Massachusetts lawmakers visit farms in Pioneer Valley as Farm Bill awaits hearings


HADLEY – Seventh-generation farmer Denise Barstow hosted a tour on Friday for state lawmakers, their staff, and advocates for the network of farms and retailers that make up the local food system by answering a question children generally pose.

“What does a cow say?” “

Barstow, the education and marketing director of Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery and Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, took a break for the effect.

“Cows only mow when they are stressed,” she said. “Our cows are calm.

But while the 600 cows – 300 of which currently give milk – at Barstow’s nestled on the slopes of Mount Holyoke are satisfied, farmers are troubled by issues such as the overabundance of milk, lack of employees, changing conditions. consumer tastes and the cost of the land.

And the farmers are making noise.

A sign exposes the philosophy of Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery and Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley during a visit on Friday. (Jim Kinney / The Republican)

Friday’s tour was hosted by the Shem State. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton; State Representatives Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, Representative Mindy Domb, D-Amherst and Representative Dan Carey, D-Easthampton; and by the CISA (Community involved in sustainable agriculture).

“Money, it all comes down to money,” said David Barstow, Denise’s father. “They keep telling us they can get cheaper milk from Ohio and Pennsylvania and truck it. We don’t like it.

A long time ago, Barstow’s branched out, operating the ice cream shop / restaurant and Drive-thru as well as a digester to produce electricity from agricultural and food waste.

But the store is struggling to hire employees, Denise Barstow said. This is a problem that many businesses face. David Barstow said he believes many high school and college students who normally work in the store avoid busy public places.

Philip Korman, executive director of CISA, said the COVID pandemic has taught everyone how important local food is. And he said demand for local produce increased during the lockdown – a good thing as dairy farmers have lost customers in school restaurants and cafeterias.

CISA estimates that 15-20% of the food on tables in Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire counties is grown locally. If each household in the region spent just $ 5 more on local food for $ 5 less on non-local products each month, the group said, that would generate $ 7.5 million and create 48 jobs.

But now, with the opening of things, consumers seem to be reverting to their old ways of buying food by truck.

Legislative farm visit

Hadley farmer Joe Czjkowski, left, chats with state lawmakers and other officials about the state of agriculture and recent farm legislation during a visit to Connecticut River Valley Farms Friday. Looking to the right is State Representative Daniel Carey. (Photo by Dave Roback)

Besides Barstow’s, the tour took place at Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst, Reed Farm in Sunderland and Joe Czajkowski Farm in Hadley, where visitors discovered the vegetables. A late addition to the tour was the Western MA Food Processing Center of the Franklin County Community Development Corp. in Greenfield. Participants also heard about Mass Food Delivery and the Mycoterra mushroom farm in Westhampton.

Blais said there are political solutions to the problems faced by farmers, largely in an omnibus bill (S 1822 / H 861) still awaiting a hearing at Beacon Hill. The bill would create a $ 3 million fund for next generation farmers to support agricultural training and education.

“You can talk about things in the Statehouse, and those stories are important, but nothing beats coming here and learning from a farmer,” she said.

A guest of the tour, State Representative Carolyn C. Dykema, D-Holliston, is president of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. She bristled at the idea that it is difficult for rural issues to gain a foothold in a state where Boston and its suburbs dominate speech.

“I think you are underestimating the Western mass delegation,” she said. “They are united and they speak loudly and clearly.”

There are only a few small farms in Holyoke, but State Representative Patricia A. Duffy, a Democrat whose district is entirely within the city, was on the tour. She said that agriculture bills are employment bills. They are also bills for the protection of open spaces.

“These farms feed my constituents,” she said.

Lawmakers on a farm tour at Barstow's in Hadley

Denise Barstow of Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery and Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley leads lawmakers and their employees on a tour of the farm’s free-stall barn on Friday. (Jim Kinney / The Republican)

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