In this issue: 

Local News

News From USDA

In Every Issue


Commissioner's Column 

Dear Friends,

Image of Scott Soares

First and foremost I would like to wish a happy and safe holiday season to all! At least for me, it’s hard to believe that we’re already into the last month of 2009! Although a historically wet growing season that followed on the heels of last winter’s ice storms conspired with the variety of “blights”, beetles (of the Asian longhorned variety!), and budget deficits to conjure a year that many of us are happy to see end, there were also a great number of opportunities and developments for Massachusetts agriculture during 2009. To mention a few: the growers who persevered to find and establish new marketing opportunities through the network of CSA’s, roadside stands, and farmers’ markets that swelled to more than 200 across Massachusetts; the continued growth and diversification of farms that reflected the 27% increase in farms and farm gate revenue reported in the most recent USDA Agriculture Census; access to locally grown products by more than 63% or nearly 960,000 enrolled students through “Farm to School” efforts; the growing number of farming operations that are taking advantage of new opportunities in alternative energy and net metering presented by the Green Communities Act; the permanent protection of better than 64,000 acres of agricultural land, nearly 2,000 of which was added during 2009; and the continually expanding interest in local agricultural products that is driving new business opportunities and increased marketability of Massachusetts grown and produced products. Nonetheless I recognize how challenging farming in our current “climate” can be and although our budget challenges extend into the foreseeable future, I look forward to the new year and to continued opportunities to work with the industry and insure that our programs and services remain strong, well-targeted, and in line with the needs of agriculture in our Commonwealth.

Speaking of “budget”, November 23rd marked the first of 19 budget hearings and forums that the Patrick-Murray administration has hosted through December across our Commonwealth. You can learn more about this unique opportunity for you to voice your priorities and interests at www.mass.gov/governor/forum.

Also on the news front, MDAR has recently started blogging on the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ just-launched Great Outdoors blog site. We see this as a very exciting opportunity to further promote MDAR’s programs and services to a demographic we might not otherwise reach. Stay tuned as MDAR’s field staff report all of the great things our agricultural community has to offer!

Although winter has just begun, it’s not too soon to be thinking about the spring and Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the State House! To that end, we have a Hold-the-Date for Thursday, April 8th for Massachusetts Agricultural Day 2010 – by far one of the most popular annual events at the State House. This year the emphasis will be the unique agricultural diversity of our state to recognize new “ag”-inroads in some of our urban areas, diversification of traditional crops, and some of the exciting innovation we are seeing on the energy and environmental front. I hope our farmers and commodity groups are as excited as I am to be a part of this “tasteful” event!

In addition to taking time to appreciate and enjoy our family and friends, this is also a special time of the year to enjoy the array of delicious local foods and beverages available. You may be interested to know that several of Massachusetts’ culinary delights were just highlighted in a recent MDAR press release encouraging residents to Savor the Flavors of Massachusetts this Holiday Season. The Savor program builds upon agri-tourism opportunities in Massachusetts and makes the connection between farmers, restaurateurs and consumers. Residents are also encouraged to buy locally grown Christmas trees and decorations.

Other developments and activities that you will read about in this offering of F&M include our recent successful efforts to work with the state Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to craft and codify more appropriate definitions for agricultural buildings that promote safety and better recognize the characteristics of agricultural buildings in Massachusetts. In line with our continued efforts to grow strong partnerships, our sister agency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation recently published Terra Firma #8 – Rooted in History: Preserving Historic Farms. This edition of Terra Firma provides a great snap shot of the diversity of our Commonwealth’s working landscapes and offers some valuable contact and resource information for a variety of tools in the State’s land preservation tool box. This volume F&M, like previous editions, will also provide readers with updates of industry happenings, upcoming funding opportunities as well as conferences and meetings that may be of interest.

I again wish all of you a Happy Holidays and offer my deepest gratitude for your ongoing commitment to and support of our Commonwealth’s agricultural future!

Best,

Image of Soares Signature

Scott J. Soares, Commissioner

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Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the State House - April 8th 

Attention all MA Agriculture commodity groups and industry organizations: Reserve your space for Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the State House.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 - Save the Date Flyer pdf format of ag_day_save_the_date.pdf

From the Berkshires to the Cape, to the farmers’ markets in Boston, each year this exciting event draws hundreds of farmers, agriculture officials, legislators, and industry leaders from across the Commonwealth. For one full day, participants gather at the State House to celebrate Massachusetts agriculture and discuss issues and legislation affecting their farms and communities. The event also includes a speaking program, ‘Agriculture Day’ awards, informational exhibits and a reception featuring Massachusetts’s farm and specialty food products.

To request an exhibit space, please complete this participation form pdf format of ag_day_reservation.pdf
and return to MDAR by the requested deadline. To learn more about MA Agriculture Day at the State House, contact Lisa Damon at lisa.damon@state.ma.us or at 617-626-1731.

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MDAR Energy News 

FY 2010 Ag-Energy Grant Program Request for Responses (RFR) Announced – December 10, 2009!
The MDAR requests MA agricultural operations to submit proposals to fund agricultural energy projects in an effort to improve energy efficiency and to facilitate adoption of alternative clean energy technologies by Massachusetts farms in order that farms can become more sustainable and the Commonwealth can maximize the environmental and economic benefits from these technologies. Reimbursement grants of up to $30,000 will be awarded on a competitive basis. Farms with less access to Federal, State and electric and natural gas energy efficiency incentive rebate and grant programs are encouraged to apply. Grant proposals are due December 10, 2009. All projects must be completed by June 30, 2010. You can find the RFR on Comm-Pass or through a link on MDAR’s Energy web page @ http://www.mass.gov/agr/programs/energy/index.htm.

DPU Order Allows Start of Wind and Solar Power “Net Metering” starting December 1st
Under the Green Community Act provision to spur renewable energy development, customers who generate more power than they use can sell back energy at higher rates.

