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November 1, 2013

SUNY Oneonta to team up with area farmers

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — A culinary farm-to-college-table movement is afoot.

SUNY Oneonta will be serving up more locally grown vegetables on campus, thanks to a federal grant for a pilot project called Farm to College.

The State University College at Oneonta is one of four SUNY campuses in the project, which is supported by a $99,427 Specialty Crop Block Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the American Farmland Trust’s Farm to Institution New York State Initiative.

The other participants are the University at Albany, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Oswego, officials said.

“New York state has such an abundance and variety of produce and food products, and the SUNY Farm to College program will support our efforts to serve even more of it across campus,” Hannah Morgan, SUNY Oneonta sustainability coordinator, said in a media release.

The project goal is to increase the procurement of fresh and minimally processed New York-grown produce by SUNY dining services at a competitive price that provides a sustainable profit margin to farmers, the release from SUNY Oneonta said, and the college will work to increase awareness among campus customers of the benefits of buying locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

“SUNY Oneonta counts on local and regional farms and agribusinesses to supply everything from high-quality produce to hummus and meats,” Morgan said. “We’re proud of our partnerships with farmers in and around Otsego County, and pleased to promote their fruits, vegetables and other products.”

During the two-year grant period, by matching farmers and local food processors with participating institutions and their distribution partners, the project will increase purchases of locally grown produce such as potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, squash and beans, the release said.

“Our state’s colleges and universities represent a huge market for New York’s farmers,” David Haight, state director of the American Farmland Trust. “Expanding these markets will create economic opportunities for farmers and reduce the likelihood that they will be forced to sell their land for real estate development.”

The American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.

Sodexo already contracts with 19 New York state vendors, which, purchase products from hundreds of farms and businesses in the state, according to the release. These vendors range from small family businesses such as McCoy’s Honey Farm in Oneonta and Shaver Hill Maple Farm in Stamford, to larger operations such as Byrne Dairy in Albany and Sherburne-based Purdy & Sons.

The college also promotes the benefits of buying local products through events such as weekly “Pride of New York” meals featuring New York state products and a fall farmer’s market on the campus quad.

“People need to understand the impact of the food system on the economy,” said farmer Richard Ball of Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie.

“Buying from local farms is about sustaining the local economy. If New York state does business with New York farmers, upstate agriculture will do just fine and that helps local economies,” Ball said in the release. “That’s because farmers employ people. They buy things. They need services. Farmers make the economy work.”