By TOM RELIHAN
Monday, November 16, 2015
(Published in print: Tuesday, November 17, 2015)
GREENFIELD — A group of legislators on a joint committee concerned in part with how our food gets produced visited Franklin County to get a closer look at how some of it is processed Monday afternoon.
State representatives Paul Schmid, D-Westport and Spencer Democrat Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Environmental, Natural Resources and Agriculture joined Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, who co-chairs the state rural caucus, Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru and a cadre of representatives from the state Department of Agriculture, the MA Food Policy Council, farmers from each end of the state and others to tour the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Food Processing Center.
CDC Executive Director John Waite said the legislators decided to visit the facility, which offers space for food-business start-ups, farms and entrepreneurs to produce or preserve their products on a large scale, to learn more about how it was started and whether it could be replicated in other parts of the state.
“They’d heard a lot about our food processing center, and they’re wondering if the state should think about supporting others in the state to get a better handle on the food system and what government should do about it,” Waite said.
The center was originally made possible by a $450,000 state grant 15 years ago, said Waite. Today, he expects it would cost over $1 million to build a similar facility.
Waite said the group discussed upcoming federal food guideline changes, distributing food and the way in which some of the food products processed at the facility make their way into schools like the nearby University of Massachusetts Amherst. The group visited the Stockbridge School of Agriculture on that campus later in the day.
After lunch at the CDC, the group made their way to Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield to see a local farm and speak with its owners. Tom and Ben Clark spoke to the group about the history of their 100-year-old farm, the extent of their operations and various methods they use to produce their apples, peaches, pears and other fruits.
The Clarks also described how various state grants had helped them upgrade their farm operations, including the installation of a large cold storage unit and an expansion to their farmstand store that allowed them to extend their retail season.
You can reach Tom Relihan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264 On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom