Issue #8 | March 2019
This quarterly newsletter keeps you informed about the work of the Collaborative and other organizations and institutions toward the goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . You can also follow progress on our website , on Facebook , and on Twitter
Campaign for HIP Funding Ramps Up for FY20 Budget
The Campaign for HIP Funding has started off the 2019 budget cycle in full force, with tremendous support from legislators, a great lobby day, and the development of some new tools for advocates. The campaign steering committee has developed a $8.5 million ask for HIP in FY20. This will be enough funding to operate the program year-round, allow for moderate continued growth, and allow a few new farms to become vendors in underserved areas.

HIP Lobby Day 2019 was a huge success, thanks to the more than seventy advocates who attended. A morning State House briefing for legislators and staff featured presentations from several coalition members on their personal experiences with HIP. Adrienne Brown, a HIP shopper from Mattapan, talked about how her family has been able to eat more of her favorite vegetables, eggplant and callaloo. Chris Kurth, farmer at Siena Farms in Sudbury, has changed his annual crop plan to grow more Asian greens and daikon radishes for his HIP customers, who he’s excited about being able to serve better thanks to HIP. Txong Yang, a farmer at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster, has heard from many elderly customers in his community that the quality and availability of specialty crops is something they haven’t seen since they were children. Mia Kortebein, Program Coordinator at CISA remarked that “The Healthy Incentives Program is changing who the notion of local food is for. Farmers are really proud of being able to serve their diverse communities.” And Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread , reported that their FoodSource Hotline has received more than 9,000 phone calls since HIP started. Read more...
Collaborative Convenes Discussion on Climate Change
The Collaborative hosted a meeting in early March to discuss how to best support farmers’ and fishermen’s capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change on their businesses. More than 45 people representing farming and environmental organizations, state and federal agencies, universities, and other stakeholders discussed the issues and began to develop strategies to collaborate in supporting farmers and fishermen.

There was a mutual recognition that there is a need for better coordination of adaptation and mitigation information, resources, and programs. Discussion topics also included the benefits of improved soil health, and the required changes to production practices and education required to promote healthier soils. The group also raised concerns about regulations, and created a list of further research needed to better support farmers and fishermen.

Beyond the general agreement to collaborate, the meeting generated a number of action items to follow up on including: attention to worker health impact, advocacy for increased technical assistance related to soil health, facilitating better access to conservation programs, working to adopt more consistent language across programs and resources, exploring state funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, expanding the list of essential research topics and information, and seeking adequate program funding for significant expansion of resources to address issues brought on by climate change.

For more information, contact Jeff Cole at or 339-222-2871.
Workshop: Creating a Culture of Inclusion at MA Farmers’ Markets
The Collaborative held its first "Creating a Culture of Inclusion at MA Farmers Markets" workshop in Wellesley in mid-March. Thirty farmers market managers, vendors, and representatives from support organizations discussed how their markets can welcome all customers as demographics at farmers markets change, with a wider range of community members shopping at markets.

Former MDAR Commissioner Greg Watson led the workshop and provided a historical perspective of farmers markets and race in Massachusetts. Examples of the difference between equality and equity provided context for the discussion.

Participants discussed challenges that have arisen with the changing demographics at farmers markets, such as frustration due to longer lines, different cultural expectations among customers, and difficulty explaining programs because of language barriers.

Managers and vendors shared what made their markets successful and brainstormed ways that their markets can become more financially sustainable as well as more equitable in how they serve their community. Opportunities include connecting more with the community through schools and universities, senior centers, new American growers and nonprofit organizations, and by integrating cooking demonstrations and other community activities into their operations. Resources are also needed for more education and communication for market staff, vendors, and customers around cultural awareness, equity, and how the HIP program works.

Attendees suggested many tools and resources that would help make their markets more welcoming. Translated signage for customers and vendors was a top request. Markets would also appreciate help in developing language that projects to customers that diversity is important to their market. Examples of educational activities that highlight diversity might support that goal as well. Markets would also appreciate best practices on designing market spaces to reduce lines. The Collaborative hopes to create a toolkit that can be used to support these and other ideas raised in the workshop.

