In agriculture, the end of one season signifies the beginning of the new. Life is like that too, and, for me, my new season has come. On July 20, the Massachusetts Board of Food and Agriculture voted unanimously to accept the Commissioner’s recommendation and appoint me Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Agricultural Resources. I’m honored to have been chosen by Commissioner Lebeaux and I look forward to working with the entire MDAR team and supporting the mission of the department. Agriculture in Massachusetts is on the rise, and the department is critical in helping to supporting and sustaining that growth.
It’s been a great pleasure to have served as Executive Director with SEMAP since September, and transitioning to my new role is rather bittersweet. I’ve met so many wonderful people in my tenure (both farmers and supporters of Ag) and I’d like to think we collectively have “moved the ball forward” for agriculture in Southeastern Massachusetts. Of course, there remains a great deal to be done, and I’m happy that Todd Sandstrum will be serving as interim Director to continue that forward progress. In addition to his counsel as a member of the Board, Todd has been like another staff member. He has worked on the ground and in the field with Kendra and me to ensure the success of many of our events and programs. As well as any of our Board members, he knows the daily ins and outs of SEMAP. Under Todd and the guidance of our stellar Board of Directors, SEMAP will undoubtedly continue to make forward progress. Read more →
BY JASON WENTWORTH
As the “Buy Local” movement grows and the market for locally grown agricultural products expands, more and more people are stepping out of their comfort zone and trying unique products previously unfamiliar to them. Joining a CSA may mean you’ll receive fruits and vegetables and other items that you may not have used before. Exposure to a greater diversity of agricultural products is one of the great benefits of buying locally, and raw milk is certainly a part of that.
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Roughly 90% of the farms in Massachusetts are family owned businesses. Many of those farms are multi-generational as well, and that gives you a sense of how important farms and farmers are to our communities: they employ local people, are good stewards of the environment and provide an important product for their fellow citizens. I’ve recently been reminded of just how important it is to maintain that community. Sure, everyone has their own business or interest but, in the interests of sustaining local agriculture, we have to come out of our silos and band together.
A cohesive agricultural community, working both on a municipal, regional and state level, is the reason why we are blessed with a growing farming community and an abundance of locally-sourced products. That didn’t come overnight. Since the 1980s, farmers and growers have been working hard, advocating at the State House and forming agricultural commissions at the local level and advocating for important policies to help preserve and expand agriculture, particularly “right-to-farm” bylaws. According to MDAR, as of the end of last year, “162 towns have established AgComs, and 141 towns with Right to Farm Bylaws”. These mechanisms have been invaluable in not just supporting and expanding agriculture, but also protecting it. AgComs specifically have offered a method for town governments and farmers to interface, resolve disputes and build a greater understanding of each other’s responsibilities and challenges. It’s not a coincidence that Massachusetts agriculture is on the rise. Read more →
BY JASON WENTWORTH
If you go by the numbers, Norfolk County has the least amount of farms in Massachusetts outside of Dukes, Nantucket, and Suffolk counties. The number of acres farmed is comparatively lower than many other counties, as is the median size of farm. True, numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the full story. While the scale of agriculture may not be as great as other counties, Norfolk certainly makes up the difference in diversity and quality. A trip to Ward’s Berry Farm is all you need to understand that.
Located in Sharon, its over two hundred acres sprawl across several lots and streets and yet, very quickly after arriving, you feel right at home. Wandering in the greenhouse area, a young farmhand in his early 20s struck up a conversation about what’s starting to grow after a long winter thaw. His youthful enthusiasm wasn’t an anomaly, and it wasn’t restricted to the young people I met. Ward’s is certainly large but, at its core, it is a family farm…and families care. Read more →