Cultivating Ideas to Help Farmers in Leominster
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER -- Standing at the back of a precariously rocking wagon, Sholan Farms President Joanne DiNardo had to shout over the hum of the tractor pulling her and about a dozen others through an apple orchard.
“It’s something we hope to acquire,” she said of a 5-acre parcel the tractor passed on the edge of the farm.
DiNardo said purchase of the land would likely require some form of grant funding, state or possibly federal, but it wouldn’t be the first time Sholan Farms had received such support. Wednesday’s tour featured many of the projects and innovations that were made possible through governmental aide and forming relationships with elected officials.
“I’m finding more and more that it is crucial that you be involved in the whole community,” DiNardo said later on. “You can’t exist in a vacuum.”
The tour through Sholan Farms was just one stop on U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern’s annual farm tour, which this year coincides with the ongoing discussion between members of Congress and the U.S. Senate to reconcile two different versions of the federal Farm Bill, which lends financial support to country’s agricultural industry.
In two days, McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, visited 11 area farms where he spoke with farmers about the daily problems they are facing and why approving the Senate’s version of the bill, which cuts fewer programs, is important to them.
“A lot of the programs that Massachusetts farmers benefit from have been eliminated or cut in the House version, but are still in the Senate version,” he said. “We don’t have mega farms here in Massachusetts, but we have small to medium sized farms with people that need things like new wells or sometimes investments to become energy independent.”
Federal funding has also made it possible for some farms to afford the insurance they need to keep them in business in the event of a poor crop yield. In the case of Sholan Farms, which only recently acquired its own insurance, it has become a particularly valuable asset.
“The insurance is a big thing,” said DiNardo. “If you fail and you have nothing coming in, what happens to your farm? You eventually go out of business.”
Though he said he had spoken about the bill with the farmers he’s met this week, McGovern said he’s heard more about the individual issues facing each farm, which he said could possibly be solved with the help of federal funding.
“Programs that have helped farms do everything from digging a well to putting a farm stand up, they’re worried those programs will be cut,” he said. “But a lot of farmers aren’t able to watch what’s happening minute by minute in Washington.”
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