BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $108,266 in grants to five projects through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Urban Agriculture Program to support growing the emerging urban agriculture sector and provide city residents access to fresh food. The Urban Agriculture Program is tasked with leveraging collective resources, supporting commercial projects, advancing policies that are all designed to increase the production, processing, and marketing of produce grown in urban centers across the Commonwealth.
“Urban farming has an opportunity to play a major role in the healthy food options available in Massachusetts communities,” said Governor Charlie Baker.“Our administration is proud to support the Urban Agriculture Program and the anticipated economic and environmental benefits that urban farming initiatives will bring to residents of the Commonwealth.”
“Supporting urban and community farming is an important step towards ensuring that all residents of the Commonwealth can have access to fresh, affordable food,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “These grants provide our municipal and community partners the tools they need to continue producing the highest quality food while utilizing the newest farming innovations.”
MDAR launched an Urban Agriculture Program to support the emerging urban agriculture sector in early 2014. As of today, the Urban Agriculture Program has released five rounds of funding which have provided support for over 45 urban agriculture projects and facilitated four state-wide urban agriculture conferences, attracting hundreds of practitioners, advocates, and policy makers.
“Urban farming is an important economic driver in communities that can use it most, providing jobs that support fresh, locally grown food,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to ensuring the future of Massachusetts urban farming by promoting local and youth engagement in sustaining our food supply through grassroots efforts.”
“These grants will assist urban agricultural enterprises whose projects range from soil fertility improvements, transforming vacant parcels into farming sites, and improving existing infrastructure,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux.
Urban agriculture ranges from traditional in-ground growing and rooftop farms, to aquaponics, greenhouses and freight farms. The local food movement is taking root in neighborhoods, especially where vacant land or buildings are available and fresh food is hard to find. Past funded projects have reached communities including Holyoke, Springfield, Lowell, Lawrence, Salem, Boston and Somerville.
The successful demonstration of these projects has ranged from expanding production space, creation of innovative aquaponics and hydroponics facilities and investment in market opportunities within under-served communities.
The current awardees’ listing is as follows:
City of Boston, – $ 40,000
To increase the capacity of Boston’s urban farming network, the City of Boston will utilize funds to transform five small vacant parcels of land into “turn-key” agricultural sites. Infrastructure improvements such as removal of debris and rubble, installation of fencing, raised beds and purchase and distribution of new soil will transform these neglected sites into productive growing spaces.
Groundwork Somerville – $9,000
Groundwork Somerville will utilize their award to implement soil fertility improvements at their South St. Farms and install innovative structures to create vertical growing spaces. Funding will also be used to outfit their greenhouse with irrigation and heat retention systems, as well cold frames for season extension.
Mill City Grows, Lowell – $40,000
Mill City Grows will utilize their funding to expand their farm enterprise and delivery capacity. $40,000 will purchase a 4WD pickup truck with towing capacity, a small delivery vehicle, new cold storage for farm crops and a small trailer, with greater “accessibility” for their mobile markets. The investment will increase produce distribution to low income and low-mobility populations as well as wholesale markets in low income communities.
The Trust for Public Land, Boston – $10,800
TPL will use their $10,800 to purchase and install a 245 lineal ft. perimeter fence. The fence installation is a critical component to the long term success of producing food and maintaining a farm in the Tommy’s Rock neighborhood.
Urban Farming Institute, Boston – $ 8,466.64
The funds awarded to UFI will support their Farmer Training program with the purchase of a laptop computer for market management, crop documentation and administrative duties. They have effectively utilized past grant awards by consistently increasing production and marketing access within the urban communities where their farm sites are located.
“Cities are at the forefront of innovation, and that includes urban agriculture,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. “I thank the Baker Administration for their support, and look forward to Boston creating more opportunities for residents through the urban farming network.”
“Supporting our commonwealth’s growing urban agriculture sector is essential to providing residents with fresh and healthy food options, while boosting economic sustainability,” said State Senator Eileen M. Donoghue (D-Lowell). “This grant funding will allow Mill City Grows to continue its incredibly successful work in distributing nutritious foods to low income individuals and families throughout the City of Lowell.”
“I am pleased to see the City of Boston and the Commonwealth partner to facilitate farm access and expansion capabilities for farmers in communities of color,” said State Representative Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain). “Land acquisition and preparation costs are two of the biggest barriers to entry in urban farming, which means MDAR’s grants to the City of Boston, Trust for Public Land and Urban Farming Institute are major wins for food justice and economic development.”
“Urban agriculture is a growing industry which provides healthy, local food sources and creates innovative jobs in urban communities across our state,” said State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester). “These grants provided by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources will help further urban agriculture in Boston and provide greater economic opportunity and food choices for residents across the City.”
“These grants will not only provide access to healthy, fresh, local sourced produce to underserved communities, but also promotes and develops new industry in our local economies while encouraging new green space,” said State Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop).
MDAR’s goals have been to increase and sustain the capacity of urban agriculture to provide tangible, measurable benefits to residents in urban centers which include: increased access to healthy fresh food, improved public health, entrepreneurial opportunities, job training & youth employment, and community revitalization.
–Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
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