BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the awarding of approximately $350,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants to 15 organizations across the Commonwealth. The block grants, which are funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), seek to support and promote specialty agricultural products through different strategies, such as a new website dedicated to marketing locally grown produce. According to the USDA, specialty crops are “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”
“The Massachusetts agricultural industry remains a vital component to local, regional, and state economies, and contained within its core is the harvesting and producing of specialty crops that are bought and sold around the world,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton. “By providing nearly $350,000 in grants, farmers, non-profit organizations, and other entities will be assisted in their pursuit to develop or build upon existing programs as they further promote specialty crops harvested within the Commonwealth.”
Specialty crops and products represent an important segment of the state’s agricultural industry. These crops include cranberries, honey, maple, and herbs. This year’s grants, which total $342,330.36 for the 15 Massachusetts organizations, are authorized by the United States Farm Bill, and range from $10,000 to $64,000.
“We are so thankful for this partnership with the USDA to provide these grants to our Massachusetts farmers and commodity associations to continue to promote locally grown food,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “I am so pleased that 15 applicants were awarded funds to continue to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts.”
The following are the grant recipients for 2017:
Recipient: Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association – Carver, MA
Project: The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association proposes to increase awareness and consumption of Massachusetts Cranberries through a series of strategic components that will leverage the value of this native fruit while quantifying the value of this region’s heirloom cranberry varieties. Marketing and promotional techniques will target, engage, and educate cranberry consumers in Massachusetts on how to use fresh fruit and the marketing potential that exists for selling heirloom cranberry products in the northeast.
Recipient: Ground Work Lawrence – Lawrence, MA
Project: Ground Work Lawrence shall increase the consumption of specialty crops by expanding efforts, harnessing new resources, and opportunities for specialty crop education and sales in Greater Lawrence. They will increase the consumption of specialty crops through new staff capacity to plant and harvest specialty crops at Costello Urban Farm which will then be sold at the Groundwork Lawrence farmers’ markets. These tasks will increase visibility, competiveness and consumption of specialty crops in Lawrence and encourage new farmers to join and benefit from increased sales.
Recipient: Lettuce Be Local – Sterling, MA
Project: Lettuce Be Local will increase the safe and secure distribution of locally-grown specialty crops by expanding accessibility and knowledge of local food through education, aggregation, and transportation. This project will further develop the promotion of specialty crops by connecting existing farm production to new market opportunities.
Recipient: Mass Agriculture in the Classroom – Marlborough, MA
Project: Mass Agriculture in the Classroom will create a model with the Auburn Public Schools that expands access to and consumption of specialty crops required in the National School Lunch Program. The project will address the needs of the whole child through Social and Emotional Learning by teaming up with educators and school nutrition professionals.
Recipient: Mass Farm to School Project – Amherst, MA
Project: Massachusetts Farm to School will increase the competitiveness of locally grown specialty crops by supporting local specialty crop procurement, promotion, and education at early education and care sites throughout the Commonwealth. The project will encourage the preference for, and facilitate sales of, locally grown specialty crops by introducing and promoting these products within early education and care (EEC) settings. These settings include preschools, child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start/Early Head Start, and early education programs within K – 12 school districts.
Recipient: Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers’ Association – Ludlow, MA
Project: Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers’ Association will focus on the optimization of Massachusetts wine production, and the optimization of the Tasting Room experience, where consumers interact directly with winery owners. Develop educational components to increase farm winery knowledge to entice consumers to “Fall in Love with Massachusetts Wine” and to experience a meaningful connection to local agriculture and community through the tasting and purchase of Massachusetts wines.
Recipient: Massachusetts Flower Growers Association – Bedford, MA
Project: Massachusetts Flower Growers Association will focus and grow the number of non- gardeners, beginners and young children populations to increase sales of specialty crops.
Recipient: Northeast Organic Farming Association – Barre, MA
Projects: Northeast Organic Farming Association will build a reliable, thorough, affordable and ultimately self-funding consulting service for specialty crops farmers, gardeners, and urban growers of Massachusetts, enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crop production while also building soil health long-term throughout the state.
Recipient: Nuestra Raices, Inc. – Holyoke, MA
Project: Nuestras Races will boost consumption of and access to healthy, locally-grown specialty crops for low-income Latino residents via a Mobile Market, offering produce at affordable prices in locations convenient to the residents, while benefitting farmers with increased sales and market access.
Recipient: Regional Environmental Council – Worcester, MA
Project: The Regional Environmental Council will increase access to local foods through farmers markets (including a mobile market) in Worcester, MA and increase produce sales and number of customers by promoting the new Healthy Incentives Program (HIP).
Recipient: Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts – Cambridge, MA
Project: This program aims to overcome barriers to specialty crop integration by improving the viability, sustainability, and profitability of the Massachusetts and New England specialty crop food industry. The intention is to enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts and New England specialty crop products by eliminating barriers faced by specialty crop producers, fostering an environment for the economic growth of the specialty crop industry.
Recipient: Third Sector New England/New Entry Sustainable Farming – Lowell, MA
Project: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s specialty crop education project aims to work with small and beginning farmers to encourage crop specialization and to scale production quantities of specialty crops for wholesale markets that require higher volumes, consistency, and food safety compliance. We will research and focus on up to five unique specialty crops in demand by local farm-to-institution and wholesale buyers to develop a comprehensive crop production manual for these crops.
Recipient: University of Massachusetts, Amherst – Amherst, MA
Project: Research the biological control of plant parasitic nematodes in golf greens with natural enemies. Positive results may also facilitate the expansion of the use of Pasteuria for nematode control in other crops where they are troublesome, particularly vegetables and small fruits.
Recipient: MDAR Technical Resource – Boston, MA
Project: The project will increase specialty crops by providing technical assistance resources specific to product development including food safety training for value-added products. Massachusetts Department of Agriculture will work with a planning team of external specialty crop stakeholders to assess the Manual and update and expand as needed, including the integration of new regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”).
Recipient: MDAR GAP/GHP– Boston, MA
Project: Massachusetts Department of Agriculture will provide direct assistance to Massachusetts Specialty Crop Growers by reimbursing the costs associated with the Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP) or Harmonized audits. The proposed initiative would lessen the financial burden of the grower and would allow these farms to continue to access those channels.
“This fall I was fortunate enough to get a firsthand look at the cranberry industry in the Commonwealth and was incredibly impressed by the work those farmers are doing. I have also been a longtime supporter of Mass Farm to School and the amazing work they do connecting schools with local farmers to increase access to healthy foods. I am incredibly happy to see the cranberry industry, Mass Farm to School, and all the other fantastic organizations receive this grant money,” said State Representative William Pignatelli (D-Lenox), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “These Specialty Crop Block Grants will go a long way in supporting the agricultural industry here in Massachusetts and I want to thank the USDA, MDAR and the Baker-Polito Administration for providing almost $350,000 in grant money to 15 recipients.”
“Congratulations to the Northeast Organic Farming Association in Barre and thank you to the Baker-Polito Administration for their continued support for our local farmers,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “With over 7,500 farms in Massachusetts, there is no question that they are a critical part of the fabric of this state.”
“Fresh fruits and vegetables are critical for a healthy diet and Nuestra Raices has been a driving force for that message for over 25 years,” said State Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield). “This grant funding will assist Nuestra Raices in expanding access to their specialty crops and their continued effort to cultivate a growing community of people in and around Holyoke who value fresh, local produce and support the people who take the time to grow it.”
“I am thankful for the support from MDAR. It is exciting to see the State support for the great work Nuestra Raices is doing in the community to address access to healthy food,” said State Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke). “It’s equally exciting to see the support for our local farmers. People don’t often think of farming when they think of Holyoke yet we have a rich culture here with deep roots in freeing and we workmen to expand that.”
—Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
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