The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding $25,864 to Southern Tier West to lay the groundwork for a multi-county food hub that would help move more locally grown produce to markets in the Southern Tier.
"Connecting more of our local farms with local markets is good for business, and good for the health of our families," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in four decades. "Farms of the Western Southern Tier are growing some of the highest quality produce. And when we help these farms reach new markets in the region, we can connect families, businesses and schools with food that's grown right in our community, and help strengthen the local economy."
The USDA investment for Southern Tier West will be used to complete a feasibility study and business plan for a local food hub that would comprise aggregation, processing and distribution across Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The funding could also include potential of other commercial uses, such as a community kitchen, business incubator, meeting or classroom space for education about business development for local food processors and nutrition.
"Over the past year, Southern Tier West has been working with local producers and stakeholders across our three counties in examining ways to increase not only the marketing of local foods but also how to best increase the economic viability of the local food system," said Richard Zink, Southern Tier West executive director. "We view this USDA RBOG grant as a great opportunity to determine how best to proceed with a facility that would enhance the local food movement across the southern tier of New York."
As part of the project, Southern Tier West will develop a Geographic Information System to identify current and potential local food production, and current and potential markets for locally produced foods.