Harvesting Opportunities in New York: Growing Local Food Economies & Protecting Farmland, a one-day conference in downtown Albany, was attended by nearly 170 participants from across New York State. Farmers, both established and beginning, were joined by local and state officials, economic development professionals, land trusts and community planners, school food service managers, food distributors, and local food and public health leaders.
“What I liked best was the opportunity to discuss the future of agriculture in New York State with such a wide variety of people who don’t normally get together,” said one conference participant. “Clearly American Farmland Trust is the organization to go to for information and inspiration,” said another.
Conference attendees participated in information-packed workshops on scaling up sales of local food to institutions and developing local food distribution infrastructure, working with communities to adopt farm-friendly zoning codes and permanently protect farmland, and making the case about the importance of farmland conservation to federal, state and local elected leaders and the general public. Participants networked over an early Thanksgiving noon-time meal featuring foods grown on local farms and viewed a presentation by American Farmland Trust about 20 farms protected last year through the state’s Farmland Protection Program.
The downtown Albany location, just two blocks from the Capitol, encouraged strong participation from New York State Legislators, state agencies and Congressional staff. New York State Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, Assemblywoman-elect Patricia Fahy, and Alyson Kelly, regional assistant for United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand participated in the conference sessions on buying local at the institutional level and farmland conservation policy. Montgomery County farmer Cecilia Tkaczyck, a democratic candidate in a close contest with republican Assemblyman George Amedore for the 46th district seat in the New York State Senate, took time out from tracking the ongoing absentee ballot count that will decide the race to network with conference participants over lunch.
The conference was funded by the Bender Family Foundation, the Cornelius King Charitable Trust, the state Environmental Protection Fund’s New York State Conservation Partnership Program and members of American Farmland Trust.