Agriculture Day, also known as “Ag Day,” is the one day a year where farmers come together to focus legislative attention on agriculture. The day is organized by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, Mass Farmers Markets and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) The day is both a celebration of the hard work and diverse products produced across the Commonwealth as well as an important opportunity for growers to have their voices heard by the legislative body.
“There are about 7,700 farms in Massachusetts, employing some 12,000 workers and contributing about $492 million to the state economy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan. Farms maintain almost 520,000 acres of open space. More importantly, the number of farms in Massachusetts continues to grow as the Buy Local movement continues to build momentum.
The day began with a speaking program in the Nurses Hall, where Secretary Sullivan, presented Agriculture Day Awards to Governor Patrick, State Representative George N. Peterson, Jr., Senator Therese Murray, Senator Stephen M. Brewer, and Kelly Irwin, former Massachusetts Farm to School Executive Director.
Joined by more than 45 agricultural commodities, conservation groups and other agriculture related non-profits, approximately 500 people attended “Ag Day” this year to learn more about agriculture and sample a “Taste of Massachusetts,” which included an array of tasty Massachusetts grown items. Dairy farmers offered ice cream and artisan cheese, while honey, maple cranberry and apple producers sampled their sweet stuff too! Students and culinary instructors from the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Program provided a delicious buffet that included New England clam chowder, lobster bisque, roasted root vegetables, turkey salad, meatloaf sliders, roasted lamb and wheat berry salad. Massachusetts farms donated many of the products for the menu served during the reception in the Hall of Flags.
Connecting local farmers with their legislators is an important part of a functional government. As small family farms expand and urban agriculture grows, institutional changes need to be made on the state and local level to reflect the Commonwealth’s investment in this blooming industry.