Last week I was welcomed by Smith Academy to participate in their Agricultural Career Day presented by the Szawlowski Farms Agricultural Foundation.
This day was to educate and expose students to the importance of Agriculture and the local food movement in the Pioneer Valley.
I sat amongst a group of ten panelists who are all involved in one of the many branches of agriculture. It focused on two very important aspects. One, how important local food is to our community and economy. Second, all of the people that are involved in making local food possible.
Whether it's the farmer growing the food, the banker who provides a loan for farm equipment, the trucker who distributes food or a food bank that feeds people that are less fortunate, each and every one is important to agriculture.
Bob Wagner represented the Agricultural Commission of Hatfield. Having a background with the political side of farming he shared how important it is to be involved with legislature, the bills being presented, and how it can effect the industry.
Lisa Limont and her colleague Amber Letourneau were representing the Food Bank of Western Mass. The Food Bank helps feed communities and people that cannot afford to purchase food. Lisa is a coordinator and helps source local foods to feed people. They work with local farmers during each season to source food that the farm cannot market. They also work with businesses to arrange donations of canned goods. Amber Letourneau is a nutritional specialist that works with people who lack the experience in how to cook healthy meals. She works directly with communities to provide a base foundation for people to properly cook nutritious food for their families.
Gina Gallagher from Farm Credit East was there to share the financial role in agriculture. She explained that Farm Credit East works with farmers to develop profitable business plans, marketing tactics and loans to help agricultural businesses succeed.
Carl Loomis, from Swazlowski Farm, represented a trucker who has the important roll of moving produce and goods across the country to supply the needs of the food industry.
Big Y Produce Sales Manager Sean Stolarki works with local farms in the area to source local foods to stock the chain of stores and feed the communities around them. He does his best to bring in local foods being produced in the valley to give their customers the same feel and quality of what it means to be "local".
George Semanie from C&S Wholesale in Hatfield's job is similar to Seans where he is the manager dealing with the buying and selling of products coming into their facility. He helps supply local grocery stores all throughout the Pioneer Valley to meet high demands within the industry.
Kevin Rodak from Helena Chemical in Hatfield is a sales representative that deals with farmers to help better their growing operations and create a more profitable crop. He works closely with farmers to help with control of weeds, insect and disease pressure, as well as help feed crops being grown.
Melanie and Diane were there representing Swazlowski Farm and everything that goes into bringing an agricultural product to market. From farming the fields to marketing a product, to distribution and performing important office tasks, it's no wonder they sell two hundred million servings of potatoes each year!
I represented the farmer. I talked about the process of growing food, the steps of planting and maintaining a crop, and how we market and sell our produce to the community. It was exciting to be able to see the students react to agricultural related topics and see their interest!
I want to thank the Swazlowski Farms Agricultural Foundation for inviting me to speak, to share my passion and why I think agriculture is so important to our community.
I would also like to thank Smith Academy for hosting this event and giving students the opportunity to listen to all of the good things agriculture has to offer!
Lastly, thank you to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts for the certificate presented to me. I'm honored to serve our community.
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