In this issue: 

Commissioner's Column
Special Guest Column

Forefront

Business

Upcoming Events

News from USDA

In Every Issue


Commissioner's Column 

Dear Friends,

Image of Scott Soares

As anyone who has had the fortitude to brave a shopping mall on Black Friday knows, the traditions of the holiday season are strongly ingrained on our cultural consciousness. So I thought I’d start here with a little anecdote that highlights what I see as an emerging and welcome alternative to the sometimes stressful end-of-year hustle and bustle!

A Christmas Tree Farm, and not a mall, is customarily where the Commissioner of Agricultural Resources heads the day after Thanksgiving. And so it was at Radebaugh Farm in Belchertown that I found myself November 26th to partake in the annual tree cutting ceremony to kick off the holiday season. Although rain had just ended, the Radebaugh’s gravel parking area already had several cars parked, and families - with saws in hand - had begun to scout the farm for that perfect tree. While there, I also had the pleasure of meeting the Murphy family and I think it’s fair to say that young Mr. Murphy was having a lot more fun picking out his MassGrown & Fresher Christmas tree than being inside a stuffy mall!christmas-cutting The Murphy’s, along with the other families we saw and spoke with at the Radebaugh’s made it clear; in addition to a beautiful locally grown Christmas tree they were bringing home memories that would last a lifetime!

Image of Murphys and the Commissioner

Thanks to the Massachusetts Christmas Tree Growers Association, we had a great visit to the Radebaugh Farm -- one of the over 200 Christmas tree farms in Massachusetts that are helping to preserve 3,100 acres of open working landscapes. Obviously, this is good for the local economy but also good for our environment given that new trees are replanted each year -- a renewable resource that is also a “green” alternative to artificial trees made with petroleum products and likely to have traveled from the other side of the globe. Whether locally grown Christmas trees and Poinsettias or turkeys, eggs, maple syrup, and more, getting to know your farmer and enhancing your holidays with the bounty of what he or she has harvested is truly a gift worth giving and receiving.

To add to the Go Local for the Holidays spirit, there are also a growing number of winter farmers’ markets that are now open through spring. Farmers are extending their seasons by producing more “winter” crops like carrots, beets, parsnips, and potatoes -- all great for your holiday comfort meal! Others are growing vegetables in greenhouses or high tunnels (more now as a result of some great assistance from the USDA that funded more than 90 high tunnels throughout New England). You can also find an array of pickled foods, jams, jellies, grains and honey that will be sure to enhance your fresh baked farmers’ market bread.

Overall, there is much for Massachusetts agriculture to celebrate as we slide into the New Year. To name just a few examples, 42 energy grants were just recently awarded to Bay State farms in 34 communities, along with grants for environmental improvements in 25 communities.

And, following legislation signed by Governor Patrick on August 5, 2010, MDAR has posted an application form on its website that provides for the sale of wine from a licensed farm winery at approved agricultural events, e.g. farmers’ markets, fairs, and festivals in Massachusetts. This is good news for our local wineries and for consumers who are looking for a local vintage.

Looking toward 2011, agriculture and the efforts of MDAR are certainly not slowing down! I’ll look forward to providing more updates as the season begins but here are just a few items to chew on…

  • MDAR’s very popular Winter Agricultural Business Development Training (ABDT) Sessions will be kicking off in January. They range from courses for new farmers and entrepreneurs to courses for more established agricultural businesses. These training sessions were doubled in 2010 to accommodate increasing demand and we look forward to another record setting year of ABDT graduates!
  • We’ll be donning our winter boots and branching out to meet with our agricultural commodity groups over the winter. Not only are we excited to showcase our new MassGrown & Fresher website as a great (and free) marketing tool for our farmers (and which Massachusetts newspapers are now linking to), we want to hear about what you see as your challenges and opportunities in 2011!
  • With the selection of Project for Public Spaces as the contractor who will be scoping organizational and physical build-out of the Boston Public Market, MDAR will be focused on moving the Boston Public Market from concept to reality. We are working closely with Governor Deval Patrick, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the City of Boston, and other stakeholders to ensure greater access of locally grown food through the development of a public market that will be good for Massachusetts and regional agricultural businesses as well as increasingly-hungry-for-local consumers.
  • MDAR’s Commonwealth Quality Program is receiving high reviews and the Department and agriculture brand ambassadors are currently in the sign-up phase of this important initiative that will define ‘local’, ‘quality’, and ‘safety’ all in one Massachusetts breath.

Most importantly, we remain committed to promoting a sustainable and vibrant agricultural future for our Commonwealth. To Farmers and Consumers of locally grown, produced or prepared products, Thank You for your part in keeping Massachusetts agriculture an important characteristic of our Commonwealth! A Happy and Safe Holidays to All!

Best,
 

Image of Soares Signature

Scott J. Soares, Commissioner
www.twitter.com/AgCommishSoares

[back to table of contents]


Special Guest Column 

Applying for Grants by Mary Greendale

Image of Mary Greendale

Have you or your agricultural organization applied for grants? If you were funded, congratulations! You are definitely in the minority.

Here are some things to think about when applying for grants from my perspective as a former administrator for grant programs (state and federal) and as a grant writer (successful and unsuccessful).

1. Read the Request for Responses (RFR) carefully. The grantor might call it something else - doesn’t matter – Read It like you were about to sign a contract that would cost you the farm if things went bad. This is one case where the devil really is in the details.

