SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (October 25, 2015) – US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded over $190,500 in funding to Sullivan County organizations that will support local foods infrastructure and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The awards will support two projects: expansion of programming at Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC) Entrepreneurial and Teaching (EaT) Kitchen to help food entrepreneurs develop new products, and a County-led initiative to increase utilization of the seven farmers’ markets here, particularly among lower income residents.
CCESC has been awarded $94,000 over two years from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program to support the development and delivery of workshops and technical assistance through its EaT Kitchen. These efforts will help existing and potential food entrepreneurs and agricultural producers interested in adding value to items produced on their farms to grow their business. Participants will have an opportunity to utilize the shared-use commercial kitchen facilities at the Extension Education Center in Liberty at no cost to develop, test, license, produce, and market potential products.
Adding locally produced and value-added products to shelves across the county will increase consumer access to fresh, healthy foods. The program also seeks to provide a forum for food processors to connect with farmers in the region to source raw ingredients, further contributing to economic development efforts by keeping dollars flowing locally. The public can expect monthly workshops in 2016 and a conference highlighting regional opportunities for local food promotion in the spring.
“We’re pleased to be able to offset start up, product development, and production costs for farmers and small businesses getting started,” said Colleen Monaghan, executive director at CCESC.
The USDA awarded an additional $96,595.66 to the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management to partner with CCESC and Sullivan County Public Health Services on the Sullivan Fresh Initiative. The Sullivan Fresh Initiative seeks to increase awareness of agriculture locally and augment sales at the county’s seven farmers’ markets. This partnership will operate by creating and implementing a county-wide marketing, coordination, and promotional plan; developing and distributing educational materials for the public through news releases and radio interviews; conducting workshops and cooking demonstrations at the markets and the EaT Kitchen to help consumers understand how to prepare food sold at the markets; and training staff to process and promote consumer use of nutrition assistance program benefits at the markets.
The Sullivan Fresh campaign intends to:
· Sustain long term viability and growth of the farmers’ markets by getting more people to know about and use them;
· Increase the Women, Infants, & Children (WIC)/ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) redemption rate at the farmers’ markets;
· Improve nutrition and health in Sullivan County through increased consumption of fresh, local food;
· Coordinate management and promotion of the farmers’ markets to stretch marketing budgets and maximize access to multiple markets; and
· Enhance the impact of the farmers’ markets on overall quality of life and Sullivan County’s ability to attract new residents, businesses, and tourists.
“The proposed Sullivan Fresh project will work to sustain local farm operations by increasing more profitable direct-to-consumer sales while also addressing the need for Sullivan County residents to have better access to, and eat more of, fresh, healthy, locally grown foods,” said Freda Eisenberg, Sullivan County Commissioner of Planning and Environmental Management.
These projects will implement recommendations in the Sullivan County Farmland Protection Plan (FLPP). More information on the FLPP can be found on the Sullivan County website.