May 22, 2023 — Two of the biggest obstacles for North Country’s local food movement have always been aggregation and distribution вЂ” how to gather produce from lots of small farms and get it to individual customers scattered across the region.
St. Lawrence County farmer Cherie Whitten has been trying to address local food access issues for years. She runs the Whitten family farm, in Winthrop, a hamlet about halfway between Potsdam and Massena.
The farm grows just about every vegetable you can grow in the North Country, Whitten says. In the fields surrounding her family’s farmhouse, there’s garlic, sage, lemon balm, and asparagus.
In the greenhouse, they’ve got brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, and even some corn seedlings. And it’s just gotten warm enough for the kale to be moved outside the greenhouse.
The farm has an on-site farmstand and runs a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, but it’s still difficult to get all the food distributed.
About seven years ago, Whitten started the Adirondack Food Hub, a local food market in Tupper Lake. She says about 15% of the food she grows on her farm gets sold there.
For the past few years, she’s been applying for the food hub to receive the USDA’s $500,000 local food promotion grant.
“I almost gave up trying for it, but I didn’t. I tried one more time, and I got it,” she said.
Now, she’s planning to set up an online platform for the food hub, where local farmers from all over the North Country can list their produce, and customers can buy it.
A large portion of the grant money will be used to get that food to customers, by offering delivery service.
“We’ve got some big food deserts as far as drives to local food up through the North Country. A lot of low income areas, also they’re a driving distance. Not everybody factors in the drive to get food, but being able to have local delivery, and we’re not gonna be able to go to everybody’s house, but we’re going to try and work it out as best we can, so that we can get within the vicinity of most people,” Whitten said.
Adam Dewbury is the director of the local food system program at the Adirondack North Country Association. He says there are a lot of barriers to local food access in the North Country, especially for low-income people.
Listen to the full story on North Country Public Radio.