2. Compare what you want to apply for to what they want to pay for. Grantors are looking for projects that will advance their mission – not yours. They only want projects that will accomplish their goals and demonstrate success to the people who funded them. If these are government grants, this means that the agency needs to satisfy elected officials who pass their budgets. The best way to do that is to prove that the funds were successful in advancing the purpose of the grant program. Always ask, what is in this for the grantor?

3. Assume that the reviewers know nothing about your organization, your crop, or your problems, because this is sometimes the case, especially in USDA programs that are reviewed in Washington.

4. Take time to write down what you want to do, in detail. If the application is from an organization, talk among yourselves and hammer out exactly what you want and why. You also need to explain what the outcomes will be and how you will measure success. It is NOT a success to apply for money to hold a workshop and then just hold the workshop. The success comes from participants learning something at the workshop and then applying it to their businesses. And you have to prove they did.

5. Strong applications document everything. How many farmers need what you want money for? How do you know that? Can you prove it? And when it comes to those outcome measures, how will you know that the farmers applied what they learned at the workshop? Will you survey them? Will they have to submit a report to you?

Grant programs are very competitive. There are always more applications than available funds. If you don’t get awarded, it could just be that other projects were more compelling. Or it could mean that others made a better case for their projects. Talk to reviewers afterwards so you can get some suggestions on how to improve in the future. Then try again.

Mary Greendale did program development for MDAR and is now a writer. She specializes in writing grant applications for agriculture but is available to help with any writing assignment. Contact her at mgreendale@yahoo.com or 508-429-2813 in Holliston.

[back to table of contents]


ForeFront


Smile - MDAR Just Took Your Picture! 

Image of Rick and Lisa at Red Apple

MDAR colleagues Rick LeBlanc and Lisa Damon ran in the 1st annual 5K Field , Forest & Orchard Race held at the Thanksgiving Harvest Fest at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston. Over 150 runners ran in sunny 40 degree weather which raised over $2500 for You, Inc.The weekend Thanksgiving event brought together over 30 local farm and related businesses offering gift items and foods for Thanksgiving dinners. Over 3500 people from Boston to Greenfield attended the weekend to enjoy local beer and wine, cider and music by the fire.
 

[back to table of contents]


Energy News 

FY 2011 Ag-Energy Grant Program – Awards Announced!

The MDAR and the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) were pleased to announce on October 28th that 42 farms representing 34 MA communities across the Commonwealth will be receiving energy efficiency and renewable energy grants totaling $450,000 from the FY2010 AgEnergy Grant Program. This year’s applications were extremely competitive and MDAR congratulates not only those awarded but all who applied as well.

The awardees are listed in this press release.

Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) – Winter Energy Workshops Announced

The Winter Energy Workshop series on technical assistance and financial incentives for farms and forest product businesses is now scheduled.

If you want to learn more about funding available for your renewable energy or energy efficiency project, please 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). 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 include an overview of technical and financial assistance programs, eligibility requirements, and anticipated application announcements. Small group discussions allow participants to ask questions about the specifics of their project.

REAP funding supports a diverse range of clean energy technologies and energy efficiency. In 2010, REAP awarded twenty Massachusetts rural small businesses and farmers $2,149,583 in grants loans. Projects included 15 photovoltaic systems, 1 wind turbine and 4 energy efficiency projects. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP funded eleven projects for a total of $494,714. These included 9 renewable energy projects and 5 greenhouse efficiency practices. Information will also be provided about state programs that fund energy projects, including the Renewable Energy Trust, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR’s) Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program, and MA Department of Energy Resources (MA-DOER) funding opportunities.

The workshops will be held:

  • December 14th, (Snow Date: Dec 17) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, MA Department of Agriculture Office, Conference Room, 101 University Drive, Suite C4, Amherst, MA
  • January 11th, (Snow Date: Jan 12) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Doyle Conservation Center, The Trustees of Reservations, 464 Abbott Ave, Leominster, MA
  • January 19th, (Snow Date: Jan 20) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Lanesborough Town Hall, Community Room, 83 N. Main St, Lanesborough, MA
  • January 25th, (Snow Date: Jan 26) 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, site to be announced, eastern MA

To register for a workshop, please contact Emily Boss, Massachusetts Woodlands Institute, at 413-397-8800 or emily@masswoodlands.coop

For more information about the workshops or MFEP services, please contact Ann Gibson agibson@berkshirepioneerrcd.org or Darlene Monds 
Darlene.Monds@ma.usda.gov at 413-256-1607 or Gerry Palano at 617-626-1706, Gerald.Palano@state.ma.us. Additional MFEP info. at www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep/

MFEP – Best Management Practices (BMP)Manual

The MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP) in collaboration with awarded consultant GDS are finalizing Best Management Practices (BMPs) on MA Farms in regard to energy, primarily based on audits, assessments and implementation of MFEP projects to date. First drafts of portions of the comprehensive document have been presented and issued at recent conference events with a final issue anticipated shortly. The document intends to provide practical and useful best energy practices and information for MA farms based on MFEP experiences with MA farms over the past 2 years. Sectors covered include dairy, greenhouses, vegetables, orchards and maple sugaring operations. MFEP intends to also add on other sectors in the future as MFEP gains more energy project implementation experience in other sectors.