Net metering for wind, solar and agricultural energy installations, a provision of the Green Communities Act designed to encourage development of renewable power, takes effect on December 1 under an order adopted by Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on Friday, November 13, 2009.

Net metering encourages homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to install solar panels and wind turbines by allowing them to earn credit on their electric bills if they generate more power than they need. Under the Green Communities Act signed by Governor Patrick last year, utility companies must compensate their customers for this excess electricity at the retail rate rather than the lower wholesale rate. Additionally, customers may allocate their credits to other customers, allowing those without facilities to take advantage of net metering benefits as well.

The DPU order approved Friday is the last regulatory step needed for electric customers to take advantage of the Act’s net metering provisions. As a result, customers who own renewable energy installations can submit net metering applications to their electric distribution companies beginning December 1. The DPU issued its final net metering regulations in June of this year, followed by a model net metering tariff in August. Friday’s DPU order approves electric utility interconnection tariffs and requires that the electric companies immediately file net metering tariffs that comply with the terms of the model tariff approved in August.

Prior to the Green Communities Act, net metering was restricted to on-site renewable energy projects capable of generating 60 kilowatts or less, and customers were able to sell their power back to the grid only at the wholesale rate. Now, customers who own larger wind turbines or solar power installations – up to 2 megawatts, and even larger for municipal and state installations – can sell excess power back to the grid at the higher retail rate. Even customers who do not generate excess power will save money on their electric bills by generating some portion of the electricity they use.

To view the DPU’s final net metering order, click here pdf format of net-metering-dec-1.pdf
.

NRCS EQIP FY2010 Energy Program

NRCS is accepting EQIP applications for FY 2010 Air Quality/Energy Projects!

Similar to last years program, NRCS EQIP Air Quality financial assistance is open for application at any time. It is expected NRCS will make the first project ranking in mid-January. EQIP does require an energy audit or assessment. Contact your local NRCS office for more information! For more info on this program click here.

You can also contact the MA Farm Energy Program @ www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep/ or call (413)256-1607 to find out more about this program and how you may be able to receive technical assistance to apply.

USDA REAP and NRCS Energy Grants/Funding

Energy Grant Awards
Two separate federal USDA programs have recently awarded a number of MA farms grants for energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects. USDA’s Rural Development‘s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Services’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are the agencies responsible for granting the awards summarized as follows:

USDA REAP
A total of seven (7) agricultural related projects were funded including grants and loan guarantees for two (2) anaerobic digester projects, three photovoltaic (PV) projects, one (1) energy efficiency refrigeration project and one (1) reverse osmosis project for a maple sugaring operation. Grants totaled over $400,000 and loan guarantees were approximately $1.5 million.

USDA NRCS
Meanwhile USDA’s MA NRCS’s first ever Air Quality/Energy Program awarded over thirty (30) agricultural operations worth over $2.1 million of grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including four (4) anaerobic digester projects, three (3) photovoltaic (PV) projects, two (2) thermal blanket installations at nurseries, one (1) wind turbine and numerous automatic irrigation controls for cranberry operations.

First Meeting of the Farm Technology Review Commission December 15th

The first meeting of the Farm Technology Review Commission (FTRC) will be held December 15, 2009 from 10 AM to 12:30 PM at 100 Cambridge Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA. The Commission, chaired by Commissioner Scott Soares, has been created as a result of the Dairy Preservation Act.

The Commission is intended to “ study and recommend options for updating farming technology including, but not limited to, ways to promote energy conservation, collaborative purchasing, purchasing and selling of energy, energy saving technology and alternative options for sustainability and growth. The commission shall, in the course of its study, analyze current regulations and statutes to ensure such regulations and statutes are not impediments to the adoption of farming technology. “

The commission is intended to address technology needs across all of agriculture, not just dairy farms, and develop legislation if needed.

Other agencies on the Commission include Department of Environmental Protection DEP), Department of Public Health (DPH), MA Renewable Energy Trust (MRET), Department of Revenue (DOR) and farm representation from Peter Melnik, Mark Duffy and James Cooper. Further meetings will be scheduled.

MFEP, MA Woodlands and BPRC&D Sponsor Workshop Series on Technical Assistance and Financial Incentives for Farms and Forest Product Businesses

Want to learn more about funding available for your renewable energy or energy efficiency project? Attend one of a series of free workshops for farmers and forest product business owners about financial incentives available through the state and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 9007 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), both part of the current federal Farm Bill. These workshops are sponsored by the MA Woodlands Institute (MWI), Berkshire-Pioneer Resource Conservation and Development Area (RC&D), Patriot RC&D, and the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) a program funded, staffed and supported by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). MFEP is a statewide collaborative effort to streamline technical and financial assistance available to Massachusetts farmers for reducing their energy demand and increasing their profits. Workshop and information sessions will include an overview of technical and financial assistance programs, eligibility requirements, and anticipated application announcements.

The workshops will be held:

  • December 16, (Snow Date: Dec 18) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Lanesborough Town Hall, Community Room, 83 N. Main St, Lanesborough, MA
  • January 6, (Snow Date: Jan 8) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Doyle Conservation Center, The Trustees of Reservations, 464 Abbott Ave, Leominster, MA
  • January 13, (Snow Date: Jan 14) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, UMass Cranberry Station, 1 State Bog Rd, East Wareham, MA
  • January 19, (Snow Date: Jan 20) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, MDAR Office, Conference Room, 101 University Drive, Suite C4, Amherst, MA

To register for a workshop contact: Emily Boss, Director, Massachusetts Woodlands Institute
(413) 397-8800 , emily@masswoodlands.coop. To learn more about existing farm energy programs, visit the MA Farm Energy Program at www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep/existing.php or call (413) 256-1607.

Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP):

The MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP) is in its 2nd year of operation and is a great resource for farms to find out more about state and federal related energy programs as well helping farmers access:

  • The Massachusetts Farm Energy Discount Program of MDAR
  • Electric and gas public utility energy conservation & efficiency programs
  • The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (MRET) Initiatives
  • MFEP Technical Assistance and Incentives
  • Any other energy related program(s)

Through MFEP’s “Audits & Incentives Program”, the MFEP will make referrals to existing audit and incentive programs, provide “targeted” energy audits and/or renewable energy assessments, and provide financial incentives for implementation of audit recommendations. Higher priority will be given to farmers with less access to other audits and incentives programs. MFEP audits, assessments, and consultations will be paid at 75% with the applicant responsible for the remaining 25%.

Please visit: www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep/energy.php to see how you can participate in the MA Farm Energy Program.

2009 Northeast Biochar Symposium

The 2009 Northeast Biochar Symposium was held Friday and Saturday, November 13 -14, 2009 at UMass, Amherst and the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) in Belchertown, The first day of activities was held at UMass with the morning session featuring opening topics and remarks regarding the potential, strategies and climate change potential of Biochar. The afternoon session was devoted to a number of parallel workshops, varying from "101's" to more complex chemistries to real world trials and applications. Presenters varied between academia, researchers, businesses and farms. The attendance was very diverse, attracting Canadian and many neighboring states in addition to MA residents.

The 2nd day featured demonstrations of a variety of Biochar production methods and equipment at NESFI, varying from straightforward wood piles, to small scale cooking applications, to small/medium scale furnaces. While some smaller scale equipment can be found in developing countries for cooking purposes, most all larger equipment demonstrated were in their early trials and research.

And just what is Biochar? It is essentially the resulting product of the pyrolysis of biomass material, most of it woody biomass these days. Pyrolysis is a process that applies high temperature heat to a substance using a limited amount of oxygen thereby retaining much of the original substance's carbon while gasifying the remaining material. Therefore the Biochar process claims to be a carbon sequester in comparison to conventional combustion as under conventional combustion the woody biomass would have practically little carbon left and mostly ash. The sequestered carbon can be applied to and locked into the soil and as such has become part of climate change and greenhouse gas emission solution discussions. The gases released during pyrolysis also have value, either being burned off with secondary air above the pyrolysis process and used for heat, or research is looking to convert these gases to various other fuels.

In addition to claims of carbon sequestering, there are also claims of Biochar being a soil amendment due to its ability to retain moisture and adsorb other nutrients and materials such as compost when added to it. Therefore Biochar has the potential to turn poor soil into better soil. These are perhaps the most important claims for farmers – and the equipment to make char for this purpose may be the most affordable at reasonable single farm scale.

All in all, there is much on-going academic research, including Cornell University, trying to better understand the claims, properties and potential benefits and applications of Biochar. Additionally, there is as well much R&D and proto type equipment being invented and created to help advance Biochar making into an industry of its own. For more information refer to www.biochar.org.

New Biomass Crop Assistance Program from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA)

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) from FSA provides financial assistance to producers or entities that deliver eligible biomass material to designated biomass conversion facilities for use as heat, power, biobased products or biofuels. Initial assistance will be for the Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) costs associated with the delivery of eligible materials.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) was authorized by Title IX of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, as amended by Title IX of the Food, Conservation, and Energy of 2008 Act (2008 Farm Bill). BCAP:

  • assists agricultural and forest land owners and operators with matching payments for the amount paid for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation (CHST) of eligible material by a qualified Biomass Conversion Facility (BCF).
  • supports establishing and producing eligible crops for the conversion to bioenergy through project areas and on contract acreage up to 5 years for annual and non-woody perennial crops or up to 15 years for woody perennial crops. This provision will be implemented in the future.

The CHST Matching Payment Program will provide eligible material owners matching payments for the sale and delivery of eligible material to a CHST-qualified BCF. These payments will be available to eligible material owners at the rate of $1 for each $1 per dry ton paid by the CHST-qualified BCF to the eligible material owners, limited to a maximum of $45 per dry ton and limited to a 2-year payment duration.

You can find more information at the following link: www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=cops&topic=bcap.
Your local contact is John Devine, Program Specialist, at the MA USDA FSA office in Amherst @ 413-253-4500.

Hilltown Farmers Biodiesel, LLC Hold Open House

On Wednesday November 18, 2009 the Hilltown Famers Biodiesel Cooperative held an Open House exhibition of their mobile biodiesel processor and oil seed press at Balawender Farm in Cheshire, MA one of the cooperative members. The project was supported and funded by MDAR’s Agricultural Innovation Center (AIC) Grant Program, as well as a USDA Rural Enterprise Grant, awarded to Field to Table, Inc., who coordinated the project and provided overall project management services. Field to Table, Inc. (FTT), Turners Falls, MA, is a non-profit, collectively managed organization providing professional consulting services for small businesses and sustainable agricultural enterprises.

With verbiage taken from Hilltown’s grant request to MDAR, the general purpose of the Hilltown Farmers Biodiesel Cooperative was to demonstrate that farmers can produce biodiesel fuel cooperatively, locally, affordably, and environmentally sustainable in quantities relative to the needs of New England's small- sized farms.

The finished fuel will be used to run machinery such as tractors and farm trucks, as well as to heat homes, greenhouses, milking parlors, and workshops. Additionally fuel can be used for fueling maple syrup evaporators and power generators.

A usable by-product of biodiesel production is a high-quality livestock feed that will be used by coop members to supplement their own feed and reduce expenses.

Hilltown also stated “The equipment purchases with this grant will enable coop farmers to produce their own on-farm fuel at significant savings over retail fuel prices.”

This is intended to be a model that can be taken up and adjusted by other farm communities throughout the Commonwealth. This model will demonstrate that MA farms can work together to contribute to solving the Commonwealth’s energy independence from oil while simultaneously helping themselves become more sustainable.

