OWEGO — In the never-ending quest to boost economic development, the Tioga County Industrial Development Agency learned Wednesday night that new efforts are being made to connect local farmers with market solutions for their goods.
County Agricultural Development Specialist Megan Griffiths explained that she has been talking to area farmers about their need to market and distribute the things they produce, and has been researching ways to move that idea forward.
One idea, she said, is some sort of food hub — something centrally located in the county.
Noting the existence of the farmer’s market in the village, it would be wise to improve upon the existing model.
Griffiths explained that she had been looking for alternative food hub concepts to aggregate goods from producers, while marketing and setting prices for sale to various entities, such as restaurants, schools and stores.
However, there was one such endeavor in Syracuse which failed, mostly because the prices were “somewhat higher,” she said.
Board member Eric Knolles noted that a highly foot trafficked area may not necessarily be of utmost importance, as people looking for local and organic goods will typically seek them out.
“There’s a real need for a good aggregator of some sort, and it’s important for farms to have some level of ownership,” said IDA Chairman Ralph Kelsey. “There’s so many smaller, part-time folks out there that can grow the goods but can’t market them.”
Kelsey added that he periodically reminds county Economic Development and Planning Director LeeAnn Tinney that the county should explore agricultural development in terms of more than just production.
Griffiths said her focus has recently shifted, for the time being, into specifically where locally grown food is going, and what area farmers would like to see develop.