For Immediate Release - April 02, 2013

Massachusetts Celebrates Agriculture Day at the State House

BOSTON – Tuesday, April 2, 2013 – Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan and Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Greg Watson joined hundreds of Massachusetts farmers, agricultural officials, legislators and residents as they came together today at the State House to celebrate “Agriculture Day”, a commemoration of the agricultural industry's $490 million annual contribution to the Commonwealth's economy.

“Our farming community continues to grow and diversify, creating more agricultural and job opportunities in Massachusetts,” said Secretary Sullivan. “Agriculture is a key industry and we will continue to promote initiatives that support farmers throughout the state.”

Each year, Massachusetts Agriculture Day showcases agricultural products and industry achievements and fosters discussion between farmers and lawmakers about the challenges faced by the state’s farming communities.

From the cranberry bogs on Cape Cod to dairy farms in the Berkshires, the Massachusetts farming industry employs more than 14,000 workers and provides more than 517,000 acres of open space across the state.

“Many cities and towns are actively supporting local agriculture, and are even working to provide fresh, nutritious locally grown produce to many fixed and low income residents,” said Commissioner Watson. “In addition, the number of young people interested in entering the ranks of farming – rural and urban – is increasing every day. This bodes well for a resilient agriculture future for the Commonwealth.”

At today’s event, farmers met with their local legislators to discuss challenges, including the impact of budget cuts on the agricultural community and related government agencies, the importance of consistent local agricultural regulations and the value of small farm businesses in Massachusetts.

State officials also presented a proclamation declaring April 2, 2013 as Massachusetts Agriculture Day.

“Ag Day is the premiere opportunity for producers to highlight Massachusetts agriculture, to discuss needs and opportunities with their legislators, and to thank legislators for their past help,” said Richard Bonanno, president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation.

The Farm Bureau Federation recognized Senator Marc Pacheco, Representative Anne Gobi, Representative Chris Markey and Representative Kate Hogan for their support of the Massachusetts agriculture industry.

"Agriculture Day represents an important opportunity to honor our invaluable farming community," said Senator Marc Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "Without their hard work and dedication, our communities could not thrive."

"It's wonderful to be able to celebrate Ag Day at the State House and have the opportunity to show our appreciation to the hardworking families that keep Massachusetts agriculture vibrant and to welcome new generations of farmers," said Representative Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Capping off the festivities was a noontime reception, known as the "Taste of Massachusetts." Farmers and specialty foods producers, including aquaculture, livestock and dairy farmers, offered participants samples of locally harvested and produced items such as oysters, cranberry juice, apple pies, cheese, honey and milk shakes.

During the event, DAR officials highlighted the Commonwealth's commitment to encouraging energy efficient and environmentally sound farm operations and promoting statewide programs that foster agricultural diversification, culinary tourism, agricultural business training, animal health and pest management.

DAR officials also featured statewide programs promoting agricultural diversification, the Commonwealth Quality Seal, the award-winning MassGrown & Fresher Initiative, the newly established Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Trust Fund, Rabies Awareness Program, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle project and an effort to register businesses in the Plant Industries Project.

Culinary students from the Assabet Valley Region Technical High School (Marlboro) prepared and served a variety of dishes made from Massachusetts products, including turkey, lamb, root vegetables, honey and local cheeses.

Ashley DeCosta, a member of the Future Farmers of America, was chosen to speak and represent youth involvement in agriculture.

More than 45 agricultural exhibitors participated in the day’s festivities, including representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and agricultural associations such as the Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers Association, Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association and the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation and 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 in order 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 follow us on twitter at @MDARCommish and @massgrown.