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Ag Law Question and Comment 

Agricultural Buildings in the Building Code: An Example of Recent Amendments

Question:

Does the exemption from the Construction Control portion of the state Building Code (780 CMR 116.1 Paragraph 3) apply to greenhouses that may have some retail sales or uses?

Answer:

A farmer who operates a nursery and greenhouse operation seeks to expand an existing greenhouse.¹ On occasion, this greenhouse and its addition will have employees of the farm and retail customers moving through the building. The occupancy at any given time is not expected to exceed 100. The completed size will exceed 35,000 cubic feet.

The Construction Control portion of the state Building Code requires professional engineering services for construction control, but also provides exemptions. One exemption states: “Any building used exclusively for farm purposes (this exemption does not apply if the building is to be used for large assemblies of people or uses other than farm purposes)[.]” (“Farm Building Exemption”) (780 CMR 116.1(3)). The emphasis on exclusively is added because this in not included in laws that grant this exemption (G.L., c. 112, §60L).

The 7th Edition of the Building Code (780 CMR) was recently amended to better define and articulate provisions for agricultural buildings. Four main amendments were adopted: (1) define “Agriculture and farming”; (2) define “Agricultural Building”; (3) establish agricultural buildings as use Group U buildings; (4) further establishes that agricultural buildings with an occupancy of 100 or less remains an agricultural building in use Group U; for occupancies greater than 100 the building is to be classified according to their intended use.

Since the greenhouse described above has an expected occupancy of 100 or less, it is considered an agricultural building and will be used for “farm purposes.” Therefore, the exemption from Construction Control applies and the construction or expansion of the greenhouse would not require professional engineering services for construction control.

________________________
1 This analysis would also apply to a new building as well as barns, stables, farm stands, etc.

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MDAR Goes "Ag" on EEA's The Great Outdoors New Blog Site 

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has launched a new blog dedicated to engaging and informing Massachusetts residents and visitors about the Commonwealth’s outdoor activities and events, wildlife, state parks, and local agriculture.

Wondering where to roast marshmallows over the crackle of a campfire, feel the spray of the ocean or sink your teeth into a crisp Massachusetts-grown apple after a hay ride? The Great Outdoors blog will tell you about outdoor activities, wildlife, and local farms, as well as offer suggestions for places to explore, hike, fish, hunt, or go boating around the state. A great tool for planning a day-trip, weekend or family vacation, The Great Outdoors will cover topics like recipes for cooking locally grown produce, the three steepest hikes in Massachusetts, field reports from shark biologists, when to volunteer to count bald eagles, where to tour local wineries, and the best stocked fishing holes.

The blog includes posts from staff representing the Departments of Agricultural Resources (DAR), Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and Fish and Game (DFG) who are experts in Massachusetts-grown foods, wildlife biology, wetlands restoration, and outdoor sports and activities. Follow the blog and find out which blogger likes Brussels sprouts or who just returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail and why another is fond of gunkholing. It’s also a place where you can talk back to the experts and share your own tales from the great outdoors.

“I can’t think of a better way to highlight the great diversity of our rich agricultural community than this blog forum,” said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. “Once folks start to see up close all that our state has to offer – including pick-your-own farms, locally grown oysters, farmers’ markets and farm stands, wine, agricultural fairs, B & B’s, and more – they are going to be amazed. I look forward to contributing to The Great Outdoors.”

Visit and bookmark The Great Outdoors at www.mass.gov/blog/environment!

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DCR Pleased to Announce the Publication of Terra Firma #8 -
Rooted in History: Preserving Historic Farms
 

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is pleased to announce the publication of Terra Firma #8 – Rooted in History: Preserving Historic Farms. Working with Commissioner Scott Soares of the MA Department of Agricultural Resources, DCR developed the bulletin to broaden public understanding of farms as historic landscapes and to build a bridge between agricultural protection programs and historic preservation tools.

The Terra Firma bulletins can be downloaded at www.mass.gov/dcr. Paper copies are available upon request by calling 617-626-1389 or emailing wendy.pearl@state.ma.us. Individuals will be asked to send in a postage-paid SASE to cover the $1.22/bulletin cost for mailing. Complimentary copies have been sent to the Commonwealth’s historical commissions, agricultural commissions and planning boards.

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MDAR Yields "Ag Tag" to More Horse Power:
Hopes New Drivers Will Make Goal

The MDAR has for the last few years been promoting the idea of a specialty license plate with a food and agriculture theme as a long-term way to raise funds for Massachusetts farmers and markets. Disappointingly however, we’re still well short of the sign-up threshold needed to get it issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Although we remain interested in seeing an agricultural specialty license plate on the road, current resource limitations do not allow the level of promotional effort that we believe is needed at this time to reach our goal within a realistic timeframe.

The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the Massachusetts Federation of Farmers’ Markets are considering an enhanced effort to reach the required 1,500 minimum to launch a specialty plate for the benefit of local food and agriculture. With great opportunity for impact through 200 farmer's markets across Massachusetts, MDAR is excited by this expanded ability for broader exposure of an "Ag Tag" and the continued prospect to get a food- and agriculturally-themed plate on the road to the benefit of the farming community. We support them in their efforts and wish them success.

Beginning in January, we will begin the process of returning checks to those of you who reserved a plate. This may take a little time and we thank you in advance for your ongoing patience and support in this effort. The good news is that I know you will continue to support “Locally Grown” at farmers’ markets and farm stands, pick-your-own farms, as well as the array of other opportunities to access our great diversity of local agricultural products. I encourage your continued support of any efforts to get an "Ag Tag" on as many vehicles as we can and hope that you'll take advantage of future opportunities to make your "Ag Tag" reservation. 

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Agricultural Fairs Update 

Dates to Remember--Mark the Calendar!

