Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Announces Grants to Promote Massachusetts Specialty Crops

For immediate release:
  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Grants to Promote Massachusetts Specialty Crops

Katie Gronendyke,

Boston — The Baker-Polito Administration, in conjunction with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has awarded 11 grants totaling $377,000 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.

“With the financial support of USDA, and the work of our local non-profit partners, these grant projects will help to expand and improve the marketing value of a variety of Massachusetts specialty crops,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through obtaining this funding, our administration continues to support Commonwealth’s vibrant agriculture industry, which provides fresh, healthy food for our state’s residents.”

“By further developing our local agricultural sector, we are helping facilitate a push towards buying local, which keeps Massachusetts citizens healthy and boosts our economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our administration is proud to provide opportunities for small growers across the Commonwealth to increase the competitiveness of their product and increase access to fresh foods to citizens in every municipality.”

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 (DAR). 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.

“For Massachusetts farmers, keeping their products relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace is essential,” said Energy and Environment Secretary (EEA) Matthew Beaton. "Receiving this funding from USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program allows us to maintain and encourage farming and food production in the Commonwealth.”

“DAR is pleased to assist our agricultural partners in promoting Massachusetts specialty crops. This grant program is a commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems,” said DAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “I’m confident the projects selected will accomplish the goal of expanding market opportunities, making the Commonwealth’s farmers and their products more competitive in the marketplace.”

“The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association is very appreciative of this necessary funding aimed at enhancing Massachusetts cranberry growers’ sustainability by providing accurate and timely diagnosis of cranberry plant health,” said Brian Wick, Executive Director. “With emerging disease pressure, it is essential to cranberry producers across the Commonwealth to establish tools for readily identifying these organisms, laying the foundation for a robust and marketable cranberry crop.”


Grant Awardees

Recipient: Ascentria Community Services - Worcester, MA
Grant: $45,000



Area of Focus: Enhancement of Food Safety/Food Security

Goal/Objective: Improve the competitiveness of specialty crops among socially disadvantaged populations in Central and Western Massachusetts through facilitation of effective distribution channels, and by providing marketing training for minority growers, to increase the volume of local, ethnic crops available for purchase.


Recipient: Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association -  Carver,  MA
Grant: $50,000

Area of Focus: Plant Pest and Disease Control

Goal/Objective: Enhance cranberry grower viability by providing accurate and timely diagnosis of cranberry plant pathogens, initially focusing on two new virus diseases confirmed in MA; ensure a rapid and effective response to emerging cranberry diseases; streamline diagnostics for fruit rot pathogens; and establish the foundation for disease-free certification program for cranberry planting material. Methods developed in this project will readily transfer to other cranberry growing regions throughout the United States.


Recipient: Community Involved in Sustaining Ag, Inc. - South Deerfield, MA
Grant: $19,476.80

Area of Focus: Agricultural Education and Outreach

Goal/Objective:  Develop consumer-friendly PLU tags, coupled with consumer-friendly electronic content, to increase consumer awareness about local Massachusetts specialty crops—including the farm and farmer who produced the crop—thereby increasing demand. Educate specialty crop wholesale farmers about best-practices in consumer friendly content and support farmers in developing and maintaining that content in the first year.


Recipient: Groundwork Lawrence, Inc. - Lawrence, MA
Grant: $20,000

Area of Focus:  Nutrition Education and Consumption

Goal/Objective: Building upon Groundwork Lawrence’s existing “Healthy Food Access Programs” work in partnership with local farmers, educators and the City, to increase fresh food access in bodegas and to provide nutrition education to students and residents of Lawrence. Help the city’s mainly Latino immigrants culturally adapt to New England’s growing season and harvest and create a more direct link between small farms and consumers.


Recipient: Massachusetts Farm to School Project, LLC -  Amherst, MA 01002
Grant: $37,440.16

Area of Focus: Nutrition Education and Consumption

Goal/Objective: Facilitate an increase in the amount of Massachusetts specialty crops purchased by schools and other institutions by increasing market access to summer food service programs and promoting in-season purchasing and preservation of specialty crops for year-round use.


