IDA, county envision local food hub
Story by Dan Hust
LIBERTY April 30, 2013 Saying the concept is supported by all nine legislators, Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Board Chair and Legislator Ira Steingart announced on Friday that the county is aiming to create a “food hub.”
“There’s a project I think will be great for Sullivan County,” Steingart told his IDA colleagues at a special board meeting that day.
What is a food hub?
“In the old days when you heard about a ‘hub,’ they called it a cooperative,” explained IDA Attorney Walter Garigliano. “... They just renamed it.”
Decades after the deaths of many dairy cooperatives, however, the food hub idea expanded to include farmers of all kinds has gained traction, including in New York. In fact, the state recently announced a $3.6 million effort to locate four hubs across New York, including one in Kingston.
The concept is a basic one: provide a way for farmers to transport their products to local stores or another centralized location for sale to consumers. Trucks and personnel would be provided by the hub to relieve farmers of the hassles of travel and logistics.
Sullivan County’s Planning Division has partnered with the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) to apply for three grants, the first of which has a nearly complete application.
This particular plan includes a building and equipment, so officials estimate they’ll need upwards of $400,000 amongst the three grants to make it work.
“What if you don’t get all the grants?” asked IDA Board member Harold Gold.
“Then we’ll go to Plan B,” Garigliano replied. “I don’t know what that is yet.”
The county hopes to know in a few months whether it’s won any or all of the grants. Garigliano said the county, being part of the REAP (Rural Economic Area Partnership) Zone, should have a slight advantage in the competitive process.
Garigliano is himself an ag producer (of maple syrup) who is eager to see the concept move forward and perhaps also resolve the complaints of shop owners and customers who can’t get as many locally-made products as they’d like.
“It’s very exploratory,” acknowledged Garigliano, “but if we could make it happen, it would be great for Sullivan County.”