Last month, the Local Farmer Awards, funded by a group of philanthropic leaders and businesses, gave $135,000 in awards to 59 farmers operating in Western Massachusetts 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 they support – from 33 in the first year to 59 this year. This is because of the generous support of 10 funders: 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 & Steve Davis, Baystate Health, Farm Credit East, and Florence Bank.
Over half of the award winners have been in business 10 years or less. Charlie D’Amour, president and COO of Big Y, commented on this new generation of award-winning farmers: “Western Massachusetts’ agricultural roots run deep, and 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. 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, adds: “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.
Berkshire Grown’s winning members and their improvement projects include: Berkshire Wildflower Honey for the purchase of a mulch lifter, Colfax Farm for the purchase of irrigation equipment, Colonial Alpacas for the purchase of a manure spreader, Cricket Creek Farm for the upgrade of the cheese vat and pasteurizer system, Many Forks Farm for the Increasing Efficiency in Seeding High-Value Crops, Moon in the Pond Farm for the purchase of a tedder that will improve haymaking, Red Shirt Farm for the purchase of a new transplanter system which will improve efficiency, Cedar Farm Wholesale for the purchase of a unheated greenhouse for season extension, Chaseholm Farm Creamery for the improvement of the electric fencing infrastructure, Cheval Farmstead Dairy & Provisions for the purchase of a walk-in cooler/aging room, Markristo Farm for the purchase of a walk-in flower cooler, MX Morningstar Farm for the purchase of a spray applicator for organic insecticide, New Leaf Farm for the improvement of soil health which will reduce weed pressure, Square Roots Farm for the purchase of an egg washer to propel wholesaling, Sidehill Farm for the purchase of a walk-in freezer, and Justamere Tree Farm for the expansion of taps/tubing.
Recognizing that agriculture is such a strong regional force, Harold Grinspoon founded the Local Farmer Awards four years ago. Mr. Grinspoon says: “I have so much enjoyed being part of the Local Farmer Awards program. 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 (CISA), 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 more information about the awards, visit hgf.org/programs/local-farmer-awards.