Regional Notebook: March 25, 2023


  • Cooley Dickinson Hospital, in collaboration with the nonprofit NEBA, has launched a program that will provide employment training to young adults with disabilities. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 3/24/2023 7:00:58 PM

Presentation on Mount Toby wildflowers part of art showcase

EASTHAMPTON — Mount Toby will be celebrated in a presentation at the Oxbow Gallery, located at 40 Cottage St. in Easthampton, on Sunday, March 26, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Complementing Kate Spencer’s exhibit of large oil paintings, local botanist Peter Grima will deliver a photo presentation of the wildflowers of Mount Toby. Grima has been hiking and exploring Mount Toby for nearly 20 years.

Grima’s talk will begin by discussing patterns of change he has observed across the mountain over the years. He will focus on several groups of plants (including ferns) that contribute to the botanical diversity of the mountain and make Mount Toby a destination for naturalists.

Located in Sunderland and Leverett, the mountain also serves as a popular destination due to its numerous trails leading to the Roaring Brook Waterfall, the Sunderland Caves and the Fire Tower.

Application period open for state agriculture programs

The state Department of Agricultural Resources is accepting applications from farmers who wish to participate in one of the following programs that aim to help with farm viability in fiscal year 2024:

Farm Viability Enhancement Program (FVEP): This program provides business planning and technical assistance to develop or update a business plan for established commercial farms that own and operate unrestricted farmland. In return for a short-term covenant to keep the land in agricultural use, operators may be eligible for grants to implement capital projects on the farm that have been identified in the business plan completed through the program. Grant levels are up to $75,000, $120,000 or $165,000, depending on the size of the farm and acreage protected, in return for a 10- or 15-year term covenant.

Details and applications are available by contacting Laura Barley at or 413-726-2008.

APR Improvement Program (AIP): This program helps sustain active commercial farming on land that has already been protected through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program. AIP provides business planning and technical assistance to farmers selected to participate in the program and grants may be available to implement identified capital improvements on the farm to increase productivity and profitability. Grant levels are up to $60,000, $90,000 or $125,000 depending on the size of the farm and acreage under APR, available on a cost reimbursement basis with a required 20% match.

Details and applications are available at by contacting Diego Irizarry-Gerould at or 857-248-1671.

Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture (MEGA): This program provides business planning and technical assistance, and grant funds may be available on a one-to-one matching cash reimbursement basis. Funds may be used for equipment, infrastructure or other capital improvements identified through the business planning process that will have a positive impact on the participating farm’s viability.

MEGA assists beginning farmers who have been in business at least one and no more than 10 years, and who are developing their farms into commercially viable operations. Details and applications are available by contacting Jess Camp at or 617-823-0871.

The due date for applications for all three programs is May 1.

Hospital launches work program for adults with disabilities

NORTHAMPTON — Cooley Dickinson Hospital, in collaboration with the nonprofit NEBA, has launched a program that will provide employment training to young adults with disabilities.

The program, called Project SEARCH, offers participants internships in a variety of the hospital’s departments.

“It’s extremely exciting to collaborate with NEBA and operate a Project SEARCH program here at Cooley Dickinson,” Ruth O’Connor, director of support services, said in a statement. “It’s very important to our organization that we provide opportunities for those in our community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They provide valuable support to our operations each and every day.”

Participants in the program will gain work experience through month-long internship rotations. The goal is to support young adults with disabilities who are transitioning from school to work, through a community/agency partnership that allows them to gain employability skills. Many of the program’s interns are later hired for both part-time and full-time positions.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Cooley Dickinson as part of our mission to empower those with disabilities through employment,” Ruth Poirier, NEBA’s division supervisor and Project SEARCH program coordinator, said in a statement. “Partnerships like these help us break down barriers of social injustice and assist those who have been historically marginalized in our community.”

Rep. Blais holding office hours

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, will host office hours in the 1st Franklin District on Monday, March 27, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Montague Town Hall.

Blais also offers virtual office hours every Friday from 8 to 9 a.m.

Constituents are welcome to drop in during in-person office hours on March 27 or contact Legislative Aide Corinne Coryat at or 413-362-9453 to schedule an appointment. To receive a link for virtual office hours on Fridays, constituents should also contact Coryat.

Should these dates not work for individuals or a phone call is preferred, constituents can schedule a meeting that works best for them.

Girl Scouts offering free outdoor skills events

Girls and their guardians are invited to free Intro to Outdoor Skills events where they will earn their first Girl Scout patch while learning basic campfire-building techniques, first aid and jackknife safety.

Each event takes place from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

■Wednesday, April 12, at Tilton Library, 75 North Main St. in South Deerfield. RSVP by April 6 at

■Wednesday, April 19, at Robbins Church, 55 Munson St. in Greenfield. RSVP by April 14 at

The events are for girls in kindergarten and preschool who are not currently Girl Scouts. For details on the events, contact or 413-224-4027.

Local residents named to Simmons University dean’s list

The following local students were named to the dean’s list at Simmons University in Boston for the fall semester: Skyler Cohen of Bernardston, Kristina Reed of Greenfield and Lia Vichi of Montague.

To qualify for dean’s list status, undergraduate students must obtain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, based on 12 or more credit hours of work in classes using the letter grade system.


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