In 1998, New Entry was launched by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in order to develop a cost-effective strategy to integrate recent immigrants and refugees with farming backgrounds into Massachusetts agriculture. In 2007, New Entry conducted a broad environmental analysis of the burgeoning food movement and expanded its target audience to beginning farmers of all backgrounds with a desire to grow food to create a resilient local food economy. The initiative was developed as a broad partnership and since its inception, New Entry has fostered collaborative partnerships with farm organizations, community groups and academic institutions to expand our capacity to address a broad range of issues related to beginning farming. New Entry has expanded its programs over the years to a point where today we serve local, statewide, and national audiences through comprehensive farmer training and technical assistance, land access, and direct market support programs; facilitation of collaborative partnerships; and national technical assistance and resource sharing with other beginning farmer organizations.
As a result of fifteen years of work, lives have changed as people connect to the land and produce culturally preferred food important to their communities and their health; more regional farmland has been maintained in sustainable, active agricultural production; the agricultural community has welcomed diverse members of society into the farming sector; partnerships between service providers have strengthened; and economically diverse communities have greater access to locally grown food.
Since 2011, New Entry has been in a “growth phase.” We have expanded our training and technical assistance programs to include classroom, hands-on, and distance learning educational opportunities in both vegetable and livestock production. We have established and expanded marketing options for new farmers via our multi-producer Food Hub which serves consumers across all economic levels, including those who could otherwise not afford fresh produce. We have engaged communities across Massachusetts in assessing and making farmland available to new producers. We have coordinated a statewide network of farm service providers and created an active referral network. We are connecting emerging incubator farm projects across the country to resources, best practices, and technical assistance through a vibrant community of practice.
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A new era is clearly emerging with strong interest by small-scale beginning farmers in Massachusetts. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows 1,200 new farmers in Massachusetts between 2002-2007 - an increase of almost 20 percent. Mostly small-scale, limited acreage, highly diversified specialty crops producers, these farmers are responding to the rapidly expanding demand for local foods by selling through CSAs, farmers’ markets, local restaurants and grocery stores, and at farmstands. Demand for farm-grown, local produce continues as farm-to-school and farm-to-institution programs are also sourcing food locally.
Most of these beginning farmers have no formal agriculture schooling, and limited relevant experience. Many have limited resources. For this reason, New Entry has been at the forefront of training beginning producers – providing a combination of education, outreach, and field experiences. New Entry is continually looking for the best way continue to provide high-quality programs and services, increase capacity to address regional food systems issues, and share our work with national and international audiences while it navigates its way through an ever evolving agricultural climate.
The Agriculture, Food, and Environment (AFE) Program of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University initiated New Entry, and the project continues to be an integral part of the school's academic program. New Entry provides opportunities for student involvement via internships, directed study, and research, while AFE faculty foster curriculum connections in class discussions, coursework, and hands-on laboratories in the fields.
New Entry staff are employees of Tufts University and Third Sector New England, Inc., but the project extends well beyond these institutions. Project partners include federal and state government agencies, universities, local farmers, and multiple community-based organizations.
John Ogonowski was the pilot on American Airlines flight 11 to Los Angeles that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. John is most remembered for his contributions to the farming community in Massachusetts, and particularly for his dedication to immigrant farmers from Cambodia whom he assisted as part of New Entry. John served as New Entry's first mentor farmer and dedicated acreage of his property to help Cambodians begin farming. He gave production advice, helped put up a shed and greenhouse, and often did not collect the rents. He is survived by his wife, Peggy, and their three daughters. Peggy and John's brother, Jim Ogonowski, are still actively involved in the project and assist to keep the farmers on their land to preserve John's memory.