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Hope in the Next Generation of Farmers

Choosing to be a farmer does not guarantee fame, fortune or glamour. In fact, it’s often the opposite – isolating hard work for an unreliable cash flow and dirt between your nails. While farmers may not typically get much recognition for their efforts, here in the Pioneer Valley they are celebrities. Our local farmers put fresh, nutritious food on our plates, strengthen our economy, and maintain the rural character of our communities by continuing the historic tradition of farming some of the most fertile soils in the country.

FarmlandFolktography by Tom

While agriculture in the region is currently strong, its future is at risk. According to the most recent 2012 Agricultural Census, the average age of principal farm operators in Massachusetts is 58 years. As aging farmers near the end of their careers, we face a huge barrier to sustaining a regional food system- the threat of existing agricultural land going out of production. For those of us who eat, this is a big deal.

But there’s hope! Through my work at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), I see a tremendous amount of interest in programs for new and beginning farmers. MDAR’s Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture program offers assistance and matching grants to farmers between 1 and 5 years in business who are aspiring to develop their farms into commercially viable operations. MDAR also offers the Exploring the Small Farm Dream course, developed by the New England Small Farm Institute, to provide guidance to those exploring the realities of becoming an agricultural entrepreneur.

The type of participants taking advantage of these programs varies. Some are second-generation farmers that have gained years of hands-on experience growing up on a family farm. Some have studied agriculture or a related field in college or vocational school. Others are ready to change careers or turn a hobby into a commercial business. Many opportunities exist for those who want to improve their agricultural skills and knowledge, from on-farm apprenticeships, field days, and workshops to grants, loans, and networks specifically targeted to beginning farmers. No matter what their path, an enthusiastic next generation of famers is ready to work hard to carry on the important tradition of farming the land.

The Beginning Farmer Network (BFN) of Massachusetts, coordinated by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project staff and other partners, has developed a survey to find out if the needs of beginning farmers in the state are being met. If you are a beginning farmer (0-10 years) in Massachusetts please click here to take this survey. Thank you!

Melissa Adams has been a Contractor for Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Farm Viability Programs since 2001, helping farmers develop business plans and invest capital on their farms to increase the financial viability of their farm businesses. She is a member of the PVGrows Steering Committee and the Beginning Farmers Network Advisory Team.

PVGROWS WELCOMES YOUR COMMENTS

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Slow Money Pioneer Valley Call for Entrepreneurs

Slow Money Pioneer Valley: Farm and Food Businesses invited to Submit Proposals to Participate in Upcoming Entrepreneur Showcases

Slow Money Pioneer Valley is part of the national Slow Money movement, and is coordinated with other initiatives in support of the local food system and investing, like PV Grows and Invest Here Now.  It also works closely with other Slow Money Networks in the region, including Boston, Maine, and Vermont.  The mission of our Slow Money Network is to catalyze community-based investment in the local food system by connecting investors, farmers and entrepreneurs in order to strengthen our local and regional food economy.   SMPV organized its first “Entrepreneurs’ Showcase” in January 2014 where farm and food businesses presented their business plans to potential investors, and has sponsored workshops on different options for food entrepreneurs seeking financing.

On May 21st, there will be a gathering of the Slow Money Networks from the region in Boston.  An important part of the program will be an Entrepreneurs’ Showcase.  Each regional Network will nominate 2-3 entrepreneurs to participate from which one will be chosen to provide a balanced group representing different business stages, products and strategies from the region.  Slow Money Pioneer Valley will follow up with its own Entrepreneurs’ Showcase in the Fall.

These Showcases will give entrepreneurs an opportunity to get feedback from private investors on their business plans, and make contacts and forge relationships that will be useful as their businesses grow and need support, including financing.

If you are a Pioneer Valley food entrepreneur currently seeking private investors or thinking seriously about how to meet your future financing needs, you may be a good candidate to participate in one of these two upcoming Showcases.  SMPV can help you determine if this would be a good fit at this time and, if so, help you prepare the following:

·      A well executed 5 minutes presentation at the event

·      A slidedeck of 5 to 6 slides for your presentation

·      You will need to make time to receive feedback about your slidedeck and presentation from a Slow Money representative prior to     the event

The Opportunity for Entrepreneurs:

·      Connect with community members who are consumers, activists, and potential investors.

·      Potential investors may be interested in your project and want to discuss investment options in greater detail.

Slow Money Pioneer Valley invites you to submit a brief 4-5 sentence description of your business and its current and anticipated needs.  The submission will be reviewed by SMPV and you will be informed whether you are a candidate for either of the upcoming showcases.  If so, SMPV will work with you to finalize your presentation.  In the case of the Regional Showcase in May, the organizers from Slow Money Boston will also work with you to ensure a consistent format among all the regional entrepreneurs.

During each event, each entrepreneur will have 5 minutes to make their presentation about their business, and their financing needs.  Local investors and food system supporters will then have 5 minutes to ask questions about each business. Following the presentations, entrepreneurs, investors, and community members have the opportunity to meet for more in-depth, one-on-one discussions.

