AFT met with legislators on Tuesday March 10 at the State House in Boston for Massachusetts Agriculture Day. Ag Day is an opportunity to remind legislators of the importance of agriculture and to spread the No Farms No Food message. We distributed our recently released Farms for the Future report and discussed with legislators and supporters the importance of creating a Massachusetts Food Policy Council. Highlights of the Ag Day program included legislator visits, speakers, and a “Taste of Massachusetts” reception in the Great Hall featuring farm and specialty food products from across the state. AFT staff proudly carried the No Farms No Food banner!
Ben Bowell and Cris Coffin of AFT's New England Field Office recently presented a workshop entitled “Protecting Farms & Farmland: Making the Case & Exploring New Tools” [PDF] at the 2009 Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference in Worcester. The workshop reviewed Cost of Community Services studies and protection v. development scenarios. AFT provided updates on current farmland protection tools and explored potential new state and local tools such as farm pensions for preservation, installment purchase agreements, and municipal farmland protection contracts.
On December 3rd, 2008 AFT convened over 60 farmers, legislators, representatives from farm and conservation organizations, and state agency officials for a day-long Farmland Protection Forum. The Forum examined the Commonwealth's current farmland protection toolbox and explored potential new land protection and conservation finance tools, including farmer pensions, eco-system service payments, and agricultural districts. Participants also identified other opportunities to advance farmland protection in the state. AFT is currently working with Forum participants and a steering committee to refine and pursue possible new tools. Check out all of the presentations and handouts from the forum here!
On November 4th, 2008 Americans across the country shouted-out a resounding YES for farmland and all the benefits it provides, approving ballot measures to fund more than $525 million worth of state and local measures that include farm and ranch land protection. According to the Trust for Public Land, 74 percent of incentive-based initiatives (34 out of 46) passed.
In the 2008 election cycle in Massachusetts, 13 cities and towns authorized property tax surcharges through the Community Preservation Act, expected to generate over
$27 million for open space and historic preservation.
20,000 farm fans and foodies gathered together and danced their hearts out for America’s farmland. The 2008 Farm Aid concert, put on each year by music legends Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, and Jon Mellencamp, raised awareness about farmland loss and the benefits of farms. Down in the Homegrown Village, the waves of musical force reverberated through the trees at while at AFT’s booth, concert-goers tested their aim, dexterity, and skill for trivia at our bean bag toss and farmland trivia game. Throw on some tunes and test your skill!
AFT continues to work with a diverse group of organizations representing food, farm, and nutrition interests to enact a statewide Food Policy Council for the Commonwealth. The groups envisions a council composed of state agency and stakeholder representatives that works to enhance the economic viability of agriculture; promote food security; expand production and consumption of fresh, healthy, safe and locally produced foods; and improve the nutritional health of the Commonwealth’s citizens. The bill’s sponsors are optimistic that the measure may be enacted yet this year.
In western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, an innovative CISA program is building new bridges between farms and urban consumers. The Farm2City project aims to open new markets and strengthen existing markets in Hampden County, Massachusetts for local farmers while improving access to farmers’ markets in urban areas for low income and minority consumers. Farm2City is going one step further to increase the availability and accessibility of fresh, local foods by bringing farm-fresh produce to urban workplaces and other community locations.
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