By J. Harrison, The Food Project executive director
STANDING ON OUR FARMS in Boston, Beverly, Lincoln, Lynn, and Wenham, it’s hard to realize how easily the land could have been used for something other than farming. Our farms could have been buildings, houses, streets, or parking lots, and the same can be said for so many of the local farms and gardens that we enjoy and deeply value here in Massachusetts. The farms we steward, tend and love so much exist thanks to the wisdom, foresight, and good planning of people in the past.
In December, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council released the Massachusetts Food Plan, the first comprehensive food system plan we’ve created as a commonwealth since 1978. The last plan helped launch the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program and served as the backbone for the strong direct marketing that has made Massachusetts a leader in the CSA and farmers market movements. The 1978 plan articulated the importance of preserving local farms and laid out recommendations for keeping a vibrant local farm economy.
There is much to like about this new plan. It has a strong focus on the role of agriculture in the advancement of equity and the expansion of food access, education, training, and economic opportunity for all. It has recommendations for the overhaul of agricultural regulations and the preservation of farmland. There is a lot to like, and there is also just a lot…the full plan is 420 pages long and contains dozens of recommendations! You can check out the full plan and summaries here.
Time will tell where and how this new food plan will guide us. There is still a huge amount of work to be done to prioritize and develop resources to support the plan’s recommendations. Where we go really depends on all of us. Which pieces of this plan will resonate with our communities, who will champion what, what public, private, and philanthropic resources we can muster and utilize, have all yet to be determined. The Food Project looks forward to working closely with our local and state partners to share, test, and implement some of the key components of the plan.
In the meantime, The Food Project is grateful to all of our partners and colleagues across the Commonwealth who have worked so hard on this plan, to have had our youth and staff included in the planning process, and to have our work with youth and communities recognized throughout.