(#272) — As the cooler and shorter days remind us that the sumptuous tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits from our gardens and local farms are about to disappear for another year, we should think about how this marvelous eating can be extended and even turned into a major engine for economic development and good jobs.
We have a lot going for us in going this route. The local grocery stores, big and small, are willing to give local product space. Local B and B’s, resorts, schools and restaurants will purchase locally produced fruits and vegetables. A growing list of successful farmers markets are doing well. Several notable food events are strongly supported. Thousands of our neighbors could benefit from a healthier diet supplied by local food producers. Many new jobs could be created just from expanding local consumption of locally grown vegetables and fruits.
Local food brokers and distributors are available to market and move a large volume of vegetable and fruit product to more metropolitan areas where the demand is greater than the supply. The price of food has increased faster than many other essential products in the past few years which provides an opportunity for local food producers to get the price they need.
Discussion has begun to develop vegetable and fruit production curricula for our high school and college students. A growing number of local public interest organi-zations are developing expanded programs to support more local food production.
More focus is being given to vegetable and fruit production where we are currently less well developed than for meat production. These are positive corrections of mistaken policies that have been continued for decades. Production of both by new and existing farmers as well as collaborative local marketing is on the increase.
Vegetable and fruit production can be less capital intensive than meat production and require less land and equipment. Landowners are willing to lease sufficient acreage for new start-ups at very low cost.
Grants are available. The SARE grant, see nesare,org., has a very simple applica-tion process and provides an award of up to $15,000 that will pay you for your time, expert advice and other variable costs. It will not cover fixed costs – for equipment or buildings. The application deadline is October 27 which is doable and help is available. The VAPG – Value Added Production Grant is a much larger program – offering up to $100,000 in planning grants and $300,000 in working capital, has an October 15 deadline which is probably too soon to act on this season. For those who are ready, give it a try. The applications is daunting, however, so you may decide to get ready for this program next year or apply for the $50,000 or less grant which allows use of a simplified form. Cornell Cooperative Extension and County Planning can help. $60,000 or more is available from the County Planning Department, with a October 12 deadline, for creamery equipment.
Finally, extending the season of our vegetable and fruit production is now more profitable than before with the advent of affordable environmental control shelter combined with natural and renewable energy resources. Let’s get organized and focused.
Bon appetite and many new good jobs.