For Immediate Release - June 15, 2011

Massachusetts Agricultural Officials Announce First Participants for Commonwealth Quality Seal Program (CQP)

Initiative helps consumers identify fresh, Massachusetts-produced, sustainable agricultural products

CONCORD - June 15, 2011 - Reflecting a growing national focus on locally produced food, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares today announced the first farms certified under the state's Commonwealth Quality seal program (CQP), a new state initiative designed to help consumers identify high-quality products that are responsibly produced, harvested and processed in Massachusetts.

Gathered at Verrill Farm in Concord, state agricultural officials, University of Massachusetts Extension Center for Agriculture (UMass Extension) educators and local farms also provided new details about the food safety standards CQP products must meet. Based upon the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Program, the sustainability standards adapted for CQP include practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which reduces the use of pesticides and provides an ecological approach to crop management.

"This program provides a unique opportunity for our agricultural community to exhibit its commitment to excellence, while offering consumers assurance that they are purchasing high-quality products from local growers," said Commissioner Soares.

Comprised of a combination of industry best management practices pertaining to soil health, water conservation, insect control, and food safety, these specialized standards serve as a prerequisite for farms certified to sell products using the Commonwealth Quality seal. There are currently 20 farms certified to participate in the program, which has endorsements from the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers' Association and the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association.

Launched in September 2010, the program has been gaining ground with prominent trade organizations and Massachusetts farms alike. More than 50 farms have applied for certification.

To become licensed to use the seal, applicants must perform a self-audit to determine their current level of eligibility and make improvements as needed before achieving certification through DAR. Agricultural goods also must be grown, harvested and processed within Massachusetts in order to qualify. As additional agricultural sectors come on board, each will have its own domain-specific set of standards that focus on safety and sustainability.

"The Commonwealth Quality seal takes the guesswork out of determining what it means for a product to be 'local' or 'sustainable'; it signifies that the associated product has been grown on a Massachusetts farm using approved practices for growing, harvesting, and handling," said Steve Verrill, owner of Verrill Farm and Commonwealth Quality advisor. "The program promotes these practices by offering continuing education for participants, with emphasis on continuously improving sustainability, food safety, and soil conservation."

"The Seal of Commonwealth Quality provides assurance to our customers that food safety and environmental stewardship are practiced daily on our local farms," said Dr. Rich Bonanno, president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. "We are proud to announce our endorsement of the program."

Commonwealth Quality establishes a clearly defined set of standards for program participants. This highly structured program and the collaboration behind it represent a significant advancement over traditional state label programs. As a result, consumers will be able to easily identify and enjoy certified products, knowing they are grown, harvested and processed in Massachusetts using practices that are safe and environmentally friendly.

For more information about Commonwealth Quality, visit mass.gov/cqp.

The following farms are certified Commonwealth Quality producers:

  • Allandale Farm, Brookline
  • Billingsgate Farm, Plympton
  • Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield
  • C.N. Smith Farm, East Bridgewater
  • Cooks Valley Farm, Wrentham
  • Davidian Brothers, Northborough
  • Dowse Orchards, Sherborn
  • Foppema's Farm, Northbridge
  • Four Town Farm, Seekonk
  • Mann Orchards, Methuen
  • Morning Sun Farm, Rehoboth
  • Parlee Farms, Tyngsboro
  • Pease Orchard, Templeton
  • Pleasant Valley Gardens, Methuen
  • Springdell Farm, Littleton
  • The Farm Stand, Colrain
  • The Farmer's Garden, Rehoboth
  • Verrill Farm, Concord
  • Volante Farms, Needham
  • Wilson Farm, Lexington

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 DAR's website at mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/#!/MDARCommish.

###



Follow Secretary Sullivan on Twitter:twitter.com/masseea
View videos on You Tube:youtube.com/masseea
View downloadable photographs on Flickr:flickr.com/photos/masseea/sets/
Visit the Energy Smarts blog:mass.gov/blog/energy
Visit The Great Outdoors blog:mass.gov/blog/environment
Visit our website:mass.gov/eea