Who Will Save Local Farms? One Boston Funder Comes to the Rescue.

Boston isn’t exactly situated on a plot of farm land, but one funder in the city is passionate about promoting agriculture throughout New England. In fact, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation is head over heels about locally sourced markets and improving access to healthy food produced close to home.

And just recently, this Boston-based funder committed to helping Carroll County figure out what to do with its farm lands. The Kendall Foundation’s executive director, Andy Kendall, met with county commissioners to discuss possibilities alongside House of Representatives members who are part of a delegation subcommittee. The topic of discussion was creating an agricultural-themed learning center at the historic farm that still grows produce and hay and processes firewood.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill farm. Its history goes back over 164 years, and it has provided jobs for jail inmates, and fed residents at the local nursing home. It’s a big part of the county’s culture; however, its budget was cut by state representatives who voted to discontinue support.

The Kendall Foundation is a single-focus funder that has a big goal: ensure 50 percent of the food used in New England is grown here by 2060. There’s a big push for this kind of effort in Boston and throughout New England right now, thanks to a growing interest in food sourcing and climate change issues that threaten food supplies. In a densely packed region like New England, this means big changes in the way we approach agriculture.

"When the consumers in New England decide that they want to consume local, sustainable, healthy food, that sends shock waves up the food system, up the supply chain and it actually impacts growers and producers all over the country," Andy Kendall told a local news source, and added that he's working with regional growers to supply local markets.

The Kendall Foundation’s efforts extend across six states right now, and properties like the Carroll County Farm are significant in achieving its agricultural promotion goals. Remember, this is the funder that invested in and organized the successful year-around Boston Public Market downtown. Kendall told the commissioners that the foundation wants to collaborate with local stakeholders and bring in some outside expertise to help the county figure out the best ways to use its land.

Some residents are concerned that the farm is competing with local growers, which explains proposals for an educational venue. Things get a bit tricky when local farmers are hired to work the county’s land but have to tiptoe around getting support from the government. However, this could be an opportunity to help new farmers launch careers in agriculture and start growing more food locally.

The Kendall Foundation has indicated that it will commit as many resources to the project as possible, likely through grants, investments, and/or stakeholder involvement. However, it is not yet clear how much grant money the Kendall Foundation is planning to spend to transform the farm or others like it.

One of the local reps, Mark McConkey, told Kendall that he was a “breath of fresh air,” thereby indicating a newfound hope for a group that’s been at odds with one another over the farm and county budget. Sometimes it just takes one passionate philanthropist to make that connection and get opposing sides to see eye to eye.

Unfortunately for new grantseekers, the Kendall Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals for any of its funding opportunities. To give you some examples of past support, recent grantees this year include the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, Daily Table, and the Conservation Law Foundation.