For Immediate Release - October 10, 2012

Massachusetts Agriculture Officials Announce $439,000 in Federal Grants from USDA to Market Massachusetts Specialty Crops

BOSTON – Thursday, October 10, 2012 – Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Greg Watson today announced $439,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of Massachusetts specialty crops. The grants will benefit 17 agricultural organizations across the Commonwealth.

“We are excited to assist our agricultural partners in promoting Massachusetts specialty crops,” said Commissioner Watson. “I’m confident the projects selected will accomplish the goal of expanding market opportunities, making the Commonwealth’s farmers more competitive.”

Organizations representing apple and cranberry growers, winemakers, and horticulture are among the recipients of this year’s USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants, which are funded by the United States Farm Bill. This year, the USDA provided an estimated $55 million to state departments of agriculture to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops – defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery products.

“Once again, I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made these funds available to Massachusetts and the 17 agricultural organizations across the state,” said Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “These funds will go a long way in helping these projects get off the ground and make the Massachusetts agriculture sector more competitive and successful. I want to thank the Obama Administration and our federal legislative delegation for their continued support and ensuring these funds were made available for Massachusetts.”

“These grants showcase how our farmers have diversified their crops and methods of production to meet the changing consumer markets.  From the smallest to largest grant they help to sustain our agricultural heritage,” said Rep. Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.

This year’s grant recipients include:

  • Massachusetts Farm to School Initiative (Amherst) -- $50,000 to provide resources and technical assistance to specialty crop growers, school food service personnel and institutional food service professionals to support and increase farm to cafeteria food sales.
  • Nuestras Raices (Holyoke) -- $39,922.50 to increase the sales of specialty crops while also addressing the nutritional and educational needs of low income immigrant families.
  • The University of Massachusetts (Amherst) -- $34,000 to demonstrate the feasibility of growing fava beans as a specialty crop in Massachusetts.
  • New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (Lawrence) -- $30,000 to provide technical assistance to 30 beginning  immigrant growers with a focus on specific products that are increasingly in demand at CSA’s and farmers’ markets as well as marketability of the products.
  • Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (South Deerfield) -- $30,000 to partner with the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, Berkshire Grown and Northeast Harvest will develop a marketing campaign to increase the consumption of 24 select specialty crops.
  • Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association (Carver) --  $29,950 to develop a process and database to organize the pond/bog interactions, pond water quality, and identify likely Total Maximum Daily Load standards (TMDLs)  regulatory issues prior to The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) involvement.
  • Holyoke Kindergarten Initiative (Holyoke) -- $29,600 to launch a new program using local specialty crops to facilitate early childhood education in Holyoke Public Schools. 
  • The Worcester Kindergarten Farm to School Initiative (Amherst) -- $24,000 to expand their comprehensive nutrition education program that uses Massachusetts specialty crop snacks and specialty crop farm visits to teach young students about local food production and healthy eating.
  • DAR’s “MassGrown & Fresher” -- $22,095 to will promote specialty crops through consumer events and an email marketing campaign.
  • Sustainable Business Networks of Greater Boston (SBN) -- $20,000 to organize a trade show that will create connections between local and regional food systems, the consumers and the specialty crop producers.
  • Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom (Seekonk) --  $20,000 to develop new initiatives that offer tools and training to inspire and enable Massachusetts educators to initiate new school gardens or expand existing programs.
  • New England Apple Association (Hatfield) -- $16,000 to collaborate with Rhode Island Department of Agriculture will enhance the visibility of New England apples and develop an apple breeding program to add access to new apple varieties.
  • Massachusetts Farm Winery Growers Association (Lincoln) -- $15,000 to expand the Massachusetts wine industry through the development of a mobile application to increase consumer awareness and drive wine sales.
  • Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association (Conway) & Massachusetts Flower Growers’ Association (Bedford) -- $13,000 to develop a consumer and industry campaign to promote water conservation practices.
  • University of Massachusetts Extension (Amherst) -- $8,470 to offer Better Process Control School (BPCS): a course that teaches key food safety processing fundamentals that will be offered through a scholarship to Massachusetts specialty crop growers interested in value added food processing.
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources -- $8,000 to continue to research the UVM Extension hopyard project and enhance farmer capacity to produce high quality hops for the New England brewing industry.
  • The Northeast Organic Farming Association (Barre) -- $5,000 to improve educational resources for Massachusetts organic vegetable growers.

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.

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