NORTHAMPTON, MA, April 25, 2016–Nearly 30 percent of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming in the next 10+ years, and nine out of ten are farming without a young farmer alongside. This is according to new analysis of U.S. Census of Agriculture data that was part of a study released today by American Farmland Trust (AFT) and Land For Good (LFG). The year-long study— that also included focus groups of older farmers—sheds new light on what will be needed to facilitate the transition of farms and farmland in New England to a next generation of farmers. At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during this transition.
Ninety-two percent of New England’s 10,369 senior farmers do not have a farm operator under age 45 working with them. While this does not mean that these farmers don’t have a succession plan, it suggests that the future of many of these farms is uncertain.
“It was a real wake-up call to see how few farmers age 65+ have a next generation working on the farm with them,” said Cris Coffin, Policy Director for Land For Good, who directed the study. “The 1.4 million acres these senior farmers manage and $6.45 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will change hands in one way or another, To keep this land and infrastructure in farming as it transitions, we will need better policy tools and increased support services to exiting and entering farmers.” Read more →
The purpose of the Ag-Energy Special Projects Grant is to provide funding for agricultural energy projects that would typically require higher capital cost but potentially yield greater savings and/or positive agricultural impacts in an effort to improve the farm’s energy efficiency and to facilitate adoption of less conventional, alternative clean energy technology applications. By implementing these projects, the agricultural operation will demonstrate novel ideas that will help farms become more sustainable while contributing to the goals of: the MA Food Systems Plan; MA Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Implementation; and the MA Global Warming Solutions Act; and to advance technologies that can be replicated at other agricultural operations in Massachusetts.
AgEnergy Special Projects is a competitive, re-imbursement grant program that funds specifically specified project categories up to varying amounts according to the project category. All projects must be completed by June 30, 2017. The RFR deadline for applications is June 10, 2016.
In addition to posting on the state website COMMBUYS (www.commbuys.com/bso/), Ag-Energy Special Project Grant details and application are also available at www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/about/divisions/ag-energy.html.
There is a boost of energy with the early spring this year and since the soil is already workable farmers are getting an early start to their crops. (This being New England though, we know the weather could turn at any moment.) Farmers are busy planting spinach, radish, beets and peas, and we all are anticipating the first harvest of the season.
While the farmers are occupied with spring planting, Massachusetts state legislators have been busy at the State House compiling a comprehensive Omnibus Ag Bill (S.2171) An Act to promote agriculture in the Commonwealth. The Joint Committee of Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, chaired by Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Paul Schmid, filed a bill that supports farmers and local food across the state and to continue the economic growth that agriculture has had in the Commonwealth. It aims to increase the availability of locally grown food, offer opportunities to current and future farmers and invest in agricultural programs to boost the industry. The Omnibus Ag bill consists of almost 20 pieces of legislation, some previously proposed and others new initiatives, and is intended to be a comprehensive approach to agricultural policy in the Commonwealth. Much of legislation came from specific recommendations from the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan.
Some elements of the bill:
Agricultural Estate Tax (also in HB 3507)
Agricultural land would have the same valuation as 61A (Chapter 61A is the section of State Code that deals with assessment and taxation of agricultural and horticultural lands) for estate tax purposes. Current law says inherited land must be assessed at its “highest and best use” which means its development value. This is a huge burden on farm families who inherit land and often forces them to sell part of the farm to pay the estate taxes. This bill will offer families the ability to preserve their family farms. Read more →
BY KENDRA MURRAY
If you’re looking for a nice dinner full of fresh, local ingredients, then I suggest you make your way down to Little Moss. Located in picturesque Padanaram, Little Moss is a cozy restaurant that truly embodies local. The decor is reminiscent of a seaside cottage, which suits the restaurant nicely given its location. Even the name Little Moss pays homage to the area’s whaling roots. The Moss is the name of the ship that takes Moby Dick’s main character, Ishmael, from New Bedford to Nantucket.
Prior to going out to eat at Little Moss, I had spoken with Chris Cronin, Little Moss’s former head chef. Right now Cronin is focused on the marketplace project across the street, which will be filled with local, produce, meats, charcuterie and hopefully open by June. Despite being very busy with that project, Cronin was kind enough to give a bit of background on the restaurant, menu, and local sourcing. Read more →