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The New England Governers' Association sees Regional Farm to Institution Opportunities

Interest in local agricultural products is strong in the six New England states, but regional pressure for commercial and residential development can place farmland at risk. The New England Governors' Association sees regional farm-to-institution opportunities as a critical component of efforts to protect farmland. Major regional institutions like hospitals, prisons, and schools that source food products from local farmers can help develop a sustainable regional food system. In 2010, the Association entered into a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development to advance farm to institution programs and strengthen this regional food system. Rural Development provided a $250,000 challenge grant, asking regional partners to contribute additional funds to the effort. At this writing, the challenge grant has leveraged more than $450,000 in funding, including $73,000 from the Kendall Foundation. In late 2011, the John Merck Fund announced its plans to invest tens of millions of additional dollars in the New England region's food system infrastructure over the next decade.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Rural Development State Director Jay Healy help cut peppers at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation's Western Mass Food Processing Center. The fresh peppers will be frozen and provided to local schools. The New England Governors' Association is partnering with USDA and private funders to develop stronger regional food systems.