MFEP & USDA Join Together For Organization Sharing Workshop

USDA’s Tri-State Rural Development (RD) offices, along with selected Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices, joined together with MFEP (which includes MDAR) on December 1, 2010 in Sturbridge, MA for a daylong workshop to share each organization’s technical knowledge and program offerings and services. The workshop was sponsored by the USDA’s RD Amherst State Office which represents the tri-state Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts region, and was organized by RD and MFEP. This workshop continues our offices’ on-going successful relationship and efforts to collaborate effectively our knowledge and experiences so we in turn can more effectively serve our agricultural communities on matters of energy technologies, programs and policies.

Federal 30% ITC Cash Option Reminder

For those still interested in pursuing the Federal Investment Tax Credit Cash Option, the current deadline for this opportunity is December 31, 2010. Enacted as part of the 2009 ARRA stimulus package, this option provides non-residential commercial projects the opportunity to receive cash at the completion of the project in lieu of receiving a tax credit. Eligible renewable energy projects must have been completed in calendar years 2009 or 2010 OR there are eligibility provisions for those initiating the project by the end of December 31, 2010, including executing a financial contract, executing an installing contractor contract and demonstrating at least 5% project expenditures by this date. This means if you can at least begin implementing an eligible renewable energy project by the end of this year you could still be eligible for the tax credit cash option. For more details on all eligibility requirements and other information please see: www.treas.gov/recovery/1603.

This tax credit runs out at the end of the year unless congress acts to extend it.

Energy Smarts Blog

MDAR Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator Gerry Palano is a frequent contributor to Energy Smarts, the new energy blog launched by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Energy Smarts is a forum for exchanging ideas and experiences about renewable power, energy efficiency, and other issues important to the Commonwealth’s pursuit of a clean energy future, with posts ranging from articles about farm-based renewable energy to profiles of innovative renewable energy projects, tips on making your home or business more energy efficient, and information on clean efforts underway by cities and towns across Massachusetts. In addition to Gerry, Energy Smarts bloggers include officials and employees of the Executive Office, the Department of Energy Resources and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Please check it out and join the conversation about saving money through energy efficiency, stimulating our growing clean energy economy and contributing to a greener Massachusetts. http://energy.blog.state.ma.us

10% Discounts on Natural Gas and Electric Bills for Farms

Participants in the Farm Energy Discount Program, who enjoy cost savings of 10% on their electric and natural gas utility bills, should have received their 2011 renewal application forms in the mail by now. In 2009, over 1,500 farms were enrolled with average estimated savings per farm of $5,000/yr in electric/natural gas expenditures.

This year MDAR has simplified the renewal process with the goal of reducing paperwork and unnecessary costs. If there have been no changes to accounts, participants will be automatically renewed. If there are changes or additions to the accounts, participants must complete the renewal form and return it to the Department immediately.

If you have not received your 2011 renewal form, please contact Linda Demirjian, Office Manager, at 617-626-1733 or Linda.Demirjian@state.ma.us. If you would like to enroll in the program and enjoy discounted natural gas and electric bills, please click on the following link: MA Farm Energy Discount Program.

[back to table of contents]


Go Local for the Holidays - MassGrown & Fresher 

Indulge in delicious, local food for the holidays!  It couldn’t be easier to find your Massachusetts locally grown wishes right here. We have lots of ideas for you from a fresh turkey from a local farm to artisan cheeses and the perfect accompanying wine. Did we mention crisp Massachusetts apples, a local fresh-cut Christmas tree, dairy, maple syrup, tart cranberries or flowers? If you are looking for locally grown gift ideas check out one of the many winter farmers’ markets or how about a 2011 Massachusetts Calendar.

Psssst! And don’t forget the many fun “ag” activities and events going on throughout Massachusetts. Click here.

[back to table of contents]


The Great Outdoors Blog 

A blog dedicated to Massachusetts outdoor activities, events, wildlife, state parks and local agriculture that features a calendar of Massachusetts outdoor events. Find out about winery tours, harvest festivals and learn new recipes for preparing locally grown food.

[back to table of contents]


Agricultural Composting Workshop in Review 

Image of Compost

On a chilly Wednesday morning at the beginning of November, a group of 15 students gathered at the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) in Belchertown to develop recipes for such ingredients as manure, food waste, leaves, and grass clippings. Mix these together in the proper proportions, “cook” at the desired temperature until done and… voila! – you’ve got yourself some beautiful, earthy, brown compost. The two-day Agricultural Composting workshop wasn’t exactly a culinary event; however, it’s not too much of a stretch to draw an analogy between the fine art of baking and the production of quality compost. “Think of compost like cake,” instructor Bob Rynk advised the students at one point.

Many of the farmers attending the workshop were veteran composters, eager to learn more in order to refine their operations. Some of the farmers were beginning or aspiring composters, seeking to learn the basics of compost production, site management, compost end-use and marketing. All were united in their desire to transform materials that would otherwise be considered waste products into “black gold.” compost class

Image of Compost

In addition to lectures and classroom discussion, the participants took part in field demonstrations and laboratory exercises. They learned how to take temperature readings and measure bulk density and moisture content of composting materials. At the end of the workshop, each participant went home with a compost maturity test kit to use on their own compost back at the farm, and they were asked to take an on-line quiz so that workshop planners could gauge the effectiveness of the program.

Image of Compost

A composter for some 14 years, Bill Obear of Bear Path Farm in Whately gave his impression of the workshop which he, “… thought was excellent. The content of the workshop was very good. Bob Rynk did a terrific job and the hands on demonstrations… were both interesting and fun. Everybody did a great job pulling this workshop together. Of course meeting the other compost professionals was a major plus.”