December 15, 2009 -----Fair Return Forms are due.
January 15, 2010 -------- Applications are due for the 2010 RFR Fair Improvement Program
January 30, 2010 --------2010 Fair Brochure information due.

2010 Fairs Packet were available for pickup at the 2009 90th Annual MAFA Conference. If you missed the opportunity to pick up the packet at the event, packets not picked up were mailed to the fair secretaries for use.

However, if you have not received your packet it is available online at Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Program . Here you will be able to download and return your information.

Any questions, please contact Melissa Guerrero 617-626-1730, Melissa.Guerrero@state.ma.us and/or Ellen Hart 617-626-1742, Ellen.Hart@state.ma.us for assistance.

2010 RFR - Request to Respond - Fairs Improvement Program - Due January 15, 2010

The MDAR invites responses from Massachusetts’ Agricultural Fair organizations to participate in the Agricultural Fairs Improvement Program. These Fairs must be willing in Phase I, to commit sufficient time to properly participate in the business planning process. If they advance to Phase II, the Fairs must be willing to implement components of an improvement plan and enter into an agreement. All awards pursuant to this Program are contingent upon legislative authorization and administrative appropriation.

The overall purpose of the Agricultural Fairs Improvement Program is to assist Fairs with improving their viability with anticipation of sustaining the fair through the development and implementation of an Agricultural Fair Improvement Plan A comprehensive Business Plan is developed in Phase I by a team comprised of consultants engaged by Agricultural Resources displaying knowledge and expertise within the agricultural fair sector. The Plan suggests ways for a fair to increase income through such methods as improved management practices, diversification of activities, marketing, and promotion. In addition, the Plan may make recommendations concerning environmental and resource conservation measures or meeting regulatory requirements on the agricultural fair property. Fairs that develop Business Plans with Agricultural Resources in Phase I are eligible to participate in Phase II of the Program upon a declaration of interest by the Fair, Agricultural Fair Organization and upon a favorable decision of Agricultural Resources. Phase II of the Program requires the execution of a contract between Agricultural Resources and the Fair. In exchange, Agricultural Resources provide the Fair with funding to implement specific portions of the Plan. Participation in Phase II is based, in part, on the financial needs of the Participant and/or the Plan’s ability to improve the economic viability and possibly the environmental integrity of the Fair.

For more information, please contact Melissa Guerrero at 617-626-1730 or Melissa.Guerrero@state.ma.us. This RFR is also available at Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Program

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Savor Massachusetts News 

Image of MassGrown for Farm & Market Report

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is especially pleased by the growing success of our

Savor Mass Logo "One taste at a time"

 MassGrown and Fresher program that seeks to build a strong and profitable agricultural business in Massachusetts. We hope that our newest addition to the MassGrown and Fresher repertoire – Savor Massachusetts logothe Savor Massachusetts culinary tourism initiative will deservedly bring your business a steady flow of locally-enlightened visitors throughout the year.

At this time it is imperative that we receive your feedback. Please complete our assessment survey doc format of savor-assesment-survey.doc
pdf format of savor-assesment-survey.pdf which has approximately six questions. Your participation and feedback will help us gauge the value of this initiative as well as its expansion. For more information contact Culinary Tourism Coordinator Julia Grimaldi, julia.grimaldi@state.ma.us, Culinary Tourism .

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Winter AG Commission Gatherings and Forums 

Deerfield Town Hall Saturday, Dec 12, 2009
and
Hancock Shaker Village Saturday, Jan 9, 2010

Offered at BOTH Gatherings:

All Farmers, AgCom Members, and Others Invited:

  • Ag Commission Roundtable Discussion – Reports from each Western Mass Ag Commission, Success Stories, Problems, What’s Working
  • Panel Discussion on New Agricultural Legislation, Current Laws and Issues, Hot Agricultural Topics (MDAR General Counsel Bob Ritchie, Asst Commissioner Nathan L’Etoile, Rep Denis Guyer, Cris Coffin of American Farmland Trust)
  • Buffet Lunch and Informal Discussion
  • Panel and Exhibits on New and Current Sources of Funding, Information, and Technical Assistance for Farmers – Energy Funding, Loan Programs, Incentives, Private & Government Programs, Farm Support Agencies, and More

For more information: Ann Gibson, RC&D, 413-256-1607; Pete Westover, 413-665-4077. Click here pdf format of ag_comm_registration_details.pdf
for details and registration form

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How to Increase the Value of Your Products:
MA Farm to School Project Offers Workshop
 

This meeting is primarily for Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Growers and will be held in two locations in the state in late January. Topics will include:

  • Current status of institutional demand for locally grown produce;
  • How to realize more of the value of your products when selling to distributors whose institutional customers are requesting locally grown foods
  • Evaluating the "direct sales to institutions" approach;
  • Review of possible new methods for effective distribution/sales to school customers.

These meetings will be offered free of charge and are co-sponsored by MDAR, NEVBGA, UMass Extension, and the Mass. Farm Bureau. Please check our web page Farm to School Project , email us at mafarmtoschool@gmail.com or call 413-253-3844 for dates and locations.

School Sales Alert - Two New Prospects

The Mass. Farm to School Project has been contacted by a large college which is eager to buy more food from more local growers. They have a special interest in season extension for produce through processing or growing techniques. Also interested in meats, milk, cheese, prepared foods made with locally grown ingredients, etc. Contact Kelly Erwin at 413-253-3844 or kelerwin@localnet.com for more information.

We have started an "eblast" system to quickly promote available farm products to the 23 public school districts which recently received extra funding for fresh fruits and vegetables. Contact Kaitlin Doherty at 413-253-3844 or mafarmtoschool@gmail.com if you need more information, or want to communicate what you have for sale to schools in this way.

