Latest on Local Foods Project
By Nicholas Pircio
A local foods project being promoted by the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board is moving forward, thanks to some positive news received recently by the planning board. The board met on Thursday, October 20th at their offices in Salamanca. Executive Director Richard Zink said they finally received their official funding. Zink said, “We’ve been talking about this project since last December. We went out and met with a lot of constituents in March and April to get their support. We finally received the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) contract.”
Zink says the board now knows specifics about the local foods project. “A lot of it is promotion of the system that’s already been created involving farmers markets, the CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and the stands. We’re going to promote local (foods) to restaurants and schools, and how we can use logistics already in place in order to provide more opportunities not only for producers, but for local restaurants and schools to take advantage of what’s already within our community.”
The goal of the local foods project is to enhance and educate people on the benefits of eating locally grown foods. “Everyone has their definition of what local is. We’re taking the definition of between eighty and 100 miles as your ‘food shed,’ the place where a majority of your food comes from.” Though there are some things not grown in this area, Zink says there is a tremendous amount of vegetables, fruit, and meat that can be produced and processed locally. “If we can get more people to look in that direction, then I think we will just grow our region from within itself, instead of exporting (food products).” Zink says the need to truck foods across the country or fly them in from overseas will probably become more of an environmental concern over time.
The cost of foods from a farmers market or CSA can be a touch more expensive, but Zink notes that “If people can weigh the benefits as far as the quality and local economic development, and nutritional value, they’ll see it as a benefit to stay local.” Not only local farmers will be helped. “There really is a spin off within the economy when agriculture stays local.” This would be evidenced by farmers purchasing more of their equipment locally.
Zink explained that CSAs are a concept where people buy shares and take a risk based on the weather. There are a number of examples in the Olean and Little Valley areas, one being Canticle Farms in Allegany.
The local foods project officially started the first of October. “We just got our funding the last week of September. It’s a twelve month process. So I think we’re in a position to make some progress in it (the project) very quickly.”
In other business, the Southern Tier West board was updated on the “P2 Collaborative,” a non-profit organization out of Buffalo that helps doctor’s offices come up to speed with their electronic medical records. “So we’re supporting offices in Cattaraugus and Allegany County to bring them up to the ability to use the (electronic medical records) system as efficiently as they can.” The system allows for a patient’s medical records to be shared from doctor to doctor and office to office quickly and efficiently, so as to avoid a possible misdiagnosis.