NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick took a break from the big city Friday afternoon to pick some apples at Northborough’s Tougas Farm.
He also voiced his support for farms and orchards in Massachusetts. Local farms, Patrick said, “reflect and honor the heritage of the commonwealth.”
“The ability to protect them wisely is something we have worked very conscientiously on,” Patrick added. He mentioned his support for the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program, which helps to protect farms from being built upon for purposes other than agriculture.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture’s website, the APR program “offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the ‘fair market value’ and the ‘agricultural value’ of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.”
Tougas Farm owner Maurice Tougas told Patrick that local farms like his are turning increasingly to new technology to keep themselves running. He said he regularly travels to Europe, where Dutch, German and Northern Italian farmers are “world leaders” in robotic technology.
Patrick pointed out that “there is a very vibrant robotics industry in Massachusetts.”
“We should be able to use the farms as laboratories and bounce some ideas,” Tougas said.
Rep. Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, joined Patrick on his trip.
“Being a family farm for over 30 years, the Tougases have always been the core of the community out here,” Naughton said. “I think it’s important for the governor to come out and note that.”
Also attending the event was Danielle Gregoire, the Democratic candidate for the 4th Middlesex District state House seat that covers Marlborough and Precints 1 and 3 of Northborough.
“Family businesses like this are exactly the thing we should be touting, and we are out here to help them any way we can,” Gregoire said.
Before hopping into the back of a tractor for a ride around the farm, Patrick, Naughton and Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan took a walk down the rows of apple trees and filled their bags. Meanwhile, Tougas pointed out some of the new growing techniques the farm was utilizing.
Remarked Patrick: “There's not a bad apple out here!”