(#260) – There is a very long list and the opportunities are located throughout the food, forestry and nursery sectors of local agriculture. Here are some examples.
Every year local gardening and farmer market activity increases. Many local food growers are now adding plant propagation and the supplies that support it to their products for sale. There is still a lot of room for additional expansion of local sourcing here of production and sales.
For the troubled local dairy industry there is growing opportunity for funding of value-added product development and a market with demand far greater than supply. Funding remains available at both the local and federal level.
Local meat production continues to find a growing market. Several meat producers provide completely integrated systems from production, processing and delivery of their products.
Three-season and year-round mobile green houses are now under serious consideration at the ½ to 2 acre size. Available at 1/10th the cost of growing under glass, yielding 65% as much production and yielding payback periods of 2 years on construction investment, these high tunnel opportunities for rapidly expanding local food production are a very attractive. Combined with solar thermal, geo thermal, or solar electric energy and heat, Sullivan County could contribute to or develop its own food hub for major local consumption of superb food quality as well as for sale outside the county.
The cost of solar electric panels has fallen from $3 a panel to $1.50. Until some major breakthrough in solar electric technology, prices cannot fall much more because labor is now the major cost. Owners of 10 or more acres of unshaded land near 3-phase electric lines have the potential for becoming suppliers of electricity to the grid. Every municipality has marginal land that can host several mega watts of solar electric. For some towns their entire electricity costs can be met and revenue earned from selling excess energy supply.
A local study of wind resources indicates that lease agreement to land owners that host wind turbine installations can receive annual payments of $15,000 or more per turbine per year.
One third of all waste is compostable. Compost returns fertility and other health benefits to the soil and then on to personal and environmental health as well. With effective marketing, local composting could grow ten fold and lend support to the success of community gardens and farms that are now beginning to develop momentum.
Forests are enormously important for their carbon sequestration and production of oxygen. Within a decade, public education may lead to a payment for this natural service to forest owners. Sustainable forestry practices could expand much more extensively than current levels. Tree farming, more selective cutting and replanting, as well as harvesting dead and marginal wood and other vegetation for pellets to power the HVAC systems of our schools, fire houses, town garages can grow to a multi-million dollar local industry in a few years.
Every one of these agricultural activities creates additional jobs, environmental and personal health benefits, private and public revenue, ensures the continuing beauty of our natural landscape and thereby qualifies as a top priority for public and private investment. Produce and buy local. Everyone will be glad they did.