Farmers from Essex and Clinton counties joined counterparts from around the Adirondacks for a regional meeting of Adirondack Harvest chapters last week.
Photo by Kim Dedam
WESTPORT — Chapters of Adirondack Harvest met last week to elect officials and discuss events and its membership drive for the upcoming year.
The Adirondack Park-wide meeting was held in Westport at Cornell Cooperative Extension offices here with regional voices weighing in via live webcast.
Chapters include the Clinton, Essex and Franklin County farmers and artisans along with a southern chapter encompassing Warren, Saratoga and Washington counties.
Formed by Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2001, Adirondack Harvest is just part of what the Cornell University farm and agricultural extension agency does, its focus centered on education and research.
CCE Manager Laurie Davis said the budget for Adirondack Harvest administration came in slightly more than $2,000 for 2016 and would likely sustain similar spending this year.
But a smart growth grant award to CCE, which was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last April for Adirondack Harvest Technology Expansion, provided $74,772 for Cornell Cooperative to use in updating the local farmers’ and producers’ consortium’s website.
The three-year grant program, Davis said, is being used to improve the website and farmers’ access and presence on the Internet.
The improvements include information about Community Supported Agriculture, wood forest products, an Essex County food guide and access to consistent branding.
“You’re all members and this is your website,” Davis said to about two dozen gathered in Westport and around the Adirondack Park.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Southern Chapter chairwoman Teresa Whalen in Warren County where, she said, they are exploring placement of a food hub similar to the new hub established in Essex here last year.
In Franklin County, Richard L. Gast, a CCE program educator, said work continues on the northern portion of the Cuisine Trail, which he says has an opportunity to tie into Adirondack Harvest branding.
In Clinton County, Adirondack Harvest developed Meet Your Farmer events with immense success last year, according to CCE gardening specialist Amy Ivy, who spoke for the group.
Clinton County Adirondack Harvest has organized a Food From the Farm spring gathering for March 4 to include local chefs, farmers, and live music.
Success in Essex County counted the new Adirondack Harvest Festival which drew a large and engaged crowd last September.
Membership costs farms and producers $25 annually. Last year, Adirondack Harvest mapped 53 regional farmers markets and 100 farm stands throughout the region.
Local farmers, however, may be outgrowing the education and research nest at CCE now 16 years into the cooperative’s effort to develop a robust small farming economy here.
The newly formed Adirondack Farmer’s Coalition was established to work on policy issues related to the Farm Bill, according to Steven Googin, farmer and founder of the North Country Creamery.
Their efforts may seek to expand the scope of the Adirondack Harvest brand, which, under the aegis of CCE, cannot work on policy or distribution systems.
Farmers last week agreed to form a caucus to discuss ways to broaden Adirondack Harvest as an organization, which could mean pulling it away from its education and research pretext.
CCE formed Adirondack Harvest about 16 years ago as an incubator movement to attract new farmers and coordinate farm markets under unified branding in the region.
The effort has achieved steady growth since.
Chapters in western Adirondack counties of St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson were made part of a combined Western Chapter last week.
Cornell Cooperative is currently looking for an agriculture resource educator, a full-time person. The post requires a Master’s Degree. As posted on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website, it would pay $47,500.
Davis said job applications are being accepted through Feb. 22 with hopes to begin interviews in March.