Image Courtesy of State House News
Governor Maura Healey declared April 12, 2023, as Massachusetts Agriculture Day. To celebrate the occasion, state officials, legislators, farmers, and students gathered at the State House as part of a collaborative effort between the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, agricultural commodity groups, Buy Local groups, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). Farmers, producers, and state officials joined together to promote this important sector of the Commonwealth and discuss the issues affecting the agricultural industry with lawmakers.
“Agriculture Day serves as a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to our hard-working Massachusetts farmers and producers who provide all of us with healthy, fresh, and delicious products and are a key economic driver for our local economies,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Our Administration looks forward to engaging with our agricultural industry and finding more ways to support their efforts in cultivating a robust and equitable agricultural economy.”
Massachusetts is home to over 7,200 farms that maintain more than 490,000 acres of farmland and open space. Local farms provide employment to over 28,000 workers and generate nearly $500 million for the state economy. The Commonwealth is ranked #5 in the United States for direct market agricultural sales.
“As one of the largest economic drivers in the Commonwealth, Massachusetts farmers are at the forefront of our state’s economy, contributing at the local, state, and national levels while helping to improve the standard of living and quality of life for our residents,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “We encourage everyone to support their local farms and farmers by buying local Massachusetts-grown products throughout the year.”
Commodity groups in attendance provided delicious samples of Massachusetts-grown products, including local ice cream, milk, cranberries and cranberry juice, oysters, pure maple products, honey, apple cider, baked goods featuring local fruit, cheese, pickles, local vegetables, and many other products produced by Massachusetts farmers and fishermen.
“Massachusetts is world-renowned for our variety and diversity in crops and products, which run the gamut from nursery-grown plants and horticultural products to dairy, aquaculture, maple, honey, livestock, and a wide array of fruits and vegetables,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “Our farmers have tended the land for generations, maintaining and nurturing precious open and green spaces. They have been leaders in implementing the latest in renewable and energy efficient technologies to mitigate the impacts of climate change, becoming more economically viable and environmentally sustainable, contributing to a greener economy in the Commonwealth.”
“After a three-year pause due to the pandemic, we are so thrilled to have Agriculture Day back at the State House and have our farmers engaged with lawmakers on not just the challenges they face but the opportunities they see in farming and growing in the twenty-first century,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Ashley Randle. “Our farmers have proven time and again that they are innovative, resilient, and adaptive to the challenges they face and do not shy away from adversity. We at MDAR are proud to support them through the many resources we provide to the industry.”
“Farmers are vital to the Commonwealth’s food system, and it is crucial that their voices are heard in the legislative process,” said Karen Schwalbe, Executive Director, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. “By collaborating with lawmakers and industry stakeholders, we can create policies that support and strengthen agriculture, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.”
During the day’s speaking program, Agriculture Day Awards were given to three honorees to recognize their hard work, dedication, and advocacy on behalf of the agricultural industry in Massachusetts. By honoring those who have made significant contributions to the sector, these awards help to highlight the critical role that agriculture plays in our economy and food security. They also serve as a way to inspire and encourage others in the industry to continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible.
This year’s award recipients are:
Senator Bruce Tarr – First Essex and Middlesex
Senator Anne Gobi – Worcester and Hampshire
Representative Paul Schmid – 8th Bristol
In addition, the Kent Lage Memorial Award, which recognizes those individuals dedicated to Massachusetts agriculture, was given posthumously to the late State Representative Stephen Kulik, who was a committed advocate and left a lasting legacy as a staunch supporter of agriculture in Massachusetts. His support of local farmers and promotion of sustainable practices served as an inspiration to the industry.
Massachusetts Agriculture Day also serves as a great opportunity to empower students, children, and their families through education regarding healthy eating, behavioral practices, agriculture, food, and environmental science. As in years past, students from local FFA and 4-H youth organizations were on hand to assist with the smooth running of the day’s events. They also met with their local lawmakers to receive a hands-on learning experience about the legislative process. This year, FFA State President Alani Medeiros gave remarks during the speaking portion of the day’s events.