Recipient: MA Nursery & Landscape Association , Inc. – Conway, MA
Grant: $35,500

Area of Focus: Agricultural Education and Outreach

Goal/Objective: Develop an online library of resources and information for a three-pronged “Plant Something MA: Get Dirty!” campaign, targeting people with beginner (“New to Dirt”), intermediate, (“A Little Dirty”) and expert (“Living Dirty”) experience levels. Utilize new online resource library to implement the “Plant Something MA…Get Dirty!” campaign through the MNLA website and social media outlets. Raise awareness of Plant something MA through a radio ad campaign and articles in local new outlets.


Recipient: New England Apple Association – Hatfield, MA
Grant: $28,500

Area of Focus: Agricultural Education and Outreach

Goal/Objective: Increase demand for Cortland and McIntosh apples, especially during the winter months, and increase average wholesale prices by 10 percent, from approximately $18.00 to $20.00 per 42-pound box, and to develop a premium price of $25.00 per box for Jonagold.


Recipient: Northeast Organic Farming Association – Barre, MA
Grant: $57,463.20

Area of Focus: Organic and Sustainable Production Practices

Goal/Objective: Over the course of a three year project, test approaches to revitalizing compost-based urban soils through targeted re-mineralization and cocktail cover-cropping, conduct soil and tissue testing to monitor soil safety, and host workshops and trainings to guide Boston area farmers through long-lasting urban soil management for improved specialty crops production. Distribute best practice information to an ever-growing community of urban specialty crops growers through an informational resource made available via the NOFA website and discussed in NOFA publications, eblasts, and newsletters.


Recipient: The Sustainable Business Network – Cambridge, MA
Grant: $10,000

Area of Focus: Trade Enhancements/Innovations

Goal/Objective: SBN strives to connect local specialty crop producers and buyers throughout the year. This will be accomplished through the Local Specialty Crop Trade Show, educational workshops and post trade show Matchmaking event. The mission of the trade show and matchmaking event is to offer opportunities for specialty crop growers to network and establish business leads, which may develop into business transactions and partnerships. Buyers will gain contacts and opportunities that will enhance their own delivery of healthy, local food.


Recipient: The Third Sector/New Entry Sustainable Farming Project – Lowell, MA
Grant: $25,000

Area of Focus: Agricultural Education and Outreach

Goal/Objective:  Provide training and the needed “on-the-ground” technical assistance and personalized coaching support to 80+ small-scale and beginning specialty crop farmers who are direct-marketing and looking to expand to institutional markets that require greater levels of crop quality, consistency, food safety compliance and insurance coverage. Help these producers understand, apply, and improve specialty crop production, harvest, post-harvest, and food safety practices on their farms, thereby improving market access and increasing overall farm profitability.


Recipient: University of Massachusetts, Amherst – Amherst, MA
Grant: $49,027

Area of Focus: Plant Pest and Disease Control

Goal/Objective: Increase yield and profitability of cucurbit production on conventional and organic farms in MA and throughout the Northeast. Increase grower knowledge of cucurbit disease biology and effective management. Improve understanding of economic impacts of diseases and management on cucurbit production and profitability. Increase grower use of resistant cultivars and alternative fungicides with lower impacts on the environment and honeybees in particular.



“I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration, the USDA, Secretary Beaton, and Commissioner Lebeaux for selecting Community Involved in Sustaining Ag, Inc. and MA Nursery & Landscape Association to receive these grant monies,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington). “This important funding will go a long way in helping local farmers promote their specialty crops and educate consumers on how to plant, grow, and purchase healthy food for their families. In turn, this will help bolster demand for locally grown fresh, nutritious crops and the buy local movement.”

“Congratulations to the Northeast Organic Farming Association on their receipt of theses grant monies from the Baker-Polito Administration and the USDA,” said State Representative Berthiaume (R-Spencer). “This funding will continue to benefit the already vibrant farming community in Central Massachusetts.”

“It is wonderful to see opportunities for new and varied crops to help with sustainable food security,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “This grant will help the Kittredege and Rawson family and NOFA in continuing their important agricultural mission.”


Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Grants to Promote Massachusetts Specialty Crops

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs 

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs seeks to protect, preserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s environmental resources while ensuring a clean energy future for the state’s residents. Through the stewardship of open space, protection of environmental resources, and enhancement of clean energy, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs works tirelessly to make Massachusetts a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.