Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency responsible for growing New York’s economy, has given a monetary vote of confidence to sustainable agriculture.
ESD’s Open for Business program doled out $785 million in grants last year through its newly established Regional Economic Development Council. Among the scores of grants for hospitals, factories, job training centers and more, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) identified 14 sustainable ag projects, which received a combined $4.3 million.
While none of the agricultural projects lie within the 5 boroughs, there are a number on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, well within the NYC foodshed.
One particularly exciting proposal is for an Agricultural Enterprise Park in Suffolk County, right where the Peconic Bay opens up to split the North and South Forks of Long Island. The idea, inspired by agricultural parks in Hawaii and California, was developed by a coalition of farmers, nonprofits, and municipalities, led by theLong Island Farm Bureau. The Park will help Suffolk County farmers access the growing market for local produce and meat by providing services and equipment too expensive for small farmers to own themselves.
The project will include a 100,000 square foot cooling, storage and meat processing facility, and will be the base for a mobile farmer’s market and a host of agricultural training and outreach programs. (The proposal originally included 1,000 acres of farmland to be subdivided and leased to farmers, but funding for that part was denied.)
“Farming has never been considered exciting,” said Paulette Satur of Satur Farms, who wrote the proposal. “But we feel the winds are changing and interest is growing.” As a local business owner, Satur submitted this proposal after being invited to sit on Long Island’s Regional Economic Development Council.
The proposal was awarded $500,000 for initial the initial soft costs needed to bring the project closer to reality, and Satur says that “future funds will be made available for our project as long as we demonstrate the progress in moving forward as defined by the state.”
Other ESD awards near NYC include Blue Green Farms’ aquaponics facility; the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s restoration of the Peconic Bay scallop fisheries; the Peconic Land Trust’s restoration of Ships Hole Farm in Smithtown; and a hydroponic greenhouse to be built by Hudson Valley Produce Farms.