For Immediate Release - March 26, 2014

GOVERNOR PATRICK CELEBRATES AGRICULTURE DAY

BOSTON – Wednesday, March 26, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today joined state agriculture officials, farmers and students to celebrate Agriculture Day at the State House, and accepted an award for his commitment to investing in Massachusetts agriculture.

Agriculture Day brings farmers and agricultural organizations together to showcase locally grown food and farm products and to educate legislators about issues affecting the agricultural community.

"Agriculture Day reminds us all of the Commonwealth's rich agricultural traditions and provides a forum where farming community leaders and state officials can come together to focus on key initiatives that support our family farms and farming industry," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan.

“Local agriculture, in rural, suburban and urban communities, has continued to grow as our residents understand its impact on the state’s sustainability, food security, public health and natural resources,” said Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Greg Watson. “The reliance on our agricultural community to meet the increasing demand for local products continues to grow as the Buy Local movement expands.”

Farmers participating today met with Representatives and Senators to discuss the challenges they face, including the importance of consistent local regulations affecting the industry and value of recognizing small farms as a vital part of Massachusetts' agricultural landscape.

State officials also presented a proclamation by Governor Patrick declaring March 26, 2014 as Massachusetts Agriculture Day.

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

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

“We’ve seen a huge transformation in the face and breadth of agriculture over the last 10 to15 years,” said Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) President Dr. Richard Bonanno. “We have many more farms; younger people and women are entering the profession, farmers markets and community supported agriculture are flourishing as well as organizations and businesses focusing on local food and farm products.”

Culinary students from the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro Massachusetts prepared and served a variety of dishes made from Massachusetts products, such as turkey, lamb, root vegetables, honey and local cheeses.

More than 45 agricultural exhibitors participated in Massachusetts Agriculture Day, which is sponsored by the Massachusetts Agricultural Promotion Board, 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.

“Agriculture Day is a great way to showcase Massachusetts’ farming industry and the hardworking individuals who help our state economy thrive,” said Senator Marc Pacheco. “I am proud of the efforts we have made to grow and buy more locally in order to enhance sustainability and viability and to promote public health in the Commonwealth.”

"We are very fortunate to have people willing to invest their time, money and energy in keeping agriculture thriving in the state,” said Representative Anne Gobi. “They need our support as we need the products and services they provide."

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.