We’re not 100% sure yet exactly where on the farm it will be located, but a new building is going up next spring that will make it possible for Morning Glory Farm to clean and pack more fresh produce than ever before.
“We are growing more food than ever every year, but our demand is going up by a higher percentage,” Simon Athearn said. “I’ve got to address that.”
Not only will the new facility be roomier than our 1988 vegetable barn behind the farmstand — it’s also being designed to meet all the standards of the federal Food Safety Modernization law that was passed in 2011 and modified in 2014.
“This seems like a great time to update,” Simon said.
By midsummer, the new vegetable barn should be up and running. Its equipment will include dunk tanks, washing tables, a “bubble tub” to scrub produce with air as well as water and a device that washes bunched root vegetables.
Dedicated refrigerators will allow workers to quickly cool farm produce after cleaning it. “Prompt cooling can add significant time to the shelf life,” Simon said. “This will all improve the flow of produce.”
Depending on where we wind up siting the new facility, Simon is considering different options for its exterior. A wall of windows might allow farmstand customers to watch their vegetables being washed and sorted inside, if the building goes up near the parking lot. Elsewhere on the property, the barn might get wrapped in a star chart or adorned with a mural.
“We need to make sure art is a part of what we do here,” he said.
To fund the new barn, Morning Glory worked with a grant-writing consultant provided by the business-to-business platform What’s Good, a “virtual farmers market” we use to connect with our wholesale customers. With this help, we successfully applied for a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR)’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction Improvement Program, which provides not only financing but also access to resources and professionals in the industry.
As a result of the grant, a professional business planner has been helping Morning Glory to chart its course forward and a team of federal biologists, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, recently surveyed the farm to create a conservation plan.
“It’s a free federal service to analyze farmland and aid the farmer in soil and environmental conservation,” Simon explained.
“They analyze farm slopes, endangered species, types of grasses, your problem weeds, disease issues and so on, and provide resources if they feel it’s necessary. The federal government often will pay for a culvert to be put in to protect a water source,” for instance.
“These resources are valuable and we are trying to take advantage of them,” Simon said. “It’s an opportunity to leverage the governments’ good will into creating a more powerful local food system.”
At both the state and federal level, he added, “they want you to succeed.”
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