The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has announced the recipients of its 2018 Farmer/Producer Mini Grant program, which was designed to support the farm to school procurement process for local food producers and Jefferson and St Lawrence County schools.
The second round of grant recipients since the program’s inception in 2017 include two farms and one co-packer, whose proposed projects are expected to increase their capacity to supply schools with local food.
A total of $4,500 will partially fund the purchase of seeds and supplies for Agbotic, an organic greenhouse operation in Sackets Harbor, NY; the purchase of a new brusher/washer unit at North Branch Farms, a vegetable farm and orchard in Belleville, NY; and an industrial apple corer and slicer for Big Spoon Kitchen based out of Potsdam, NY.
Farm operators Kevin Richardson of Agbotic and Jay Canzonier of North Branch Farms have been involved in the Drive for 25 Farm to School program since it launched in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties in 2016. Besides growing, packing and delivering fresh produce for area schools, the two growers have also been involved in education and outreach efforts like farm to school picnics, “meet the farmer” events and farm tours for school district food service directors.
Rose Rivezzi and Will Trithart, owners of Big Spoon Kitchen, process and package locally grown fruits and vegetables out of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s shared-use Harvest Kitchen in Canton. With distribution support from St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, Big Spoon has supplied schools with sliced carrots, wedged apples and fresh salsa mix. Their mini grant award will go toward the purchase of a new corer and slicer that will increase the efficiency of their apple processing.
The mini grant program is part of the larger “Drive for 25” Farm to School initiative which provides increased state funding of up to 25 cents per meal for schools in order to expand local food purchasing. The goal of the program is to increase local food options in Jefferson and Saint Lawrence County schools. Assemblywoman Addie Jenne (D-Theresa) spearheaded the program in 2016 and has led the effort to secure State funding for three consecutive years.
Drive for 25 has received a total of $900,000 in state funding over the last three years. Since 2016, the program has grown to include 20 participating school districts, 22 local farms selling directly to schools, over 24,000 students with access to local food in school and over 270,000 pounds of 47 different local food products offered at breakfast and lunch.
Photo of Kevin Richardson of Agbotic speaks with Starbuck Elementary School staff and students as part of a “meet the farmers” farm to school event in January 2018 in Watertown.