Field Report: Mass. Adopts A Quality Seal for Local Farms

By | Chowder |

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is making an effort to give the public a straight-forward message about local produce. The Commonwealth Quality seal program, set to launch in July (19 farms are currently certified; more than 50 have applied for certification), will be placed on fruits and vegetables from farms that not only grow, harvest, and process within the state but also utilize a strict set of best management practices (factoring in soil health, water conservation, insect control, and food safety). The translation: If you see the seal, you can rest assured that the produce you’re buying comes from MA farms that are focused on quality.

Steve Verrill, owner of Verrill Farm in Concord hosted a launch event for the seal last week — his management practices, which he’s worked years to refine and perfect, were part of the model used to create the certification process. By giving farmers a definable list of criteria (which can be audited every year) he thinks the state is encouraging them to be accountable for their growing methods. “It’s not just about food safety but the environmental impact, about conserving land and water, and the economic impact,” he said last week.

President of the Mass Farm Bureau Federation, Rich Bonanno (a lifelong farmer who also runs Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen) says the seal was put in place to define what being a good farmer is all about. “[It] provides assurances to our customers that food safety and environmental stewardship are practiced daily on our local farms.”

You’ll start to see the seal (above) show up on produce packaging from farms like Verrill, Allandale Farms, Pleasant Valley Gardens, and others starting in July. For a complete list, go to mass.gov/cqp.

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