An agricultural haven: Part 2
• Build the red meat slaughter plant now. In planning for almost a decade, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been set aside for this project. Meat animals would be slaughtered and USDA inspected at this plant close to home and the meat sold for a higher price locally and in the metropolitan area. The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is now in charge of this project.
• Build a creamery to process local milk and dairy products. Start small with a unique label and targeted marketing plan. Sell locally and in the metropolitan area. Learn from the experience of the small dairy created by Hudson Valley Fresh.
• Reshape the county’s economic development agencies and their budgets in order to better serve agriculture. Ensure that staffs continuously expand their knowledge of agriculture, the perspective and needs of the farm community and advocate for them. Revamp the Millennium Revolving Loan fund offered by the IDA, reduce hiring requirements and applicant fees and make the application a truly “farmer friendly” document.
• Convene an agricultural development leadership workgroup. Nowhere in the county do employed civil servants and not-for-profits meet regularly to commit to implementing a few agricultural projects. Wouldn’t such a body make progress in agriculture more likely?
Finally, renewable energy makes a natural and synergistic partner for agriculture, and one that obviously has a key place in the economic priorities of the 21st century. These partners together have the potential to build a vibrant, sustainable economy in Sullivan County.
[Sonja Hedlund (email@example.com) is one of the founders of the Sullivan County Farm Network, and co-owner of Apple Pond Farm.]