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Farm Technology Review Commission Open Meeting - Dec. 15th 

The first meeting of the Farm Technology Review Commission (FTRC) will be held on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 from 10AM – 12:30PM. This meeting will be held at 100 Cambridge Street, Conference Room B, 2nd floor, Boston. Meetings are open to the public.

The Farm Technology Review Commission (FTRC) is chaired by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Scott Soares, and is comprised of state officials and farming representatives. The role of the Commission is to study and recommend options for updating farming technology including, but not limited to ways to promote energy conservation, collaborative purchasing, purchasing and selling of energy and energy saving technology. In addition, the Commission will also recommend alternative options for agricultural sustainability and growth, and analyze regulations and statutes to ensure that they are not impediments to the adoption of farming technology. The Commission was created as a result of the Dairy Preservation Act of 2008.

The agenda for the meeting, a copy of the Dairy Farm Preservation Act, and a copy of the Dairy Task Force Final Report to the Legislature are available on the Department’s website at: www.mass.gov/agr/programs/ftrc. There is a form to sign up for notices relative to the FTRC online .

For any questions please contact: Laura J. Maul, 617-626-1739 or laura.maul@state.ma.us or Gerard Kennedy, 617-626-1776 or gerard.kennedy@state.ma.us.

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NOFA/Mass 23rd Annual Winter Conference 

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA/Mass)
23rd Annual Winter Conference - “Food From Farms For Families”
January 16, 2010 - Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, MA

Joel Salatin to present keynote speech and all day seminar “Introducing Livestock to your Farm”
50 workshops on organic farming, gardening, landscaping, and sustainable living. Lively exhibit area, NOFA/Mass Annual Meeting, great children and teens program, potluck lunch!

General registration fee $50 with discounts available. Registration for Salatin seminar $115 (includes entrance to entire conference). For more information visit www.nofamass.org/conferences/winter/index.php or contact Conference Coordinator, Jassy Bratko, jassy.bratko@nofamass.org or 978-928-5646.

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"Grower to Grower" on Greenhouse Biological Control 

January 6, 2010 - 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Grower Direct Farms, 164 Hampden Rd., Somers, CT 06071

Join us for a grower to grower program and greenhouse tour on using biological control in greenhouses. Experienced growers, along with those just starting out and anyone else interested are invited to attend. More and more growers of greenhouse crops in Massachusetts and Connecticut are trying biological control to manage pests. Grower to grower meetings are a way that growers can learn from each other about things that worked and things that didn’t when using biological control in greenhouses.

Grower Direct Farms is currently using biological control to manage spring crops. Our hosts will be head grower, Mark Kelley and grower, Christine Champagne. They will share details about their biological control program, what they use and how they use them. Attendees will have an opportunity to see biological control being used on their current crops including Easter lily, cyclamen, primrose, gerbera, perennials and pansies. Co-sponsored by University of Massachusetts Extension and University of Connecticut Extension.

Register by emailing or contacting Tina Smith, 413-545-5306, tsmith@umext.umass.edu or Paul Lopes, 508-295-2212 ext. 24, lopes@umext.umass.edu. For more information: www.umass.edu/umext/floriculture/ (click event listing).

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Thinking About Raising Poultry for Market 

If you are a small-scale poultry producer in New England or are thinking about raising poultry for market, you are probably familiar with the lack of affordable processing options that allow you to legally sell your birds to consumers. In order to address this problem, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the New England Small Farm Institute have worked with regulators in Massachusetts to launch a state-approved pilot mobile poultry processing unit (MPPU). After completing a training program, and securing the necessary state and local approvals, producers can rent the MPPU for use on their farm, allowing them to market their processed birds directly to consumers. You can learn more about the existing Massachusetts MPPU by visiting New Entry's website.

New Entry and NESFI are currently partnering to build a second MPPU with an enclosed design for protection against the elements and improved transportability. New Entry will also produce a replication guide as a resource for producers, co-ops, and other organizations looking to construct and operate their own MPPU.

To help us gauge producer interest in this project, and to inform the construction design and operational management of a new MPPU, please consider participating in this brief survey (should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete). Click Here to take MPPU Survey.

Please complete the survey before Friday, December 11. We will carefully consider all responses in planning for the new unit and in outlining recommendations for other potential MPPUs in Massachusetts and beyond.

Thank you for your time and input. Please feel free to contact Sam Anderson, Poultry and Livestock Coordinator, 978-654-6745, or Jennifer Hashley, New Entry Project Director, 617-636-3793, with any questions or for further information about this project.

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2010 UMass Extension Green Directory 

The 2010 UMass Extension Green Directory is a comprehensive guide to educational resources for Massachusetts Agriculture industry professionals. This 40 page free guide can be used as a reference all year long!

The directory includes:

  • Contact information for UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape Specialists and Faculty
  • Upcoming UMass Extension conferences, seminars and workshops
  • UMass Plant Diagnostic Lab submission information for insect, tick, disease and cultural problems
  • UMass Soil and Tissue Testing Lab information
  • Pesticide license information, including test dates, training workshops, and how to get a pesticide license
  • Phone resources to refer home gardener questions
  • Extension newsletters, web sites and publications
  • An easy to read matrix outlining programs available to growers from Rural Development Agency, Natural Resource and Conservation Services, Farm Service Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
  • Frequently used phone numbers related to Agriculture and the Green Industries

Available online at www.umass.edu/agland/ Click on 'Green Directory'. For a hard copy, call (413) 545-0895, fax request to (413) 577-1620, or email eweeks@umext.umass.edu.

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Two Great Ways to Support
Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom
 

2010 Calendar Cover three pumpkin with baby in the middle

1) Show your enthusiasm for agriculture across Massachusetts by purchasing a copy of the 2010 Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar. You'll also be supporting the many educational efforts of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom (MAC), the designated recipient of the proceeds. This attractive calendar makes a nice hostess or holiday gift for any friend or family member who has an interest in agriculture.

