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Rural Commonwealth Posts

What we’re reading this week

We’ve been indoors, hiding from the cold weather and catching up on our reading. Here are some recent articles and publications that caught our attention. The University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy released a brief,”2020 Census Faces Challenges in Rural America.” One of the problems highlighted in the report is a shift to collecting census data online, which will result in an undercount of people living in areas without internet access, like much of western Mass. “This brief identifies rural areas where special outreach and operations will be needed to get a complete and accurate count. It also addresses…

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Last but not least, West County needs internet access

The following is the final excerpt from our recently-released Western Franklin County Business Report – the first report in our Rural Commonwealth Business Series. Over the last several Wednesdays, we have been posting sections of the report that highlight key themes that came up during more than 40 hours of interviews with local business owners. (Our previous posts in this series looked at three-phase power and electrical grid issues and the five kinds of marketing assistance needed by West County businesses, a need for more lodging, and business staffing). The full report, which you can download as a PDF here, includes an overview of our research into…

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New opportunities for local value-added food production

Dairy farms along Route 2 put smiles on the faces of tourists as they drive through West County. As we learned from interviewing dairy farmers, making a living producing dairy products that allow for these scenic vistas is a diminishing proposition. There have been numerous reports, news articles and romantic rants about the loss of farms, especially dairy farms in Massachusetts. Despite the fact agriculture is the top industry in West County, both food production and wood production suffer from lack of profit due to small markets and transportation costs. What seems to be at the heart of the problems…

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“Death by a thousand cuts”: Complying with state regulations

The following is an excerpt from our recently-released Western Franklin County Business Report – the first report in our Rural Commonwealth Business Series. Over the last several Wednesdays, we have been posting sections of the report that highlight key themes that came up during more than 40 hours of interviews with local business owners. (Our previous posts in this series looked at three-phase power and electrical grid issues and the five kinds of marketing assistance needed by West County businesses, a need for more lodging, and business staffing). The full report, which you can download as a PDF here, includes an overview of our research into the…

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New project matches small-batch food producers with local commercial kitchens

Rural Commonwealth has launched a pilot project that matches small-batch food producers with affordable commercial kitchen space in western Franklin County. This project is being organized right now and will go live in 2018. If your church, school, or other community organization in West County has a licensed commercial kitchen that could be used for this project, we want to hear from you! Please contact us to set up a meeting to discuss your facility. If you are a food producer who might be interested in signing up for commercial kitchen space, please fill out the questionnaire here to let us know what…

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Agronomist Robert W. Herdt joins Rural Commonwealth as an advisor

Rural Commonwealth is most happy to welcome Robert W. Herdt as an advisor. Bob received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Minnesota. He has already reviewed our first report and had a site visit to one of our projects. Welcome, Bob!

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Water and sewer issues

The following is an excerpt from our recently-released Western Franklin County Business Report – the first report in our Rural Commonwealth Business Series. Over the last several Wednesdays, we have been posting sections of the report that highlight key themes that came up during more than 40 hours of interviews with local business owners. (Our previous posts in this series looked at three-phase power and electrical grid issues and the five kinds of marketing assistance needed by West County businesses, a need for more lodging, and business staffing). The full report, which you can download as a PDF here, includes an overview of…

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Rural Commonwealth hosts Small Town Summit in Goshen

It was a dark and snowy night on November 7, 2017, when twenty-eight community leaders met at the Goshen Town Hall to discuss issues affecting our small towns. Many in attendance came from Goshen, Williamsburg but Hawley, Wendell, Huntington, Northampton Charlemont, Washington, Middlefield, Peru, Conway and Shelburne Falls were represented. The afternoon’s task force meeting with representatives from the state Department of Revenue concerning state owned land. (See related article.) While the formula change which takes place in 2018 will modify payments to towns, the larger issue remains that our towns need the legislature and the administration to fully fund…

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Legislative Update

Two important pieces of legislation for rural Massachusetts worked their way through the legislative labyrinth this week, just before the end of this session for both houses. The first is a bond issue which includes $13 million in new funding for the towns that have yet to find their way toward broadband for their community. These 10 towns will be eligible to apply for these funds since their size and budget doesn’t allow them to even begin the work needed to have any broadband solution. In addition, this bond issue includes the $38 million already designated for towns who have…

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