Director’s Message – January 2018

The weather whiplash we have been experiencing has forced farmers to new extremes in protecting crops and livestock.  While we may wish it wasn’t the case, the climate impacts on agriculture and our food supply, both locally and nationwide, are continuing to increase and farm viability is at risk.  The extremes of temperature and rainfall harm crops and reduce yield, and many weeds, fungi and pests thrive under warmer conditions.  Increased CO2 might potentially increase plant growth, but only if other basic conditions of water, nutrients, and temperature are met.  Buying local, and engaging with our vibrant farming community are the excellent ways to support our long-term regional food security.

Winter is a great time to get out to meet your local farmers.  In these quiet winter months, the bulk of this season’s work has yet to begin and farmers are more accessible.  SEMAP’s Winter Networking meetings are a perfect opportunity to talk to your local farmer or a potential buyer, meet new faces in the Southeastern Mass region, and learn about SEMAP’s educational opportunities and programs.  We have spread the meetings around our three-county region and we hope to see you at a Networking meeting near you!

There is still time to get in on our reduced early registration pricing for the 11th Annual Ag & Food Conference on February 25th at Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton.  Don’t miss this day filled with new ideas, resources and how-tos for farmers, foodies and homesteaders.  We have a children’s track so bring the family along.  There are still Conference sponsorship opportunities available! Please contact me if you have any questions.

Despite the muddy waters of Federal regulations, Massachusetts’ regulations do allow personal use and cultivation of marijuana.  The Cannabis Control Commission is making decisions regarding Cannabis cultivation and now is the time to give input on the process.  Listening sessions are being held across the state and there are several in Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and the Islands.  Find out more here.  The Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council is working toward “Craft Grower Coop” regulations for farmers to work cooperatively.

Hemp was also included when the voters approved the Marijuana Referendum in November 2016 and legalized under House Bill 3818.  Hemp is statutorily recognized as an agricultural product and regulatory authority for its cultivation will be under the control of the Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources.  More information will be available in the spring.

SEMAP will be offering Produce Safety training in conjunction with UMass Extension and the Mass Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) on March 20th.  It is one way to satisfy the Food Security Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule requirement.

MDAR and the Commonwealth Quality Program are committed to working in partnership with our regional farms to improve their produce safety, provide technical assistance, and reduce farm liability.  If you are uncertain whether FSMA applies to your farm or not, check out our November article from Produce Safety Coordinator – Education, Research & Outreach Alexandra Hachem from MDAR.  If you have particular concerns about a practice on your farm, whether the FSMA ruling applies to your farm or not, contact Alex about a free technical assistance visit for advice.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns!

Warmly,
Karen

Karen Schwalbe
Executive Director
kschwalbe@semaponline.org

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