The cost is just $10 per calendar with a discount to $5 each for an order or five calendars or more. Send your payment and order to: Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom P. O. Box 345 Seekonk, MA 02771.

2) You can also show your support of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom by sending a donation today

Since 1982, this important, non-profit educational organization has been working to promote agricultural awareness and education throughout Massachusetts, providing resources, educational lessons, background information and hands-on activities to ensure that agriculture education remains alive and relevant in Massachusetts classrooms today. MAC now reaches more than 11,000 educators annually through educational initiatives that include a popular mini-grant award program; three educational newsletters each year; workshops on the farm for teachers; two annual Conferences; A Summer Graduate Course for educators; an active website, and several manuals and lesson plans. Your tax deductible gift will make a real difference and help to ensure that twenty seven years of providing high-level agricultural-education resources for Massachusetts educators and students will continue. Visit www.aginclassroom.org to learn more.

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News From USDA


Federal Conservation Assistance Available to Massachusetts Farmers and Forest
Land Owners

Sign-up by January 10th for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Massachusetts farmers and forest land owners who would like to address soil and water conservation concerns on their land should apply by January 15, 2010 for financial and technical help through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

While EQIP sign-up is continuous throughout the year, land owners are encouraged to apply now in order for their applications to be reviewed and ranked for possible funding from the total $3.5 million currently available for Massachusetts projects.

Call or visit a local USDA service center to schedule a time to complete paperwork and begin the conservation planning process. USDA service center locations are listed on-line. General program information is available on the NRCS MA website.

EQIP is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers and forest land owners who want to enhance and protect soil, water, air, plants and animal resource concerns. Common conservation practices address soil erosion, excess runoff or leaching, irrigation water efficiency, animal waste, nutrient and pest management, grassland and forest conservation, and threatened, rare and endangered species habitat.

Through the 2008 Farm Bill, EQIP now offers new and innovative conservation practices for air quality and energy, forest land, greenhouses, organic farming, invasive species control and pollinator habitat. The new Farm Bill also provides higher payment rates to beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmers.

“USDA is committed to providing conservation tools and resources to help Massachusetts farm and forest land owners ensure that their land remains healthy and productive,” said NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist Christine S. Clarke. “NRCS conservationists are available to help landowners develop a conservation plan to address their natural resource concerns.”

In federal fiscal year 2009, some 130 EQIP projects were funded statewide for a total of nearly $5 million. Conservation practices addressed animal waste management, crop management, air quality and energy, grazing, irrigation, erosion control and water management, forestry and wildlife concerns.

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Federal Program Available to Help Massachusetts Landowners Improve Wildlife
Habitat
 

Massachusetts landowners who would like technical and financial help protecting wildlife habitat and valuable ecosystems on their property should sign-up for the federal Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) by February 1, 2010. WHIP is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

While WHIP sign-up is continuous throughout the year, land owners are encouraged to apply now in order for their applications to be reviewed and ranked for possible funding from the total $98,000 currently available for Massachusetts projects.

Interested landowners should contact their local NRCS field office at a USDA service center for more information. USDA service centers are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS Massachusetts website at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.

Examples of eligible lands in Massachusetts include privately owned grasslands, shrub lands, and young forest, freshwater wetlands, upland oak forest, pitch pine/scrub oak habitat, coastal habitats, and rivers and streams.

Through the 2008 Farm Bill, WHIP now offers additional conservation practices to benefit forest land and pollinator habitat. The new Farm Bill also provides higher payment rates to beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmers.

This year, landowners in areas of Barnstable, Berkshire, Hampden and Plymouth counties where known populations of the New England Cottontail rabbit exist may be eligible for a higher rate of compensation for adopting certain conservation practices for a minimum of 15 years.

The region’s only native rabbit, the New England Cottontail’s populations are declining because its preferred habitat – known as early successional habitat or thickets – has been reduced by aging forests, introduction of invasive plant species and development.

“In the last federal fiscal year, some 46 Massachusetts WHIP projects received a total of nearly $1.4 million for conservation practices that addressed early successional habitat, oak regeneration, timber stand improvement and pollinator habitat,” said Christine S. Clarke, State Conservationist for NRCS in Massachusetts. “USDA is committed to providing conservation tools and resources to ensure that Bay State land remains healthy and productive.”

