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Archive for category: Press Release

A Message from the Director, February 2019

February 3, 2019

Winter is anything but our quiet season here at SEMAP. From our annual appeal in November right through to Farm to Tapas in the summer we have lively time planning and implementing our various initiatives and events.  On Saturday we had a very successful workshop on growing hemp, and just a few short weeks away is the 12th Annual Ag & Food Conference coming up on February 24th, 2019.  We have also been taking some time to look into legislative issues. With the new session just beginning, please reach out to your representatives if you see a bill that you support. If you are not certain who your legislators are, this tool will tell you. With many bills filed on similar subjects, it’s always helpful to name the specific bill number when contacting your legislators. Here is a list of the bills we think you should be aware of:

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Elliot Farm Develops Low-Cost Laser Scarecrow for Bird Damage to Sweet Corn

November 12, 2018

Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren, Creative Commons 2.0

November 7, 2018

LAKEVILLE, MASSACHUSETTS — For the past 25 years, family-owned Elliot Farm in Lakeville, MA has provided southeastern Massachusetts with quality, native produce. The 50-acre family farm grows mixed vegetables, beefsteak tomatoes, and specializes in sweet corn. Elliot Farm’s roadside farm stand is open seasonally 7 days a week, and also offers a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program.  Founder Kenneth Elliot, 60, has been farming for over 40 years and welcomed his two children into the family business at the ripe ages of 10 and 8, now 34 and 33.  Now, as proud co-owners, the siblings are determined to keep agriculture in their community for generations to come.

Unfortunately, sweet corn crop damage from red-winged blackbirds is threatening the viability of Elliot Farm and hurting other farms across the region. Despite tremendous efforts to keep these pests at bay, including balloons, bird distress calls, bird repellent, reflecting tape, and netting, in 2016 season, Elliot Farm lost 80% of its sweet corn crop during the height of bird season, roughly mid-July through mid-October, estimated at $18,000 in lost product.

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An Update on the 2018 Cranberry Crop

October 17, 2018

By: Brian Wick, Executive Director, Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association

The 2018 Massachusetts cranberry harvest is forecasted to be a good crop. With the warm fall, many growers held off starting harvest, waiting to attain the minimum color levels that most handlers require. As a result, the harvest is a little behind what is considered “normal”, although, with the ever-changing climatic conditions in the region, it’s becoming harder to determine what normal is. With the rains and humidity that inundated the region in the late summer and continuing into the fall, fruit quality remains a concern. So far, deliveries have been good in quantity but some quality issues have popped up. This may be more of a case of growers bringing in their problematic beds before they get worse and not necessarily a trend for the season. Read more →

Director’s Message – September 2018

September 7, 2018

This summer saw SEMAP and the Livestock Institute of Southern New England’s 4th Annual Farm to Tapas – our most successful to date. Farm to Tapas celebrates the fruitful bounty of our region with splendid local dishes prepared by local chefs under the sea breezes of South Dartmouth and this year held at Barneys Joy Creek Farm graciously hosted by Kissy Russell. Guests, farmers, chefs, sponsors, and volunteers – thank you for your support – we really felt the love!  Be sure to check out the fun we had – SouthCoast Today’s photos are here!

September brings us to the nominal end of the season, certainly for the tourists’ draw to the Southcoast and the changing schedules the school year brings, but the corn and tomatoes still dominate and fall greens and winter root crops are just around the corner.  It’s the last of the tomatoes – get them while you can – and we have some prizewinners in Southeastern Massachusetts.  Winners at the 34th Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest include Langwater Farm in Easton, C&C Reading Farm in West Bridgewater, Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, and Under the Sun in Dighton.  Although the season is winding down the flavor is still superb.  Check out SEMAP’s Farmers Market page and MDAR’s MassGrown map for more yummy options to buy.  It’s the most delicious part of the year.

We are excited about our recent work with local fibers with the development of the Southeastern New England Fibershed.  We are looking for opportunities to connect farmers to processors and increase the economic potential of fiber farming for both plant and animal fibers.   We hosted a “Wool Pool” with Bartlett Yarns at Bristol Aggie at the end of June, collecting sheep’s wool from multiple farms into one pickup to garner a better price per pound for our local farmers.  We also had a fabulous workshop with Shelley and Chris Riley of Golden Touch Farm and the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool.  There is much potential with fiber production given the increasing awareness of the damage synthetic fiber causes to the environment, the abysmal labor practices in many countries and the economic potential of producing fiber locally – all synergies with our local food movement a decade ago.  We are excited to explore how this might develop.  Watch for more fiber workshops in the next year, including raising animals, growing plant-based fibers and a focus on hemp production; a late June Wool Pool pick up and a winter workshop on Hemp production.  Let us know if you are interested in different fiber topics.

Five years have rolled around again and congress is taking up the 2018 Farm Bill.  Agriculture certainly hasn’t been exempt from partisan politics.  The Senate got kudos for putting together a sensible document but the House was lambasted for a highly controversial version.  Now the two versions are in the conference committee to resolve the differences.  This committee includes Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.  We have a stronger voice with the Representative’s participation on this committee and input from the region will give him a stronger mandate to make changes.  More information about the 2018 Farm Bill can be found at FarmAid and NOFA Mass’ policy update.

While the highly successful Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) is a state effort, the safety net Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, and formerly called Food Stamps) comprises about 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s budget. About 20 percent of the rest is for commodity crops, crop insurance and conservation programs like reserves, easements, and the working lands programs.  A small one percent funds programs that are especially useful to farmers here in Southeastern Massachusetts – the organic program, farmers market support, marketing, and beginning farmer training. The House version is a threat to National Organic Standards.

Enjoy the shorter, and hopefully cooler, days ahead. We hope to see you at one of SEMAP’s Twilight Grower workshops this fall.

Karen Schwalbe
Executive Director






Director’s Message – July 2018

July 23, 2018

SEMAP has been deeply concerned about a recent decision made by the USDA that has a profound impact on our most vulnerable population.  An incentive program that supports access to fresh local food for SNAP* clients changed contractors with a domino effect that puts Massachusetts’ highly successful Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) at risk, leaving our farmers and farmers markets without a way to process electronic transactions for these incentive programs.  For some farmers, it will eliminate their ability to process credit and debit transactions as well.

When a bureaucratic decision has such a devastating local effect it is staggering – especially when the notification comes, for the majority of our local organizations, through a  Washington Post article.  It exposes the vulnerability of our food system to technological and administrative decisions at the Federal level and shows the need for local resiliency and solutions based close to the heart of our communities.

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