GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll started their Friday in Greenfield, outlining how they plan to connect rural communities in Franklin County to Beacon Hill.
The Healey Administration announced they’re creating a new role, Director of Rural Affairs, focusing on rural economic development.
“It shows just how intentional we are about our rural economies and the support we want to give to communities throughout western Massachusetts,” said Healey.
Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll made the announcement of the new role to 22News at Just Roots in Greenfield. The director position will be housed under the Secretary of Economic Development, reviewing state grant opportunities, hosting office hours and connecting smaller communities with existing programs.
The Healey Administration’s visit was to showcase a proposed $25 million infusion into the state’s food infrastructure grant program.
Meryl LaTronica is the Director of Farm Operations at Just Roots. The small non-profit is a community farm that also works to expand food access. She said investments like this can be crucial, “The fact that there is government funding that is helping farms take the big leap we need to be able to serve more people, we just want to highlight that.”
At Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield, the administration also outlined their plans in the upcoming budget for rural communities
“One is increasing rural school aid by $7.5 million. We know that the way the math works in rural communities where there are less kids doesn’t mean your overhead costs are less,” said Lt. Gov. Driscoll. “We’re looking at increased funding for the regional transit authorities or RTA’s so that has been increased.”
Just Roots was awarded two grants from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). It will be used to expand their inclusive and accessible Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model in Franklin County and beyond, and to invest in infrastructure and capacity for engaging the local community at the Greenfield Community Farm.
The Greenfield Community Farm that Just Roots manages will provide up to 100 households with free farm shares, partner with additional organizations to enroll those in need of local produce and protein and, provide free monthly DIY cook kits containing curated fresh, local ingredients, kitchen staples, and which are accompanied by a live, online cooking class taught by staff at Just Roots. The grant amount of $492,786 was awarded through MDAR’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA).
To enroll in the LFPA-subsidized farm share program visit JustRoots.org.
In addition, over $233,000 through the Community Food Project Competitive Grants Program within the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will fund the work within the historic barn to maximize storage, capacity, safety, and systems. Just Roots is expanding its program beyond Franklin County.
Meryl LaTronica, Director of Farm Operations at Just Roots, noted that “this infusion of funds
over 2023 and 2024 gives us the opportunity to build and strengthen the structures and systems
that make us an impactful community organization. Physical improvements to our barn, land
and distribution area will allow people to engage more easily and fully in our programs here at
the Community farm. Systems improvements to our wash, pack, storage and food safety plans
will go a long way to ensure a top quality product reaches our customers, here at the farm and
our members further afield.”