Daily News

Local Farmer Awards Give $135,000 to 59 Farmers in Western Mass.

AGAWAM — The Local Farmer Awards, funded by a group of philanthropic leaders and businesses, recently gave $135,000 in awards to 59 farmers operating in Western Mass. to fund infrastructure improvements on their farms. Each award winner received up to $2,500 through a competitive application process for projects that will help them expand their businesses, compete in the marketplace, and continue providing the health and environmental benefits of local farming.

Now in its fourth year, the awards have increased the number of farmers supported, from 33 in the first year to 59 this year, thanks to 10 funders, including Big Y and the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, along with a team of sponsors: HP Hood LLC, Friendly’s, PeoplesBank, Springfield Sheraton Monarch Place, Ann and Steve Davis, Baystate Health, Farm Credit East, and Florence Bank.

More than half of the award winners have been 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 Englandm” 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.”

Matthew Bannister, first vice president for marketing and innovation at PeoplesBank, a new sponsor for 2018, added that “PeoplesBank is proud to support our local farmers and their innovative ideas. We congratulate the awardees and thank the entire local farming community for their efforts.”

The four counties of Western Massachusetts feature an abundance of farms; 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 founded the Local Farmer Awards four years ago. “I have so much enjoyed being part of the Local Farmer Awards program,” he said. “Farmers are amazing — so hardworking and industrious. It is an absolute pleasure to get to know them.”

Berkshire Grown and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, advocates for farming and agriculture in the region, have provided advice and support for this program since its inception. A farmer appreciation event will be held in late fall 2018 to recognize all applicants and promote the importance of local agriculture. For a list of the award winners with their project titles, click here.