This week, I traveled throughout the Second District during my 12th annual district-wide farm tour. I visited 13 farms in 2 days to talk to farmers about the challenges they face and how I can continue to help them succeed.
I’m always so impressed by the fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, flowers, livestock and more that are produced right here in the Commonwealth. We’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful place!
Special shoutout to the farmworkers who do much of the hard work on the farm. They have an essential task producing healthy, nutritious and locally grown food—often while working long hours without benefits. And their job is not without its challenges. It’s clear that climate change is impacting our farms. From invasive species to weather extremes, if you don’t believe the climate crisis is real, talk to a farmer.
Right now, our farmers are dealing with a historic drought. While we have some of the most fertile soil in America here in Massachusetts, it’s hard for many farmers to keep their fruits and vegetables healthy. It rained briefly during our tour but not nearly enough to do the job. Lost crops can be a significant setback.
Here’s where I hoped to deliver some good news. I was proud to vote in support of the Inflation Reduction Act which President Biden signed into law on Wednesday. This bill is the largest investment to combat the climate crisis EVER. Farmers need this relief and I’m happy House Democrats could deliver for them and their families.
The best part of my tour was simple: connecting with farmers. In Hadley, I met Denise Barstow Manz of Barstow Family Farm who told me they are committed to the local community and food system. We discussed how the number of dairies are shrinking here in Massachusetts and how the federal government can be wind at their backs so their industry can thrive. (And by the way, the Barstows have an amazing robotic milker I got to see firsthand!)
In Orange, I spoke with my friends Deb Habib and Ricky Baruc at Seeds of Solidarity who showed me that farms come in all shapes and sizes. Theirs is in the middle of the woods and is set between the hilly landscape of the North Quabbin. It’s not what most people think of when they think of farming but they are incredibly successful and are reimagining what it means to grow healthy food in harmony with nature while training the next generation of farmers.
It was great meeting Fred Beddall and Kristen Sykes in Northampton at Pie in the Sky Farm. They offer pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries and flowers. When you’re buying flowers online, a lot of them are sourced from outside the U.S. and are the product of exploited labor. Buying local flowers supports the regional economy—and better working practices.
I spoke with a lot of young, first-generation farmers, like Cara Germain and Michael Zueger from Free Living Farm in Petersham and Ray Young from Next Barn Over in Hadley. They expressed that finding land and navigating the leasing process was some of the biggest challenges they faced.
That’s only a few of some of the incredible people I met. The bottom line is that farmers do it all. They’re some of the most resilient people I know. Farmers are not just planting and harvesting—they’re accountants, marketers, supervisors and more. To be honest with you, I wouldn’t last a day on a farm and I have so much respect for their work.
As a member of the Agriculture Committee, but more importantly, as someone who cares about our planet and about making it easier to get locally grown food, this farm tour continues to inspire me.
Thank you to every farmer and farmworker who welcomed me. I appreciated hearing your words of encouragement and your concerns. In Congress we’re crafting the next Farm Bill and I believe the best way to figure out what support farmers need is by asking them. Over this past week, I got a ton of ideas and I’m ready to head to D.C. and get to work.
My main message is this: buy local and eat local. It’s not only better for your health but it supports the economy and Massachusetts farming. This September, I’ve successfully advocated for a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. It’s clear to me that the journey to ending hunger in America is going to require the input of farmers and farmworkers.
While they’re fighting to put food on our plates, you can bet that I’ll be fighting hard to make sure they have a seat at the table. Thank you for reading about my farm tour and please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of my offices if you require assistance with this issue or another.
Thank you to all the farms who hosted us:
Just Roots in Greenfield
Red Fire Farm in Montague
Brookfield Farm in Amherst
Barstow Family Farm in Hadley
Next Barn Over in Hadley
Grow Food Northampton in Florence
Pie in Sky Farm in Northampton
Old Friends Farm in Amherst
Seeds of Solidarity in Orange
Free Living Farm in Petersham
Carter and Stevens Farm in Barre
Clover Hill Farm in Gilbertville
Jordan Dairy Farm in Rutland
All my best,
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress