AGAWAM — The Local Farmer Awards, a funding initiative launched in 2015 by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF) and Big Y Foods, reached the million-dollar milestone in May.
Over the past eight years, more than 470 grants have been made to farmers in Western Mass. and the Berkshires. Along with the Big Y and HGCF are 25 generous community and individual donors including Ann and Steve Davis, Charles and Elizabeth D’Amour, PeoplesBank, DeNucci Group at Merrill Lynch, Farm Credit East, HP Hood LLC, Audrey & Chick Taylor, Baystate Health, Country Bank and others.
“Hitting a million dollars in giving is a proud milestone in providing help, support, encouragement to our local farmers and their families,” said Big Y President and CEO Charles D’Amour. “The multiplier effect of these awards ripples throughout our Western Mass region and provides the important underpinning of our regional economy.”
Last month, 74 farmers primarily located in Western Massachusetts received the 2022 awards — checks of up to $2,500 for infrastructure improvements. Totaling $165,500, these grants help sustain robust projects related to growing, harvesting, and processing. Maple farmers at Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington launded the installation of its new vacuum monitoring system. “The award will enable us to monitor the vacuum within our entire 100-acre sugarbush which negates the need for endless hours of searching for leaks in poor weather conditions while also reducing energy costs. It will be a game changer for us.”
Program director Cari Carpenter said that the publicity generated by the Local Farmer Awards draws much needed attention to the productivity of all farms in the region, whether or not they have been award recipients. “We want to celebrate and encourage every farm in Western Mass and the Berkshires, not only our winners. Happily, the program returned in March to an in-person appreciation party, including all 120 farms within our applicant reach this year. Donors were able to grasp the impact of what they are doing — and the potential to do even more.”