent decline is a lack of suitable nectaring and quality pollen sources. Visit www.worcesterconservation.org to order your seedlings, fruit trees, potted perennials and herbs, and check out the pollinator "butterfly" selections!
  • Increase sales in 2014 with a Blue Ribbon Marketing Plan. Good Egg Marketing helps farms and food businesses increase sales and build customer loyalty. Learn more at goodeggmarketing.com or email myrna@goodeggmarketing.com. Mention Food & Farm Report for 25% discount on services.
  • Agricultural Excavation – Grading Services - Provide earth moving, drainage, land/pasture reclamation, greenhouse preparation, and rock raking services. Includes but not limited to orchards/equine facilities/cranberry bogs/nurseries. Chris Merrill Excavating - merrilltrucks@comcast.net 978-897-9977.

How to Place a Classified Ad

Classified ads are accepted free-of charge on a first-come basis. Be sure to include a phone number. No display ads will be accepted. Only one ad per business/individual per issue, unless space permits. Ads may run in consecutive issues, space permitting. Ads must be of interest to Massachusetts farmers. The Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) reserves the right to refuse any listing it deems inappropriate for publication. E-mail, fax or mail ads to: Farm & Market Report, MDAR, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114, fax: 617-626-1850, Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us.

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About the Farm & Market Report

Published bi-monthly by:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Department of Agricultural Resources

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251 Causeway St., Suite 500,
Boston, MA 02114
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Next issue to be published for April / May. Please send news, calendar and/or classified information by April 1 to Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us. To unsubscribe or change your address, send an e-mail message to Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us or call 617-626-1759.