U-Pick Organic Strawberry Party, Cobblestone Valley Farm, Preble, NY, June 30, 2013

By Neil B. Miller | June 23rd, 2013

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Farmshed Field Day – U-Pick Organic Strawberry Party

Where: Cobblestone Valley Farm, 2023 Preble Rd., Preble, NY 13141

When: Sunday, June 30, 2013, from 11am to 2pm.

Directions: Please see below.

Grab your family and friends, and come join Farmshed CNYCobblestone Valley Farm, and Slow Food CNY, for a U-Pick Organic Strawberry Party, Sunday, June 30th at Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, NY.

Paul and Maureen Knapp of Cobblestone Valley Farm are one of the few certified organic strawberry growers in Central New York, and they’ve been kind enough to invite Farmshed CNY, Slow Food CNY, and a bunch of our friends – see the list of participating farms and food producers – to join them to celebrate this year’s berry harvest.

What could be more fun!?!

The party is free and open to all. U-Pick strawberries, grilled hot dogs, sausages, and chicken, prepared foods, and other products will be available for purchase at the event. Strawberries will cost $2.70 per pound (about $4.00 a quart). Please bring your own containers for picking strawberries.

Hope to see you there! Please DO NOT bring dogs or pets to the event.

To sign up for this event, please visit the Farmshed CNY Facebook event page.

Joining us will be:

Main Street Farms, Homer, aquaponic greens and organic vegetables

Two Spruce Farm, Marathon, organic vegetables

Lime Hollow Naturals, Cortland, natural, handmade personal care and household cleaning products

2 Kids Goat Farm, Cuyler, goat milk cheeses

Sustainable Cortland, Cortland

Dutch Hill Farm, Tully, pastured pork and lamb

Cafe Kubal, Syracuse, small-batch, Fair Trade roasted coffee beans

Alambria Springs Farm, Earlville, whole grain, brick oven baked, farmhouse breads

LoFo, Syracuse, fruit/veggie smoothies, prepared foods

The Sweet Praxis, Syracuse, macaroons, sweets

Critz Farms, Cazenovia, Harvest Moon farmstead cider, maple syrup

Kriemhild Dairy Farm, farmhouse butter

Dog Bites of Cortland, natural dog treats

Directions.

Although the address for the farm house is 2023 Preble Rd., which is just east of the Route 81 overpass – see the Google Map below – the strawberry field where the event will take place is just WEST of the Route 81 overpass. The field is located behind some private homes, with the entrance directly next to the Route 81 South overpass (roughly at 1995 Preble Rd.). Signs will be positioned on Routes 281 and 81, and on Preble Rd., indicating where to turn. When you get to the entrance on Preble Rd., there is a sign marked Cobblestone Valley Farm. Turn north onto the entrance and drive back to the field. Someone will be there to direct you where to park. The event will take place in the long field that runs parallel to the strawberry field, with the vendor area close to the front of the field.

From Syracuse and points North:

South on Interstate 81. Head south on Interstate 81 and take Exit 13 marked Route 281 Preble. Turn right at the intersection and head south approximately one mile Route 281 into Preble. At the Four Corners intersection in Preble turn left onto Preble Road. Immediately before the Route 81 South overpass, turn left at the sign on left marked Cobblestone Valley Farm. Drive down the path into the field, you will see the field house on your left. Someone will be there to show you where to park.

South on Route 11. Alternately, you can take Route 11 south from Nedrow, Lafayette, or Tully. If you come this way, turn right on Preble Road, drive under the Route 81 overpass, and the entrance to the field will be immediately on your right after you pass the Route 81 South overpass.

From Ithaca and points South.

North on Interstate 81. Head north on Interstate 81 and take Exit 13 marked Route 281 Preble. Turn left at the intersection with Route 281 and head south approximately one mile into Preble. At the Four Corners intersection in Preble turn left onto Preble Road. Immediately before the Route 81 South overpass, turn left at the sign on left marked Cobblestone Valley Farm. Drive down the path into the field, you will see the field house on your left. Someone will be there to show you where to park.

From Homer and Cortland.

North on Route 281. Head north on Route 281 into Preble. At the Four Corners intersection in Preble turn right onto Preble Road. Immediately before the Route 81 South overpass, turn left at the sign on left marked Cobblestone Valley Farm. Drive down the path into the field, you will see the field house on your left. Someone will be there to show you where to park.

North on Route 11. Alternately, you can take Route 11 north from Cortland or Homer. If you come this way, turn left on Preble Road, drive under the Route 81 overpass, and the entrance to the field will be immediately on your right after you pass the Route 81 South overpass.

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Your Agricultural Assets, More than Fields and Barns

By Devin Morgan | May 17th, 2013

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Editor’s Note: In the latest installment of Devin Morgan’s series on small business law for farmers and food producers in Central New York and the Finger Lakes, Devin challenges farmers to broaden their understanding of the “agricultural assets” associated with their livelihood.

Your Agricultural Assets, More than Fields and Barns

Do you have any idea what your farm is really worth?  A farm is a business and its assets can be much more than just the land and buildings.  Maybe it is because I am a business and intellectual property attorney and have been raised on the notion of intangible assets making up the majority of a business’ value, but I find the myopic focus on the price of the dirt a bit annoying and degrading to farm entrepreneurs.  One of the lessons of modern business management is that value is all in the way that you use it.  Land alone is just dirt.  It is the creativity, know-how, stewardship, and hard work of the farmer that actually coaxes value from the land.  And like any business, the farmer’s team, relationships, and reputation among suppliers and buyers bring a lot of value.  When you starting talking about a landscape of value-added products, higher-value niches (organic, heirloom, specialty, etc.), and more direct business models like CSAs, co-ops, farm stands, and farmers’ markets, there is a whole lot more going on than just raising commodity products with decent yields.  There are a lot of overlooked assets when you are talking about farm value and it matters a lot when you are buying, selling, or even just keeping it in the family as part of an agricultural estate.

