$1.2M in grants to improve food security in Franklin County

  • Shiitake mushrooms growing in sawdust blocks at Mycoterra Farm in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mycoterra Farm owner Julia Coffey with the mushroom blocks of sawdust and nutrients the mushrooms are grown in. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mycoterra Farm owner Julia Coffey, right, and Operations Manager Chris Haskell with a van they use for the Mass Food Delivery program. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mycoterra Farm owner Julia Coffey, left, and Operations Manager Chris Haskell in the indoor greenhouse where they grow mushrooms in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2020 2:21:36 PM

Six Franklin County farms and organizations will receive a total of about $1.2 million from the Baker-Polito Administration’s third round of funding in the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program.

The grants are intended to address food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a state press release. This third round of funding included roughly $5.5 million awarded to 33 recipients, including Apex Orchards and Hager’s Farm Market in Shelburne, Lyonsville Farm in Charlemont, Mycoterra Farm in South Deerfield, Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden and the Greenfield-based Community Action Pioneer Valley.

With its $447,563, Mycoterra Farm plans to buy refrigeration, storage and transportation equipment. The farm will also develop a commercial kitchen to expand food storage capacity for a variety of crops, and increase capacity for winter storage.

“We will be purchasing another delivery vehicle, a box truck, to help streamline our produce pickup and reach a larger delivery area,” explained owner Julia Coffey. “We wouldn’t have been able to do these projects without the grant. This will allow us to go farther faster, and bring food access to more people across the state.”

Coffey said farm staff look forward to helping address previous limitations on equitable food access. Mycoterra Farm serves adult day care and housing facilities and low-income residents, and will be able to deliver food to more people in need with the new delivery vehicle.

Using its award of $109,547, Hager’s Farm Market will purchase and install two cooler/freezer units as well as buy a refrigerated truck to deliver products in a “safer and more effective manner,” according to co-owner Kim Stevens.

Without the extra freezer space, Stevens said Hager’s was having trouble keeping enough fresh produce to meet demand. This was something that was an issue before the pandemic, but has since been exacerbated as more people are shopping at small local markets, and avoiding larger, more crowded grocery stores.

“We’re really excited the state is putting money into farms to make sure local food access is available year-round,” Stevens said.

Other recipients include Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden, which was granted $500,000 to buy a refrigerated delivery truck, and install a milk and dairy processing facility, which will include dry good storage and refrigeration as well as a farm store to sell their products. According to the release, Lyonsville Farm in Charlemont will use its $53,212 to purchase a new van, allowing it to increase its delivery capabilities to the Greenfield Farmers Market. Additionally, Shelburne’s Apex Orchards plans to use its $71,400 to buy a new delivery vehicle and a packing line to increase efficiency and provide better access to local fruit.

Similarly, in Greenfield, the $65,606 awarded to Community Action Pioneer Valley will allow the nonprofit to purchase a refrigerated truck. With the new vehicle, Communication and Development Director Jessye Deane said Community Action’s Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry will be able to expand delivery and food access.

Deane said many food pantry participants don’t own their own vehicle, and used to arrive via carpool. However, due to the pandemic, carpooling is not as safe an option for some, and they are unable to pick up their groceries. The delivery van will ensure continued food access for families who need it.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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