Federal officials touring WMass farms

It was a chance for farmers to showcase their success and voice their concerns.

HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Agriculture is an important part of our economy. 22News found out how it was highlighted through a tour of the Pioneer Valley.

Mapleline Farm in Hadley says it is just one of three dairy farms in Western Massachusetts that process milk on the farm. It’s tough work.

“The price of milk really needs to stay at a more stable level where farmers can operate and not have these up and down cycles of not making any money and then plenty, just to pay off when you did make money,” Paul Kokoski of Mapleline Farm told 22News.

That’s one of many concerns Congressman Jim McGovern and Edward Avalos, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, hope to bring back to Washington.

“The most important thing is to listen to and hear from our state farmers, from our dairy producers, from our livestock producers. It’s very important to the president,” said Avalos.

On Tuesday, they toured seven farms and businesses in the Pioneer Valley. They started at All Things Local Co-Op in Amherst before heading to Mapleline Farm in Hadley, Valley Malt in Hadley, River Valley Co-Op in Northampton, Szawlowski Potato Farms in Hatfield, Franklin County CDC Food Processing Center in Greenfield and Four Star Farms in Northfield.

Farmers dedicate countless hours to growing their crops, but after they grow, then what? Congressman McGovern wants to focus on helping farmers market their products so they end up at places like All Things Local.

“We’re kind of the nexus of where consumers and local farmers get together…We are preserving local jobs and our local economy. We’re supporting, literally supporting our neighbors,” said Al Sax, General Manager of All Things Local in downtown Amherst.

“I don’t think I could survive on a farm working for more than a few days, but I admire what our farmers do and I enjoy what they grow.”

The tour also focused on farm bill programs, including a $66 million federal initiative to help farmers enhance the competitiveness of their specialty crops.

The tour continues Wednesday in Central Massachusetts, as they tour Valley View Farm in Templeton, Rota Spring Farm in Sterling, Meadowbrook Orchard in Sterling, Little Bit Farm in Leicester, Elmhurst Dairy in Milbury and Five Forks Farm in Upton. Thursday, they’ll focus on urban farming at YouthGrow Urban Farm in Worcester, Oread Place EAT Center Site and Orchard in Worcester and Preston Street EAT Center Site in Worcester.

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