December 27, 2007

Contact: Katherine Lang, North Country Regional Foods Initiative, 315-379-9192 x261
Note to reporters: Katherine Lang can put you in touch with local entrepreneurs for your area

Regional Foods Project Shows Potential to Grow Economic Impact for NNY

The promotion of local foods and products in Northern New York is paying off and has room to grow, according to preliminary survey of the local economic impact of regional food production by the North Country Regional Foods Initiative.

Duncan Hilchey, a senior extension associate with the Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI) at Cornell University, is studying North Country agriculture and food system indicators as one of the first steps in setting a baseline against which the North Country Regional Foods Initiative will compare future anticipated growth of the local foods sector. His analysis of the last USDA Census of Agriculture shows that:

� between 1997 and 2002 there was an increase in the number of fruit and vegetable farms (up 5.8 percent), lamb and sheep producers (up 18 percent), and orchards (up 12.5 percent) in the six northernmost counties of New York state: Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties

� between 1992 and 2002 the number of NNY farms selling direct to consumers rose from 273 or 6.7 percent of all farms in the North Country to 506 or 11.07 percent

� between 1992 and 2002, sales from farms selling direct to consumers rose from $1.3 million to more than $3 million. In terms of per capita direct-to-consumer sales, the 1992 figure of $2.98 in 1992 increased to $8.10 per capita in 2002.

Hilchey says, �There is tremendous room to grow the local share of the total food bill for the North Country region. In 2002, the direct-to-consumer share of the total regional food expenditure of $936 million was $3.377 million � that is only one-third of one percent of the total.

Hilchey adds, �North Country agricultural producers also have growing opportunities for increasing direct wholesaling, such as selling to restaurants, resorts and colleges. It is great to see innovative programs helping make the links between the producers and buyers.�

The North Country Regional Foods Initiative project is also collecting community and economic impact information regarding local foods efforts from local and county-level organizations.

One of the regional organizations providing data is Adirondack Harvest, an effort that began in Essex County in 2001 now has more than 174 participating farms in Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties. Adirondack Harvest promotes a wide array of regional products through farm tours, farmers� markets and events, a website www.adirondackharvest.com,  newsletters and a farm-to-restaurant program.

In 2007 grant funds made available to Adirondack Harvest through a New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets agritourism grant project specifically focused on marketing and event promotions by member farms, farmers� markets and farmstands. The Saranac Lake, Keene and Elizabethtown farmers� markets used a matching grant to print $1 coupons to be redeemed at the market.

Keene and Elizabethtown farmers� market manager Marjorie Swift reported a 33 percent redemption rate for coupons. She felt it was a good promotion, because �many of the coupons were presented to vendors by new visitors. I reached out to different places, car dealerships, health centers and clinics to attract new customers.�

Farms and farmstands participating in the grant-funded promotions efforts through Adirondack Harvest reported seeing 19 percent more customers on average with a resulting average increase in gross sales of 16 percent compared to past years.

Farmers� markets reported similar numbers: 21 percent more customers, 17 percent more gross sales.

Stores taking advantage of promoting local products saw on-average a 10 percent increase in customers with an 11 percent more in gross sales in 2007.

On an individual basis, one participating farmer reports buying a larger freezer to accommodate consumer demand for on-farm sale of lamb and initiating sales to area restaurants.

A farmers� market participant commented, �This year customers have been more responsive to the idea of buying locally and have associated the farmers markets with the overall trend of �going green�.�

Chambers of Commerce and regional promotion agencies have embraced the local products promotion effort that drove visitors to regional farms in 2007 for spring open houses at greenhouses and fall harvest season tours.

Lake Placid/Essex County Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President Carol Joannette says, �As our society learns about the benefits of eating locally, they want to enjoy the �local food experiences� of their destinations as well. By educating restaurants on the benefits of serving locally-grown foods and by promoting the farmers� markets, we provide outlets for our visitors to experience the flavors of the Adirondacks, thereby enhancing their visit.�

The North Country Regional Foods Initiative project team includes representatives of each Cornell Cooperative Extension office in NNY and the Community and Rural Development Institute at Cornell University. The team has a $60,000 federal Economic Development Administration University Center grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce through the Economic Development Administration University Center designated for New York State at Cornell University and the Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI). For more information on CaRDI, contact Rod Howe, 607-255-2170, rlh13@cornell.edu or visit www.oed.cornell.edu

To learn more about the North Country Regional Foods Initiative Project, contact Katherine Lang at 315-379-9192 x261. # # #