The HVADC Cultivator
Grown and Certified Producer Grant Awards
The first four NYS Grown & Certified (G&C) Grants in the Capital District have been awarded, through the program administrated by HVADC and Hudson Mohawk Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., (HMRC&D). Letterbox Farm in Hudson, Hearty Roots Farm in Germantown, Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent and Bowman Orchards in Rexford are the first to receive funding under the program which helps farmers make improvements that can lead them to achieve G&C designation.
In August 2016 New York State launched the G&C program as the state’s first multi-faceted food certification program designed to strengthen consumer confidence in New York products. The program address food product labeling and assists New York farmers so they can take advantage of the growing market demand for foods which are locally grown and produced to a higher standard. Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director, serves on the Branding and Marketing Workgroup of the Governor’s Safe and Healthy Foods Advisory Committee, which provides input and guidance to the G&C program.
New York food growers and producers certified through G&C adhere to New York’s food safety and environmental sustainability programs—Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) plans-- both which assure consumers that the food they are buying is local and produced at that higher-standard established by these certifications. G&C participants are identified through the use of a G&C product label seal and are included in the program’s marketing outreach.
To assist farmers achieve G&C status, HVADC and HMRC&D partner to administer a grant program in the Capital District Region which covers Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties. In 2018, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets had awarded HMRC&D $500,000 as one of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) which makes the grant administration possible for the partners.
There were eleven applicants in the first round of the Capital District G&C Grant funding. Of the eleven, $134,124 has been awarded to the four initial recipients, with several of the additional applications still in the underwriting process. Letterbox Farm in Hudson was awarded $45,000 to construct a wash/pack facility containing cold storage, enclose and update handwashing station and refrigerator units as well. Hearty Roots Farm in Germantown was awarded $48,230 to enclose existing space and construct a winterized wash and pack room and cooler; add a dedicated handwash station and upgrades to stainless barrel washer and greens dryer. Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent was awarded $33,382 to update their vegetable wash equipment, install vegetable rinse table; redirect manure conveyor system and erect new storage building to keep harvest bins. Bowman Orchards in Rexford received $7,512 to install three storage tanks for storage of potable water for packing and cider operational needs.
The G&C producer grants are awarded for capital projects that will enable qualified agricultural producers meet food safety standards necessary for participation in the program. Eligible agricultural producers can apply for up to 90% of their total project cost, not to exceed $50,000. They must also provide at least 10% of the total project cost as matching support. The food producer match can include cash, loans or grants. The program is open to agricultural producers of dairy, eggs, beef, poultry, pork, sheep, goat, produce, shellfish, Christmas trees, maple, cut flowers, craft beverage ingredients, wine, spirits, beer and cider. Eligibility requirements can be found at https://certified.ny.gov/get-certified.
“We are excited about the grant, it will enable us to do two things: upgrade some of our wash and pack equipment and facilities to meet GAP and FSMA standards, which will enable us to apply for the NYS Grown & Certified program; and allow us to build a winterized wash area which will help us extend our vegetable production and marketing season into the winter, in conjunction with our high tunnels where we grow winter produce.” said Ben Shute, Hearty Roots Farm.
In addition to administrating the grant program, HVADC and HMRC&D helps farmers apply for state funds for capital improvements related to food safety, identify sources of financing and HVADC will provide access to technical assistance, including guidance on GAP. Soil and Water Conservation offices in the six counties are assisting grant recipients with AEM.
“The Hudson Mohawk Resource Conservation and Development Council is pleased to be partnering with HVADC to provide opportunities for producers in the Capital Region to become NYS Grown and Certified,” said Donna Murray, Executive Chairperson of HMRCD, “We feel that the G&C designation can be a real boost for those who adhere to the best practices, and have seen research results which show that the label builds on the already positive perception that New Yorkers have of our state’s produce, with 74% saying that they would buy more, 49% saying that they would pay more for food products bearing this label, and 96% indicating that they would favor food bearing the G&C seal,” she continued.
“The G&C certification has proven to be beneficial to many of HVADC’s clients, in terms of branding, and being able to offer this grant program to a wider range of producers in the region further expands the services that we are able to offer,” said Erling. “It helps us to enable more farms to achieve the G&C mark, and expand the reach, and worth of their brand and products, he continued.
There is a rolling deadline for applications for the C&G Grant program. Capital District producers are encouraged to visit https://www.hvadc.org/grown-certified to learn about the certification process and details on the grant program. Growers in the Mid-Hudson region, (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester) interested in participating, should contact Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County, which serves as the administrator for those counties.
Photo Source: HVADC