HONESDALE, PA — “Ag is the culture of this region,” said Jenna Mauder of The Cooperage at the start of the local nonprofit’s virtual/in-person Farmer-to-Farmer gathering last …
HONESDALE, PA — “Ag is the culture of this region,” said Jenna Mauder of The Cooperage at the start of the local nonprofit’s virtual/in-person Farmer-to-Farmer gathering last Thursday.
Mauder, The Cooperage’s agricultural and food programs coordinator said the event gives local farmers and food entrepreneurs a chance to discuss their successes and struggles in an effort to create a robust ag community.
The first presenter, Laurel Burns talked about the new farmers’ market in Newfoundland which started last spring. A vegetable grower herself, Burns said that the market has been growing since it began, but that its organizers are always looking for more producers to take part. She said that the market’s main coordinator Matt Kelly has waived site fees for this first season.
“He really wants to see this improve Newfoundland, which is kind of a little bit of a dead zone,” Burns said. “So we’re trying to fix that, rectify it, bring something positive to the area knowing that we have both the local customer base and tourists and whatnot coming through.”
The farmers market happens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays at the Carlton Drake Memorial Park.
Going from the Southern to the Northern end of Wayne County, Brandon Flynn of Family Farms Northeast in Waymart spoke next about cost-sharing. Flynn said he previously worked in the corporate world, which taught him about the benefits of shared costs and inspired him to start this collective.
“There’s got to be a better way to bring products and promote local agriculture together by sharing costs, by sharing ideas,” he said.
Flynn described the Family Farm’s mission as making locally sourced food attractive to local consumers by adding convenience. Shoppers can order locally-sourced boxes of meat from the collective’s website, www.family
farmsne.com for a monthly fee. Flynn said the new business has been growing faster than he expected.
Next, to provide an update on the county’s plans for a local dairy processing plant, Bob Muller from Wayne Tomorrow presented the project’s purpose and status.
“Right up front I was always asked, why are we doing it,” he said. “‘[People said] by the time you build a milk plant, there won’t be any milk farms left.’”
Muller said that there were plenty of reasons, a primary one being that dairy farming is considered a supporting industry in Wayne County. If the dairy industry goes away, many jobs in feed supply, equipment, transportation and seed suppliers could disappear. He also pointed out the “insecurity” of the national food supply chain during this pandemic, evidenced by the infamous milk dumping that happened months ago.
Muller admitted this plant would not be a “total answer” for dairy farmers, but it could help them get better prices for their milk and could connect them to the thriving specialty cheese market, as the liquid milk market continues to decline.
The public-private plant would likely start small, serving around five farms. Muller said they feel it’s better to start small and grow rather than start too big and fail. He said that there’s also potential for the plant to act as a retail, agrotourism space where people could go to learn about milk production and purchase products from local farmers.
For the next step in the process, stakeholders are now developing a business plan and seeking contractors to develop a marketing plan for the plant and for local agriculture at large.