Growing the Future
Farms and farmers have long been among the region’s most important entrepreneurs. Now in its third year, the Local Farmer Awards program continues to help farmers welcome the growing season with funds to make infrastructure improvements to expand their businesses, compete in the marketplace, and continue to provide the health and environmental benefits of local farming.
The awards are possible due to the support of two partners: the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and Big Y. Other community sponsors include HP Hood LLC, Baystate Health, Farm Credit East, MGM Springfield, Springfield Sheraton Monarch Place, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
In 2017, awards of up to $2,500 were given to 49 farmers, all members of Berkshire Grown or CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). Half of these award winners were newer farmers in business no more than 10 years.
“Western Massachusetts’ agricultural roots run deep, and we have long been known as one of the primary growing regions in New England,” said Charlie D’Amour, president and chief operating officer of Big Y. “Today, alongside families who have been farming for generations, a new crop of young farming families and entrepreneurs are continuing this fine tradition. At Big Y, we are pleased to continue our own 80-plus year tradition of supporting these farmer families by joining with the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and other sponsors to provide grants and opportunities for this important part of our region’s economy and culture.”
We have long been known as one of the primary growing regions in New England. Today, alongside families who have been farming for generations, a new crop of young farming families and entrepreneurs are continuing this fine tradition.”
Farm Credit East is a new sponsor for 2017, and Vice President and Branch Manager Keith Stechschulte said the program is an important one. “A strong agriculture industry in our local communities is a connection to our past and a bridge to our future. Farm Credit East is proud to be a supporter of the Local Farmer Awards.”
The projects, soon underway, will provide support to farmers throughout the growing cycle. A highly motivated group, the farmers are paying, on average, more than 51% of the cost of the projects — and they are eager to move forward. The awards help fund everything from seeding, cleaning, storing, and packaging to sales. The variety of what is produced on the recipient farms — milk, vegetables, eggs, meat, maple syrup, and more — represents a slice of what is grown throughout the region.
The four counties of Western Mass. are abundant with farms; in fact, more than 800 farms in the region have sales greater than $10,000, a requirement for the award application. Recognizing that agriculture is such a strong regional force, Harold Grinspoon, founder of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, launched the Local Farmer Awards in 2015. He understood that farmers do not typically ask for help, and that the awards would have a direct impact.
“I’m thrilled our partner, Big Y, and our sponsors have come together to help farmers make much-needed infrastructure improvements,” he said. “We all benefit from their success.”
A farmer-appreciation event will be held in late fall for more than 100 applicants and award recipients, to recognize farmers and promote the importance of local agriculture.
The 2017 recipients of the Local Farmer Awards include these 15 members of Berkshire Grown: Ayrhill Farms Inc., Brattle Farm, Caretaker Farm, Colfax Farm, Farm Girl Farm, Joshua’s Farm, Many Forks Farm LLC, New Leaf Farm, Raven & Boar Farm, Red Shirt Farm, Sky View Farm, Square Roots Farm, Wild & Cultivated Farm, Wildstone Farm, and Woven Roots Farm.
The 34 Local Farmer Award recipients from CISA include the Apple Place, Atlas Farm LLC, Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery, Book & Plow Farm, Carr’s Ciderhouse, Dave’s Natural Garden, Ferrindino Farms, Fungi Ally, Henry and Edward Parsons d/b/a Mayval Farm, Hettie Belle Farm, Hickory Hill Farm, Just Roots Inc. (Greenfield Community Farm), Kenburn Orchards, the Kitchen Garden, Kosinski Farms, Leyden Glen Farm, Lyonsville Farm, Many Hands Farm Corps, Mapleline Farm, McCray’s Farm, Nasami Farm and New England Wild Flower Society, Natural Roots, New England Wild Edibles, Phoenix Fruit Farm, Queen’s Greens, Rooted, Seeds of Solidarity Farm, ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm, Shinglebrook Farm, Sidehill Farm, Sweet Birch Herbals, Sweet Morning Farm, Wakulima Cooperative, and Wild Rose Farm.