APRIL 14, 2008
Contact: Bernadette Logozar, 518-483-7403; Molly Ames, 315-788-8450; Michelle Ledoux, 315-376-5270

May 1-3 Celebrate Local Food Successes, Opportunities to Develop More Farm-to-Direct Markets Sales

On May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd farmers, chefs, business people, government and food services representatives will be celebrating the on-the-ground successes and opportunities yet to come for direct marketing of local foods to regional residents. The three-day road show includes two keynote speaker-authors, meals featuring local foods, panel discussions and networking with those who have successfully developed new strategies for enhancing the profitability of North Country farms.

�Our May 1-3 speakers represent the results of taking the initiative to build markets and joining resources to facilitate farm-community-buyer connections,� says Molly Ames, co-director of the New Strategies project for the North Country. Ames is a farm business management educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

�This series of events showcases everything from unique product development and branding to networking with chefs and food services, development of distribution channels, and creative marketing. There is something here for everyone,� says event co-organizer Michele Ledoux, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County.

�This program offers the examples of the types of connections the region�s farmers have already made as models for others to build upon, and will identify opportunities to meet an increasing demand for local products by consumers, groceries, restaurants, academic institutions and others,� says New Strategies co-director Bernadette Logozar, a rural and economic development specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County.

The series includes a Thursday, May 1 dinner event at Hohmeyers Lodge on Lake Clear in Lake Clear, NY, and 10am-4pm programs Friday, May 2 at The Riveredge Resort in Alexandria Bay, NY, and Saturday, May 3rd at the American Maple Museum in Croghan, NY.

The Thursday evening May 1 6-9pm supper event features the opportunity to talk with Shannon Hayes, author of The Grass-fed Gourmet and The Farmer & The Grill, at Hohmeyers Lodge. Hayes is a Schoharie County, NY, native who lives and raises pastured livestock at Sap Bush Hollow Farm. Hayes holds a Ph.D. in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University. Hohmeyers Lodge owner Cathy Hohmeyer founded a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation that promotes a diet of nutrient dense whole foods.

Joining Hayes at the 10am-4pm programs on Friday, May 2nd in Alexandria Bay and Saturday, May 3rd in Croghan will be Barbara Damrosch, author of The Garden Primer. Damrosch co-owns Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, with her husband Eliot Coleman. The experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, produces vegetables year-round, and is a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

The Friday, May 2nd panel discussion includes Patrick Clelland, general manager of Campus Services Sodexho at Paul Smiths College, Paul Smiths, NY; pork producer Steve Winkler of Lucki 7 Ranch, Rodman, NY; Roger Hyde, owner of Harbor Inn Restaurant, Clayton, NY, and the farmers who supply him with fresh produce and meats - David Belding and Dani Baker of Cross Island Farm, Wellesley Island, NY.

Clelland will speak about his mandate to increase his local food purchasing each year and his efforts to connect local farmers to the college via a qualified vendor distributor.

Hyde, Belding and Baker will talk about integrating locally grown products into the restaurant business. Belding and Baker organically produce vegetables, honey, and maple products and recently planted a small vineyard and added livestock to their farm business. Hyde says, �I have a strong interest in locally grown and organic. When Dani (Baker) and David (Belding) began their venture I wanted to be part of it. My approach is to think about what I might create (with local products) while discussing what is available.�

Certified Natural NY founder Steve Winkler has been successful at developing relationships with distributors who are placing his branded products into local groceries and beyond.

At both the Friday and Saturday programs, Craig Bilow of Regional Brand Builders and Sustain Brand products will speak about creating a national brand that assures local product sourcing. He will share research his company has done on buying patterns that shows consumer willingness to pay more for local products.

On Saturday at the American Maple Museum panelists include Clelland, Hyde, Kent Widrick of Lowville Producers Cooperative and Roxaina Hurlburt of the farmer-owned Mercer�s Dairy. Widrick is manager of the Lowville Producers Cooperative that operates a successful cheese store as a hub for a wide array of local products. The Cooperative also markets its products via a website: www.gotgoodcheese.com. Hurlburt is marketing director for Mercer�s Ice Cream, Boonville, NY. She will talk about how the ice cream plant uses local milk and is growing into its capacity to process more milk into such products as Mercer�s wine cream that is creating a lot of marketing buzz not only locally, but across New York State and in the nation�s capital.

The local food program is part of New Strategies Project: Enhancing Profitability on North Country Farms, a collaboration of Cornell Cooperative Extension county offices in northern New York (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties) that received grant funds from the New York Farm Viability Institute to assist farms that are exploring new farm business ventures. North Country Public Radio is the media sponsor for this three-day event.

Those interested in the Local Food Connections: Opportunities & Challenges in the North Country events may attend any or all sessions. The local foods supper on Thursday and local foods luncheons on Friday and Saturday are part of the program. There is no fee to attend, but registration is required as space is limited. Register with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County by calling 518-483-7403 or email bel7@cornell.edu.