BOSTON - Friday, February 28, 2014 - The Patrick Administration today launched one of the nation's first state-funded urban farming initiatives, awarding $200,000 in grants for urban farm pilot projects in Boston, Everett, Lawrence, Lowell, Somerville, Springfield and Worcester. "Urban agriculture is an important, developing component of the Massachusetts food system," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. "It can revitalize blighted neighborhoods, improve public health, promote local businesses, engage youth and provide all Massachusetts residents with access to fresh, nutritious food." "In Massachusetts, we produce 5 to 10 percent of the food we consume and are dependent on climate change-vulnerable areas like California for the rest," said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. "When paired with the trend of most Americans living in urban areas, supporting active commercial agriculture in our cities is a strong step in strengthening our food security." Administered by the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), the Urban Agricultural Program grants will encourage and help facilitate more cities to grow their own food. The program will address some of the challenges facing urban farmers, such as suitable land, confined space, limited sunlight, nutrient-poor soils, high start-up costs, restrictive zoning rules and lack of farming experience and business training. The program is also designed to build community partnerships, increase access to fresh, nutritious food for urban residents at risk for diet-related chronic diseases and promote viable farming methods and local initiatives that other cities can replicate and benefit from. Municipalities, non-profit organizations and other governmental entities are eligible to apply for grants in the range of $5,000 to $40,000 with preference for projects that attract multiple partners and funding sources. "These grants encourage citizens of the Commonwealth to take control of their food sources and promote a sense of community in cities," said Senator Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "It's great to see the Administration support citizens working together to get a hands on understanding of public health and nutrition, while they also become better informed about our farming system."' "Growing up in Somerville, urban agriculture was simply neighbors sharing some of their prized tomatoes or freshly grown basil. Supporting urban agriculture today is a return to those roots," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. "South Street Farm is Somerville's first urban farm and one of many to come. Somerville has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement, of healthy living and reversing the trend of childhood obesity and we thank the state for supporting these efforts. This is about more than a community garden. It is about fresh, healthy food production that fits in an urban environment and helps our residents control where their food comes from and how it's produced. The school greenhouse will also support the interactive learning that we strive for in Somerville, help make the healthy choice the easy choice for our children and make even more fresh produce available for our residents." The grants announced today will support the following projects: Grant Recipient: City of Somerville Award Amount: $36,877 Project: This project will support the construction of a new raised bed and greenhouse structure at the established and urban South Street Farm, as well as the installation of a new hydroponics growing system at Somerville's Edgerly School. The school's greenhouse will support hands-on classroom learning and supply locally grown greens to the City's mobile farmer's market. Project partners include Groundwork Somerville, Stem Garden Institute, Shape-Up Somerville and the Somerville Public School System. Grant Recipient: City of Everett Award Amount: $5,000 Project: Everett will launch a citywide Urban Agriculture rezoning initiative that includes, identifying appropriate land for urban farm sites, developing zoning amendments to allow for commercial agriculture and community education and outreach to engage citizens. Grant Recipient: The Food Project, Boston - Boston- Award Amount: $27,789 Project: The Food Project and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) will conduct a cost analysis of the Food Project's urban and suburban farm tracts, install an overhead irrigation system at the DSNI greenhouse, underwrite extension school training for greenhouse staff and student volunteers to help increase tomato yields and launch a Dudley neighborhood community food action planning process. Grant Recipient: Gardening the Community - Springfield Award Amount: $15,611 Project: Gardening the Community (GTC) will conduct soil nutrient assessment of two farm plots, purchase and construct protective structures for temperature-sensitive crops, to establish a more visible neighborhood farm stand and for multi-lingual marketing materials. Grant Recipient: Groundwork Lawrence, Inc, - Lawrence Award Amount: $19,053 Project: Groundwork Lawrence (GWL) will expand its growing space at Costello Park including installation of a greenhouse and cold frame structure. The improvements will enable the Green Team to cultivate herb and vegetable seedlings for their use and sale to GWL's 350 member community gardening network and increase the produce supplied to neighborhood farmers' markets. Grant Recipient: Mill City Grows - Lowell Award Amount: $20,000 Project: Mill City Grows (MCG) will retrofit a bus to be used as a mobile market truck, create marketing and educational materials, and purchase iPads, EBT machines and tracking software to accept WIC and SNAP electronic payments. These investments will allow implementation of a full-service mobile market in June 2014 and increase the availability of affordable and fresh local food in neighborhoods remote from grocery stores and Lowell's sole stationary farmers' market. Grant Recipient: Urban Farming Institute (UFI) & Tufts University's New Entry Sustainable Farmers Project Partnership - Boston Award Amount: $30,000 Project: UFI, in partnership with Tufts University's New Entry Sustainable Farmers Project, will develop and implement a model curriculum and field training program for residents of low-income Boston neighborhoods focusing on small plot urban farming. The program's goal is to recruit and train a new cohort of urban farmers who can establish successful farm operations and agricultural processing businesses. The Kendall, Citizens Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Eos foundations have committed a total of $130,000 in matching funds. Grant Recipient: Regional Environmental Council - Worcester Award Amount: $10,170 Project: The Regional Environmental Council (REC) will purchase computer software and hardware that will enable the mobile market to track and process EBT and SNAP market sales and allow Worcester restaurants, grocery stores and other institutional buyers to source from farm vendors. Harvard Pilgrim, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers' Market Promotion Program and USDA Commodity Food project have together pledged $467,410 to support the project. Grant Recipient: Suffolk County Conservation District (SCCD) in association with City Soil & Greenhouse LLC- Boston Award Amount: $35,000 Project: City Soil and the Suffolk County Conservation District (SCCD) are working to demonstrate an innovative compost and heat-capture technology at an existing commercial composting site in Roslindale. If successful, the system could provide affordable, high quality compost for the City's urban farmers. The funding will be used to permit and construct an Aerated Static Pile facility for converting food waste to compost, from which heated carbon dioxide-enriched air is captured and pumped into an adjacent greenhouse. Today's announcement builds on the Patrick Administration's commitment to open space in urban communities. Since 2007, 170 parks have been created or renovated, within a ten minute walk of 1.5 million residents, about a quarter of the Commonwealth's residents. [cid:image002.jpg@01CF3495.7F89C320]DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth's agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr<http://www.mass.gov/agr>, and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish.