Baker-Polito Administration Announces Over $300,000 in Grants to Promote Specialty Crops
BOSTON – January 26, 2017 – The Baker-Polito Administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), today announced nine grants totaling $319,524 for projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of Massachusetts specialty crops, which are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, and horticulture and nursery products.
“Many Massachusetts farmers rely on specialty crops and these grants will allow both them and nonprofits to improve their marketing efforts and increase the overall value of the industry locally,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is proud to support local farmers and provide opportunities for small growers across the Commonwealth to become more competitive and increase access to fresh foods to citizens in every municipality.”
“Locally produced fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops offer Massachusetts’ residents delicious options for a diverse and nutritious diet,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are grateful for the financial support of the USDA and the hard work of these local nonprofits as our administration works to support the Commonwealth’s vital agricultural industry.”
The grants are provided through USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is funded by the United States Farm Bill. In Massachusetts, the recipients are chosen by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). This year’s grants will support a variety of projects that help increase market opportunities for local growers and food producers, increase access to fresh, local, nutritious food in communities across the Commonwealth and promote sustainable production practices.
“These organizations help the Commonwealth’s specialty crop farmers stay competitive by marketing specialty crops to a wider audience, as well as studying and employing innovative, sustainable farming techniques,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Matthew Beaton. “With these grants, we hope to encourage a new generation of farmers and raise awareness of Massachusetts farms that produce a wide range of local products.”
“Because so much of Massachusetts Agriculture meets USDA’s specialty crop definition, we are able to provide support to a very wide range of many of the Commonwealth’s leading agricultural sectors,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “These grants will enhance crop production, food safety and education through every step in the supply chain−from farm to table.”
The following are the grant recipients:
|Recipient:||Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association – Carver|
The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association proposes to study the use of in-day plant cooling via sprinkler irrigation in order to lower cranberry vine canopy temperatures during the growing season and prevent scalding of developing berries. The grant will help growers identify heat stress and the development of new tools for growers to utilize when employing in-day cooling.
|Recipient:||Community Harvest Project – N. Grafton|
The Community Harvest Project will transition one acre of traditional apples to high density apples. This innovative approach will use their land and volunteers more effectively, while drastically improving the availability of highly desired fruit in the hunger relief food system. They plan to replicate their methods, transitioning 1-2 acre of apples to high density each year and training orchard interns in the process.
|Recipient:||Community Involved in Sustaining Ag, Inc. – South Deerfield|
This project will offer personalized assistance to specialty crop farmers in western Massachusetts to introduce them to food safety requirements and to enable them to implement the food safety required improvements needed to compete in wholesale produce markets.
|Recipient:||Hilltown CDC – Chesterfield|
Hilltown CDC aspires to enhance awareness among residents of nearby farms and where to buy food grown in the Hilltowns, increase farm sales (expanded markets or increased volume through existing markets) for existing farms to increase profitability and long-term viability, increase production of farm products to meet regional demand, and increase access to fresh, locally produced food for all residents, including low-income and elderly populations, to contribute to good nutrition and health.
|Recipient:||Massachusetts Farm to School Project / Third Sector New England – Boston|
Through a combination of outreach, training, and technical assistance, the recipients will provide school food purchasers with the knowledge and tools to maximize their local specialty crop procurement by effectively using RFPs for both direct farm and distributor purchases. They will also ensure effective promotion of local specialty crops through expansion and evaluation of the Harvest of the Month campaign, a promotional campaign highlighting a different local specialty crop each month.
|Recipient:||MA Nursery & Landscape Association & MA Flower Growers’ Association – Conway|
The recipients will invest in agricultural education and outreach and create an awareness of the benefits of gardening and landscaping by producing a series of social media posts that will capture and educate a new audience.
|Recipient:||North Organic Farming Association – Barre, MA|
The North Organic Farming Association (NRCS) seeks to engage and educate growers on best practices in both low-tech and high-tech systems by coordinating an organization-wide focus on high tunnel and season extension practices. This work is important and timely because currently, there are few resources available to organic farmers on ways to successfully grow specialty crops in high tunnels and make the most of their investment.
|Recipient:||The Sustainable Business Network – Cambridge|
The Sustainable Business Network aims to address and overcome many of the challenges met by specialty food crop producers and buyers in order to build new business relationships through open communication between the specialty crop growers and buyers. This will be achieved by offering specialty crop producers and buyers technical assistance. Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN)’s intention is to increase access to Massachusetts and New England specialty crop products by eliminating barriers that are preventing buyers and sellers from doing business, thereby increasing the sales of specialty crops across Massachusetts and New England.
|Recipient:||University of Massachusetts, Amherst – Amherst|
This project will identify and convert 12 shelf-stable produce recipes (using the Ball Book Home Canning Recipes or equivalent specific to specialty crops) into scale-appropriate product formulations, conduct the proper quality assurance analysis and have each formula validated by a recognized Process Authority to support the adoption of value-added processing for local produce farmers. This work will provide the necessary technical support to manufacture safe quality products that will increase the usage of specialty crops, enable season extension for growers and reduce the overall waste of produce.
“These grants will increase the ability of Massachusetts specialty crop farmers to compete on a larger scale and grow their businesses,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “Supporting family farmers is critical to the support of our local economy and production of healthy local products. My thanks to the Baker Administration for their continued support of our agricultural industry.”
“I am thrilled that the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is awarding the Specialty Crops Program Grant to UMASS Amherst,” said State Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose (D-Amherst). “UMASS’ work to increase the use of specialty crops and extend farm season is yet another chapter in the rich agricultural history of Amherst. We hope that their research will have far-reaching implications- not only providing increased economic opportunity for farmers, but a greater variety of healthy choices for consumers.”
“Congratulations to the North Organic Farming Association on this grant award,” said State Representative Donald Berthiaume (R-Spencer). “This funding will help continue the already robust central Massachusetts farming community through innovative farming techniques.”
“These grants will support the work of three great organizations in my district to work with farmers, growers, and food producers to strengthen their businesses and offer better agricultural products to consumers,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington). “I thank the Baker-Polito Administration and MDAR for supporting these innovative activities to strengthen our state's agricultural economy.”
“We are fortunate to have so many local farmers, including my friends at NOFA, who are willing to try new methods of production to enhance and extend growing opportunities,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “We benefit from their expertise and I appreciate the efforts of MDAR to support local farms and farmers.”
“Standing up for our local farms and making sure they benefit from direct sales is critical to their sustainability,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield). “This is a great step for that objective.”
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.