The workshop was hosted by NESFI, MA Department of Agricultural Resources, and the MA Department of Environmental Protection. It is hoped that this Agricultural Composting workshop will be the first in a continuing series of workshops geared toward composting in the agricultural community. MDAR’s Agricultural Composting Program

[back to table of contents]


New Feasibility and Market Research Study for Commercial Hop Production in New England Available 

The MDAR and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets collaborated through a USDA Specialty Crops Grant to support a study of the feasibility of commercial hop production in New England.

According to the study, it is feasible to grow hops commercially in New England. There is sufficient demand from the brewing community, as well as reasonable profit margins for growers. Scenarios for growers to consider are provided, based on several marketing options. The report also describes the information, technology, and equipment that exist for smaller scale (1-10 acre) commercial hop operations. Finally, the report concludes that New England’s growing climate and condition are well suited to hop production.

Contact Himanshu Bahadur, Himanshu.Bahadur@state.ma.us, or Bonita Oehlke, Bonita.Oehlke@state.ma.us, for a copy of the 200 page, 10 MB, report to be sent via email including some 200 pages of patent information and harvesting equipment information.

[back to table of contents]


2011 Summer Fancy Food Show 

Fancy Food Show logo

Consider joining the Massachusetts Pavilion at the 2011 Summer Fancy Food Show: at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C., July 10–12, 2011. First time exhibitors may be eligible to have 50% of eligible expenses reimbursed, including the booth space, $34 per square foot with funds from USDA’s Branded Program. Please contact Bonita.Oehlke@state.ma.us for more information. www.specialtyfood.com

[back to table of contents]


Frederic Winthrop Honored 

Fisheries and Wildlife Board Member Frederic Winthrop, Jr. of Ipswich was recently named by the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC) as a 20th Anniversary Honoree. The MLTC lauded Winthrop’s achievements as Commissioner of Agriculture including the institution of pesticide regulations and the establishment of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program which buys the development rights to farmlands. He was also recognized for his role as Executive Director of The Trustees of Reservation and his service on the President’s Council of the American Farmland Trust. Winthrop represents both the Northeast Wildlife District of Massachusetts and agricultural interests on the Fisheries and Wildlife Board.

[back to table of contents]


Last Chance to Gift a 2011 Ag Calendar 

Image of the 2011 Calender Cover

The 2011 Ag Calendar photo contest has become a popular annual line-up that is always featured on the2011 Ag calendar cover Department’s Homepage. Each month’s winning photo adds a colorful touch highlighting the rich diversity of our Commonwealth’s agricultural community.

Many of the awardees were honored on Massachusetts Day at the Big E, September 23rd where they were presented with an Award Certificate by Commissioner Scott J. Soares.

Your purchase of this unique local calendar will show your enthusiasm for Massachusetts agriculture, and will also support the many educational efforts of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, the designated recipient of the proceeds. This attractive calendar will make a nice hostess or holiday gift for any friend or family member who has an interest in agriculture. Calendars can be purchased for $10 each ($5 wholesale cost at 10 minimum). Send check payable to Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom to PO Box 345, Seekonk, MA 02771. *Farms and businesses are encouraged to purchase at wholesale cost on consignment to have at your retail farms. Contact Debi at debi.hogan@earthlink.net.

Thanks to association sponsors; MA Maple Producers Assoc. (March), MA State Grange(April), MA Flower Growers Assoc.(May), MA Dairy Promotion Board (June), MA Farm Bureau (July), MA Fairs Association (August), MA Fruit Growers Assoc. (Sept.), Cape Cod Cranberry Association (November), and MA Christmas Tree Assoc. (December). Special thanks to Diane Baedeker Petit and Catherine Ulitsky with NRCS who designed the Calendar.

[back to table of contents]


Business


Three Agricultural Business Planning Courses Ready for January-March 2011 

Three formats serve the full spectrum of individuals who make up Massachusetts agriculture:

Explorers - For those who are thinking about profitable farming or expanding a hobby on an income-generating scale. “Exploring the Small Farm Dream” materials from the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) are augmented by MDAR individual guidance in a group setting for making informed decisions about whether and how to proceed. Four sessions over 5 weeks on weekday evenings, $125. 2011 courses in Amherst Thursday nights 6-9PM on 1/27, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17 and 2/24 (graduation). Marlborough Tuesday nights on 3/8, 3/15, 3/29 and graduation 4/5 with possible session 3/22.

Planners – Sorry – course is full for this year

Established Farmers – For those already operating an agricultural enterprise with at least two years of production and sales. “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” from NxLevel offers a chance to assess, regroup, assemble documentation for decision making, consider redirection, plan expansion, or propose ownership transfer. This course draws on extensive peer experience, instructor knowledge and guest speakers - with the addition of substantial individual technical assistance at course conclusion. 10 sessions over 10 weeks on weekday evenings, $200. 2011 courses in Amherst on Monday nights from 6-9PM starting 1/10 and ending 3/12 with no breaks for Monday holidays and in Marlborough on Wednesday nights starting 1/12 and ending 3/14 with no breaks.

Each course is limited to 12 farms/potential agricultural businesses, with an option to bring a key partner. Full attendance is required to get expected results. Fees are kept low through MDAR support, with the small farmer investment demonstrating serious intent and a commitment to the class community.

Please request additional details and an application for the course that fits you best. Courses fill quickly in the Fall. Email requests to Rick.Chandler@state.ma.us, or consult the MDAR website at the following link: Agricultural Business Training Program.

