Local products, local food

Boosting agriculture at the Innovation Center

By VICTORIA HOFFMANN
Posted 6/28/22

HONESDALE, PA — Plans are in works to build an Agricultural Innovation Center in Wayne County.

The building will be multifunctional, enhancing the agriculture economy and service to those in …

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Local products, local food

Boosting agriculture at the Innovation Center

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — Plans are in works to build an Agricultural Innovation Center in Wayne County.

The building will be multifunctional, enhancing the agriculture economy and service to those in need.

The feasibility study from this January described the center as “a response to the strategic planning goals and current needs in Wayne County.” It “functions as a food hub, integrates local food products, expands food pantry capabilities, provides educational programming and community events, and supports workforce development programs.”

Within the center, there will be space for a kitchen for communal use, and storage for agricultural products. There will be areas for local food pantries to host events.

There are plans to include an indoor farmers’ market, too; it will be year-round for consumers and suppliers.

“A part of the plan for the building, along with having the ability to have the food pantry there—it will have a kitchen and storage,” said Zachary Jones, a nutrient management specialist at the Wayne Conservation District. “So people could utilize that storage, dry or cold.”

The space can also be used for education. Classes could be held on increasing farm profitability, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, increasing job opportunities, and improving health and wellness by strengthening access to local food.

In fact, there are many opportunities for continued learning. The kitchen can serve as a place for food-safety training, and a location to host cooking classes.

“It will create a workforce training atmosphere; it will serve as a community kitchen, and could have a food, recreation and tourism center,” said Jones.

In fact, the space could support small food processing projects.

The commercial area within the building could include year-round food markets and pop-up food services but, more importantly, it would allow local food pantries to host an optimal amount of events to combat food insecurity.

“I think when we talk about people with food insecurity… it will allow [our local food pantry to] expand its ability to aggregate from local producers, which they’re already doing right now, but in a place like that [the center], they’ll have better storage, access to procedures and a higher ability to have more inventory,” said Jones.

With features such as high-volume storage of up to 10,000 pounds of food, dry and cold storage—meaning canned, raw or frozen, the facilitation of bulk buying opportunities, walk-in and reach-in storage, and more: the innovation center can advance the agriculture front in the county.

According to the plan, the center will be “focused on primarily Wayne County and region within a 50-mile radius of Honesdale, PA.” It also includes areas that are “partially within this defined area.” This means that the center will be available to those who do not reside in Wayne County, and the center will be open to anyone within that target area who wants to utilize the building.

There is currently not a set date for construction; scouting for a location for the center is still in the works. Two sites are under consideration, and sewage availability is a significant factor for the site selection.

The center could transform many aspects of the agricultural economy.

“Having something like that, with the ability to distribute” more easily, “to get local products, to help stimulate our local economy as well,” Jones said, “it’s going to be something that I think is great.”

agriculture, Agricultural Innovation Center, Wayne County, Wayne Conservation District, farmers' market, food pantry, storage, Honesdale

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