A second session of the workshop will be held in in Greenfield on April 25. Interested market managers and vendors can RSVP here .
MA Legislature Establishes Food System Caucus
In response to a recommendation from the Plan and several years of advocacy on the part of the Collaborative and other stakeholder groups, in January a group of six legislators formed the legislative Food System Caucus “to support and grow the local food system in the Commonwealth.” With food system bills being considered in many different committees, the Caucus is an opportunity to consider those pieces of legislation in the broader context, to educate legislators about the range of issues that contribute to an equitable and sustainable food system, and to help inform their policy and budgetary decisions.

Caucus membership quickly grew to more than 70 members, making it one of the largest caucuses in the legislature. Caucus chairs are Representatives Hannah Kane, Dan Donahue, and Paul Schmid and Senators Jo Comerford, Anne Gobi and Eric Lesser. Planned activities include tours of food system businesses and institutions, and presentations from stakeholder organizations and other leaders.

The Caucus is focusing its work this year on three core areas of the food system: food access/insecurity, farmland, and economic development: As its first official action, the Caucus identified six bills as priority pieces of legislation for the 191st General Court:

Food access/insecurity
  • H145/S48 An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives program (Rep. Mark & Sen. Gobi)
  • H1475/S869 An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need (Rep. Kane & Sen. Comerford)
  • H591/S267 An Act regarding breakfast after the bell (Rep. Vega & Sen. DiDomenico)
Farmland :
  • H873 An Act to promote healthy soils and agricultural innovation in the Commonwealth (Rep. Schmid & Sen. Comerford)
  • S482 An Act regarding a farmland protection and viability plan (Sen. Gobi)
Economic Development :
  • S301 An Act establishing farm to school grants to promote healthy eating and strengthen the agricultural economy (Sen. Lesser)

The Caucus will next identify budget priorities for the FY20 budget. Advocates who want to encourage their legislators to join the Caucus can contact Winton at to find out how.
Reducing Edible Food Waste in Massachusetts
The Collaborative’s work on reducing edible food waste in Massachusetts continues. Five bills introduced in the 2019-20 Legislative session that would help to reduce food waste by increasing financial incentives and civil liability protection for people, businesses and organizations that donate food, or by standardizing date labeling on food, address the goals of our work:

  • An Act encouraging the donation of food to people in need, S.869/S.962/H.1475, Senator Joanne Comerford/Senator Edward Kennedy/Representative Hannah Kane, Joint Committee on the Judiciary
  • An Act to provide a tax deduction for charitable donations of food by farmers, H.2630, Representative Paul Schmid, Joint Committee on Revenue
  • An Act decreasing food waste by standardizing the date labeling of food, S.492/H.811, Senator Edward Kennedy/Representative Hannah Kane, Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture
  • An Act relative to the charitable donation of not readily marketable food, H.1899, Representative Susan Williams Gifford, Joint Committee on Public Health
  • An Act relative to food donations, H.1969, Representative Paul McMurtry, Joint Committee on Public Health

The Collaborative is also working with the Conservation Law Foundation and other organizations to support lowering the threshold of the Commercial Food Material Disposal Ban from the current threshold of businesses that produce one ton of organic waste material per week, to include those that produce more than a half-ton per week.

For more information, contact Brittany Peats at or 617 863 6865.
Increasing Farmland Access in Massachusetts
Following a Collaborative-organized meeting of farmland access practitioners and advocates in November, the Collaborative met with MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux and EOEEA Director of Land Policy and Planning Kurt Gaertner to discuss priorities raised by that group. The five issues discussed were:

Development of a comprehensive farmland action plan to compile data on land use trends and use that data to guide state investments and policies related to farmland access, protection, and use. EEA is embarking on a Land Conservation Planning process to guide future capital investments, and discussion focused on how the farmland plan might be integrated into that effort.

Fully expending funds made available to the APR program in the 2008, 2014, and 2018 environmental bonds, and ensuring that the review and revision of APR regulations allows the program to adapt to the changing needs of agriculture, particularly around issues of housing, agritourism, and other farm-related businesses. Conversation on this topic focused on how to use those bond resources to capture additional federal funds for farmland protection.

Making publicly-owned land available for agriculture through extending the maximum lease term allowable on state-owned land, allowing for infrastructure improvements, allowing for direct sales of crops grown on-site, and focusing on equity issues to ensure that land is made available to all communities interested in farming. EEA is in the process of hiring an environmental justice director and the Collaborative will coordinate a stakeholder meeting with them once they are on board. This individual will help build connections with land-holding agencies to inventory properties and work to ensure that land license policies take issues of equity into consideration.

Support for farmland seeking and succession planning by providing more robust and sustained support for farm business and succession planning within the Farm Viability Enhancement Program, incorporating succession outreach as part of APR stewardship, and other efforts. MDAR will continue working with Land for Good to provide succession planning resources to grantees, and to train staff to offer these resources.

Resources supportive of farmland restoration through investments such as soil fertility enhancements; removal of rocks, invasive species, trees, stumps, and brush; installation of irrigation systems, drainage, or fencing; and other improvements. Federal resources exist for this work, and stakeholder groups will work with MDAR to expand awareness of these resources. The Stewardship Assistance and Restoration on APRs (SARA) program serves only APR properties, but advocates discussed pursuing additional funding for this program so that it could serve farms with non-APR conservation restrictions.

The group came away with a number of follow-up action items which are currently being pursued. Stakeholders interested in participating in the ongoing work of the farmland access group should contact Winton at .
Food System Bills in the New Legislative Session
Dozens of bills have been introduced in the new legislative session that address food system issues raised as recommendations in the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan - from farmland preservation to soil health to food access. The Collaborative worked with stakeholder groups from all sectors of the food system to develop a list of priority legislation to support, and more than 60 organizations signed on in support of the final list. The bills are listed on the Collaborative’s website , where we will track them throughout the session.
Food System Champion: World Farmers
Many new Americans arrive in the U.S. with farming experience and skills, but find it difficult and expensive to navigate opportunities to work and participate in the food system.  World Farmers , which operates the 70-acre Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster, is changing that for new Americans in Massachusetts.

In 1984, World Farmers began offering Hmong farmers land on which to farm. Within ten years, 190 family farmers were growing food, while learning about the local climate and culture. Currently, the organization supports more than 250 farmers from 20 countries, including many from east African countries. Forty farmers have scaled up from producing food for their families to selling vegetables at farmers markets, while others sell to retail outlets in Greater Boston and Worcester, or aggregate their goods for wholesale distribution by World Farmers. Some smaller producers have jointly created a CSA with distribution sites in Lancaster and Boston.

Two years ago, one of the farmers began using the Worcester Regional Food Hub commercial kitchen to make fresh Hmong Veggie Rolls to sell at local farmers’ markets. While exploring ways to scale up, he found it difficult to find time to travel to Worcester to produce the rolls during the harvest season. In an effort to alleviate barriers such as these, World Farmers received funding through the Massachusetts Food Ventures Program to renovate the Lancaster Community Center Kitchen to serve the community as well as the immigrant and refugee farmers at Flats Mentor Farm. The kitchen’s equipment will enable the farmers to efficiently produce value-added products such as maize meal and spring rolls, and allow them to receive higher profits for the produce they grow.

World Farmers also provides other types of support for the new American farmers they work with, such as helping them enroll in SNAP and HIP. And, when farmers want to make the transition to owning their own farms, World Farmers helps to identify and match them with appropriate farmland.

This is one of several dozen profiles of MA food system stakeholders featured in the Collaborative's June 2018 Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report.
A powerful piece on how those in the food system need to - and can - begin to undo racism by Tiffany McClain at FoodCorps . “But we will only get so far if we don’t explicitly and intentionally commit ourselves to undoing racism because it is the foundation upon which extreme economic disparities exist—the very disparities that explain why some children don’t have access to healthy food.”
MA Food System News We're Reading

  • In just 10 years, Just Roots in Greenfield has become a strong supporter of local food and its positive impact on the land, the community and people’s health.

  • Read about the just-passed Good Food Purchasing Program that directs the city of Boston to purchase food that meets labor, health, animal welfare and environmental standards.

  • How uneaten college cafeteria meals can help fight food insecurity: “This is something that a university in Western Mass., in Worcester, a corporation could do. It enables them not only to stop throwing out perfectly good food. It lets them engage their student population, their employee population in group volunteering activities, giving back to their community.”

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The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative promotes, monitors, and facilitates implementation of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . We bring together nonprofit trade and advocacy groups, businesses, academics, policymakers, regulators, and consumers to advance recommendations toward the Plan's goals.
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