The largest of our counties geographically, Delaware County is made up of small towns and villages mostly linked by rural roads, with no dominant population center. But far-flung though they may be, the people of Delaware County keep us busy with terrific grant proposals.
In Walton, for example, the Paul G. and Miriam B. Mattern Fund has supported everything from arts and recreation to programs to ensure that children from low income families eat well during breaks from school. In 2017, the Community Foundation made a special $20,000 grant to Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) for its work to improve the environment and the regional economy.
Several recent grants have supported a network of organizations that promote small scale agriculture in the county. One of those is Delhi-based Farm Catskills, whose Cow to Cafeteria program has helped several school districts bring beef from local farms into their lunch programs.
In 2017, we gave Farm Catskills $5,000 to conduct a Delaware County Farm-to-School Assessment, to help the organization determine how to focus its efforts. The study examined what school districts across the county were already doing to incorporate local produce in their meal programs, how they were doing it, and what they hoped to achieve in the future, says Pamela Benson, president of Farm Catskills.
By bringing local agricultural products into schools, Farm Catskills gives students access to local, healthy, seasonal foods, Benson says. Many people think kids would rather eat junk, but Cow to Cafeteria has won plenty of fans. “The kids bought more when the beef was local. And kids were talking about it,” she says.
Farm-to-school programs also create new markets for local agricultural producers, Benson points out. “So this is benefitting the Delaware County economy. That’s one of our goals as well.”
Another nonprofit that connects local farmers with new markets is the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE). Based in Oneonta, CADE works with farmers across the region, including in Delaware County, to develop new product lines—for example, helping dairy farmers to start producing yogurt, butter or cheese. It also helps those producers market their products to retail stores and restaurants and directly to the public.
In 2014, with $12,000 from the Community Foundation, CADE hired a consultant to explore potential markets for these value-added dairy products. In 2015, we granted $15,000 for a program called Community Creameries, which provided technical assistance to farmers who were starting value-added businesses.
“The farmers are busy farming and trying to put together a product, and doing the labeling and licensing,” says Rebecca Morgan, former executive director at CADE. “We’ve brought many of those producers to New York City in a van, introducing them to different restaurants and specialty shops that are looking for dairy products.”
CADE also identified the need for more dairy processing facilities and helped some new producers, including Bovina Valley Creamery in Bovina Center, get up
The local dairy scene will grow even busier in 2018, as Bovina Valley Creamery and the Livestock Foundation team up to offer educational programs. The Livestock Foundation is a nonprofit devoted to preserving the rural traditions and communities of Delaware County. It owns a 55 acre farm next door to the creamery, and it’s getting ready to offer tours of both properties.
“We’ll bring people through and teach them about small scale dairy farming and its benefits from an economical, cultural and environmental standpoint,” says Sonia Janiszewski, executive director at the Livestock Foundation.
Tours will bring guests through the dairy barn, home to 44 Jersey cows that supply milk to the creamery. Visitors will also see the creamery in action, making products such as butter, cheese and yogurt, and spend time in several exhibits.
The Livestock Foundation is using a $3,000 grant from the Community Foundation toward the exhibit space in the creamery. There, visitors will see artifacts from the historic creamery, displays to explain modern dairy production, and materials on food systems and the role of family farms in the local economy, Janiszewski says. “We hope to provide a well-rounded picture, from history through the current-day experience of running a creamery and producing value-added products.”