Sunderland, Whately farms benefiting from $400K state grant program

For the Recorder
Published: 8/9/2022 4:39:24 PM
Modified: 8/9/2022 4:36:07 PM

Two Franklin County farms are benefiting from a total of $400,000 awarded to six farms throughout Massachusetts to improve their operations.

Thanks to funding through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), D.A. Smiarowski Farms in Sunderland has received $120,000 and Long Plain Farm in Whately has received $40,000.

“The Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to the Massachusetts agricultural industry to ensure our local farmers continue to succeed and have the support they need to provide invaluable products for the public to enjoy,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card said in a press release. “These Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program improvement grants will further strengthen the commonwealth’s food supply system, making it more resilient now and well into the future.”

MDAR provides farmers with business planning and technical assistance in addition to grants through its APR Improvement Program. Since it began in 2009, the APR Improvement Program has provided nearly $6.43 million in grants. Additionally, a total of $558,958 has been provided in technical assistance to 100 Massachusetts farms to date.

Dan Smiarowski’s 175-acre farm in Sunderland is receiving $120,000. Of this land, 18 acres are dedicated to the production of asparagus, which Smiarowski is focused on making his signature crop. He plans to increase production over the next few years to reach about 25 acres.

With this increase in production, Smiarowski will be using his grant money to create a large, dedicated shed in which to package the asparagus. Asparagus production currently takes place in a 24-by-28-foot garage. Smiarowski said he has been wanting to build an asparagus shed for several years, and feels as though he needs a larger facility to ensure greater product safety going forward.

Smiarowski praises the alliances that have helped him distribute his products, which he said have “been very helpful, getting the asparagus out to various groups.”

Another grant recipient is Long Plain Farm in Whately, a 100-acre farm offering native vegetables, flowers and tobacco. The owners, brothers Scott and Wayne Hutkoski, are in their 15th year of partnership. According to a description of their planned project, the brothers plan to put the $40,000 grant toward constructing a tobacco barn and storage facility, with a total estimated cost of $56,425.

As the farm moves away from growing squash, pumpkins and cucumbers, and opts to produce more root crops, the proposed facility will provide much-needed storage. Long Plain Farm recently lost two large onion accounts due to a lack of adequate storage.

Aside from the planned construction of the structure — which will include a modern, efficient vegetable washing and packing station — Long Plain Farm plans to be able to offer larger orders to the farm’s wholesale buyers.

“Support for our local farms is vital to the success of our food system,” state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, said in a press release. “These investments allow farmers to make improvements that will enhance operations and truly make a difference in their long-term viability.”


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