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In Every Issue

Classified Ads 

  • The Town of Sandwich is going to be issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) soon for the lease of a former dairy farm (a.k.a. the "Roberti Farm") in Sandwich. This property is owned by the Town and has a deed restriction for conservation and agricultural purposes. The tentative timeline for the RFP is that it'll be available to the public on Dec 2nd with proposals due to the Town by Jan 13, 2010.
  • Nursery Hoop Tents (High Tunnels) For Sale - Call Wayne Mezitt, 508-293-8046.
    • Measure 7 ft. high, 14 ft. wide by appx. 120 ft. long
    • Durable ¾” galvanized iron pipe hoops, 21 ft long, bent to half-circle
    • Hoops 3 ft. apart insert into pressure-treated 6x8 landscape timbers
    • Sturdy hinged door at each end
    • Available as entire tents, including conduit hoop-tie (purlin) and end assemblies, you take away, $1,000
    • Individual hoops $20, timbers $5
    • Dozens available at Weston Nurseries, Hopkinton, MA
  • Essex Agricultural Society - A Year-Round Facility in Topsfield MA. Available for a great variety of events such as: Weddings, Showers, Picnics, Meetings, Lectures as well as Horse, Dog, Car, Boat, Antique and Art shows. Call 978-887-3186 or email events@topsfieldfair.org.
  • Not Exactly Table Manners Book - by Sr. Hazel Meskell, OCSO. Children's Ag Book, $7.95, shipping free, hmeskell@juno.com, Mt. St. Mary's Abbey, Wrentham , MA.
  • Unique Part-time Job at Saw Mill Site Farm Horseradish Products - Job Title - New Accounts Developer; Part-time Store Product Demonstrator and Farm Market Sales Developer Project 10 to 20 hours per month on a year around basis as a first step in expanding our growing wholesale horseradish business. It is complex and requires a variety of skills but has a degree of flexibility as to hours and frequency of work. Contact Terry Grinnan at 413-665-3005 or sawmillsitefarm@comcast.net for a detailed outline.
  • For Sale - Used TARM O T 70B wood/oil Dual Fuel Boiler with twin domestic hot water internal tanks. Oil burner and all controls included. Ideal for greenhouse operation. Set-up directions & manual included.
    • Side Bar Tractor Mowing Attachment for Allis-Chalmers B or C tractor. In good condition with some extra sickle blades & parts. Complete with original set-up directions, manual and parts list.
    • Pick Up Plow with one furrow – 2 way blades for Allis-Chalmers B or C tractor. In good condition. Complete with original set-up directions, manual and parts list, 
    • For further information and to view equipment contact Terry Grinnan – Saw Mill Site Farm Horseradish Products: Email – sawmillsitefarm@comcast.net or call 413-665-3005.
  • The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food by Amy Cotler, food activist, cookbook writer, recipe developer, and chef. It’s filled with tips, guidelines, resources, personal experiences and anecdotes, as well as wonderful recipes and seasonal improvisations that celebrate the bounty of the local harvest. Order The Locavore Way at any bookstore or call Storey Publications: 800-441-5700 (Retail $12.95 with a discount over 15 copies. Paper; ISBN 978-1-60342-453-0. Two-color; illustrations throughout. 256 pages; 6" by 8") This is an ideal gift, educational and fundraising tool. For press and publicity information, call Amy Greeman, 413-346-2113. To contact the author, Amy Colter, and to view her other offerings, including a seasonal recipe blog and upcoming calendar of events, visit www.amycotler.com.
  • Three purebred Americauna cockerels. Free to a good home. Beautiful colors, good breeding, certified organic by Baystate Certifiers. Call 508-763-5901. Leave a message for The Clover Path Garden.

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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Calendar 

  • December 12: Winter Gatherings for Western MA Farmers and Ag Commissions, Deerfield Town Hall - Saturday, Dec 12 - 8:30 to 3:30pm. Sessions will include (1) General Roundtable for Ag Commissions, (2) Panel Discussion on Hot Current Agricultural Issues, Laws, Regulations, and News, and (3) Panel Discussion and Informational Displays on Sources of Funding, Technical Assistance, Incentives, and Info. for Farmers on Marketing, Conservation Practices, and Farm Energy Programs. Details above.
  • December 15, 16, 17: The New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference and Trade Show will be held this at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, NH. 27 educational sessions over 3 days, covering major vege, berry and tree fruit crops as well as various special topics. A farmer-to-farmer meeting after each morning and afternoon session will bring speakers and farmers together for informal, in-depth discussion on certain issues. The trade show will feature over 100 exhibitors. This conference gathers the best speakers from within our region and across the country to tell you about the latest innovations and advances in the fruit and vegetable industry. Almost every session includes both farmers and research or extension personnel, so you are getting the “best of both worlds.” For program details and registration information, go directly to the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference website. For information contact: Frank Mangan, fmangan@umext.umass.edu.
  • December 15: New England Apple Association Annual Mtg - 8:30am - opening day of the NE Vegetable and Fruit Conf. at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, N.H.
  • January 9: Winter Gatherings for Western MA Farmers and Ag Commissions, Hancock Shaker Village - Saturday, Jan 9 - 8:30 to 3:30pm. See above Dec. 12th.
  • January 13: Worcester County Agricultural Commissions Quarterly Meeting. Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 7 pm in Holden, MA. Contact Ann Starbard, astarbard@comcast.net, or Lisa Trotto, lisa.trotto@ma.usda.gov, for more information. Ann Starbard Crystal Brook Farm- Farmstead Goat Cheese Sterling, MA 978-422-6646.
  • February 3 - 5: NE Grows - Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, www.NewEnglandGrows.org
  • February 10: Winter Flower Grower Program - D&D Farms, 32 Hudson Rd., Stow, MA. Full day educational program and tour of D&D Farms. For more info: www.umass.edu/umext/floriculture/ (click event listing). Co-sponsored by UMass Ext. and MA Flower Growers Assoc.
  • March 23: Employee Training for Garden Retailers: Green, Organic and Sustainable Solutions, Publick House, Sturbridge. For more info: www.umass.edu/umext/floriculture/ (click event listing).
  • April 8: Agriculture Day at the Statehouse - Save the Date pdf format of ag_day_save_the_date.pdf
- To reserve a table, fill out reservation form pdf format of ag_day_reservation.pdf
.
  • November 3 and 4: Northeast Greenhouse Conference - www.negreenhouse.org

*** If you have events you would like listed to our Ag industry calendar webpage, www.mass.gov/agr/events/coming_up, or
Consumer events at: www.mass.gov/agr/events, email Rick LeBlanc at richard.leblanc@state.ma.us.

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About the Farm & Market Report 

Published bi-monthly by:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, Governor
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Ian Bowles, Secretary
Department of Agricultural Resources, Scott Soares, Commissioner

Boston Office:
251 Causeway St., Suite 500,
Boston, MA 02114
617-626-1700, Fax: 617-626-1850
Amherst Satellite Office:
101 University Drive, Suite C4
Amherst, MA 01002
413-548-1900, Fax: 413-548-1901
Division Directors

Next issue to be published for February / March. Please send news, calendar and/or classified information by January 27th to Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us, or fax to 617-626-1850. To unsubscribe or change your address, send an e-mail message to Richard.LeBlanc@state.ma.us or call 617-626-1759.