Chobani announced Monday the award of more than $130,000 to support economic development projects at three local organizations.

The Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship, based in Oneonta, was awarded $39,112.50 to launch an online platform designed to match with some of the area’s most vulnerable populations with fresh produce from local farmers and agriculture businesses.

CADE is in the beta phase of testing “Ripe Community,” an online platform that connects farmers, distributors, schools, nursing homes, senior centers and other institutional buyers, securing new market opportunities for local farms while increasing nutritious food to vulnerable populations, according to executive director Phoebe Schreiner.

“We built this platform to be a one-stop-shop for anyone in the farm entrepreneurial world,” Schreiner said. “A lot of these institutions were not set up to buy local. Buying local means being driven by what’s seasonally available, whereas a lot of these big food companies have global supply chains and you can order anything from anywhere in the world at any time.”

“Ripe Community” aligns with CADE’s mission to increase the number and diversity of successful farm enterprises and related businesses in New York while also building a vibrant food system in which locally owned agricultural businesses thrive and consumers are nourished by healthy, sustainably produced food, Schreiner said.

“We feel a sense of commitment to the community. We want to support the institutions and the individuals in need,” Schreiner said. “Even before COVID, we were seeing significant food insecurity in the area. We’re seeing lots of people without access to healthy food.”

CADE partnered with American Farmland Trust and Cornell University to facilitate the project — which is also funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York state Department of Agriculture and Markets —  in hopes of expanding the platform to a statewide scale.

“The issues that are prevalent in the Southern Tier also exist statewide, and frankly, nationwide,” Schreiner said. 

CADE will also provide technical support training and mentorship for schools, institutions, and producers who are newly entering the wholesale market, Schreiner said, using some of the funds to create how-to tutorials and workshops and launch a marketing campaign.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County was awarded $63,112.50 to provide educational opportunities for farmers seeking to establish small-scale beef and sheep production.

The organization will provide educational videos, on-farm workshops and webinars focusing on feeding, housing, fencing, grazing, handling and marketing, according to a media release. The project will also generate materials specifically for veterans.

The Charlotte Valley Central School District will receive $28,662.50 to purchase a food trailer for its Plant Posse program, which gives students the opportunity to plant, maintain and harvest fresh produce, as well as other skills, including recycling to create fertilizer and cooking with fresh vegetables, according to the release.

The grant will help purchase a “concession trailer,” which will function as a portable farm stand used as the base of operations for the student-run program. Younger students will plant and care for the garden, while the district’s older students will act as mentors. Sales generated from the produce sold will go back toward funding the program and a scholarship.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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