5 Courses with Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Scott Soares
by Louisa Kasdon
| October 03, 2011
love public service!" says Scott Soares. Maybe so, but "The
Commish" isn't your father's idea of some buttoned-up Beacon
Hill type. He sports a shiny black ponytail and a necktie speckled
with tiny carrots and tomatoes. He has a Twitter account
), and he knows how to make a killer bluefish
pâté. And right now, he's stomping from one end of the state to
the other trying to get the Boston Public Market open next year.
Slated to open directly next to the Haymarket T stop, it will be a
year-round, world-class, indoor marketplace for food grown and
harvested in Massachusetts: fresh vegetables, seafood, dairy, meats,
and specialty foods brought directly from the producer to the
consumer. "The state won't run the market. A developer and
operator will," elaborates Soares. "But the market is part of the
state's commitment to provide a market opportunity for family farms
- and get the consumer closer to the producer." We talked to him
about the ambitious and important project.
state has allocated $4 million for the Boston Public Market, but in
this tight budget time, do we really need it? Think
about this: Massachusetts has only 500,000 acres of arable land and
currently produces less than five percent of our food demand. We've
got to do something to incentivize local producers to stay in the
can we expect the market to open?
The pieces are in alignment for opening next summer. It's a very
ambitious schedule. The governor signed the bill on a Friday in late
August. The commissioners were appointed the same day, and we held
our first of six public meetings on the following Wednesday. When I
first heard the schedule, it took my breath away.
there some controversy about the market? From the Haymarket pushcart
people and the North End neighbors?
This is Massachusetts. There's always some pushback when anything
new is proposed. The market has to work for everybody, including the
Haymarket community. And it will. It is critical for the commission
members to hear all the viewpoints and take them all into
consideration. But at the end of the day, the market is going to get
did you get here? Were you a farm guy? I'm
really more of an aquaculture guy - grew up in South Dartmouth and
always fished. But I came from a family that believed in public
service. My dad is still a police officer in Vermont. I really saw
the impact of the loss of farmlands to real-estate development. We've
got to do something to turn that process around. That's why I'm a
farm guy now.
than buying local and keeping our fingers crossed for the Boston
Public Market, what can we do to support local agriculture? The
cranberry harvest is underway. And we have lots of locally grown
winter squash. . . . Why not start to plan now for a completely local
Thanksgiving dinner? Do all you can to support local agriculture by
keeping your eyes and ears open for agriculture issues and not
hesitating to voice your interest and concerns regarding support of
locally based food systems.
Kasdon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.