For Immediate Release - August 30, 2011

State Agricultural Resources Department Receives USDA Grant for Expanding Availability of Farm Fresh Foods in Urban Markets

BOSTON - August 30, 2011 - The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) today announced it has received a $13,625 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to explore ways to effectively make local, farm-fresh products available in Boston's urban neighborhoods.

The goal of the grant, which was awarded to DAR in cooperation with the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, is to study how to move agricultural products from farms and wholesale markets to urban corner stores while meeting the preferences and requirements of producers, store owners and target consumers.

The grant is one of 25 grants the USDA awarded to 19 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to help create economic opportunities for American producers and businesses.

Through the study Identifying Farm Barriers to Wholesale Distribution of Fresh Produce to Inner-City Corner Stores, DAR will work to develop a deeper understanding of customer interest by identifying the types of fruits and vegetables most likely to be purchased at urban convenience stores. By identifying customer preference, the study aims to provide wholesale produce farms with insight into how to improve their marketability as produce suppliers to Boston neighborhood corner stores.

"Bringing more fresh fruits and vegetables to urban neighborhoods brings more healthy, locally-grown foods to more people and gives our farmers a bigger market to sell to and supporting our agricultural economy ," said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "Establishing distribution channels for Massachusetts produce to residents of the city of Boston also makes it possible for urban retailers to diversify their selection of products."

Under its Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), the USDA matches $1.3 million worth of state grants to state departments of agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other appropriate state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the marketing system.

"FSMIP provides our state partners with matching funds to explore new and innovative approaches to marketing U.S. food and agricultural products," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "USDA supports state and local projects ranging from research to retail to ensure that quality American products are marketed efficiently and effectively."

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 www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/#!/MDARCommish.

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