February 19, 2011
Consumers urged to buy local
Annual agri-summit offers producers chance to share ideas
The importance of buying local foods was impressed upon people at one of Friday’s Agri-Economic Development Summit workshops at the Ramada Inn in Cortland.
From both a producer and consumer’s standpoint, local consumption is imperative, Local Agriculture Promotion Committee member Christine Applegate said during her presentation to a gathering of about 40 at the 10:30 a.m. workshop.
The ninth annual summit was presented by the Cortland County Business Development Corp.
This year, four workshops were held, which focused on grain feeding strategies for dairy herds, the importance of local foods, affording and keeping woods healthy, and renewable energy.
Applegate, who herself grows organic produce, detailed to the audience the benefits of buying locally grown foods.
These benefits include consuming more nutritious products by eating fresher goods, getting new recipe ideas from one-on-one contact with local farmers, Applegate said.
In addition, she said there is less risk of contamination from a remote processing plant that could be unregulated or the hazards of transporting foods long distances.
The boon to the local economy is also important, said Applegate.
“If you pay a farmer here, they use the money in the community,” she said, adding everyone benefits from the trickle-down effects of keeping money in the area.
For the producer, it is a matter of finding the right niche to sell your goods, said Monika Roth agriculture development specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County.
There is a growing demand for locally grown produce, Roth said.
“If people aren’t connected to what consumers want they are missing some opportunities,” Roth said.
A producer could start by getting experience selling its goods at a local farmer’s market and then move on to eventually join a Community Supported Agriculture group, for example, Roth said.
Virgil organic dairy farmer Jeremy Sherman said he came to the agri-summit to get information about the economics of the industry.
Sherman, who sells his milk to Organic Valley, said that speaking to people about the importance of buying local is a good way to impress upon them the benefits of it.
Sherman said he wants to look into selling raw milk locally.
“As much as possible I talk to the public and get them to talk about the importance of buying local,” Sherman said, adding that local consumption saves on fuel costs.
Business Development Corp. Executive Director Garry VanGorder said the summit is held yearly to keep people informed about the trends in agriculture.
“Agriculture plays a very important role in Cortland County in terms of its economic impact — it is the No. 1 industry,” VanGorder said.
VanGorder said farmers, people who work in the woodlands or even smaller family farm businesses should keep up with issues facing the industry.
Such things as sustainable energy, solar and wind power, are becoming new issues as farms work to stay competitive today, VanGorder said.
VanGorder called this year’s summit a success, saying about 150 people attended workshops throughout the day.
State Agriculture and Markets Deputy Commissioner Matthew Morgan, a Homer resident, was the keynote speaker.
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