[back to table of contents]


Mass. Farm to School Project Update 

During the last school year, almost 200 public school districts and more than 70 other educational institutions reported they preferentially purchased locally grown foods for their cafeterias. 95 Mass. farms sold products directly to schools, as did many conventional distribution companies. The state legislature passed a law to encourage more local purchasing by state and municipal entities, Mass. Harvest for Students Week was very popular, and UMass Amherst achieved its goal of 25% locally grown foods in its dining halls. For more information about selling your farm products to a school, please contact Emily French at the Project at mafarmtoschool@gmail.com or 413-253-3844.

Free Promotional Insert for Local Foods Sales to Distributors

In hopes of increasing the “value” of local products sold to distributors for re-sale to schools, or other Mass. institutions, the Massachusetts Farm to School Project has printed colorful inserts. They are designed to be personalized with your farm name and placed inside boxes or bags of produce before they are shipped out. The inserts are 3x5” and are two sided, with the front showing photographs of local fruits and vegetables and the text “Local Food is Good Food”. The back side gives appreciation to the customer for purchasing locally-grown produce and has a space for your farm's stamp or sticker. Thanks to a Specialty Crops grant, these promotional cards are available free of charge while supplies last. We will also send the template if you want to make additional copies for yourself.

School customers are encouraged to be on the lookout for these farm tags when they receive deliveries of food identified to be locally grown. Contact the Massachusetts Farm to School Project at mafarmtoschool@gmail.com or 413-253-3844 to order. Note: the inserts were designed for use by farms selling to wholesale distributors, as a means of connecting with the end customer, and are not intended for direct retail sales.

[back to table of contents]


Public's Help Needed for Cottontail Survey 

Beginning this winter, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) will be conducting a statewide survey of cottontail rabbits to assess the distribution and population of New England cottontails (Sylvilagus transitionalis), the only cottontail rabbit species native to the northeastern United States and rarely seen. Two kinds of cottontail rabbits are found in Massachusetts, the common non-native Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and the NE cottontail. Division biologists are asking for the help of hunters, highway department workers, animal control officers, and other interested citizens across the state to provide DFW with cottontail carcasses or intact cottontail skulls for the survey.

During the last 25-50 years, the distribution NE cottontail has been drastically reduced across their range in New England. “New England cottontails are scarce due to the lack of suitable habitat,” said Scarpitti. “Unlike the Eastern cottontails seen in neighborhood yards, parks, fields and pastures, New England cottontails require dense, thick shrublands to hide from predators and survive cold, harsh winters. Shrublands, regenerating clearcuts, densely vegetated wet areas, utility/powerline rights-of-way, and other thicket habitats provide the necessary year-round food and cover requirements for cottontails.” New England cottontails also require large expansive patches of dense thicket habitat, often a minimum of 10-20 acres in size. These habitats types are very uncommon, amounting to less than 5% of all forested habitat acreage in Massachusetts. DFW is creating shrubland and young forest habitats in suitable locations on Wildlife Management Areas and is actively encouraging other landowners to create shrubland and young forest habitats in appropriate areas.

The cottontail survey is part of a range-wide effort called the New England Cottontail Initiative (NEC), focusing on distribution and habitat restoration of New England cottontails throughout New England and New York. The NEC Initiative involves partnerships with state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations and other large landowners focusing on surveys, habitat identification and habitat restoration efforts. Funding for the NE Cottontail Initiative comes from a competitive State Wildlife Grant awarded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to a partnership of New England and New York state wildlife agencies and the Wildlife Management Institute..

[back to table of contents]


"PV Grows Loan Fund" for Food and Agricultural Infrastructure Business 

The PVGrows Loan Fund offers low-interest loans to businesses that fill key gaps in the infrastructure of the Pioneer Valley local food system. PVGrows is looking for committed entrepreneurs with well-researched plans to develop facilities or activities which expand the market for Pioneer Valley-grown agricultural products, such as post-harvest handling, processing, marketing or distribution.

Now accepting new applications. Next Deadlines: December 15, 2010 & February 15, 2011.

  • Are you handling, processing, marketing, or distributing local agricultural products?
  • Does your business activity improve sales for Pioneer Valley farms? 
  • Are you looking for financing?

Find out more at www.pvgrows.org.

[back to table of contents]


Microloans & Mentorship Available through Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream 

The Boston Beer Company, in partnership with non-profit microlender ACCION USA launched Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, an initiative designed to provide food & beverage entrepreneurs with capital and advice to grow their small business.

Through the program, entrepreneurs can access business loans up to $50,000 while working with the team to evaluate the business’ unique needs and learn tips to establish and strengthen their business. Beneficiaries of the program benefit from one-on-one mentorship with the Samuel Adams and ACCION teams, alongside access to networks to grow their business.

The program has helped hundreds of New England entrepreneurs weather the difficult economy and to grow their businesses, create local jobs, and practice their beloved craft. We invite you to take advantage of the services offered through this program. Join us to make connections and build your business! Visit www.samueladams.com/btad email egarlow@accionusa.org or call 617-616-1582.

[back to table of contents]


UpComing Events


Two Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Hearings Planned 12/16 and 12/20 

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) will hold two hearings to allow interested parties to provide their comments as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 recommendation process.

Thursday , December 16th - 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at 100 Cambridge Street, 2nd floor Room C-D

Monday, December 20th – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Edward P. Boland Elementary School Cafetaria (off Rt. 291) 426 Armory St., Springfield

Written comment is encouraged prior to the hearing. Interested parties may also submit written comments at the hearing or through the close of business December 23, 2010. Please address them to:

Ian A. Bowles, Secretary
Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
ATTENTION: FY’ 12 Budget

For those attending the hearing, please be sure to bring a picture I.D. in order to pass through the building security.

[back to table of contents]


Third Bi-Annual Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference 

March 1-3, 2011 in Sturbridge, MA

Growers from across the Northeast will convene at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center in scenicHarvest New England logo Sturbridge Massachusetts from March 1-3, 2011. The Harvest New England Association will be hosting a marketing conference for a third time - The Expanding New England Farm Enterprise: Reaping More From What We Sow; A Harvest New England Ag Marketing Conference and Trade Show.

Over 800 attendees attended the second conference in February 2009. Plans are for an even bigger and better event in 2011.

This unique marketing conference targets New England farmers interested in learning new marketing ideas as well as fine-tuning strategies for business success. Five themed tracks with over 25 workshops will be offered covering a wide range of marketing and business planning topics, including using social media, funding, customer relations, value added, agri-tourism and more. The five conference tracks include:

  • Growing Your Business which offers sessions on exploring new avenues to diversify a farm business;
  • Funding Your Business offers sessions on finding and applying for grants and loans, and how to use benchmarks to increase profits;
  • Selling Your Product provides sessions that give producers new ways to sell their product in the off-season or through other avenues;
  • Marketing Your Product offers sessions that explore the use of social media, traditional media, and new technologies;
  • Adding Value to Your Product gives attendees sessions that assist them with analyzing their labeling, pricing, and other uses of their product to increase sales.

Pre-conference workshops include GAP training and a New England farmers’ market manager’s workshop.
Conference keynote speakers, include retail marketing expert John Stanley - the only speaker to be invited back to North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference for three consecutive years. Mr. Stanley will take delegates through the profitable concepts of merchandising and display, and provide practical tips on how to increase sales. Vermont famer Ben Hewitt and author of the The Town That Food Saved will address conference attendees on March 3. Mr. Hewitt will discuss the incredible potential for producers and farms to revitalize communities to keep money circulating locally

A full trade show of nearly 100 vendors will provide information on the latest products and services for the agricultural community. For the latest conference updates and to register on line go to www.harvestnewengland.org.

The conference is sponsored by Harvest New England and all six New England State Departments of Agriculture, in cooperation with:

  • Cooperative Development Institute
  • Connecticut Cooperative Extension
  • Federation of Massachusetts Farmers' Markets
  • Rhode Island Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Harvest New England (HNE) is a cooperative marketing program created by New England’s state departments of agriculture in 1992. The initial purpose of the program was to support the sale of New England-grown produce through supermarket channels. The program was subsequently opened to all New England food and agricultural products. The Harvest New England Association, Inc. is a non-profit 501 (c)(5) corporation.

[back to table of contents]


Sustainability Standards and the Commonwealth Quality Seal 

Massachusetts Fruit Growers's Association, New England Vegetable and Berry Growers' Association and New England Cooperative Extension - Friday, January 7, 2011, 9:30AM - 4:00PM, Sturbridge Host Hotel, 366 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA

During this meeting, we will introduce the Commonwealth Quality program and discuss how it can benefit MA growers. The Commonwealth Quality Seal serves to identify locally sourced products that are grown, harvested, and processed right here in Massachusetts using practices that are safe, sustainable and don’t harm the environment. The practices are based on the UMass Extension/Farm Bureau/MDAR Best Management Practices Guidelines. Best Management Practices include soil conservation and health, IPM, worker protection, and food safety. Becoming part of Commonwealth Quality involves taking a self assessment survey of practices and agreeing to follow guidelines on the use of the Commonwealth Quality Seal. Commonwealth Quality is not designed to replace full USDA GAP certification but may be considered an alternative by some customers. At the close of the meeting, growers will be able to submit their self assessments, their signed Commonwealth Quality contract, and a fee of $50 to cover costs of printing, postage, and time for the NEV&BGA, which will work with MDAR to complete the process.

We hope that growers will consider the Commonwealth Quality Seal which has been endorsed by both the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association. If a grower chooses not to become part of Commonwealth Quality, this meeting will still serve as a great review of Best Management Practices for fruit and vegetable growers. We hope to see you all there.

Although the meeting is open to all growers, only Massachusetts growers can become part of Commonwealth Quality at this time. This could serve as a model for other states. To see a promo on Commonwealth Quality go to www.mass.gov/cqp. Separate checks for both - Meeting registration $30: includes lunch and printed materials. Made payable to NEV&BGA Commonwealth Quality $50(if you choose to apply) : Made payable to NEV&BGA.

[back to table of contents]


Western MA Agcom Conferences 

February 5th and March 5th

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, Hancock Shaker Village (Route 20, Hancock) and the Hancock and Pittsfield Ag Commissions will host the 8th gathering for western Mass Agricultural Commission members, farmers and interested friends of agriculture.

On Saturday, March 5, 2011, the Deerfield Ag Commission will host the 9th gathering for western Mass Agricultural Commission members, farmers, and interested friends of agriculture at Deerfield Town Hall, 8 Conway Street, South Deerfield. Contact Pete Westover for details: westover03@comcast.net, www.massagcom.org.

