|Dear Friends of Farm Viability,
I’ve been thinking a lot about NY agriculture and local food lately and I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some thoughts.
Over the last several years, there have been some chuckles as farmers discussed how fashionable it had become to be a farmer. Many of us, myself included, thought that all the buzz about local food was just another foodie trend and would soon fade away. And of course, regular people would continue to eat, just with less thought and talk about where that cabbage and those apples came from.
Now, almost 10 years later, I’m happy to say that I think local food is going mainstream. We’ve seen that some New York shoppers are consistently seeking out locally grown food, and the supply chain—that is farmers, farmers markets, distributors and grocery stores—is better aligning to meet consumer demand and help shoppers know where their food comes from.
Led by Governor Cuomo and the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets, the State is playing a crucial role to support the local food system. The recently launched NY Grown and Certified Program will let shoppers choose their dairy and produce with confidence knowing it comes from New York farms and was grown with strong environmental management practices and
critical safety standards.
The State also stepped up with a $15 million investment in a new downstate food hub that has the potential to help farms across the state access the appetite of New York City.
In Rochester, LoveBeets USA in collaboration with G’s Fresh and Lidestri Foods has opened a new processing plant in the Eastman Business Park. This project is creating a new market channel for organic, fresh market beets, with plans to purchase $4 million of New York beets by 2018.
And Farm Viability? We continue to do what we do best, running competitive grant programs, seeking applied research and education projects to help improve the economic viability of New York farmers. Last spring I shared with you the 20 projects that were funded with our 2016 legislative appropriation and are now underway.
The request for proposals for 2017 funding is now open, and I’m eager to see what we receive. Last month, we reached out to a number of agricultural producer organizations and encouraged their leadership to make sure that ag researchers and educators are developing project applications that are focused on the challenges and opportunities their organizations and memberships feel are most needed.
After the application window closes on November 10th, proposals will go through the regular Farm Viability farmer review process to ensure that the projects that are funded are ones that farmers think will have the most bang for the buck. I happen to think our competitive process works pretty well and I’m excited when I see it supporting the momentum building in the marketplace. For example, the farmer review panel chose to fund Sarah Pethybridge of Cornell in the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Her project? Learning what works best to fight diseases and manage weeds in organic and conventional table beets. A recently completed project by Judson Reid at Cornell to develop best management practices for soil in high tunnels is also a great example. The knowledge his project built is helping NY farmers successfully grow vegetables under cover, reducing inputs and extending the growing season to provide NY consumers with NY produce more months of the year.
I hope to see you at our annual, Taking Stock for New York Agriculture meeting in Albany on November 14th. It’s a great program highlighting how our projects are helping farms respond to changing technology and a changing consumer marketplace. Read more about the program, the RFP and other NYFVI news here.
All the best,