Farmers markets have quickly become a common sight in many communities across Massachusetts. Farmers markets help support farms and farmers in the state, encourage residents to eat healthier, expand the go local movement that helps reduce our carbon footprint, and help stimulate the local economy. As someone who tries to stop by at each of the farmers markets in my district, , I recognize the many benefits of offering healthy and fresh food to people and the contributions of the farmers who harvest food for a living. I’m proud to be a sponsor of the Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market, in my hometown, and advocate for state agricultural and tax policies that best support farms and farmers.
Since I was elected to serve the Middlesex & Worcester District, I’ve been committed to providing farmers markets with new opportunities to help them expand, increase their sales, grow their businesses and ultimately benefit the Commonwealth. During the 2009-2010 legislative session, I filed a bill that would allow licensed wineries to sell wine at farmers markets. In 2010, this legislation passed as part of “An Act Relative to Economic Development Reorganization.” This bill allows a farmer brewer to obtain a license from the local licensing authority to sell beer at indoor or outdoor agriculture events such as fairs or recognized farmers’ markets.
Licensed wineries who participated in agricultural events in 2011 reported an increase in winery visitors, overall sales, and product recognition and feedback. Their presence at farmer’s markets also allowed them to educate the public about the Massachusetts’ wine industry. These advantages led to increased production for many participating wineries, and to more than half of these wineries planning to hire additional employees as a result.
This session, I filed a bill that would update the farm winery legislation passed as part of “An Act Relative to Economic Development Reorganization” in 2010 to also allow a farmer brewer to obtain a license from the local licensing authority to sell beer at indoor or outdoor agriculture events such as fairs or recognized farmers’ markets. As has been proven by the farm-winery legislation, giving farmer brewers new opportunities to sell their beers at farmers’ markets will help them expand the markets for their beverages, increase their sales, grow their businesses and ultimately benefit the Commonwealth. I am hopeful that the bill will become law in light of the success farmers markets have had selling wine.
There are other actions that state government, and communities, can take to better support farms and farmers markets. Over the past few years, the Massachusetts Legislature has increased support for the “Farm to School” program, encouraging more school districts and schools to purchase local crops that are used in making the food served in cafeterias to kids. Just recently, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) and I visited the Harvard public schools, to meet with Chef Paul Correnty, to learn more about the vision he has implemented to make nutritious food also tasty to kids, so that they actually buy the food served in the schools’ cafeterias. If Massachusetts is serious about improving the kinds of food that our kids eat in the public schools, and therefore supporting local farms, I believe that it’s time to look at providing a state subsidy to expand the partnership that exists in school districts like Harvard’s, across Massachusetts.