[back to table of contents]


Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the State House 

Save the Date! Thursday, April 7, 2011

Massachusetts Agriculture Day image

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. Participants gather at the State House to acknowledge not only the positive impact and economic growth of agriculture in Massachusetts but also to discuss issues and legislation affecting their farms and communities.

The event includes a speaking program, ‘Agriculture Day’ awards, informational exhibits and a reception featuring Massachusetts’ farm and specialty food products. Please join MDAR and many others from the agricultural community in recognizing the contributions of Massachusetts’ farmers; learn more about the department’s current and new programs and its efforts to maintain the long-term viability of Massachusetts’ agriculture; and celebrate Massachusetts agricultural products which benefit all Massachusetts residents.

For more information, contact the MA Agricultural Promotional Board at agpromoboard@mfbf.net, "Save the Date" flyer, click here pdf format of agday-flier.pdf .

[back to table of contents]


News from USDA


NRCA Extends Sign-up Period for Conservation Stewardship Program 

Local farmers and forestland owners may apply through January 7, 2011. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the ranking period for farmer and forestland owner applications to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The cut-off date is now January 7, 2011.

Massachusetts agricultural producers and forestland owners are encouraged to apply for CSP. The program, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial private forestland.

“We’re extending the deadline for applications to CSP to provide Bay State farmers and forestland owners more time to complete their applications,” said Christine Clarke, NRCS State Conservationist for Massachusetts. “Hopefully this will allow even more landowners to participate in this program.”

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help landowners determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments.

To sign up for CSP, farmers should call or visit their local USDA Service Center. USDA Service Center locations are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.gov.

[back to table of contents]


USDA Initiative Offers Assistance with Forest Land Planning 

Applications for the New England-New York Forestry Initiative will be accepted through January 31, 2011 for current funding. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White recently announced that $700,000 in federal funding is available to assist Massachusetts forest land owners with forest land planning and management under the New England-New York Forestry Initiative.

Massachusetts is one of seven states participating in this special initiative; a total of $5.9 million will be available to forest land owners throughout New England and New York.

“The main goal of this effort is to promote exemplary stewardship among private landowners by assisting them to improve forest health and productivity, wildlife habitat and water quality,” White said. “Besides providing economic benefits, forests are home to diverse communities of fish and wildlife. Through sound planning and management, our goal is to help private landowners keep forests as forests.”

Forest land owners who would like assistance are encouraged to call or visit their local USDA Service Center by January 31, 2011 to submit an application and complete the necessary paperwork to establish their eligibility. USDA Service Centers are listed online at http://offices.usda.gov, or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department. More information is available on the Massachusetts NRCS website at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.

The forestry initiative will assist private landowners in conservation planning and management of their private forests to improve wildlife habitat, forest health and productivity, and water quality. Eligible conservation practices include forest stand improvement, tree and shrub establishment, upland wildlife habitat management, stream crossings, riparian forest buffer, fish passage, forest trails and landings, access roads, wetland restoration, tree and shrub site preparation, brush management, herbaceous weed control, access control, restoration and management of declining habitats, and tree/shrub pruning.

Last year, the New England Governors’ Conference, the North East State Foresters Association, USDA’s Forest Service and NRCS joined forces to develop a plan, known as the New England-New York Keeping Forests as Forests report, to protect and ensure the sustainability of the region's forest land-base. Forests not only provide clean water and wildlife habitat, but are also the backbone of the region’s rural economies, offering a sustainable source of renewable energy, forest products, outdoor-related recreational opportunities and tourism.

[back to table of contents]


Beginning Farmer and Rancher Competitive Grants Program 

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has recently announced available grant opportunities through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). As part of this announcement, $19 million is being made available to fund BFRDP and support the nation’s beginning farmers and ranchers. The deadline for submitting a proposal to the BFRDP program is December 22, 2010.

To be eligible to receive a BFRDP grant, the recipient must be a collaborative State, tribal, local, or regionally-based network or partnership of public or private entities. These may include: a state cooperative extension service; a Federal, State or tribal agency; a community-based and nongovernmental organization; college or university (including an institution awarding an associate’s degree) foundation or any other appropriate partner, as determined by the Secretary. Priority will be given to projects that are partnerships and collaborations led by or including nongovernmental and community-based organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach. All applicants are required to provide funds or in-kind support from non-federal sources in an amount that is at least equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the federal funds requested.

The purpose of BFRDP is to develop and offer education, outreach, mentoring and internship programs by making two types of competitive grants:

(a) Standard Projects: new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives that address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers in one or more of the following areas: (1) mentoring, apprenticeships, and internships; (2) resources and referral; (3) assisting beginning farmers or ranchers in acquiring land from retiring farmers and ranchers; (4) innovative farm and ranch transfer strategies; (5) entrepreneurship and business training; (6) model land leasing contracts; (7) financial management training; (8) whole farm planning; (9) conservation assistance; (10) risk management education; (11) diversification and marketing strategies; (12) curriculum development; (13) understanding the impact of concentration and globalization; (14) basic livestock and crop farming practices; (15) the acquisition and management of agricultural credit; (16) environmental compliance; (17) information processing, and (18) similar subject areas of use to beginning farmers or ranchers. (b) Educational Enhancement Teams: for evaluation, coordination and enhancement of Standard Projects. Proposed budget requests must not exceed $250,000 per year for Standard Projects and for Educational Enhancement Teams, and for a maximum grant period of 3 years.

