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It’s a good time to be a farmer

Date: 8/7/2015

I’ve been thinking about how lucky we’ve been so far this year in New England.

Yes, we had a hard winter and yes, this summer has had some hot days, but we’re not facing drought, multiple wild fires or flash flooding.

Now, granted we’ve had a flurry of shark sightings in the Atlantic waters and the thick blanket of snow insulated rather than killed the ticks in the woods.  These situations seem to me to be a bit more controllable than fires threatening your home and property or water rationing.

Using insect spray when venturing into the woods and checking yourself and not going into the ocean where there have been shark sightings are pretty easy solutions compared with those problems elsewhere in the country.

I’ll leave to you and your own political inclinations whether or not you want to chalk any of these events up to climate change.  I’m not a climate scientist so I’ll pass no judgment in this column if the four-year drought in California is cyclical or something else.

I do know one thing: a lot of the places that produce much of the food we need are being affected by adverse weather.

It does make me think about our situation here in New England, and specifically the Bay State and believe or not there is good news.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Massachusetts agriculture defies national trends in more ways than one. For example, while across the country the number of farms decreased four percent since the 2007 Census, Massachusetts was one of only 10 states that saw an increase in both the number of farms and land in farms in the same time period. In addition, while women make up 31 percent of all operators across the country, they make up 41 percent of all operators in the Bay State. Similarly, while the number of female principal operators decreased nationally since the last census, that number increased from 2,226 to 2,507 in our state. In fact, female principal operators compose 32 percent of all of our state’s principal operators, the highest percentage among the New England states and the third highest nationwide.

The report continued, “We also have a growing number of beginning farmers in Massachusetts. Although the proportion of all beginning farmers in our state is down slightly since 2007, it is still higher than in other parts of the country. In Massachusetts, 29 percent of all operators and 25 percent of principal operators began farming in the last decade, while nationwide, 26 percent of all operators and 22 percent of principal operators fall in that category.”

It also noted, “Massachusetts’s agriculture has developed to meet the needs the needs of metropolitan area that stretches from Boston to New York City. To meet the needs of East Coast homeowners and landscapers, in 2012, 1,039 of Massachusetts’s nurseries, greenhouses, floriculture, and sod farms grew and sold over $144 million worth of those crops. Sales of these crops accounted for almost 30 percent of agriculture sales. Also, 1,223 farms produced just over $125 million of fruits, nuts, and berries.”

Wow. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel hopeful. Too often when I was a kid, you saw family farms disappearing with younger generations rejecting the farm life and selling off great farmland for housing.

The census also noted the strength of the direct sale market in Massachusetts through farm stands and farmers’ markets.

The weather – or climate – events show we need to raise as much food as we can locally and use land that is perfect for agriculture for just that, rather than building McMansions for people who think they want to live in “the country.”

We also need to support locally produced products as much as we can and maybe grow a few things ourselves.

The last bit of tornado relief needed on our home is the reclamation of our backyard, a project that will start in a few weeks. I’ve asked our contractor to set aside an area for a garden since I now have plenty of sun. You can take the boy off the farm, but not the farm out of the boy.

Now, if the city would allow me to have a few laying hens.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.