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.