DIGHTON, MA – On Wednesday, July 26, the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) led Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner Ashley Randle and staff, alongside State Representatives Paul Schmid, Steven Howitt and Norman Orrall, on a tour of local farms in Berkley, Dighton and Rehoboth.
“Coming to Southeastern Massachusetts is always a pleasure and something we look forward to every year,” said Commissioner Randle. “Talking with farmers and hearing what their goals are and their aspirations, and how we can best support them to further increase local food staying in Massachusetts, is something that’s really exciting to me.”
The group visited Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton, Heart Beets Farm and Rodrigues Farm in Berkley, and Dufort Farms in Rehoboth, discussing a number of issues facing local producers. Two major concerns are land access, with the high cost of land in Massachusetts creating barriers for both new farms and families in generational transition, and increased deer populations, which has led to severe crop loss over the past several years.
Steve Murray, farmer at Heart Beets Farm, spoke of why it’s so important for both the state and the public to understand the needs of local farmers. “There is this disconnect in Massachusetts saying, ‘we want local farmers, we want local food,’ but we do not necessarily have the support needed to thrive as local food producers. Hopefully we can find a way to close that gap, making it so the people who are working on farms can have a good life.”
SEMAP is a Buy Local organization, providing business assistance to farmers and farmworkers across Bristol, Plymouth and Norfolk counties, including financial management tips, business support, and marketing and social media assistance. They also educate consumers on the benefits of local farms and local food, why local farms are important, and where to find them.