Creating unity with New York Grown and Certified
by Cammie Barden
There were few vacant seats in the west ballroom at the OnCenter Convention Center on Jan. 18 during the Empire State Producers Expo. Marketers, Agricultural specialists, and farmers gathered to hear Richard A. Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. His topic was New York Grown and Certified, followed by a critical question and answer session.
“There is a record amount of agriculture this year in the budget — over 21 programs,” Ball said of the state budget. New York is known as one of the largest suppliers of produce nationally, but it is stepping up its game in Albany in creating the programs and funds required to keep New York farms operating and thriving. New York Grown and Certified, alone, was given $20 million in state funds to launch the statewide initiative.
The development of New York Grown and Certified was a very deliberate process and the result of numerous consultations from state government committees, marketing specialists, cooperative extension members, and farmers. New York farmers were vital due to the prominent need of, “connecting the agriculture community to Albany and connecting the agriculture community to the market.”
Some of the most powerful data came from speaking with the average consumer in regards to buying New York product. In research performed by marketing for New York Grown and Certified, 74 percent of New Yorkers would buy more, 49 percent would pay more, and 96 percent would favor food with a New York Grown and Certified seal. This would bring New Yorkers closer to understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced, increasing farming visibility.
“Grocery story chains are getting on board for putting New York Grown and Certified food in their stores across the state,” Ball said, cementing the program’s growth since its inception.
Branding became a key component in creating the program. “The market was saying that we need a brand,” said Ball. “We have a brand — Pride of New York — but it didn’t say anything about safety or quality.” The New York Grown and Certified Program will create a brand, which will let everyone know the product came from a New York farm, the farm fulfills food safety requirements, and the farm practices environmental stewardship. This branding is different from Pride of New York which gave the impression that the food was grown in New York. “Even though we’ve done a great job for years, the market place wants to know about food safety. Food safety is everyone’s business,” the Commissioner stated.
The first question that Ball had to field regarded the size of the farms that the program covered. He resoundingly answered, “this is for all farms, long-term.” It’s a different level of looking at food safety, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), produce rules, and much more. Mainly, the larger farms in the state are approaching GAP certified, a requirement of the program, and are moving toward being New York Grown and Certified. However, medium and small farms are allowed to choose to participate.
Ball continued by highlighting the focus for the marketing. Currently, it is on the New York consumer, but the aim is to eventually go beyond New York borders. Currently, the program is receiving international interest from the developing provinces of China with people looking for better product.
Ball next directed those looking for guidelines for admittance into the program to the trade show floor. For those interested, a packet had been produced and was available at the exhibit on the trade show floor. Bill Shattuck and Mark McMullen from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, were available at the booth to answer more specific questions.
“The word is really just spreading the past couple of months,” Shattuck said in regards to how many farms have joined the program thus far.
“A lot of farms are in better shape then they thought if they just look at the process,” McMullen added, indicating that many New York farmers are already meeting the guidelines established by the New York Grown and Certified Program.
The program was established to raise New York products to an enviable quality and promote the prosperity of New York farms. The program boasts to keep consumers’ faith in buying local, increase safety standards, and improve the employment sector of New York. Farms in the program will be given round labels to place with their products that will display that they are New York Grown and Certified.
The general requirements to become apart of New York Grown and Certified are participation in AEM with completion of Tier two or above within three years, a certificate from GAP, GHP, or an equivalent approved program that administers annual audits, and all products grown are from New York State.
For more information about New York Grown and Certified, go to https://certified.ny.gov .
For more information about the Empire State Producers Expo, visit http://leetradeshows.com/empire-state-expo .