$575K grant being put to work at ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm




HATFIELD — Construction to expand the 3,200-square-foot farmhouse at ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm into a vocational training and production facility is underway.

A groundbreaking event was held Tuesday to mark the beginning of the expansion and renovation project for the therapeutic vocational program.

“When we purchased this property 11 years ago, we never could have imagined what it has become. We did believe in the therapeutic value of farming and we had a vision, but it was not a vision that we all have realized over these last 11 years,” ServiceNet President and CEO Sue Stubbs said. “It’s a thriving vocational program that presently employs more than 80 individuals with developmental disabilities or autism.”

The event also served as ServiceNet’s launch for its $100,000 fundraising campaign to ensure that the renovations are completed for optimal growth and flexibility over the next several decades. Donations may be made online at servicenet.org/prospectmeadowdonate.

In July, the Baker-Polito administration announced that the farm had received $595,000 in capital grant funding from the state’s Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development. The funding will go toward improvements that will help make the daily experience more comfortable for farmhands, said Shawn Robinson, Prospect Meadow Farm’s director. He oversees its two farm locations in Hatfield, both the original 11.5-acre site and a second 8-acre site.

In addition to expanding the building, the grant funding is going toward building an outdoor pavilion, which has already been framed. The pavilion will provide shelter and a place to have meals while working outside, and will be equipped with phone-charging stations as well as fans to cool off.

“Currently, the only places they have to have their lunches are trees,” Robinson said.

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Two accessible bathrooms will also be built with grant funds. Farmhands currently use two porta-potties year-round.

In addition to Robinson and Stubbs, a number of farmhands, families of farmhands and community leaders attended the event. Among those in attendance were Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Mike Kennealy, Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, Hatfield Town Moderator Joe Lavallee, state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton.

Kennealy commended the work being done at the farm and the investment in the region.

With more than 4,000 inoculated logs between the two farm sites, Prospect Meadow Farm is the largest producer of log-grown shiitake mushrooms in western Massachusetts. The farm also has more than 500 egg-laying hens; dozens of goats; pigs, alpacas, ducks and rabbits; and 7 acres planted to vegetables.

“We’ve got to build a workforce for today and for tomorrow that makes sure our companies and our region and our communities have the workforce they need, and make sure all of our citizens, all individuals in our state, have a promising career pathway,” Kennealy said.

“And that’s what you’re doing here — the population you’re serving, the access to opportunity you’re providing, it’s just so good. It’s good for this region. It’s great for the state, and great for the people we serve, and truly inspirational to get out in our communities and see these dollars put the work in such an amazing way.”

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