Danvers resident Richard Rowell has been a fisherman in the community for about 20 years, but it was just recently that he was certified as one of the seven lobstermen in the Commonwealth Quality Program, a state-wide initiative he described as a "win-win" for everyone.
In Massachusetts, Rowell said there is a real connection between wanting to know where food is coming from. "People like the interaction with the guy that's catching it, selling it, and that became a driving force," he said. "I sell lobsters every day dealing with the public, and people are curious about where we catch them, and a connection to the actual guy that does. They like that, and I found out that i like that too: the interaction with the customer."
Rowell began participating in the Salem Farmer's Market three years ago. A&J Lobsters (named after daughters Allison and Jessica) was originally started as a way to help his two college-aged daughters make some money. Now, he's hooked.
"A lot of times I work 7 days a week, and it's the most fun I have all week," he said.
Rowell has been in business and a member of the Massachusetts Lobster Association for about 20 years. The MLA represents about 900 lobstermen in the state, and are advocates for the fisherman at the State House, as well as a factor in Rowell joining the Commonwealth Quality Program.
The program, under the Department of Agricultural Resources, requires participants to meet both geographic and sustainability requirements, and was designed to help consumers identify Massachusetts agricultural and seafood products that are responsibly produced, harvested and processed locally.
“A healthy fishing community in Massachusetts depends largely on the ability of local fishermen to market their product locally and cost effectively,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “This seal accomplishes this purpose by identifying those fishermen who sell direct while providing consumers access to the freshest products at the lowest prices.”
Not only is the quality guarenteed, but Rowell said that with the economy low and prices high, the lobster industry is paying the same, if not less than it was about 25 years ago. So, by cutting out the middle man and selling lobster on a personal level, Rowell said it benefits everyone.
Earlier this month the Rowell, with the MLA participated in the Boston Local Food Festival, selling as well as doing demonstrations, and talking about the Commonwealth Quality Program.