Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the "New York Fresh Connect Farmers' Markets" (FreshConnect) program, which launches new farmers' markets and expands others around the State of New York. The program is designed to assist New York farmers by increasing the sale of locally-grown food in communities. The program will also bring fresh food to underserved communities, improve nutrition education, and help create local jobs.
The FreshConnect program marks the first step in "Farm New York," the Governor's new initiative to invest in the state's agriculture industry, a vital component of the state's economy. Farm New York will focus on ways to support and expand New York farms through farm product sales, branding, marketing, distribution, local food processing innovations, and improving the business climate by reducing the regulatory burden on farmers.
FreshConnect is designed to meet the needs of communities. In some places, new markets will serve rural or urban communities that do not have sufficient access to grocery stores; in others, markets will provide low-income, high-unemployment neighborhoods with healthy, New York-grown produce, as well as jobs by staffing the markets with local youth. Other markets will provide residents and tourists with an array of New York farm fresh products.
"Farmers' markets increase farm sales and revenue by bringing farm produce directly to the consumer," Governor Cuomo said. "These markets also help underserved communities by providing fresh produce, nutritional education, and local jobs. The FreshConnect program empowers all New Yorkers to choose healthy, affordable, locally-grown food. This program is a win-win for farmers and consumers."
Seven new markets are in the process of being launched in Harlem, Niagara Falls, Mount Vernon, Queens, the Bronx, Utica, and Sharon Springs. Three new youth markets, which employ local residents, are being launched in Brooklyn and Nassau County, and a community-garden farmers market is being launched in Queens. Existing markets in several other locations, including the large, well-known North Tonawanda market, and mobile markets in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Central New York, which will deliver farm produce to senior centers and other central points of contact, will accept EBT or food stamps for the first time, broadening the reach of these markets to underserved members of area communities. A full list of FreshConnect markets appears below.
Under the program, the state provides the following services, as needed: offer up to $15,000 in funding per market; identify suitable markets; recruit farmers to participate; assist with marketing, promotion, nutrition education, community outreach, and other services; and coordinate with local officials and business groups.
To encourage greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, each market will be assisted in redeeming Food Stamps and other nutrition incentives, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit & Vegetable Checks, Farmers' Market Nutrition Program coupons, and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition coupons. The state will also provide new "FreshConnect" checks, which are $2 rebate checks for every $5 in food stamps spent at a participating FreshConnect Farmers' Market.
The Governor's Farm New York program is a comprehensive strategy to maximize economic development opportunities and bring renewed investment to the agricultural sector of New York's economy. It includes programs to develop New York's regional farm-food system, increase access to credit for farm businesses, expand food processing capabilities, and capitalize on emerging technologies to lower energy costs and foster the growth of renewable energy sources. Farm New York is also expected to increase distribution of New York farm products and to improve the branding and marketing of New York organic and New York grown foods.
New York ranks first in the nation for the production of cabbage, second for apples and sweet corn, and third for milk, grapes, onions, and maple syrup. Governor Cuomo is focused on developing New York's agricultural industry, including improving opportunities for wholesale marketing, food manufacturing, wineries, dairy farm growth, and dairy processing growth.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, "Governor Cuomo hits the nail on the head with his Farm New York initiative, outlining opportunities for improvement and proposing policies and programs that will strengthen the farm community. We are pleased to administer with ESD a program that will benefit the nutritional well-being and the economic health of New York State. FreshConnect will help our farmers sell more product, reap more of the end dollar by selling directly to the consumer, and all the while consumers throughout New York State will benefit from the delicious farm fresh produce that is in season this summer."
New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said, "By improving access to fresh farm produce in local communities across New York State, the FreshConnect program will help improve public health while also growing the state's economy. Governor Cuomo's efforts are an important step toward building stronger connections between rural farms and urban communities, expanding the options for healthy food choices for more New Yorkers, and placing New York's farms at the center of our efforts to ensure that New Yorkers have access to healthy food."
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "By issuing his Farm New York plan, Governor Cuomo has put the critical industries of agriculture and food front and center. ESD is committed to funding and supporting programs like FreshConnect that will bolster market opportunities for New York's agricultural products and food to grow our economy and create jobs. The Governor is focused on the fundamentals of the business climate in which this critical industry operates and I will focus our agency to make this goal a reality."
Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "Governor Cuomo's FreshConnect program will provide a much needed boost to local farms all across the state and help distribute fresh New York-grown produce to underserved communities. Farmers' markets can play a major role in the economic revitalization of towns and villages, and this new program will give farmers the assistance they need to open new markets and provide more New Yorkers with healthy food. I thank Governor Cuomo for launching this initiative, and I look forward to working together in the future to continue to strengthen New York's vibrant farming community."
Assemblyman William Magee, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, said, "The quality of the fresh produce of New York's farms has always been a source of pride for our state, and I praise Governor Cuomo for implementing this program that will make locally grown food more accessible to residents all across New York. Under the FreshConnect program, farmers will have new markets to sell their produce and it will provide more healthy eating options to many New Yorkers. Today is a good day for farmers and New York residents, as both stand to benefit from this innovative program that will reinvigorate farms and local rural communities across the state."
Dean Norton, President of the New York Farm Bureau, said, "New York Farm Bureau is very pleased by Governor Cuomo's initiative to better connect New York consumers with our family farmers. This important first step recognizes the value of farm production and processing and dovetails nicely with the farm communities' ongoing efforts to further promote the value of our farms to the economy of the entire state. I applaud Governor Cuomo's mission to build a better business climate for farmers. I welcome his vision for a more aggressive approach to agricultural economic development and the farmer-to-consumer partnership."
Diane Eggert, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, said, "Farmers markets represent not only vital economic development in our communities, but also nutrition for community residents through access to fresh, healthy locally grown foods. Fostering a sense of community, farmers markets bring residents together around the common goal of healthy food. Governor Cuomo's New York Fresh Connect Farmers Markets build on the many years of work done by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Farmers Market Federation of New York, and lends credibility and support to the state's farmers' market industry. We look forward to working with these new markets to bring access to underserved communities and build our agricultural economy in the process."
Kathryn J. Boor, PhD, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said, "The Governor's plan to invest in New York State agriculture is a timely strategy to improve overall economic and environmental sustainability for our state. To achieve sustainability, farming must remain financially viable and must contribute to the well-being of farmers, farmworkers and rural communities while providing safe, abundant and affordable food, fiber, fuel and feed. The proposed initiative is designed to help achieve these ends."