SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — State officials, including state Reps. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), Matt Beaton (R-Shrewsbury) and state Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), visited farms in Southborough and Westborough on Monday. The tour was designed to introduce state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan to agriculture in the region and to start conversations with farmers about the issues they face.
Speaking at Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough, Doug Stephan, owner of Eastleigh Farm in Framingham, told officials that farmers face enormous pressures from rising fuel and seed costs, government regulations and aggressive competition from large agribusinesses.
Stephan, who said he has shepherded the land at Chestnut Hill Farm for the past 14 years, also referenced recent complaints from neighbors about odors from his all-natural fertilizer.
"Everyone wants to save the land until they realize what it takes to run the farm," Stephan said. "What doesn't happen is educating people who think it's wonderful to live near a farm, but don't like being near actual farming."
Stephan added, however, the growing "locavore" movement — people who buy food that is produced locally — has helped draw more people to local farms. There, he said, they get a chance to learn more about what they put on their plates. "Kids don't know where their food comes from."
The tour's last stop at Harvey Farm in Westborough gave Jim Harvey an opportunity to showcase his state-of-the-art Dutch Greenhouse. He led Dykema, Town Manager Jim Malloy and others around the farm and highlighted his new plan to incorporate a solar field.
"This is my passion, so I love talking about it and showing everyone. We're always educating people about what we do," Harvey said.
Harvey Farm was the only visit of the day for Beaton, as it was the only farm that fell into the area he represents. He said it's not his first time to the farm, and he's a large proponent for locally-grown agriculture.
"I'm a big fan of eating organically," Beaton said. "To have this is pretty cool, right in our own backyard."
The farm tours, spearheaded by Dykema, included Outpost Farm in Holliston and Water Fresh Farm in Hopkinton.
"It's not only an educational opportunity," Dykema said. "I think it's a chance for us to recognize an economic opportunity. Farms are small businesses."