Massachusetts Celebrates Agriculture Day at the State House
BOSTON - April 7, 2011 - Governor Deval Patrick today joined hundreds of Massachusetts farmers, agricultural officials, legislators and spectators at the State House to celebrate the agricultural industry's $490 million annual contribution to the Commonwealth's economy. Massachusetts Agriculture Day is held each year to showcase agricultural products and industry achievements and to provide a forum for farmers to meet with lawmakers to discuss issues and challenges facing farming communities across the state.
"I am proud to support our agriculture industry and the people who help it to grow and thrive," said Governor Patrick. "Farms and farmers contribute to our economy, enhance our food security, keep our environment clean and help us protect open space."
From the cranberry bogs on Cape Cod to apple orchards in the Berkshires, and the garden centers in between, the Massachusetts farming industry is diverse and robust. While employing more than 14,000 workers, Massachusetts farms also provide more than 517,000 acres of open space across the Bay State.
"Massachusetts Agriculture Day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the Commonwealth's rich agricultural traditions and to bring farming community leaders and state officials together to focus on key initiatives to support farms that provide jobs and plenty of fresh and locally-grown products to our communities," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K Sullivan Jr.
Farmers participating in today's event met with their state representatives and senators to discuss the challenges they face, including the impact of budget cuts on the agricultural community and related government agencies, the importance of consistent local regulations affecting the industry and the value of recognizing small farm businesses as a vital part of Massachusetts' agricultural landscape.
State officials presented a proclamation by Governor Patrick declaring April 7, 2011 as Massachusetts Agriculture Day. Rep. Anne M. Gobi, and Marjorie Cooper and Debi Hogan from the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom program received the Agriculture Day Award in recognition of their support for the viability and sustainability of the Massachusetts agriculture industry.
Capping off the festivities was a noontime reception, known as the "Taste of Massachusetts." Farmers and specialty foods producers, including aquacultural, livestock and dairy farmers, offered participants samples of locally harvested and produced items from oysters, cranberry juice and apple pies to cheese, honey, and milk shakes.
"Massachusetts continues to be a leader on agricultural initiatives and Agriculture Day is a key venue to recognize these important environmental and economic contributions of the industry," said Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "Never before have we experienced such interest for local agriculture from so many perspectives. This raises the bar for our agricultural community to meet the increasing demand for locally-grown products."
This year, DAR committed to further increase access to healthy, locally grown food through a partnership with Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and Department of Public Health (DPH). DAR announced this week, in collaboration with DTA, Wholesome Wave Foundation, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, $50,000 in grants for equipment and support to help farmers' markets process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits used by low-income residents.
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 and pest management and encourage energy efficient farm operations.
DAR officials also featured statewide programs promoting agricultural diversification, the Commonwealth Quality Seal, the MassGrown & Fresher Initiative, Rabies Awareness Program, Backyard Poultry Initiative, Asian Long-Horned Beetle project and an effort to register businesses in the Plant Industries Project.
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.
Mollie Enright, a member of The National FFA Organization, was chosen to speak and represent youth involvement in agriculture. Enright is currently a senior Floriculture major at Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton.
Over 50 agricultural exhibitors participated in Massachusetts Agriculture Day, 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. New to the event this year was an exhibit by photographer Paul Cary Goldberg of Gloucester, who portrayed photographs of Massachusetts farms, farmers, agriculture and livestock.
Sen. Marc R. Pacheco and Rep.Gobi, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, also attended the event.
"As Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, I always look forward to joining the hundreds of members of the farming and agriculture industry during the annual Agriculture Day at the State House," said Sen. Pacheco. "Agriculture plays a major role in our state's economy, and this yearly event is a great way for members of the industry to put their expertise on display for legislators and government officials. I look forward to continuing to work with this sector of our economy as it continues to have a positive economic impact on the Commonwealth."
"I am happy to be a part of AG Day at the Statehouse," said Rep. Gobi. "It is important that we recognize the contribution of the agricultural community to not only commerce in Massachusetts but also to the historic fabric of the Commonwealth. This day is a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate the AG community."
Agriculture Day is sponsored by a cross spectrum of representatives of the Massachusetts agricultural industry with support from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census released in 2009 showed that the Massachusetts agricultural industry - made up of 7,691 farms - grew by 27 percent both in crop and livestock sales and in the total number of farms from 2002 to 2007. Data also show total direct sales from Massachusetts farms totaled $42 million in 2007, compared with $31 million in 2002. Organic sales rose to $17.5 million in 2007 from $7.8 million in 2002.
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working 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 MDAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish