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Commonwealth provides grants to sustain farms

Date: 6/7/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — On May 31, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that $700,000 in grant money would be awarded to 11 farms during a visit to Kosinski Farms, a $75,000 grant recipient.

Kosinski Farms will use its grant to expand its retail operations to include a fruit winery. North Country Harvest was the second farm recipient in Westfield, receiving $75,000 for the purchase of an efficient grain dryer and storage silo.

"We grow a lot of fruit, including apples and blueberries," Gene Kosinski, who shares ownership of the farm with his wife Susan, said. "This is really exciting. We're interested in creating fruit wines and possibly some hard cider."

The grants varied from $50,000 to $100,000 and were awarded through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Agricultural Preservation Restriction Improvement Program.

Cummington, Dartmouth, Dracut, Easthampton, Groton, Lanesborough and Rochester all had farms that received grants. Sunderland and Westfield each had two farms that were awarded money.

According to Kosinski, his farm grows 50 acres of blueberries and has 16 acres of apple orchards. The 133-acre family farm was established in the 1930s. The farmstand was started in 1999. He estimated that the building would be 40 by 60 feet in size and would cost $300,000 to build.

A vacant field awaits the construction of the winery. Kosinski said that long term, plans include coupling wine samplings with hosting summer entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. Throughout the year, he would like to offer wine tastings on the weekends.

He explained that this idea has been in the works for years.

"We're a little bit off the beaten path," Kosinski said. "The farmstand needed to become a destination first [to establish a client base]. This grant is the last piece to move forward with the plans."

Kosinski said he wanted to create a "viable" business for one of his children to take over in the future as a means of sustainable income.

Patrick was joined by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and Energy, Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Rick Sullivan, EEA Commissioner Gregory Watson, state Rep. Donald Humason Jr. and the Kosinski family.

"The Massachusetts agriculture industry is an important piece of our economy and these investments will help local farmers continue to remain sustainable in a 21st century marketplace," Patrick said.

Murray said of Patrick, "He is someone that gets it. He has a fondness for Western Massachusetts in his heart."

Patrick added, "The grants help farms take the next step in making their businesses economically sustainable; to add a further commercial dimension — to make what they do better and stronger. I am delighted the Commonwealth can offer these grants."

Watson said, "These grants marry land conservation, stewardship and economic development." He described the recipients as "path builders" and "trailblazers."