A BFRDP grant cannot be used to purchase a farm, farm machinery or animals; for the planning, repair, rehabilitation, acquisition, or construction of a building or facility; to begin farming; or to set up Individual Development Accounts. For additional information on how to apply, please contact Suresh Sureshwaran at ssureshawaran@nifa.usda.gov, 202-720-7536 or visit the BFRDP website at http://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/beginningfarmerandrancher.cfm.

[back to table of contents]


In Every Issue

Classified Ads 

  • Request Proposals to Buy Historic Oscar Palmer Farm - The Trustees of Reservations - Starting Dec. 1st, The Trustees will solicit proposals from interested buyers of the Oscar Palmer Farm located at 138 Adamsville Road in Westport. The Trustees seek a buyer who will restore the farm to active agriculture and rehabilitate the historic buildings on the property. All proposals are due by January 18th, 2010. The Trustees, the Westport Land Conservation Trust (WLCT), and the Town of Westport through its Community Preservation Committee and Agricultural/Open Space Preservation Trust Fund Council have worked to protect this farm since 2002. In December 2008, The Trustees of Reservations acquired this 29-acre farm for $901,000 with support from WLCT. Now, The Trustees, WLCT, and the Town are working to protect the farm with permanent historic and conservation restrictions. Their goal is to sell the farm to a private buyer committed to agriculture and restoration of the historic buildings. More details, updates, open houses, and the complete Request for Proposals can be found at: http://thetrustees.org/palmerfarm.
  • Beginning farmer looking to rent/lease land to grow more organic crops. Also looking for greenhouse to use in the vicinity of Andover. If your land has not had any chemical fertilizers in the last 3 years, call Lucy at 978 475-7931.
  • Agricultural Excavation – Grading Services - We provide earth moving, drainage, land/pasture reclamation, greenhouse preparation, and rock raking services. Includes but not limited to orchards, Christmas trees/equine facilities/cranberry bogs/nurseries. Chris Merrill Excavating merrilltrucks@comcast.net, 978-897-9977
  • Are you composting or generating significant volumes of compostable feedstock? We specialize in aerobic composting and heat recovery. Break your dependence on fossil fuels and diversify your farm or composting facility. To learn more, please contact us at: AgriLab Technologies, LLP, POB 8, Pawlet, VT 05761, (809)325-2203, agrilabtech@aol.com
  • Alpacas and Alpaca products for sale from our prized herd. Contact Dick Bolton at Alpacas of Springbrook Farm, Stow. MA. 978-897-5969 or visit our web site.
  • Dramm Auto Fog (Boston Area) - We have a Dramm Auto Fogger model SLVH 7N 10A for sale. This machine has very little time on it. This sprayer is a micro particle generator for applying chemicals in enclosed areas. It will cover 12k sq ft. And 25k sq ft. With HAF fans. Once setup it requires no humane presence and will start and stop as you program it to. Saves money on labor and chemicals. If new it sells for $5400, we will take B.O. Ask for Barney at 508/435/9850 or Email at ahwfh@verizon.net
  • Looking to partner with a seasoned grower in NY, MA or RI. I am a 26 year old organic farmer who is relocating back to the east coast after farming and gardening in northern CA for the past five years. I have lived on farms my whole life, daughter of an organic vegetable farmer. I have two seasons experience on a 15 acre CSA farm, two years apprenticing and then co-managing a garden for the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System's Apprenticeship, I also initiated a school garden program in Oakland, CA. I am looking to farm a highly productive and efficient 5-15 acre farm with livestock integration. I have practice in permaculture and biodynamics. I am also trained in seasonal fruit tree care and pruning. I would like to start work in the spring of 2011. Please email cheney.maggie@gmail.com. Thank you!

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.

[back to contents]


Calendar 

  • January 12-19: Organic Land Care Course, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport -- for landscapers and other land care professionals with an interest in organic land care. 5 day course is designed to provide professionals with the education needed for an understanding of organic land care from design to maintenance. For more info., contact Kathy Litchfield, NOFA/Mass Organic Land Care Course Coordinator, at (413) 773-3830, kathy@nofamass.org. To register online, visit www.organiclandcare.net.
  • January 15: NOFA/MASS Annual Winter Conference, Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, MA. Circles of Connection - 9am-5pm Michael Phillips to present keynote speech "Circles of Connection: On the Farm, Embracing Community, and Always in the Heart" and also to present all day seminar "Organic Orcharding" Nancy Phillips to present all day seminar "Herbs for Family Health" Details at www.nofamass.org/conferences/winter/index.php.
  • February 2-4: New England Grows, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. New England Grows is one of the largest and most popular horticultural and green industry events in North America — known for its progressive educational conference and world-class trade show. Every February, New England Grows connects 13,000+ green industry professionals with vendors supplying the brightest ideas, the hottest plants, the latest technology, and the most cutting-edge equipment at its 1300 booth tradeshow. More than 30 ground-breaking educational seminars are held during New England Grows. www.newenglandgrows.org
  • March 1-3: Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and Trade Show- Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, MA. Over 800 attendees attended the second conference in February 2009. Plans are for an even bigger and better event in 2011. This unique marketing conference targets New England farmers interested in learning new marketing ideas as well as fine-tuning strategies for business success. Five themed tracks with over 25 workshops will be offered covering a wide range of marketing and business planning topics, including using social media, funding, customer relations, value added, agri-tourism and more. A full trade show of nearly 100 vendors will provide information on the latest products and services for the agricultural community. For updates and to register on line go to www.harvestnewengland.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.

[back to contents]


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 J. 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 28th 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.