Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Day at the MA State House: Ag Day 2013

Today turned out to be a rare treat.  It was Ag Day 2013 at the Massachusetts State House and I decided to attend and support my fellow MA farm wineries in our quest for continued political recognition and support.  My lovely wife Shawna even volunteered to join me and lend her years of politicking to the cause as well.

We left early anticipating some ugly Boston traffic, but actually arrived a little early.  The scene was a little chaotic--as probably expected from trying to corral such a large and diverse group of agriculture-related associations and businesses.  We finally located the Mass Winery exhibit table and our fellow winery owners and established our plan of action.  Shawna and I took off to meet with our local state House/Senate representatives and (after getting a little lost in the rabbit warren that is the MA State House) ran into 2 very different receptions.  I have to give credit to Senator Eileen Donoghue and her office staff.  Not only had I received a prompt response from my email of last week asking for a brief appointment, but Deputy Chief of Staff Kirsten Centrella welcomed us with open arms by name and sat down for a brief discussion.  She's got my vote next election!  As for my local House representative, let's just say they weren't quite as cordial to meet a voter from their district.

The fun really began during the Grand Reception in the Great Hall.  Each ag association and business exhibitor had tables full of food, plants, flowers, fruit samples, etc and the attendees, legislators, and staff members descended on them like vultures!  By state law, we could not bring alcoholic beverages into the State House so we were forced to fall back on "pre-fermented" raw materials, i.e. Concord grape juice.  Brought a smile to many faces and provided the only beverage in the entire reception.  There were also an awful lot of underage FFA and 4H members attending so trying to check IDs would have been a nightmare.  Shawna and I spent the reception glad handing with state representatives and staff members, as well as other folks interested in wine.  Hopefully, we upped the attendance to our planned 2013 MA Wine Festivals!

The day culminated with a visit from Governor Deval Patrick.  Word quickly spread when he appeared at the reception and he slowly made his way down the line of tables.  His face really lit up when he came to the Mass Winery table and then fell when he realized the tasting cups were only grape juice.  We joked with him that we were playing by his rules and only he had the power to change them!  We had a robust and friendly conversation with him, got to shake his hand, and personally invited him to attend our 2013 MA Wine Festivals.  Hope to see you there Governor!

I'm sure that everyone's visit to their respective State House ends with shaking the Governor's hand....nah, didn't think so!  You'll understand why I got a little geeked to have the opportunity.  A very good day.

Cheers,
Noel

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