Washington DC & Schoharie County, NY (June 30, 2021) – During National Dairy Month, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced the approval of a grant in the amount of $25,000 to the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation (SEEC) to fund, in part, a Regional Independent Food Processing Feasibility Study. SEEC and Carver Companies have teamed-up to underwrite the balance of the initiative totaling $55,600. The study will result in a business plan to develop local food processing efforts that may serve at least 28 farm businesses and improve nine ag-related operations.
“We are extremely excited to support this industry cluster resurgence in the Southern Tier 8 Region,“ enthused Jen Gregory, executive director, Southern Tier 8. “I am pleased SEEC was able to access this timely funding through our relationship with the Appalachian Regional Commission.”
New York is the 4th largest dairy producer in the nation and, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture, milk from dairy cows generates more than $75M annual sales revenue for the project’s three-county service area Schoharie, Delaware, and Otsego.
“This is a terrific opportunity for our regional economy that also prepares us for a more secure food distribution system and helps to stabilize the local agricultural market.” said Steve Harris, Chief Executive Officer at Sterling Insurance and Founding Member of SEEC. “We have heard talk of the need for an independent facility over the years, SEEC is pleased to help advance the effort.”
The private sector will lead the initiative. SEEC and Carver Companies will leverage ARC grant funding to hire a consultant that outlines steps necessary to develop and fund local food processing on a marketable scale. The consultant will update previous market studies, interview farmers, interview grocers and identify a profitable financial model paying special attention to the dairy sector.
Carver Companies, a diversified developer, manufacturer, and logistics service provider based in Schoharie County, will provide its development and multi-modal logistics expertise to this project as a backer of these initiatives. During the pandemic, the farmers of New York State were able to respond to the crisis by shipping product direct to consumers. Carver Companies supports the effort to poll local and regional resources and create logistics to ensure farms can participate and sell to markets near and far.
John VanDerwerken, President of the Schoharie County Farm Bureau added, “The Farm Bureau, and our members learned firsthand the struggles our processing industry had during the COVID pandemic last year. Processing for dairy and livestock has become more and more centralized and become a problem for small, local farms, and that was emphasized last year. The need for local/regional processing is a paramount issue for our local farms, and our ritual economy. We are excited to see this project continue and the change that will come from it, and we thank SEEC for their hard work and dedication to the agricultural community!”
Julie Pacatte, Executive Director of SEEC explains the crucial next step in this process, creating an advisory council to oversee the effort. “In order to develop a profitable business model that makes sense, we need to engage leadership from every step of the supply chain,” adds Pacatte. “We are in the process of inviting experts to serve on the project-specific Farm and Food Advisory Council who share our passion, have a willingness to provide expertise and desire to see agriculture prosper in our region.”
Photo: “Representatives met June 30, 2021, at Highland Meadows Farm in Town of Seward”
From left to right:
Steve Diefendorf, 5th generation dairy farmer
Randy Diefendorf, 6th generation dairy farmer
Tim Diefendorf, 5th generation dairy farmer
Ann Diefendorf, Professional Milk Tester and Advocate, Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free
Steve Harris, CEO, Sterling Insurance and Founding Member, SEEC
Duane Spaulding, contributor
Jen Gregory, Executive Director, Southern Tier 8
William Kuhl, Representative, Carver Companies
Alex Luniewski, Supervisor, Town of Wright and Chair, Schoharie County Agriculture Committee
Madison Wellman, Regional Representative, Congressman Antonio Delgado 19th District
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