The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC on the Road
The Cultivator’s “On the Road” column has been on hiatus for a bit while the physical comings and goings of HVADC’s staff has been understandably limited due to the COVID -19 pandemic. While they have certainly been busy, in many ways busier than ever, in person meetings and farm visits have been sorely missed by HVADC’s Executive Director Todd Erling and Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson. Recently however, with increased safety precautions fully employed, the team has been able to conduct a little more work out in the field.
“I try to balance it,” Todd said. “You get more done when you talked to people face to face (even through a mask) but there have also been benefits to meeting remotely, especially with how far we can reach. When the pandemic is all over I’m excited to be back out in full force with my boots in the mud but there are technological lessons learned during this crisis that have made our organization and the Hudson Valley agricultural community stronger.”
Delgado Swings By to Announce CDFI Funding Award at HVADC HQ.
While in person events have been few and far between, on October 16, in Hudson, Todd was honored to meet with U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado (19th District - NY) to discuss HVADC’s recent receipt of $124,075 of funding from the Department of the Treasury. The funding is designated for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) like HVADC and will be integral in helping HVADC continue to facilitate and expand much needed services from the Incubator Without Walls Program and Farm and Food Funding Accelerator, to the important work of FeedHV and Hudson Valley Bounty.
“We are lucky to have a representative who is an active and engaged member of both the Congressional Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Small Business,” Todd said. “It’s a really big because we have not had a representative sitting on both committees. Fortunately, Representative Delgado clearly sees Hudson Valley agriculture as the economic driver it is and worked with HVADC to ensure COVID relief funds became eligible for farms.”
This funding through the Treasury Department is more needed than ever as the pandemic has created increased need across the HVADC network, from farms struggling to adapt technologically to helping connect those suffering from food insecurity with needed meals, by rescuing excess products produced during farm harvest.
“During these challenging times, it has never been more important to invest in the development of our communities and support the organizations working to provide for the most vulnerable in our area. I am proud to join in announcing these funds for the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, which will allow them to better support agriculture producers in the Hudson Valley,” said Congressman Delgado in the funding’s official announcement on September 28. “We have much more work to do to make sure our small businesses and family farms have the resources they need to recover from this pandemic. I will keep advocating at the federal level to get additional coronavirus relief to our upstate communities as soon as possible.”
Hudson Valley Food Systems Coalition Facilitators Meet… In Person
The Hudson Valley Food Systems Coalition is a young, forward-thinking initiative, bringing together professionals from across every sector of the Hudson Valley’s food system, to share ideas, identify issues and build solutions. When the Coalition was just about a year old, the pandemic struck and stymied their important work.
On September 10, however a smaller group of the Coalition held their first in-person meeting since before the shutdown. Held at the Glynwood Center in Cold Springs and strictly adhering to social distancing and mask guidelines, the coalition’s new cabinet of Co-Facilitators, which include Mary Ann, set about the important task of charting the group’s path forward in the new landscape of the regional food economy. The facilitators reviewed results of a recent survey of participants that evaluated member needs and concerns, reviewed the Coalition structure, and planned for an upcoming meeting later in the fall.
“The HV Food Systems Coalition’s goal to think more broadly about how to address and shape the macro-issues impacting our regions food system has been an exciting project to personally be a part of and I’m happy to see the pandemic could not get the train off the track,” Mary Ann said. “It’s a great way for HVADC to share our institutional knowledge and learn from others - from all walks of life. It’s the type of process that really benefits from in-person meetings and I look forward to the time when the entire Coalition can meet again. In the meantime, we will Zoom.”
Orange County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board Legislators Forum
On September 15, Mary Ann headed over to the Orange County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board Legislators forum hosted by The Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County at their new 4-H Park and Education Center in Otisville. The event gathered elected officials and representatives of the agribusiness industry to discuss a long list of current issues affecting Orange County farms and the board’s recommended solutions.
“The Forum was a insightful way for the elected officials to hear directly from the farmers about where they stand on, and how they are addressing, pressing issues facing Orange County agribusiness,” Mary Ann said. “Every aspect of the economy is in flux right now and the first hand assessment of the of issues facing the county is a valuable feedback for those representing this critical population at the state, county and federal level.”
The Forum addressed topics including current issues faced by local dairy farms, the need for more farm labor, the potential reform of State legislation regarding farm labor, drainage improvements in the Black Dirt Region, the importance of farmland conservation, the impact of COVID-19, and much more.
Rewriting the Blueprint
While a Zoom conference might be a stretch for an “On the Road” article, the Blue Print Strategic Steering Committee meeting, held September 10, was far reaching, geographically speaking. The Blueprint is a business assistance alliance for farm and food businesses throughout the northeast, and Todd sits on the Executive Committee. It was an eventful conversation, Todd says, as representatives from agricultural agencies across the north east discussed new ways to share resources and find the most efficient and effective ways to service agribusinesses in all regions. They also discussed new rebranding for the group to help improve visibility, definition, and help as many farms and producers as possible.
But here’s the real inside scoop from the meeting: As part of the rebranding efforts Blueprint will soon be renamed and as of the meeting that name had been selected. The new name is… well we can’t say yet, so stay tuned.
“HVADC’s involvement in Blueprint has been rewarding and mutually beneficial. We now get to essentially share rolodexes with amazing organizations across the northeast. Instead of competing for resources we all get to increase our impact,” Todd said. “I think the new name is going to be impactful and set us all up for future success.”
Other Executive Committee members include representatives of The Carrot Project and the Vermont Farm & Forst Viability Program. Steering Committee members include CCE Albany County, American Farmland Trust, CEI Maine, GrowNYC, Hudson Valley Farmer Training Collaborative, Land for Good and the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.