Farm education center to get state grant

Mar. 25—An Otsego County community farm is among 22 organizations across the state that will receive grants through New York state's Urban Farms and Community Gardens Grant Program.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets on Monday announced that $1 million has been awarded. The program is designed to "support community growing spaces and recognize their impact on local food resiliency and food security for New Yorkers," according to a media release from the department.

Unadilla Community Farm Education Center Inc. in West Edmeston will receive $44,610.18. The center, according to its website, is "an off-grid, solar-powered, non-profit farm education center, situated on 11 acres."

Speaking of the grant program, state Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Our community growing spaces are a critical part of our neighborhoods and to ensuring more New Yorkers have access to fresh, nutritious foods."

Funding was awarded to urban farms and community gardens across the state for projects that focus on food production, food safety and food distribution, while also creating a lasting impact on local food resiliency, the release said. Awards will help the organizations managing the spaces to expand gardens, build structures, purchase equipment, and establish educational programs.

In addition to the Urban Farms and Community Gardens Grant Program, Gov. Kathy Hochul's 2023 State of the State plan included additional initiatives including: the New York State Community Gardens Leadership Certificate Program, the New York State Soil Testing Program and the Community Garden Land Access Toolkit.

In collaboration with Cornell University, the Community Gardens Leadership Certificate Program "will develop a comprehensive and affordable curriculum for garden leaders, including a biennial Garden Leader Summit that supports in-person knowledge sharing and networking among participants," the release said.

The New York State Soil Testing Program, announced last week, will allow eligible community gardens in New York State to send soil samples for testing up to one time per year without charge. The program will be presented in partnership with the Cornell Soil Health Lab, and technical support and education for participating growers will be provided by the Cornell Harvest New York team.

The department will also develop a Community Garden Land Access Toolkit for municipalities and community groups with model guidance, "helping to strengthen partnerships to protect and increase the number of community garden spaces across the State," according to the release.

New York is home to more than 3,000 registered or permitted urban and community gardens. Through its community gardens efforts, the Department of Agriculture and Markets "helps foster greener, healthier cities by connecting community groups with state or local agencies to facilitate the use of vacant properties for community gardens," the release said.