County AED Awarded Grant for Food Hub

(Madison County, NY – Jan. 2013)  The recent Regional Economic Development Council funding announcement delivered news to Central New York farmers and their families.

On Dec. 19, the Agricultural Economic Development program at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County was awarded $1.5 million dollars for the development of a food hub.

Food hubs are organizations or businesses that offer a suite of processing, warehousing, distribution and marketing services and can play a critical role in connecting farmers to consumers. The Madison County facility includes plans processing facilities for meat, dairy, produce, hops and malting barley, and as well as a farmers market and teaching kitchen. The farmer’s market will provide a new marketing outlet for area farmers and will make fresh, locally-produced food available to the surrounding community.

The location for the food hub has not been finalized but will likely be in the Canastota area due to the thruway access. There will be space available to be leased for food processing and shared freezer and refrigerated warehousing.

Any enquiries from any farmer or farmer group who are looking for processing, warehousing, and/or distribution space are welcome and can be directed towards Beth McKellips at 315.684.3001 x 126 or via email at bam233@cornell.edu.

This project fills a definite gap in the enterprise development services available to regional farms. While Central New York farmers excel at agricultural production and there is a growing market for locally-produced food products, there are substantial issues that prevent farmers from capturing the full market potential of their products.

First, the significant capital investment required for small-scale food processing, including space rental, expensive processing equipment, and utilities/services access prohibits many farmers from processing their raw commodities.

Other challenges include the additional time required for sales and marketing and gathering enough product volume to meet wholesale volume requirements.

Beth McKellips, Director of Agricultural Economic Development at Cornell Cooperative Extension, explains how this project will benefit area farmers.

“By providing farmers with a place process food into retail-ready packages and store their products, the food hub will open up doors previously sealed shut for small and mid-sized farmers who lack the capital to build the infrastructure needed to get their product to urban markets,” McKellips said.

This project has potential to have a tremendous impact on Madison County farms. Paul O’Mara of O’Mara Farms captures these benefits, offering that the project “will allow local farms an excellent opportunity to connect with local consumers. It is essential to the community to bring a better connection and understanding between the people that grow our food and the people that eat it. “

This project would not have been possible without the efforts lead by Beth McKellips at Madison County Cooperative Extension and Bee Tolman of Side Hill Farmers. Several people provided input that made this project successful, including Marty Broccoli, Larry Carpenter, Carla DeShaw, Diane Eggert, Kate and Larry Fisher, Kipp Hicks, Pete Holmes, Lindsey Jakubowski, Jake McKenna, Steve Miller, Paul O’Mara, Scott O’ Mara, Shawna Papale, Brian Reeves, Bruce Rivington and Peter Zawko.

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