$109K grant to help Riverland Farm in Sunderland improve food access

  • Emily Landeck and Meghan Arquin, owners of Riverland Farm in Sunderland, talk to those gathered at their farm on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Winter vegetables at Riverland Farm in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • John LeBeaux of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announces grants at Riverland Farm in Sunderland on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Meghan Arquin and Emily Landeck, owners of Riverland Farm in Sunderland, talk to those gathered at their farm on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Rachel Berggren of the Franklin County Community Meals Program speaks at Riverland Farm in Sunderland on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Owners Meghan Arquin and Emily Landeck of Riverland Farm in Sunderland talk with state Rep. Natalie Blais in a greenhouse at the farm prior to a grant announcement on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Secretary Kathleen Theoharides of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs speaks at Riverland Farm in Sunderland on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • John LeBeaux of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announces grants at Riverland Farm in Sunderland on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 2/14/2021 7:35:23 PM

SUNDERLAND — Riverland Farm on River Road landed among the more than 175 individual projects to receive over $13 million in the second-to-last round of funding from the state’s Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program.

The 40-acre farm was awarded a $109,000 grant, which owners Emily Landeck and Meghan Arquin said will be used for a greenhouse that will allow them to grow in the ground (thus extending their growing season) and a box truck with a refrigeration unit attached to it.

“This is going to allow for both immediate as well as long-term action plans to help with food access,” Landeck said at the grant announcement Thursday afternoon, which was attended by Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, and other state officials.

Landeck said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the farm has seen unprecedented demand for local food.

“We are so grateful to both our local and regional community for that, and we’re hoping these infrastructure grants will help us to meet and address that demand,” she said.

Riverland Farm also collaborates with several farms in shipping food to Boston and the surrounding areas.

“By improving our infrastructure of shipping, we’re going to increase efficiency and increase that collaboration with various farms,” Landeck continued.

The grant, which is offered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, aims to ensure that families throughout the state have access to food, with a focus in particular on locally produced food, according to the state website. It also seeks to ensure farmers and fishermen are better connected to a strong food system, so as to mitigate food supply and distribution disruption.

“We have seen, ever since last spring, the challenges of food security with COVID-19 and the connections between our local food system, the environment and public health,” Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said on Thursday.

She explained that the program grew out of a food security task force pulled together by Gov. Charlie Baker alongside the Legislature to start to tackle the issue of hunger, as well as the struggles faced by family farms and fishermen during shutdowns of various sectors of the economy.

“One of the things that was important to us in developing this $36 million grant program was that this is not just for the short term,” Theoharides said. “We don’t just want to take on this program once. ... We want to build a better system for the future.”

Also at the event on Thursday was Rachel Berggren, executive director of the Franklin County Community Meals Program. She spoke to the collaborative effort of food system advocates and activists.

“We’re all challenged by COVID, but at this time I continue to feel the gratitude for how this global pandemic has actually really put a spotlight on the tremendous needs of the community and the world as a whole,” she said, “but particularly the real infrastructure needs of the small nonprofits who do that daily work of showing up and meeting the needs of the community.”

Arquin of Riverland Farm said she and Landeck were grateful to be chosen as one of the grant recipients.

“It will help us to realize these goals and maybe be able to set new goals to help our communities as much as we can,” she said. “One thing we thrive on is that recognition that we’re in this community, and we’re doing something that is helping everyone and, in change, it’s helping to do the thing we love the best ... which is growing these vegetables for people to enjoy.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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