I am excited to be hired as the new Executive Director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership. I realize it’s the traditional thing to say, but when I have such a tapestry of farms and diverse array of farmers across the region to work with, it is amazingly true. After the first six weeks on the job, talking to farmers across Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth counties, I have begun the groundwork necessary to represent and promote farming and local food production in our part of the state. I can see the diversity of needs and levels of experience.
I bring to the job a passion for agriculture as well as 25 years of organizational experience. Working for non-profit scientific organizations, I have a diverse array of management skills and a ‘big picture’ understanding of agriculture and the environment in a global context. On the home front, I raise Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk and show, run a livestock 4-H group, have nine years’ under my belt on the Falmouth Agricultural Commission, sit on the board of the Barnstable County Agricultural Society and helped re-establish the Falmouth Farmers’ Market all of which help me to appreciate the needs of farmers across many scales.
My immediate goal is to connect with as many of you as I can this winter to understand each other and what will support local food and sustainable farming in Southeastern Massachusetts. Please, if you have something to share, reach out and let me know. I would be happy to come visit your farm or retail operation to learn about what you need and about how SEMAP can help – whether you are a SEMAP member or not, (though of course we hope you will support us through membership). Each success strengthens the farming community as a whole.
I understand some of the barriers to successful farming: access to affordable land, finding suitable help, capitalization, and creating a sustainable life-work balance. Through further conversations, I’m sure more will be defined. Farming has economic challenges and between weather and markets is unpredictable. My priority is to identify areas where we can provide farmer support through our current programs and with initiatives in development. We will continue our excellent offerings: the Twilight Workshop Series; Winter Networking Series; the Ag & Food Conference (February 28th); communicate legislative concerns both ways; and produce our widely circulated Local Food Guide.
SEMAP is stronger with involvement from our supporters. We need your input, to hear from you about how we can better support local food and sustainable farming in our counties. Come to our Ag & Food Conference, participate in a Twilight meeting, join us at our Farm to Tapas event, introduce us to other community partners…and of course please become a member. We have strength in numbers. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller.
All of you, as supporters and members, are part of the partnership that is SEMAP, and I am honored to represent you. I am looking forward to being on the road, working alongside many of you and hearing your experiences and ideas in the coming year. Please join us to support and sustain agriculture in the Southeastern Massachusetts region.
– Karen Schwalbe