Director’s Message – February 2018

With a whiff of spring in the air and plants again filling greenhouses, it’s also time for SEMAP’s Ag & Food Conference.  A full day of workshops – 30 different ones to choose from – and an exciting keynote by Irene Li of Mei Mei in Boston talking about local sourcing for her incredibly popular restaurant.  Held at the Bristol County Agricultural High School, we have the amenities for some really exciting workshops – think indigo dying, basic beekeeping, winter greenhouse growing and cut flower production.  We hope you will join us this Sunday, February 25th at Bristol County Agricultural High School.

The late winter is turning out to be busy, not only for farmers but agriculture overall.  There are a series of “Listening Sessions” for the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program.

Implemented by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), this program helps preserve farmland by paying farmers the difference between the “fair market value” and the “agricultural value” of their farmland, in exchange for a permanent deed restriction (which prevents uses that have a negative impact on agricultural viability).  After 40 years in operation MDAR is holding public meetings to hear recommendations and policy considerations to meet the current and future needs of farmers and address issues that have arisen with putting agricultural land under permanent restriction. The listening session will be held Wednesday, February 28, 5:30 – 7:00 PM at the Middleborough Public Library, 102 North Main St., Middleborough, MA. With all that has been happening regarding the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program in the SouthCoast, I hope farmers will participate.

One of the most popular programs for improving access to locally grown food by underserved communities, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), has exceeded expectations, providing almost $3 million in fresh fruits and veggies to SNAP families.  The Healthy Incentives Program provides a dollar for dollar match for SNAP dollars spent on fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers and purchased at farmstands, farmers markets, mobile markets or through a Community Supported Agriculture program.  This has resulted in a 600% increase in sales of fresh local produce to SNAP families over 2016 numbers.  This money has gone directly to our local farm businesses and allowed low-income families to eat more healthily.

This program needs continued funding to reach these underserved communities for the current year.  To learn more about the Healthy Incentives Program and what you can do to help, please click here.

Massachusetts Agriculture Day – March 27th at the State House. Agriculture will again be in the limelight in Boston for this annual celebration of the Commonwealth’s farming bounty.  It highlights the hard work and diverse products harvested as well as giving growers an opportunity to have their voices heard by legislators.  SEMAP will be participating in the event and would welcome local farmers to join us for the event.

Sincerely,

Karen Schwalbe
Executive Director

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