I spent the morning on four family farms in our district. It was a tremendous honor. Thank you to Barstow Family Farm, Next Barn Over, Plainville Farm, and Simple Gifts for opening your farms and sharing your ideas.
In today’s tour, I saw the policies I support in action.
Denise Barstow was living out west, but returned to the valley because she “wanted to be around people who knew where their food came from.” She’s a seventh generation farmer on Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley. Barstow’s is a dairy farm. Has been since 1806. They operate on 450 acres, which is used both for pasture and growing food for the cows. Right now they’re milking about 250 cows and the sale of that milk generates about 85% of their income. To make ends meet, they’ve relied on the Dairy Tax Credit (my support for that here). But that’s far from all. Barstow’s has a store and it also operates a form a composting which catches and harnesses methane gas. To do this, they combine cow manure with food waste and generate enough power for 1,600 homes.
Ray Young is the head farmer at Next Barn Over. Next Barn is an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm also in Hadley. Ray is a first generation farmer who got started farming about nine years ago. Ray farms about 50 acres across 15 plots, which is a lot to keep track of. We talked about the competition Next Barn faces from big box producers and about how Ray prioritizes social and economic justice through farming. First stop: Immigrant rights. Ray’s farm has about 500 shareholders, some local, some in Boston, and some in Springfield in partnership with Gardening the Community. Ray also sells wholesale to local businesses as part of a business model that employs eight people nearly all year.
Wally Czajkowski “has been farming a long time.” He runs Plainville Farm, our third Hadley farm on today’s tour. Wally’s business is all wholesale and what he wanted to talk about was the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the “fake fear” that’s spread through misinformation and the media.
Jeremy Barker-Plotkin runs Simple Gifts farm in Amherst. Simple gifts sits on Land Trust land. Jeremy said his CSA has also had to diversify revenue, so it too opened a store. In addition to benefiting from a Land Trust relationship, Simple Gifts is supported by Agriculture Preservation Restriction (APR) funding which I support. Jeremy has applied for Massachusetts Department of Agriculture grants and Ag Energy grants, one of which he just received to install a new heating system for his greenhouse. Jeremy wanted to talk about the impact of climate change, which he’s experiencing personally through his work on the land. Simple Gifts manages 50 acres of land with efforts around “low tillage” practices. Low tillage allows for the ground to sequester larger amounts of carbon.
These farmers work from sun up to sun down nearly all year long. They farm because they love it. They love the land. They love their crews. They love being part of something real. And I already know, that I’d love being their advocate on Beacon Hill, should I have the honor of representing them.