Building partnerships and support for a regional farm-link effort in southeastern Massachusetts

Final Report for CNE06-010

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $8,902.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Sarah Kelley
SE Mass. Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP)
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Project Information

Summary:

The agricultural community in Southeastern Massachusetts faces a loss of critical mass. Recent development pressures have led to the loss of so many farms that regional farm infrastructure is eroding. To revitalize and sustain our community, SEMAP has planned and implemented a program called “Farms Forever” under ths grant to help new and next-generation producers begin farming in our region.

Our partnership-building effort under this proposal included assembling an advisory committee, holding farmer focus groups to clarify local challenges, conducting research into innovative national and international land tenure/transfer models, creating an action plan for a local Farm-Link effort, and implementing fundraising to launch these efforts.

Project Objectives:

As background to these two exciting developments, I am providing the following summary of our progress towards the means of measuring our results that we provided in our additional proposal. In most cases progress has been a few months behind the dates originally envisioned; however all outcomes have been completed as planned in other respects.

1. Advisory group is in place by April 30, 2006.

On May 4, 2006, we held an information-gathering meeting to request input from a wide circle of potential advisory group members—inviting land trust representatives, growers, community members, AgCom reps, and others. The meeting included a structured needs assessment / discussion, asking each participant for information about what issues they have experience with, what we should be aware of during our planning process, and what they would like to see from the SEMAP program. After this meeting, we incorporated selected members of this wider circle with some of SEMAP’s existing Technical Assistance Committee members to form the advisory group. After email communication over the summer and completion of the focus groups, the first official meeting of the advisory group took place on September 5, 2006. Additional partners and collaborators have attended selected meetings since then.

2. Advisory group includes at least 8 members, including 2 agricultural commission members (farmers), 2 land trust representatives, 2 representatives from for-profit service providers, 1 SEMAP representative, and 1 other member.

Advisory group members:
Briana Sheldon, Chair, First Pioneer Farm Credit
Carolyn DeMoranville, UMass Cranberry Station
Jon Jaffe, First Pioneer Farm Credit
Philip Boucher, Tranquil Lake Nursery/Rehoboth AgCom
Scott Soares, Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources
Matt Rulevich, Woolly Mammoth Farm/Dartmouth AgCom
Steve Ward, Plymouth County Farm Bureau
Sarah Kelley, SEMAP

Partners attending as needed:
Anthony Cucci, Trustees of Reservations
Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good
Bob Bernstein, Land For Good

3. Each focus group will include at least 6 members, evenly representing retiring farmers, beginning farmers, and non-farming landowners.

Focus Groups were conducted on one day, July 10, 2006. Kathy Ruhf of Land For Good acted as facilitator. Please see her attached notes summarizing focus group input. The retiring grower group included 6 growers and the entering grower group included 8 individuals. Identifying non-farming landowners was more difficult; after 2 last-minute cancellations only 1 landowner was present for this group. However, this person provided much valuable feedback.

4. The action plan will be in place by July 2006.

At its September 5, 2006 meeting, the advisory group outlined the preliminary Farms Forever implementation action plan. This plan was refined over email and finalized in October 2006 as part of SEMAP’s Research and Education proposal to SARE.

5. Funding for the full Farm-Link effort, approximately $40,000 per year, will be in place by December 2006.

In April 2007 we received word of SARE’s 3-year, $122,000 grant to SEMAP for Farms Forever implementation. In June 2007 we were notified of a 1-year grant from the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education for $10,000. Yesterday we were notified that SEMAP was awarded a 1-year grant of $20,000 from the Massachusetts Office of Small Business Entrepreneurship. As mentioned above, this brings the funds raised for Farms Forever to a total of $86,235 for the period approximately corresponding to SEMAP’s FY07 (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008). Funds for FY08 and FY09 are $32,185 and $33,793 respetively, both from SARE’s R&E grant. A pre-proposal will be submitted by the end of this week to another funder for 2 years of additional support. Additional discussions with other potential funders are ongoing.

6. Using this new funding, a Farm-Link coordinator will be hired and the full Farm-Link effort will be implemented by January 2007.

On October 10, 2007 we hired Katie Cavanaugh of Beaver Brook Farm in Bridgewater Mass. as the farms Forever Coordinator. She will begin work on October 29, 2006. Though this hiring took place quite a bit later tan we had originally planned, we believe we have found the ideal candidate for this position and that the timing will be good with the winter “grower meeting” season coming up and offering many opportunities for outreach.

7. Addendum: Requested project budget modifications to improve Farms Forever “marketing.”

As we neared completion of our planning process, we were still finding that we were having difficulty communicating effectively with local farms about the Farms Forever program. With permission from SARE, we utilized a small amount of the remaining funds from the grant to conduct a marketing-based assessment and revision of some of our outreach materials for the program. We worked in cooperation with our project partner Land For Good and engaged the services of marketing specialist Tom Mongeon and copywriter Jeff Kosmacher. This project was extremely educational for SEMAP staff and advisory group members and resulted in much-improved written pieces. These pieces will be of immediate use to the new Coordinator for press releases, meeting handouts, etc. Please find them attached.

Introduction:

I’ve been assembling this report and the final financial report over the past few days, but just yesterday two things occurred that to me really represent the culmination of the planning process we have conducted over the past year and a half.

First, we offered the position of Farms Forever Coordinator to Katie Cavanaugh of Beaver Brook Farm in Bridgewater MA, and she agreed to accept the position and begin work October 29. In addition to her personal experience as a member of a farm family that has addressed farm transfer issues on their land, and her current efforts with her husband Brian to revitalize their farm’s operations, Katie also brings a strong professional background in outreach, referrals, and case management for a social service agency in the Brockton area. Her former supervisor has described her as “phenomenal” in terms of outreach, incredibly organized, a self-motivator, and able to create an extremely respectful relationship with both clients and colleagues. We are delighted to welcome Katie to SEMAP and believe her dedicated efforts will be a quantum leap forward for the Farms Forever program.

Second, I learned that SEMAP has received a $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Small Business Entrepreneurship to support Farms Forever. In addition to the incredible support provided by SARE through your 3-year Research & Education award to us, and the additional support of $10,000 provided by the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education, this brings the funds raised for Farms Forever to a total of $86,235 for the period approximately corresponding to SEMAP’s FY07 (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008). This more than doubles our Sustainable Community project fundraising goal of $40,000 per year for the current Fiscal year.

By the end of this week I will also be submitting a pre-proposal to another funder for 2 years of ongoing support for Farms Forever, a resubmission of an earlier proposal that we have revised with this funder’s input.

Research

Participation Summary

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

Conclusion

On behalf of the Board and Council of SEMAP, and especially our Farms Forever advisory committee, I would like to extend very sincere thanks to SARE for your support. The Sustainable Community grant reported on here gave us the ability to conduct a thorough and very effective planning process that has truly built partnerships and allowed us to develop a solid and sustainable fundraising base for the program. Your additional long-term commitment to the program through the 3-year Research and Education grant has helped us turn these plans into reality and had been the lever that has allowed us to generate $30,000 in additional support to date, with additional efforts outstanding. We are grateful for your support and look forward to keeping you updated as we move forward.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.