Deadlines

If you are interested in presenting at the Boston showcase, please send in your 4-5 sentence description of your business by April 17th to cdileo@charlemont.org.  For questions, please email Paul DiLeo (pdileo@grassrootscap.com) or Dan Rosenberg (dan@realpickles.com).

For the SMPV Showcase in the fall, we will send out a reminder and specify a deadline for submissions once the date has been set.

Thanks for your interest and we look forward to working together with Pioneer Valley food businesses!

Jeff Rosen and Paul DiLeo on behalf of the Slow Money Pioneer Valley Steering Committee

 

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MA Food Plan Listening Session

MA Food Plan Listening Session

Wednesday, April 15th from 2-4pm, Mill 1 in Open Square, 4 Open Square Way, Holyoke, MA 

Massachusetts has a rich and diverse food system – from varied agriculture, to innovative food processing facilities, to initiatives that improve the health and affordability of food in our communities. The Massachusetts Food Policy Council has initiated a process to craft a statewide Food System Plan build a strong, robust food system where there is less hunger, more access to local and healthy foods, where there are improved job and business opportunities, and where food system development is ecologically sustainable.

We want to hear from you! Join us after lunch and weigh in on what’s happening on farms, in food processing, with community food organizations, and in fisheries.

  • What are you doing really well?
  • What are the major challenges in your area?
  • What do you see as the most important ways to improve our food system?

Your input is important for us to better understand the major strengths and obstacles in this region and to develop a well-informed plan for the Massachusetts food system.

Visit our website for more information on the planning process: www.mafoodplan.org.

 

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2015 Spring Forum – LAND: the foundation of a healthy food system

Preserve FarmlandLAND: the foundation of a healthy food system 

Wednesday, April 15th from 9:00-1:30pm, Mill 1 in Open Square, 4 Open Square Way, Holyoke, MA 

Sliding Scale Registration: $0-50. Space is limited to 130. Register NOW!

Catered by Beets & Barley and Holyoke Hummus Company.

There will be a MA Food Plan Listening Session following the Forum.

View Program Details & Full List of Presenters

Just as a house needs a strong foundation to support it over time, farmers need secure access to land to produce food. Land is the foundation of our food system. 

  • How does access to farmland fit into a vision of creating a healthy, resilient, and equitable food system?
  • How can we ensure that farmland is available and protected for future generations?
  • What is the connection between food access and farmland access?
  • What can urban and rural communities learn from one another about accessing land for food production?

We all have a stake in supporting working farms by expanding secure access to land. Farmers with secure access can afford to purchase farmland or can obtain long-term leases that allow them to feel confident investing in the soil or other infrastructure. They live in communities that prioritize food production among other land uses. In our region, as elsewhere, food security – ensuring adequate, healthy food for all – is of great concern. Our region’s food security depends on farmers’ land security.

Join us for PVGrows’ 2015 Spring Forum to learn about the important role that secure access to land plays in our food system – and how we can all work to strengthen this foundation.

At the Forum we will explore topics related to land access including land affordability, land transfer and succession planning, land conservation, farm financing, farm viability, and food access. 

We will:

  • Learn why secure access to farmland is vital to creating a healthy, resilient, and equitable food system in the Pioneer Valley.
  • Understand the barriers facing producers who are trying to gain secure access to rural and urban farmland.
  • Get introduced to the diverse approaches available for overcoming these barriers including conservation easements, shared ownership, and creative leasing.
  • Hear stories of innovative approaches to land access and partnerships in rural and urban settings and meet with local people working on these issues.

Community support is critical to help farmers access, hold, and transfer land – and to keep working farms viable for future generations. Join us to learn more.

Like past Forums, the 2015 Spring Forum will include interactive sessions, structured networking, opportunities for collaboration, and a locally grown lunch. This event is open to anyone interested in and working for a healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley.

For More Background Information & Resource

Register for the PVGrows 2015 Spring Forum.

Read more here about the PVGrows Forum.

Video from previous PVGrows Forums are available on the PVGrows YouTube Channel.

Thanks to our sponsors

Real Pickles CISA
Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment Partners for a Healthier Community

 Daisa enterprises  Westfield State University
 Common Capital
  Franklin County Community Development Corporation
 Farm Credit East  Land For Good
Lydia B. Stokes Foundation Solidago Foundation
Mass Food System Plan Conway School
 Franklin Regional Council of Governments  Grow Food Northampton
Franklin Land Trust
Mount Grace Land Trust
 Hilltown Land Trust  the trustees of reservations
 Simple Diaper & Linen
 New England Farmers Union
Just Roots  the frances fund
 Miller Worley Center for The Environment  Equity Trust
 Greenfield Community College  CD_Hospital_RGB (1)

 Thanks to our caterers:
 Beets and Barley
 Holyoke Hummus Company

Join our sponsors on the 15th and register now!

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