For Immediate Release - September 25, 2012

MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES A RECIPIENT OF “BRIGHT IDEAS” FOR ITS MASSGROWN & FRESHER INITIATIVE

BOSTON – Tuesday, September 25, 2012 – State agricultural officials today announced that their MassGrown & Fresher initiative was the recipient of a “Bright Ideas” award from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The Center recognized 111 innovative government initiatives as Bright Ideas. This year’s cohort hails from all levels of government — including school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies as well as public-private partnerships — and demonstrates a creative range of solutions to issues such as urban and rural degradation, environmental problems, access to locally grown agricultural products, and the academic achievement of students. Programs were evaluated and selected by a team of policy experts from academic and public sectors. 

“This is the second award within two years in which the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs was recognized for its use of social media tools and technology to improve communications with its constituency,” said Secretary Rick Sullivan. "In 2011 we received an Award of Excellence in the social media category from the National Association of Government Communicators and this latest award is further tribute to our enhancing the use of technology.”

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) began to look at ways to support soaring interest in locally grown and produced products amid one of the worst recessions in memory with the consequence that the department’s mission and budgetary ability to promote the broad diversity of its agricultural community was curtailed.

“Thanks to a supportive Patrick-Murray Administration, our continued efforts to expand connections between consumers and our local farmers are ‘bearing fruit’” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. “This award is the culmination of ongoing hard work by talented staff to find an effective, cost-efficient way to promote greater access to fresh, local food products.”

With the help of a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, MDAR staff partnered with commodity groups  to bootstrap an “out-of-the-box” initiative to connect consumers to local agriculture and vice versa.

“Government innovation does not require endless resources and generous budgets,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government Program at the Ash Center. “As exemplified by this year’s Bright Ideas, some of our country’s smartest innovations can in fact reduce government’s size while serving our citizens more efficiently and effectively.”

Launched in April 2010, the core foundation of the initiative was a new MassGrown & Fresher website (www.mass.gov/massgrown) featuring an “Agri-Google” map that draws from DAR’s extensive databases. The interactive map serves as a gateway to finding farm products, specialty foods, and agricultural activities. Other highlights include fun facts, upcoming events, a spotlight section, and the Faces of Massachusetts Agriculture page that recognizes individuals, organizations, and schools that are making a significant contribution to the long-term sustainability of agriculture.

Phase two of the project was and continues to be an assertive PR rollout plan that further harnesses internet technology. DAR laid design plans in February 2011 to incorporate a “QR Code” in all its future promotional materials and was the first state department of agriculture in the country to do so. The QR Code’s debut appearance was on the Department’s agricultural fairs brochure released in May in 2011 and was later integrated into ad campaigns on the MBTA’s subway system and recently on the MBTA commuter rail.

One of the key drivers of the Patrick-Murray Administration has been to work towards identifying government efficiencies and seamless transferability of programs and services across the Commonwealth. When implementing new initiatives, agencies are asked to look through the lens of transferability to the possible benefit of entire secretariats. As it relates to MassGrown & Fresher, lends itself to replication by other agencies specific to their constituents’ needs.

Applications are accepted year round for consideration as a Bright Idea; programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching and have sufficient operational resources. In addition, programs must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu. A full list of winning program descriptions can be found at: http://www.ash.harvard.edu/Home/News-Events/Press-Releases/Innovations/Harvard-Announces-111-Bright-Ideas-in-Government/2012-Bright-Ideas

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth's agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARCommish and twitter.com/massgrown.

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