Springfield, Mass.-based convenience store and supermarket chain Big Y joined with other community organizations in supporting efforts of local farm communities.
The Local Farmer Awards program, funded since 2015 by community philanthropic leaders and businesses, recently distributed checks of up to $2,500 to 81 farmers in Western Massachusetts and Eastern New York. The funds, totaling $180,000, support infrastructure improvements and equipment.
“Our local farmers continue to be an intrinsic and crucial part of our communities. We recognize their growing need for assistance now more than ever,” says funding partner Charles D’Amour, Big Y president and CEO. “For over 85 years, Big Y has been proud to support hardworking farmers and their families, and as partners with the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation we provide one more way to help our local growers thrive.”
In its short history, the awards program has made over $900,000 available to local growers, who have become better positioned to expand, compete in the marketplace, and provide the public with the health and environmental benefits of local farming.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic fueled a need for some unexpected projects and new equipment. Stillman Quality Meats in Hardwick, Mass., won its award to purchase a commercial egg washing machine necessitated by a 1,000% increase in demand for eggs, a demand now anticipated to grow.
Atlas Farm in Deerfield, Mass., also received funding. “We are incredibly grateful for funds to buy a flat filling machine for our greenhouse operation, a quantum leap in both labor efficiency and uniformity of flats for seeding,” said Atlas owner Gideon Porth. “Our plants and people are loving it!”
Program funders, all of whom recognize the urgent need to invest in local farms, include the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF) in partnership with Big Y along with Ann & Steve Davis, DeNucci Group at Merrill Lynch, Farm Credit East, HP Hood LLC, PeoplesBank, Audrey & Chick Taylor, Baystate Health, Country Bank, and others.
Local Farmer Awards Director Cari Carpenter of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation notes that farmers have exhibited enormous persistence, creativity and great spirit throughout Covid 19.
“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to purchase local farm products at farmers markets, farm stands, CSA’s shares (community supported agriculture) and in our grocery stores,” Carpenter said. “We urge all consumers to continue buying local farm products whenever and wherever they can.”
The HGCF supports local education, farming, energy and entrepreneurship initiatives in the western Massachusetts region.