For Immediate Release - November 12, 2009

Patrick Administration Encourages Residents to Savor the Flavors of Massachusetts this Holiday Season

BOSTON - With winter holidays on the horizon, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is urging consumers to choose Massachusetts grown and produced foods, beverages and gifts for their holiday needs.

"Local goods make great holiday gifts for family and friends, help support local agriculture and boost the economy," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "I encourage all residents to go local this holiday season."

In addition to offering great local products for dinners, parties and gifts, the Bay State is a prime vacation destination for the culinary traveler this holiday season. Each Massachusetts region offers the epicurean something unique to savor at every stop. To learn more about the DAR and Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism initiative Savor Massachusetts, visit: http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/savor_massachusetts.htm.

Massachusetts culinary tourism attractions include:

  • Brewery Tours
  • Culinary Education
  • Culinary Events and Farm Festivals
  • Ethnic Markets and Food Production Tours
  • Farms with Restaurants and Cafés
  • Farm Tours
  • Wine and Cheese Trails
  • Winery Tours

Massachusetts residents celebrating the holidays at home can turn to a variety of local products. New England offers a bounty of local holiday staples from farm-raised turkey to Cape Cod cranberries, and, with many farmers markets and farm stands open through November, it's easy to buy the freshest local ingredients. Here are some suggestions:

 

Turkey:

Roast turkey is a central holiday entrée, and Massachusetts has 125 turkey farms from the Berkshires to Cape Cod that offer "fresh dressed" locally-raised turkeys suited for any holiday table. Local birds are raised to allow a full finish to develop when cooking, meaning there is no need to baste turkeys because they will have a natural layer of fat under their skin. In addition, many turkey farms offer turkey roasted to order, complete with gravy and stuffing. Massachusetts farmers produce approximately 62,243 turkeys annually. For information about where to purchase Massachusetts-grown turkeys, visit: http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/turkey.htm. If turkey isn't on the menu, many Massachusetts farms also offer locally-raised meat, including grass-fed beef and lamb.

Appetizers:

  • Eighteen farms around the state produce more than 75 varieties of artisan farmstead cheeses, as well as barrel-churned butter. Dairy producers make more than 600,000 pounds of cheese from goat and cow's milk, including Camembert, Blue, Cheddar, Gouda, Chevre and other cheeses. For a list of cheese producers and their products, see www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/cheese.htm.
  • Massachusetts aquaculturists offer consumers locally-raised oysters, quahogs, and other fresh shellfish for holiday festivities. Ask local retailers about the availability of Massachusetts-farmed shellfish.

Beverages:

  • Apple cider was the standard drink in Colonial America, a fact that makes cider - cold or mulled - a natural addition to the Thanksgiving table. The early summer rain this year has made for a superb apple crop and many of Massachusetts' 90 apple orchards offer cider, as well as fresh local baked goods throughout the season. Consumed in greater quantities than any other fruit juice until around 1930, cider has recently regained much of its popularity, with American consumers now drinking, on average, the equivalent of 13.2 pounds of applies in cider or juice form annually.
  • Toast the holidays with wine made with Massachusetts-grown grapes and other fruit. There are 34 wineries located across the state, producing about 200,000 gallons of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris and other varieties annually. Wines made with fruit such as cranberries, apples, raspberries, strawberries, and pears add unique local flavor. For information on Massachusetts wineries go to www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/wineries.htm.

Vegetables and Fruits:

  • Cranberries are a mainstay of the Massachusetts agricultural sector - and the main ingredient in traditional holiday staples such as relishes, sauces and breads. Massachusetts is the nation's second largest producer of cranberries, one of three commercially-grown fruits native to North America (others are Concord grapes and blueberries). Cranberries were first cultivated on Cape Cod in 1816, and the cranberry industry now supports some 5,500 jobs in Massachusetts, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association. Massachusetts produced 2.3 million barrels of cranberries in 2008, doubling 2007 production totals. For more information, go to http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/index.htm and click on "cranberries."
  • Massachusetts-grown winter squash is still abundant at roadside stands across the Commonwealth. For locations of farm stands offering varieties such as butternut, acorn, delicata, sweet dumpling and other popular winter varieties - as well as local root vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, and carrots, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown and click on "farm stands/farm markets."

Desserts

  • Visiting a farm stand (see link above) can also yield the ingredients for traditional holiday pies such as apple, pumpkin and squash. Some stands also sell pies already baked and ready to serve.
  • Top off locally-grown pies with ice cream or frozen yogurt made by Massachusetts dairy farmers. A number of farms in various regions of the state sell ice cream and frozen yogurt (as well as milk, cream and butter) direct to consumers.

Decorations:

  • In addition to late-season vegetables and fruits, Massachusetts farms and farm stands offer a variety of "fall ornamentals" for sale at this time of year. Among choices for Thanksgiving are Massachusetts-grown Indian corn, sheaves of corn stalks, miniature pumpkins and gourds.
  • Now is the time to start planning a trip to a Massachusetts Christmas tree farm, where families can choose from ready-cut trees or harvest their own. Massachusetts Christmas tree plantations help preserve open space, and often provide habitat for local wildlife. Some farms sell out in early December, so call ahead to confirm the availability of trees. For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/index.htm and click on Christmas trees.
  • Many Massachusetts Christmas tree farms also offer wreaths, swags, and centerpieces made from locally-grown evergreens.
  • Massachusetts growers produce half a million poinsettia plants annually. These harbingers of the holiday season are available in traditional red, as well as white, pink, and bi-color, from local independent garden centers, farm stands and florists.

Gifts:

  • Give the 2010 Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar, featuring photos illustrating Bay State farming selected through an annual photo contest. Calendars cost $10 and proceeds benefit Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, a non-profit organization that works with teachers to develop classroom materials. Visit the DAR web site to view the calendar and for ordering information: http://www.mass.gov/agr/events/index.htm.
  • More than 100 members of the Massachusetts Specialty Foods Association offer an array of local goods that make perfect gifts for the holidays. Available in several sizes, assortments include Massachusetts sparkling cider, fruit jams and jellies, honey, maple syrup, cranberry chutney and candies, and more. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/massgrown and click on "specialty products."