License To Support: Fresh & Local Gets Its Own Plate
By Lisa Green
Once a cause announces it has its own specialty license plate in the works, you know the issue has attained a critical mass. Readers of Rural Intelligence may not find it surprising to learn that the latest license plate initiative will champion Massachusetts food and farmers. The “Choose Fresh & Local” plate will benefit a trio of organizations dedicated to farmers, farmers markets and the Massachusetts food economy…if the campaign itself gets enough support from drivers.
The idea for a “buy-and-eat-local” license plate has been in the works for years; back in 2008, the Department of Agricultural Resources tried to push through a plate with the tagline “Go locally grown!” Whether it was because the design sported a cow with rather crazed eyes, or the timing just wasn’t right, the organizers didn’t reach their goal, and the plate was never produced.
Spearheading the current effort is New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, based at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy, which works locally, regionally and across the country to support and train new farmers. Jennifer Hashley, the director of New Entry — and a vegetable and livestock farmer herself — says they actually had their campaign started before the agriculture department’s, but they waited to see how that one fared. When it faltered, New Entry stepped in and got its own proposal through the state registry.
These are not vanity plates. The mission of the “Choose Fresh & Local” plate is to raise awareness of local food and farmers. “We want to provide a sustainable source of support and training for new farmers across the state to insure the next generation of farmers,” Hashley says. Proceeds from the license plate will support not just New Entry but Mass Farmers Markets and The Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts. (Berkshire Grown is a member of the latter group, and collaborates with all of them.)
“We were really struggling with the design for a while,” she says. “We wanted to be sure it was attractive enough for people to want to put on their car.” A variety of images, designed pro bono by Harry Bartlett of Bartlett Interactive, were vetted at winter farmers markets in Boston. And wouldn’t you know it — shoppers at the markets chose the original design created nearly a decade ago.
So far, more than 400 people have signed up, but that’s just a pledge, not a signature and accompanying check. The minimum requirement is 1,500 signups but the goal is to get 3,000 signups by December, after which organizers will have to collect the information and money from those who have expressed interest. The plates will cost $20 per year (in addition to regular RMV license fees) — which is tax deductible, by the way.
Signing up for the plate is easy; you can do it right here.
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