The HVADC Cultivator
Farm and Food Funding Accelerator Participant:
Nimai Gupta, Gopal Farm
The crop diversity found within the Hudson Valley is just as rich as its ethnic diversity and history of cultivating fruit and vegetables originating from other parts of the world—mostly European countries such as Holland, England, France or Italy. Gopal Farm established itself on 76 acres in New Paltz in order to bring a very different base of produce from another part of the planet to the Hudson Valley; heirloom Indian ethnic specialty vegetables spices and Ayurvedic herbs sourced from seeds harvested from different regions of India, including from the foothills of the Himalayas. Much of the farm’s product has been developed through careful trials and experiments with those seeds.
Since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) carefully oversees all seeds imported into the United States, farmer Nimai Gupta had to apply through the USDA to be able to import and plant the seeds. Gopal Farm also produces ethical milk products sourced from their small herd of A2 grass-fed dairy cows, and sells raw milk directly from the farm, and their vat-pasteurized milk, yogurt, ghee and other milk products through a booth at Union Square Farmer’s Market. In addition to a CSA, their produce is sold to gourmet New York City groceries and restaurants.
Gopal Farm is actually named in honor of cows—a sacred animal in Nimai’s culture and in the Hindu faith-- “Go” meaning cows in Sanskrit and “pal” being a friend. Gopal Farm is researching and implementing the use of cow’s various products from concepts learned from ancient Indian Vedic texts for sustainable agriculture in crop production. Their holistic farming methods encompass most non-conventional and emerging systems of agriculture, including regenerative, organic, permaculture, biodynamic, and perennial. Gopal is also working towards these certifications: Organic-- third party accredited certification for all aspects of organic production and handling in New York and beyond; and Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)-- an internationally recognized set of farm standards dedicated to GAP. Through certification, producers demonstrate their adherence to Global GAP standards; Non-GMO certification through A Greener World; and USDA Gap Food Safety-- voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards according to GAP and Good Handling Practices (GHP). Gopal has also signed on to https://www.nofany.org/files/The_Farmers_Pledge.pdf), The Farmer’s PledgeTM , a commitment by farmers to farming that assures healthy food, strong local economies, fair working conditions and wages, humane treatment of animals, and care of the land.
Gupta, a former electrical engineer, is the owner & CEO of Ayuryoga, Inc. the largest distributor in North America of Classical Ayurveda healing formulations. Since farming was newer to him, he plotted his path carefully by first learning ethical livestock care by owning a dairy operation in a desert village in Western region of India with a centuries-old village tradition of animal husbandry. Gupta also employs low-cost, various ancient Vedic techniques to avoid expensive fungicides, fertilizers and pesticides, referencing and citing ancient Indian Vedic Sanskrit texts as resources.
Gupta said he was first referred to HAVDC through Suzanne Holt, Economic Development officer for Ulster County. After submitting an in-take form and speaking with Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson, he became a participant in HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program and Mary Ann encouraged him to apply to the Farm Food Fund Accelerator (FFFA) program. In the meantime, Mary Ann scheduled Gupta to work with HVADC business consultant Brian Zweig on strategic planning. Through Brian’s work, it became apparent Gupta need a business valuation and Mary Ann then referred him to a Vermont-based consultant who conducted the analysis to assess the business’ worth. In October, Gupta was accepted into the 2018-19 FFFFA program. “My goals are to attract funds; address organization and building and to be able to scale up, as well as learn about labor legalities,” said Gupta. “Brian has been extremely helpful in understanding our business model first and then suggesting ways to improve upon it, and getting valuation done.”
Challenges are numerous, as with any farming operation. Gupta cited feeling challenged by the amount of capital required, delivery costs and many unnecessary government regulations, coupled with difficulties of obtaining good laborers. The farm was recently awarded $600,000 and $550,000 in a New York State Consolidated Funding Grant through the Mid-Hudson Region Economic Development Council.
"Gopal Farm has an ambitious expansion plan to address a growing market for ethnic foods,” said Zweig. “With their recent grant award from New York State, they are a great fit for the Farm & Food Accelerator project and we look forward to working with Nimai to help him structure the financing for his project.”
Kevin Terr of Red Barn Produce wholesalers in neighboring Highland said the demand for ethnic produce has been increasing exponentially. “It’s impressive to be able to get fresh exotic heirloom varieties produced locally, rather than going to a specialty ethic market in New York City and buying produce imported from another part of the world,” said Terr. “Whether the end consumer will be using it for traditional dishes or create a whole new use and recipe around the product, they are still bringing something new and different to the region.”
For more information about Gopal Farm, please visit www.Gopal.farm
Photo Source: Gopal Farm