We bought our first piece of equipment!

We bought our first piece of equipment!

We are excited to announce the first piece of equipment for our new Healthy Soil Equipment Program launching this year! After much research, conversations with farmers, and deliberation, we have decided to purchase the Esch 5605 No-till seed drill. This is a wonderful piece of equipment that will help farmers reduce tillage and build soil organic matter and overall soil health.
The Esch 5605 has 5.5″ row spacing, 12 openers, and a planting width of 5’6″. You can learn more here: https://www.eschdrills.com/models.
Contact Matthew ([email protected]) to learn more about the program and schedule a time to use this machinery. We look forward to building this program and adding more equipment overtime. Stay tuned for updates!
Healey-Driscoll Administration Declares March  “Massachusetts Maple Month”

Healey-Driscoll Administration Declares March “Massachusetts Maple Month”

Check out this article from MDAR, who visited the Maple Corner Farm, owned and operated by HHCD Chair, Leon Ripley, and HHCD board member Joyce Ripley –
To celebrate the dawn of a new agricultural season in Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey is declaring March to be Massachusetts Maple Month in the Commonwealth. To celebrate, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux, state and local officials, and representatives from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association today visited Maple Corner Farm in Granville to raise awareness of the Commonwealth’s maple sugar industry and to encourage residents to purchase locally produced maple products.
“Our Administration stands in support of our maple sugar producers who, for generations, have contributed to the bounty of Massachusetts agriculture by providing jobs to over a thousand workers, contributing over $15 million to the local economy, and maybe most importantly, producing the freshest tasting maple syrup and other maple products,” said Governor Maura Healey. “We encourage everyone to visit a local sugar house this month to learn more about the process of making maple syrup, enjoy a hearty breakfast complete with Massachusetts maple syrup, and purchase some bottles to take home.”
“The production of maple sugar products in the Commonwealth yields enormous benefit to the maintenance and preservation of open space,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Aside from the delicious products that they make, maple sugar farms protect over 15,000 acres of woodland. In addition, thanks to MDAR grants, maple sugar farmers have installed updated and environmentally friendly equipment to lower their energy usage and production costs, making them more energy efficient and sustainable.”
The visit to Maple Corner Farm included a tour of their facility along with a ceremonial tapping of a maple tree to commemorate the official start of the sugaring season. Owners Leon K. Ripley and Joyce M. Ripley and their sons have been running the farm since 1982. The Ripley family has been farming the land for eight generations going back to 1812. Once a beef and dairy operation, the farm now produces hay, pure maple syrup, and maple products, as well as pick-your-own blueberries. From mid-February through mid-April, their sugar house is open to the public where visitors can watch maple sap being boiled into maple syrup. On weekends during the maple sugaring season, they serve breakfast from 8:00AM to 2:00PM. Maple syrup, maple candy, maple cream, and homemade jam, jelly, and fruit butters are available for sale year-round. For the current fiscal year, Maple Corner Farm received a total of $40,500 in Climate Smart Agriculture Program grants for the installation of updated energy-efficient equipment.
NACD’s 77th Annual Meeting

NACD’s 77th Annual Meeting

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack provided the keynote address at this year’s National Association of Conservation District’s (NACD) Annual meeting, in which he announced the availability of Inflation Reduction Act funds to support conservation programs. Tom emphasized the critical role that Conservation District’s serve in connecting farmers to financial and technical assistance.

In Fiscal Year 2023, NRCS will make $850 million available for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Also, at the annual meeting Massachusetts’s own Kim LaFleur was sworn in as the next president of NACD. Kim serves as the Board Chair of Plymouth County Conservation District and is a State Advisor and Program Directory for the Massachusetts FFA Association.

Congratulations Kim! We look forward to working with you

Healthy Soil Equipment Program!

Healthy Soil Equipment Program!

HHCD is pleased to announce our new Healthy Soil Equipment program! In an effort to encourage farmers to experiment with approaches to farming that reduce tillage and improve the health and vitality of their land, several pieces of equipment will be available from HHCD at low rental rates. The program will allow farmers to try new approaches without investing their own money in expensive equipment. Also available to participants is soil sample analysis with recommendations and, for those interested, pairing with a mentor to assist with the implementation of minimal-till practices and proper equipment use.

We are excited to offer this new program and look forward to working directly with farmers in the region to implement new soil health practices! 

We will announce the list of available equipment once manufacturers confirm our orders. We are already recruiting participants for the program. If you are interested in using the new equipment or serving as a mentor to other participants, please fill out this Google Form (https://bit.ly/HHCD-Equipment-Program) or contact Matthew Karas – [email protected].

NOFA/Mass Winter Conference is this Weekend!

NOFA/Mass Winter Conference is this Weekend!

I am very excited to attend my first NOFA/Mass Winter Conference this weekend! There are so many great workshops to attend on Saturday, forty-three (!) by my count, peer-to-peer consultation, two Roundtable Discussions on Sunday, and a keynote address by Ira Wallace, who will discuss the history, present, and future of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Acorn Community Farm, and other cooperative models! I am grateful to get this opportunity to learn from such an inspiring and diverse collection of speakers and connect with other farmers in our region. Registration is still open, and I strongly encourage you to participate! 

Registration is on a sliding scale, from $90 to $250, and includes admittance to all in-person and virtual workshops & activities, an organic lunch and continental breakfast, and long-term access to recordings of all the sessions. In-person events take place on the Worcester State University campus, but all activities are accessible virtually. 

Topics include no-till vegetable farming, collaborative marketing models, racial equity, inclusivity, and justice in the food system, understanding and supporting the microbial workforce in our soil, designing and constructing your first hoophouse, organic compost requirements, growing for nutrient density, impact of climate change on pollinators, food gardens in prison education, growing for the cannabis/hemp industry, and so much more! I hope to see you there!! 

See the full schedule here: 




What to do with Your Tree

What to do with Your Tree

Massachusetts residents are estimated to purchase around 1 million cut Christmas trees each year. After your festivities are over, what should you do with your tree? Here are our top 5 options for disposing of your christmas tree: 

  1. Create habitat – place your tree in its stand outside and hang bird feeders from the branches, place pine cones dipped in peanut butter on the branches, or submerge it in a pond to create habitat for fish. Penn State extension says that the “whorled branching structure… acts as a refuge from predation by both establishing physical barriers in many different directions and creating shadows that easily camouflage sunfish, perch, or other prey species of fish”. The trees need to be weighed down, in order to stay submerged. Some people recommend attaching cinder blocks to the trunks. 
  2. Use it for mulch or compost – your tree can be chipped into mulch, or boughs can be cut and laid atop garden beds to insulate and protect plants. You can likewise cut up the tree and add it to your compost system.
  3. Feed it to goats or pigs! Trees contain fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients, and are a natural dewormer. If you don’t have animals, contact a local farm to see if they want your tree. 
  4. Burn it, but outside only! Creosote can build up and start a chimney fire. 
  5. Crafts! Add needles to potpourri or sachet for fragrance. Use slices of the trunk for coasters or to line your garden beds. 

In addition, many municipalities offer recycling programs. Northampton has pickups on the following dates. Check this site for other locations, or contact your local recycling center for information.  https://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/MassachusettsTreeRecyclingDisposal.php

Of course, before choosing any of your options, you must remove all of your festive adornments – lights, ornaments, and other artificial decorations. Next year, consider buying a living tree that can be planted after the holidays!