Pittsfield Farmers Market in hunt for Seeds of Change money


PITTSFIELD >> Supporters of the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market have voted in the group as a finalist in a grant program that bolsters agricultural offerings across the country.

Following online balloting, the Seeds of Change website has listed Pittsfield among the 50 community and school-based garden and farming projects elected to vie for the organization's 24 awards totaling $300,000.

"We were competing against more than 850 organizations, many larger than us and many in larger cities and yet we received enough community votes to get us into the top 50," said market manager Jessica Vecchia.

Fans of each agricultural project could vote once each of the 18 days of the national campaign that ran from April 1-18.

"The social media engagement was amazing," Vecchia said. "We gained nearly 100 fans on Facebook and saw our daily postings on the vote shared by 10 to 30-plus people."

On May 3, Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food purveyor, will announce the winners — two schools and two communities each getting $20,000, and $10,000 each going to 10 schools and 10 community groups.

Along with Pittsfield, garden and farming projects in Greenfield, Belchertown and Dartmouth also made the cut.

Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market Manager Jessica Vecchia has said that if Pittsfield can secure a grant, it will be used to support low-income families in getting better access to healthy food and nutrition programs.

Seeds of Change aims to enhance the growth of local agriculture by financing backing organizations that teach adults and children about the food they eat and how it's grown.

With half of the Pittsfield residents placing into the low-income bracket, the local farmers market from July to October 2015 instituted the "Double Value Program," for those using SNAP, WIC, senior coupons and other federal nutrition benefits.

A Seeds of Change grant could help expand this effort, according to Vecchia.

The market's 2016 weekly season at The Common on First Street is scheduled to start Saturday, May 14 and run through Oct. 15. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A program of Alchemy Initiative, in partnership with the City of Pittsfield, the market debuted in 2013. Each Saturday up to 30 vendors cater to hundreds of people seeking fresh produce, meat, breads, flowers and plants, as well as hand-made items. In addition, the market features live music, chef-led cooking demonstrations, workshops, special events and family-friendly activities.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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