Agricultural Innovation in Sullivan County

(#246) — Agricultural innovation is the first sector to begin the description of the sustainable economic development that is outlined in the Roadmap to Climate Action Planning.  There are several reasons for giving it not only first mention. These reasons include:

  • local agricultural innovation can bring to our children at school, restaurants,  food vendors and household tables, the nutritious and delicious food that will save us tens of millions in health costs and billions of carbon-based food transportation costs;
  • development of agricultural training in our secondary schools and college that leads to many new start up farms that reclaim available land for high value production and for highly skilled workers who will find employment in the 100s of new jobs that are projected to become available as hydroponic and soil-based green house food production enterprises proliferate in Sullivan County to meet the immense market for locally grown, healthy, fresh food just a few hours away;
  • agricultural development is susceptible to local control, has the highest  multiplier of any economic sector and both compliments and stimulates economic development in the other key sectors of the local economy;
  • innovative agricultural development such as growing food under glass is sustainable development as it not only increases high value food production but also substitutes and replaces a lot of low value, even unhealthy food with local fresh product and thereby completes the cycle of greater prosperity without depending entirely  on growth for growth’s sake.

Support for this admittedly enthusiastic advocacy for giving agricultural innovation and investment first priority comes from several recent events in Sullivan County. Just last week, three agricultural development projects came to public notice.  A major company is exploring the establishment of a 250-bed international agricultural training institute.  Another company proposed to build 32 acres of greenhouse food production and partner with Sullivan County Community College for training students to staff the operation and to power as much of the production process with renewable energy as possible.  Another company renewed their interest in building several acres of green house food production of vegetables and fish using methane and heat from the county land fill.

In addition to these possible enterprises, there is very significant development of green house food production by a major employer in the county already under construction and the past several months have seen two other major proposals for green house food production.  This momentum will stimulate additional proposals for large scale food production enterprise because of our close location to New York City.

Large scale production of healthy food is just one piece of local agricultural innovation and development.  Sullivan County has begun to attract a significant number of people interested in farming at a smaller scale.  This allows the pro-duction of a much wider variety of food products than the specialization in just a few food items by the larger scale producers.  Collaboration all along the food chain of processing, packaging and transportation of these different levels of coming agri-cultural innovation will be a major part of the sustainable economy that is the roadmap to sustainable prosperity.

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