Times tough for some, but not all, MA farmers

Dairy farms closing, but fruit farms growing

Monday, 20 Aug 2012
Sy Becker, WWLP

DEERFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Farmers in Massachusetts have been struggling in recent years, but at least one Franklin County farm's owners are upbeat about their future.

Tom and Ben Clark are third and fourth generation owners of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, and Ben expects his soon-to-be-born son to become the fifth generation farmer. He told 22News that his business has actually grown recently, thanks to modern marketing techniques.

"The only way, you know, the farmer can make a profit is doing direct sales. Doing wholesale out of New York or someplace else; there's at least 2 or 3 people taking money along the way. And you're not having that relationship with the customer; something that we value," Ben Clark said.

Ben's father Tom welcomes state grants and technological advice from the University of Massachusetts. He said that they showed him how to grow 1,200 bushels of apples where he used to get 600.

Still, a farmer's biggest challenge is the weather. "What affected us was the cold we had in April. We had a very mild winter, almost no snow, the spring came a month early almost, and then it got cold," Tom Clark said.

According to Tom Clark, many Franklin County dairy farms have gone out of business in recent years, but the number of small and medium-sized vegetable farms in Massachusetts' most rural county keeps on growing.

See story, with video, online.