LEWIS – The Cornell County Essex Cooperative Expansion recently raised $ 385,000 to harness and promote local food sources.
The grant from the US Department of Agriculture is part of the Local Food Promotion Program, and will be used to expand existing Agriculture to School programs from Cooperative Extension to Agriculture to Institute program.
The agency will work with schools, hospitals, nursing centers, nursing homes, correctional facilities, colleges and early childhood care centers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important access to locally sourced food is for the Adirondack community,” said Farm to Institution educator Meghan Dohman by email.
“I am very pleased to share that CCE Essex has been awarded a very competitive and substantial federal grant from the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Local Food Promotion Program.”
He said they plan to strengthen the regional food system over the next three years.
“This funding opportunity significantly increases our capacity to forge relationships between producers and local food institutions,” he said.
One part of this plan is to develop Adirondack Harvest’s wholesale and local food outreach capabilities, through marketing and promotion, web development, and networking. The Cooperative Extension staff will also work closely with the Adirondack Medical Center on Lake Saranac, the Adirondack North State Association, Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, Harvest New York, and Hub on the Hill to achieve project objectives.
This grant enables two full-time staff, Dohman and Digital Editor Mary Godnick, as well as other team members in the development of a project that will focus on helping institutional buyers navigate local food purchases, support farms to achieve wholesale production levels and get certified, increase availability of value-added products. , and develop sustainable marketing channels.
Godnick came to the project with experience in marketing and communications, most recently with the Adirondack Council and the Essex Farm Institute.
“Living at Adirondack and working in conservation advocacy has given me a deep appreciation of the important role livestock play in the Adirondack community, food systems, open spaces and culture,” said Godnick in the release.
“This is a very exciting time to be involved in such an important project. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the gaps in our food system really visible, and we hope that people stay engaged and ready to make an impact. “
The project’s goals are to increase wholesale production and institutional buying in the North Country, diversify farm incomes, and create new market channels to promote increased economic viability, Dohman said.
“We see many opportunities to fill gaps in the local food economy,” said Carly Summers, Agricultural Resources Educator in the release.
“Institutional buyers have the potential to source large quantities of local food, while many farms need support to reach wholesale production levels to diversify their income streams or reach new market outlets. At the same time, we will engage local consumers to help them learn where , why, and how they can access more local food and support businesses that buy local food. “
Carl Bowen, director of Nutrition and Environmental Services at Adirondack Medical Center, said they wanted high-quality, local food for patients and staff.
“Buying local food from local farms is just as important in an institutional setting as it is in a restaurant because good food starts with good ingredients,” he said in the release.
“It’s also very important to support our local farms, because they are an integral part of our community.”