Alfred State College recently received a $29,320 grant to organize a system for local farmers to supply Alfred State College's dining services with fresh produce. To accomplish this, the Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA) will provide support and educational benefits for local farmers. The grant was written by Dr. Robert Curry, assistant professor, ASC English and Humanities Department, with co-author Dr. Matthew Harbur, assistant professor, ASC Agriculture and Horticulture Department. The grant was issued by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Harbur, who also serves as program director of COSA, has been working with Curry and Curry's wife, Staci Curry, manager of Angelica's Farmer's Market in Angelica, NY.
COSA will research all aspects of the project to create a model for local food networks that can be duplicated at other SUNY campuses across the state. This project helps solve the training needs of local farmers through a partnership with farmers that gives them the technical, agricultural, and marketing training they need while providing a committed market for produce and the development of a summer marketing plan.
Alfred State faculty see this project as an opportunity to model to the students and the region a more sustainable food system.
Because Alfred State College is located in one of the poorest counties in the state, the implementation of this initiative is seen as an opportunity to revitalize the local economy, support a resurgence of local small-scale agriculture, and educate the students, faculty, and staff, and the local population about the benefits of sustainable food systems.
The training program will be advertised to growers within a 50-mile radius of campus. Sixteen growers will be recruited to participate in the program. Farmers' experiences have the potential to also be integrated with the expert knowledge at workshops on weed management, soil health, season extension, plasticulture, institutional food preparation, and business planning.
Farmers can negotiate business contracts with dining services and they will plant their first crops in June 2008. Crops grown can be marketed to the Alfred State dining services (Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services, Inc.) August-December 2008. Farmers can even have the opportunity to install season-extension technology (low tunnels, high tunnels, or greenhouses) to protect mature plants until harvest and start new growth for spring.
The attractiveness of local vegetable production is that market premiums can allow beginning farmers to succeed with smaller capital investments (e.g., $10,000-$20,000) in land, equipment, and buildings.
The campus has launched its own vegetable production to better understand growers' needs and train students. Dining service and culinary department faculty and staff are committed to the success of the growers and the purchase of local foods.
Curry and his wife are planning to sell their locally grown produce to Alfred State's Dining Services as one of the many benefits of the grant. Karen Canne, director of dining services at Alfred State, has been working with them and Harbur to prepare and plan for the new and healthy exchange.
Canne said, "It is the dining services and my responsibility to purchase the products grown and make them into edible, delicious, and attractive dishes, such as soups, entrees, salads, etc. I much prefer purchasing my produce locally."
Curry adds, "Buying fresh and local produce is the same as turning the lights off when you leave a room, or buying a fuel-efficient automobile. It is my job to oversee this project to assure all the benefits for the college and the farmer's market."
"Karen Canne, the dining services, and Robert and Staci Curry have been great to work with and very proactive," said Harbur. "Subcontracting with the Angelica's Farmers' Market and communicating with a network of farmers has all been possible thanks to this grant," he adds.
An agri-forestry workshop is planned in the near future at Alfred State to investigate open doors to income opportunities from the college's wood lots.