(Boston City Hall Farmers Market, Courtesy of Mass Office of Travel & Tourism)
The Massachusetts State House resembled a bustling farmer’s market today, as the Commonwealth’s diverse community of small farmers, food purveyors, farming cooperatives, seafood associations, academic programs and advocates gathered for the annual Massachusetts Agriculture Day.
Nearly 600 people attended the celebration, including 45 exhibitors who showcased the rich bounty of food and beverage produced in Massachusetts. It was an opportunity for legislators and public officials to meet with one of the state’s most enduring and productive communities.
Governor Charlie Baker used the occasion to announce that he was adding an additional $1 million to the popular AgEnergy Grants Program over the next two years.
“A vibrant agricultural community in Massachusetts is essential to building healthy communities and a stronger economy across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Baker. “As we celebrate the impact agriculture brings to our economy and history today, the expansion of the AgEnergy Grants will help our Commonwealth’s farmers address their energy needs and increase their future opportunities for competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
Agriculture Day was organized by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, along with the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, which was recognized with a citation from the Governor for 100 years of service.
On hand was an abundance of locally harvested and produced items, ranging from oysters, cranberry juice and maple milk to cheese, honey and fruit pies. And culinary students from the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro prepared and served a variety of dishes made from Massachusetts products, such as turkey, lamb, root vegetables, honey and local cheeses.
The farming industry in Massachusetts generates nearly $490 million in revenues, maintaining about 525,000 acres of open space. There are about 7,755 farms, employing 12,000 workers, according to Mary Jordan, Director of the Division of Agricultural Markets at the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources
Paula L. Murphy, Director of the Massachusetts Export Center, says that the state generated over $1 billion of food and agricultural exports in 2014. Nationally, “Massachusetts is number one in scallops, number one in cranberry juice and number three in seafood exports in 2014,” according to Murphy.
Tourists also appreciate the state’s agricultural riches. The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism has developed a handy overview of culinary activities for visitors, including this culinary calendar of food festivals and fairs.