First award through WNYREDC's new Agriculture Development Fund will allow cooperative to double its space, meet additional customer demand for farm fresh produce
The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has announced Eden Valley Growers, a cooperative venture of 10 vegetable producing farms in the fertile Eden Valley area of Erie County, has successfully completed the first phase of its facility expansion. The project, which doubles the space available for storage and handling of produce, is the first to receive funding though the WNYREDC's Agriculture Development Fund. The value-added and direct-to-market agriculture grants program, which is administered by Farm Credit East and allows farmers in Western New York to apply for matching grants to make farm equipment purchases and construct or renovate agricultural structures, awarded Eden Valley Growers $345,052 in funding for this first phase.
"Eden Valley Growers is very excited about our expansion. The new square footage will aid in compliance with food safety regulations and also in better efficiencies," said Eden Valley Growers Sales and Operations Manager David Walczak. "We look forward to the second phase, which we hope to have completed by the 2015 season."
This facility expansion allows Eden Valley Growers to better store and handle the fresh vegetables produced on its nearby farms. The new cooling and storage building is 7,500 square feet, doubling the current space. The facility features state-of-the-art cooling equipment and, when completed, will also include an innovative slush icier, which will allow Eden Valley's members to better condition and market broccoli.
Better technologies that help farmers locally produce broccoli of a quality and in quantities expected by Northeast consumers is a focus of research being conducted at Cornell University's New York State Agriculture Experiment Station at Geneva, in cooperation with growers such as Eden Valley. This investment helps bring this research to practical application, and is welcomed by farmers and consumers alike.
"Agriculture is a WNYREDC-targeted industry, and we are working to ensure that the industry has the ability to expand their products into new markets," said Satish K. Tripathi, WNYREDC co-chair and University at Buffalo president. "Eden Valley Growers is a cooperative of farms that has a 50-plus-year history here in Western New York marketing and distributing farm fresh produce. This funding will provide Eden Valley the opportunity to operate more effectively and better compete, allowing the cooperative to grow and prosper."
"As the first recipient of our Agriculture Development Fund, Eden Valley Growers is expanding its operations to better store and handle the local, fresh produce that families are increasingly seeking," said Howard Zemsky, WNYREDC co-chair and Larkin Development Group managing partner. "This is exactly the type of project that the funding source was created to support: ones that address the needs of our farmers and help them develop strong market strategies that will increase agricultural output."
Eden Valley Growers Inc., established in 1956, consists of 10 members, most of whom are third- or fourth-generation farms, including Henry W. Agle & Sons, Ronald Draudt & Sons, Ken Henry & Sons, W.D. Henry & Sons, Salzman Farm, Schummer's Eden Edge, MCR Farm, Amos Zittel & Sons, D. & J. Brawdy Farm and Henry's Garden. The farms and warehouses are located approximately 20 miles south of Buffalo in Eden.
From May 1 to Dec. 1, Eden Valley ships more than half a million cases of produce and handles more than 45 specialty vegetable varieties. Sixty percent of its vegetables are shipped to grocery stores and supermarkets in the Buffalo area, while the remaining 40 percent are shipped out of town as far as New Jersey, New York City, Boston, Texas, Michigan, Louisiana and Florida. In 2012, Eden Valley Growers received the award for "Business of the Year" from The New York State Agricultural Society.
Farm Credit East President Scott Herring said, "We are excited about this. Our first award under the innovative value-added and direct-to-market grants program will support the good work of farmers in the Eden Valley. Farm Credit East looks for ways to better serve farms across our region. Administering this program on behalf of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council demonstrates a strong public-private partnership with the common goal of moving agriculture forward."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "The Eden Valley Growers co-op is a key component of Erie County's vibrant agricultural community and also part of a vital sector of our overall economy. We thank the REDC for working with Erie County and the growers to expand their facility, which will produce a bountiful and far-reaching harvest."
Town of Eden Supervisor Glenn R. Nellis said, "We're delighted by the supported provided by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. This project assures that Eden Valley Growers Inc. will continue to prosper as a cooperative for the farmers in the Town of Eden area. We see the Eden Valley Growers becoming more and more of a food hub for Erie County."
Farm Credit East is a financial service cooperative for the northeast agriculture industry and the largest lender to agriculture in New York providing loans to capitalize agriculture business. Its current client base is more than 13,000. It is also a leader in farm legislation and land preservation activities.
Farmers in Western New York can now apply for grants to make processing equipment purchases and construct or renovate agricultural structures. The grants, generally not to exceed $50,000 per application, are available to agricultural producers with commercial farms. Eligible applicants should be able to retain and expand agricultural activity, be engaged in a value-added or direct-to-market activity, which increases access to locally grown products, creates jobs and strengthens economic development in rural communities.
Generally, up to $50,000 may be awarded per application, which is expected to leverage matching loan funding through Farm Credit East or other financing sources. Examples of eligible projects include a small cheese production on a dairy farm or a new vegetable cooler on a vegetable farm. The rolling grants, with no specific deadline as of now, are based on eligibility and awarded competitively. Multiple farms may apply on one application with their aggregate application generally not to exceed $50,000 per farm.
For an application, contact Nathan Rudgers, Farm Credit East's director of business development, at 800-929-1350 (office), 585-993-0395 (mobile) or [email protected].
For more information on the Regional Councils, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.