What is Local Food?
New York State has many local food resources from direct to consumer – farms selling directly to the people who will eat the food to farm markets, to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) opportunities. You probably have also heard of Pride of New York. This is a marketing program for food and agricultural products grown or processed in NYS that is sponsored by the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets. Restaurants, schools and universities are also offering local foods on their menus and in their cafeterias. In fact, a 2009 Direct Marketing Survey indicated that 20% of all NY farms sell agricultural products (food, horticulture, firewood, etc.) directly to consumers.
So, how can you tell if food is local?
According to Bernadette Logozar, Regional Local Foods Specialist in northern New York, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles beginning with what you grow in your home garden or a community garden. Progressing through the rings, would be food that you buy directly from a local farm, farm market or CSA and then food grown in your county that you purchase in the grocery store and finally, food grown elsewhere in New York or nearby states. Any food grown outside of this area would be classed as long distance food (i.e. oranges from Florida).
Photo credit: B. Logozar
There are unique efforts in all parts of the state which are geared toward increasing the production and consumption of local foods. In the north country, production agriculture has transitioned to take advantage of the local food movement and it is making a difference for farmers, consumers and communities in that region.
Northern New York Regional Local Foods Initiative
Six CCE Associations (Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis & St. Lawrence) identified an opportunity to more fully serve this region through a collaborative effort around the topic of local food. They received funding from the Director of CCE for a three-year project to strengthen their local food direct-to-consumer efforts. This project, under the direction of Bernadette Logozar, offers: (1) farmers, education and assistance in marketing, business skill development, consumer relations (2) consumers, opportunities to increase their awareness of local foods that are available and how to find and use them and (3) educators, resources on local foods they can use in their counties.
As Ms. Logozar explains, “Agriculture remains one of the major industries in the NNY region. The vitality and vibrancy of the agricultural industry has a direct relationship to the vitality of the rural communities in this region. Local food production and the increase or strengthening of the production is a vehicle for economic development in the region.”
Over the past few years, the Direct-to-Consumer agriculture sector in the Adirondack North Country Region of the state has experienced a 22.3% increase in the number of farms involved in selling their products directly to the consumer. This increase has occurred even though the overall number of farms in the region has decreased by 6.6%.
Visit NNY Regional Local Foods Initiative to learn more about the project.
In 2001, with the assistance and support of CCE of Essex County, a community organization was formed due to the concerns for the loss/abandonment of farmland in the Adirondack region. Adirondack Harvest is more than a regional brand for locally grown products and has expanded to include growers, food processors, restaurants, B&Bs, and stores in all 12 Adirondack counties plus Jefferson County. Their main goals are to increase opportunities for profitable, sustainable production and sale of high quality food and agricultural products and to expand consumer choices for locally produced healthy foods. The eye-catching logo gives members a regional identity and the interactive web site provides a prominent internet presence to many members who do not have their own sites. Over the past ten years, Adirondack Harvest has become the source for consumers and producers looking to make local food connections.
Research is Vital
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed as CCE and Cornell continue to support the local foods movement. On-going research in optimal point of sale locations, variety of foods offered, and marketing strategies are important to the long term success of the local foods movement. Todd Schmit, Assistant Professor, Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management offers that, “in order for local food markets to improve access to nutritious, affordable foods to residents in rural areas, considerable planning, management, and marketing experience and involvement by all participating stakeholders is required.”
How do you find local food in your region?
All throughout the summer and fall seasons, local food is readily available from a plethora of farmers’ markets and farm stands in all regions of New York State. Increasingly, local foods and other local agricultural products are becoming available throughout the year and you can find a listing of many local food resources at the following website: http://cce.cornell.edu/Ag/Pages/LocalFoods.aspx or contact your local CCE Association office.
* Contributors: Bernadette Logozar, Todd Schmit, Laurie Davis
Lise Arsenault, Franklin County