We are grateful for all the hard work from the Ag & Food Committee, M&C Café, the SEMAP board, our volunteers, and especially our presenters for a successful 12th Annual Ag & Food conference. Thank you! Nowhere else on the Southcoast can you find that much food and farming knowledge in one location. The keynote by Dr. Michael Hoffman of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions got the day off to a serious start talking about the effect of climate change on our food system by breaking down a typical meal and discussing how each food item would be affected by climate change. It was a sobering look at what the future holds for agriculture.
SEMAP has been working on issues around agriculture and climate. With funding from Fibershed in California SEMAP and the Southeastern New England Fibershed are working on carbon farm plans with six alpaca farmers. We are looking for ways to improve their farm management practices, with a goal of the farms being able to produce ‘climate beneficial wool’. Like the NorthFace’s ‘Backyard Hoodie’ project and ‘climate beneficial wool beanie’, there is interest in more sustainable fiber production. It’s a smart choice given the new information about the contribution of synthetic fabric to microplastic pollution. Did you know each washing of a fleece jacket releases an average of 2 grams of microfibers into the environment? That’s about a paperclip’s worth for each washing. These fibers are inescapable in our food chain. SEMAP also participated in the Mass Food System Collaborative’s Climate Roundtable to see where our farms can participate in and benefit from any climate related actions. How we grow what we eat and what we wear are pressing issues from both a climate and an environmental perspective.
Agricultural interests have their own March Madness with the beginning of the new legislative session. There is a long list of bills and budget items that are related to agriculture and farming. There are several opportunities to make your voices heard directly to our state legislators with two upcoming lobby days at the State House. HIP Lobby Day, organized by the Mass Food System Collaborative is March 21st. HIP – the Healthy Incentives Program provides a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP money (formerly Food Stamps) spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. So far, the program has provided more than $4.2 million in fresh, healthy, local food for low-income families, with that money going directly to support our local farms.
Ag Day at the State House is Wednesday, March 27th. It is always the most fun day to be at the State House because there is always delicious locally sourced food, which is a big draw for the legislators. SEMAP will have a table in the Hall of Flags midday and we are being hosted by area Representatives Schmid, Howitt and Orrall for a “Meet Your Local Legislator” coffee in the morning as an opportunity for farmers and legislators to talk. If you would like an opportunity to speak to your State Senators and Representatives about agricultural policy issues you can join us for all or part of the day. It is a terrific opportunity to network and speak directly to our lawmakers with SEMAP there to help you navigate the day.
A rare event in SEMAP’s history occurred this week – we posted a new job position! We have funding to add someone to our staff to work on several grant-related projects. This person will work on our business and marketing workshops; support our 1:1 technical assistance opportunities; and work on our fiber and regenerative agriculture projects. If you know someone suitable/interested send them our way. The application deadline in March 29th but we plan to start phone interviews on a rolling basis.
SEMAP has USDA grant funding for technical assistance for beginning and direct market farmers in the areas of marketing, branding, promotions, advertising, business planning, diversification, or value-added production. This opportunity runs through the summer but act soon if you are interested as funding is limited. Learn more about our Beginning Farmer program.
We are hard at work on the 2019 Local Food Guide. It is the definitive resource for finding local food and farms. Here is the link to update your free listing. We distribute the Local Food Guide across the 75- town in Bristol, Plymouth and Norfolk counties. We also have advertising opportunities in the Guide. This is a terrific opportunity to reach customers across the Southeastern Massachusetts region that are interested in local and sustainable food, healthy lifestyles, good eating, the outdoors and our natural environment. Readers are looking for family and interactive experiences, and support their local businesses and communities. Advertising in our Guide will bring your business to the attention of an engaged and enthusiastic audience at the same time as you support an organization that supports farming in our region.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me. Best of luck in this new growing season.