Augusts’ Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest winner was Cara Peterson, who photographed a high tunnel greenhouse at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster.
Flats Mentor Farm (FMF) is a program of the non-profit organization World Farmers (WF), which provides cooperating farmers training and technical assistance in sustainable agricultural production and marketing practices necessary to operate successful sustainable agricultural enterprises.The mission of WF is to provide small farmers (immigrants, refugees and socially disadvantaged farmers) with mentoring, training and hands on assistance in crop production and marketing to build their own sustainable farming enterprises.
In existence since 1984, FMF participants farm 45 acres of land in Lancaster. Maria Moreira is the Executive Director and wears many hats to assist FMF farmers to achieve the program’s mission and goals. “This is a farmer-lead organization. The people and their needs drive the organization and they are respected at every level of programming and training,” said Moreira.
FMF has nine high tunnel greenhouses. Each tunnel is made of polyethylene and is usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. High tunnels help extend the growing season and are becoming standard equipment for many New England growers. Each high tunnel belongs to an individual FMF farmer. In order to participate in the program, the farmers farm one acre or more of land. You can find FMF farmers selling their produce at over 38 farmers’ markets across the Commonwealth. With approximately 230 farmers in the program, each farmer evaluates the best marketing channel for themselves, such as whether it is selling at a farmers’ market or through CSA memberships. Each farmer sells individually at the market and they are responsible for all profits and losses.
For the past 30 years, beginning immigrant and refugee farmers have participated in the FMF program solely through word of mouth. Over the years, the ethnic make-up has changed. I In the mid-1990’s, there were over 140 Hmong families and only two African Immigrant farmers. Today, there are only 16 Hmong farmers and over 200 African and other immigrant and refugee farmers. Over the past 30 years, many immigrant and refugee farmers and their families have participated in the mentoring program, providing mentoring, training and technical assistance to more than 1,200 beginning farmers.
During the five year mentoring cycle of the program, participants develop their capacity to purchase or lease their own farms and to become part of new farmer community in the United States. To date, 30 percent of participants have achieved this long-term goal, of whom over 60 percent are women and have established their own operations in different parts of the country, in states such as North Carolina, California, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. In 1999, FMF was identified as a national model by Unites Stated States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and has served as a model for many beginning farmer programs nationally.
Each month, we are posting the 2014 Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar’s photo of the month. Featuring photos of Bay State farming, the calendar is available for purchase. All photos were taken by amateur photographers who won the annual Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest. Proceeds from the $10 calendars benefit Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, a non-profit organization that works with teachers to develop classroom materials. The calendar features a winning photograph each month, as well as interesting facts about local agriculture.
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