Massachusetts officials set out in September 2010 to define “locally grown, sustainable food” for consumers. June 15 agricultural commissioner Scott Soares unveiled the state’s first 20 Commonwealth Quality Seal Program farms and said the definition is more specific than it’s ever been.

“This program provides … consumers assurance that they are purchasing high-quality products from local growers,” Soares said, according to a press release about the program launch at Verrill Farm in Concord, Mass.

Steve Verrill, owner of the farm selected for the program’s inaugural event, is one of 20 certified growers who have proved they are using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s good agricultural practices and integrated pest management in addition to other approved practices for harvesting and handling.

“The Commonwealth Quality Seal takes the guesswork out of determining what it means for a product to be ‘local’ or ‘sustainable’ and it signifies that the associated product has been grown on a Massachusetts farm…” Verrill said, according to the release.

To encourage such practices, the program offers continuing education to certified growers. Of the more than 7,000 farms in Massachusetts, 50 have applied for the Commonwealth Quality Seal. Several agricultural associations have endorsed the program, including the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Association, the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association and the state’s Farm Bureau Federation.

Information about how to become certified for the quality seal is available online at

Most of the farms, in addition to Verrill’s, that have been certified have farm stands. Almost half of them also sell to local stores, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Foodies. Some also have wholesale operations that provide produce to local restaurants and schools.

The certified farms are:

  •  Allandale Farm, Brookline;
  •  Billingsgate Farm, Plympton;
  •  Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield;
  •  C.N. Smith Farm, East Bridgewater;
  •  Cooks Valley Farm, Wrentham;
  •  Davidian Bros., Northborough;
  •  Dowse Orchards, Sherborn;
  •  Foppema’s Farm, Northbridge;
  •  Four Town Farm, Seekonk;
  •  Mann Orchards, Methuen;
  •  Morning Sun Farm, Rehoboth;
  •  Parlee Farms, Tyngsboro;
  •  Pease Orchard, Templeton;
  •  Pleasant Valley Gardens, Methuen;
  •  Springdell Farm, Littleton;
  • The Farm Stand, Colrain;
  • The Farmer’s Garden, Rehoboth;
  • Verrill Farm, Concord;
  • Volante Farms, Needham; and
  • Wilson Farm, Lexington.