The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) recently announced the recipients of its 2017 Farmer/Producer Mini Grant program, which provides funding to farmers and local food businesses whose projects streamline the farm to school supply chain.
Birdsfoot Farm and Fullers Farm, both of Canton, and Martin’s Farmstand of Potsdam are receiving awards as part of the new grant program that provides funding for small farm to school projects. All three grant recipients have experience providing farm products to St. Lawrence County schools, often through the North Country Grown Cooperative.
According to ANCA:
Since 2016, Daniel Martin of Martin’s Farmstand has been supplying St. Lawrence County schools with fruits and vegetables including beets, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, chard, green beans, lettuce, scallions, sliced peppers, sliced onions and tomatoes. Martin plans to use the grant funding to purchase equipment for slicing, processing and storing farm produce. He concedes that schools are often not prepared to handle raw products from the farm. Providing minimally processed products would increase sales, he said, and ultimately increase student consumption of local produce.
Birdsfoot Farm and Fullers Farm will use their awards to purchase specialty equipment for washing salad greens and other vegetables. Fresh, locally produced salad ingredients are growing in popularity at many participating schools, and these growers recognize that providing ready-to-serve produce makes their product more appealing and easier to use for school staff.
The mini grant program is part of the larger “Drive for 25” Farm to School initiative which has been spearheaded by Assemblywoman Addie Jenne (D-Theresa) in an effort to increase local food options in Jefferson and St. Lawrence County schools. The initiative provides increased state funding of up to 25 cents more per meal for schools to expanded usage of local food products.
Drive for 25 has received a total of $600,000 in state funding over the last two years. During the 2016-17 school year, the program included 16 participating school districts, 15 local farms selling directly to schools, over 12,000 students consuming local food in school and over 99,000 pounds of 47 different local food products offered at breakfast and lunch. Efforts like the mini grant program are intended to increase local food sales by expanding the diversity of local food products available, improving food safety practices and making local food procurement more efficient for school personnel.
ANCA is an independent nonprofit organization growing the New Economy in northern New York. Using an integrated approach to sustainable economic development and prosperity where economic health, community vitality and ecological stewardship are equally important outcomes, ANCA focuses on creating opportunity for people with diverse backgrounds, experience and education levels.
Photo: Cherry tomatoes grown on Birdsfoot Farm and prepared for market, provided.