Farms, others share in $26.3M in food security grants

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 07-20-2023 7:09 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Food producers Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton and Antonellis Farm in Deerfield are among 165 recipients of $26.3 million in food security grants announced Thursday by Gov. Maura Healey.

Farms and other organizations applied for the grants for specific projects. Antonellis Farm manager Jen Antonellis said the farm sought the funds for a $750,000 produce packing shed. It received a grant of $500,000.

The 40-by-60-foot post-and-beam building will include a conveyor belt and walk-in cooler, and allow the farm to wash and pack produce year-round.

“It’ll be a big improvement,” Antonellis said.

The farm, which has lost a lot of corn and squash to the recent floods, now has to get in touch with contractors and start the ball rolling on construction, since there’s a timeline on expenditure of grant funds, she said.

In all, 25 farm and food projects in Hampshire and Franklin counties shared in the grant award, announced by the governor and other state officials during a stop at the Fruit Fair Supermarket in Chicopee.

The Food Security Infrastructure Grant program was created to strengthen Massachusetts’ food supply system and mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It provides grants for capital investments that increase access to locally produced food for families and individuals throughout the state who may be facing food insecurity, live in gateway cities or food deserts, or otherwise face unequal access to food.

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Another $500,000 grant will help with construction of a brand new apple barn at Easthampton’s Park Hill Orchard.

Russell Braen, who co-owns the orchard with Alane Hartley, said they’ve been working on the design of the barn for eight years, but construction prices had outstripped their ability to pay for it.

“This makes possible something that was impossible,” Braen said of the grant.

Part of the thinking behind the project is for the orchard to become a “buyer of last resort” for other orchards — a place that would take all their unsold fruit at the end of the season and use it for juice or cider, for example. There used to be such buyers, but no more, Braen said.

Phase 1 — putting up the steel structure of the 5,200-square-foot barn — is expected to cost $700,000 he said. When complete, the building will include a walk-in cooler and wet and dry commercial kitchens. Braen said it will be built to last 100 years.

He didn’t expect the grant application to be successful, and credited the many letters of support that were filed along with it.

“We’ve been talking this up for years,” he said.

 

For the first time, also, the governor’s office stated, the grant awards prioritized projects that support organizations impacted by drought or extreme weather events. Park Hill Orchard lost almost all its fruit crop to the May frost.

Healey said it was clear to her that farmers threatened by unusual weather such as floods and late frost need support more than ever.

“Our farmers are the backbone of Massachusetts’ food infrastructure, and it’s critical that we continue to make short- and long-term investments through grants like these to help strengthen resiliency and enhance mitigation efforts,” Healey stated.

Along with WestMass Elder Care in Holyoke, which was awarded $492,925, the following organizations in Hampshire County received grants:

■ Amherst Survival Center, $133,222.

■ Crimson & Clover Farm, Florence, $86,655.

■Winter Moon Roots, Hadley, $89,052.

■Ground Up LLC, Hadley, $385,834.

■ Hilltown Community Development Corp., Chesterfield, $105,494.

■Mayval Farm, Westhampton, $81,761.

■Morning Dew Farm, Worthington, $280,271.

■ Northampton Survival Center, $72,363.

■ Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, $500,000.

Grant recipients in Franklin County and the Athol area are:

■ Antonellis Farm, Deerfield, $500,000.

■ Bree-Z Knoll Farm, Leyden, $108,750.

■ Chase Hill Farm, Warwick, $191,600.

■ Coolidge Hill Farm, New Salem, $55,649.

■ Divoll’s Farm, Royalston, $37,648.

■ Fern Hill Farm, Buckland, $68,751.

■ Free Living Farm, Petersham, $55,670.

■ Gould Maple Farm, Shelburne, $225,423.

■ Hart Farm, Conway, $29,269.

■ Just Roots, Greenfield, $146,645.

■ Laurenitis Farm, Sunderland, $39,235.

■Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op, Orange, $64,852.

■ Reed Farm, Greenfield, $285,777.

■ River Valley Farm, Leverett, $50,193.

■ Riverland Farm, Sunderland, $57,027.

■ Whistling Meadow Farm, Deerfield, $170,743.

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