Land & Buildings

Of course, land and building still matter.  But chances are you already have a decent handle on those.  There are issues like development rights, agricultural or preservation easements, and mineral rights that might not be as obvious and deserve some thought.

Equipment, Supplies & Inventory

These can change a lot over time, particularly when you are talking about crops in the field, animals in various stages of development, and stores that are ready for use or sale.  But when it comes to transferring a business. It is important to have a clear sense of what you have and how the value may change depending on when the transfer occurs.  Even the change of a few months, from growing season to after harvest, can represent a big change in value.  Tracking this stuff also gives a good sense of cash flow and the present business value, at least as far as commodity products are concerned.

Ownership Interests

While some farms are sole proprietorships, not all are.  Make sure you know who owns what.  In farms that have been through multiple generations, it is entirely possible to have family members with ownership interests who haven’t had any direct dealings with the farm in some time (but will show up if money from a sale suddenly appears).  Similarly, farmers may participate in cooperatives or other joint ventures and have membership or ownership interests in those entities to be considered.  I actually encourage farmers to embody their value-added businesses in separate legal entities to help assist in their management, valuation, and transfer, so you can have a single farm property with a number of business entities operating on it.

Trademarks & Marketing Assets

In this day and age, many farms are building their own brands for direct sale to consumers and other business models.  They have unique farm names, logos, and websites that all embody intellectual property rights.  These are assets with their own value and rules for transfer.  If they are ignored, they can easily be lost or stolen.  Check out my prior post on protecting farm names with trademark.

Contracts & Relationships

Business is about relationships and farms are no different.  Having strong supplier, distributor, or retailer relationships can be critical to the ongoing business value of a farm.  And yet, people often don’t consider how much those relationships are personal to the existing owner.  It is possible for some aspects of these relationships to be embodied in contracts and made part of a sale.  But it takes foresight and diligence to make that happen.  More often those relationships are lost and the new owners are forced to rebuild the business network from the ground up.

Know-How

This has started to receive more attention as the average American farmer has aged and many farms lack an interested next generation that has learned the ins and outs of a particular farm.  When the old farmer retires or dies, that knowledge is lost forever and many experts are panicked about what that means for the future of American farming.  This includes general knowledge of good farming practices, specific knowledge about that farm’s land and resources, and the management skills to make a complex farm operation actually work.  In many cases, there may be a farm manager or hired hand who has that know-how, but without a good plan for retaining that person’s assistance, that can be lost just as easily.  Some know-how can be documented if the farmer is willing to take the time to do so, but more often this comes down to people and having someone ready and able to learn (or stick around) as part of the transfer.

Cash, Equity & Insurance

Sometimes a frugal farmer will have cash or other investments that they have managed to save towards retirement or gained through real estate deals or speculation on other businesses.  Or they may carry life insurance.  It is also possible to use equity in the land and other business assets as collateral for loans or even the basis of equity financing (particularly for a value-added business related to the farm).  The availability of these resources increase the options and flexibility for structuring any transfer, whether it be sale to a young farmer (who lacks money for a straight purchase transaction), transfer within a family, or more ambitious plans for the farm’s future.

The bottom line is that you need to know what you have to know your options.  And once you start looking, it may turn out that you have a lot.

Do you have a legal question related to your farm, food, or beverage business that you would like to see answered in a future Farmshed CNY blog post?  Submit your question to Devin using the Eat. Drink. Law. Contact Us page.

About the Author

Devin Morgan is an author, speaker, and attorney with Knull Group (www.eatdrinklaw.com), a firm for food-obsessed business and intellectual property lawyers in Cooperstown, NY.  He is focused on the growth of the craft food and beverage industry in New York State and is the primary author of the Eat. Drink. Law. blog.  Click here to receive a free report from Devin on growing a distinctive food or beverage business.  Knull Group is a big supporter of Farmshed CNY’s quest to map the local food scene across Central New York.  This post is for general information only and is not legal advice.  Attorney Advertising.

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Notes on the Buy Local Versus Organic Debate

By Neil B. Miller | April 6th, 2013

Author’s Note: My friend Eileen Perkins of Abundance Cooperative Market in Rochester asked me to write up a short document she could share with co-workers on the debate over buying local versus organic products. This is an important and open-ended conversation, because both sides of the argument have merit. As a social entrepreneur committed to strengthening the connection between food producers, small business owners, and consumers in upstate New York, however, I believe the social and economic benefits and multiplier effects of buying local outweigh the personal and environmental benefits of simply buying organic. What follows is a short position paper, with a far-from-complete bibliography of recommended websites listed at the end.

Friday farm market at Greyrock Farm CSA, Cazenovia, NY

Friday farm market at Greyrock Farm CSA, Cazenovia, NY

Notes on the Buy Local versus Organic Debate.

Almost everyone agrees that buying locally grown and certified organic produce whenever this possible is the best option for consumers. The debate over whether buying locally grown produce from a non-certified grower is preferable to buying certified organic produce has emerged in the past few years because:

1. A growing number of small farmers believe the “organic” brand has been co-opted by large industrial agribusinesses, and the original meaning of the term has been watered down to the point where it is no longer an assurance of quality or of sustainable farming practices.

2. Increased awareness of the “carbon footprint” of the foods we eat, including fresh and organically certified produce, has raised the question of whether organic product that is grown in California, Mexico, or China – all of which are now major producers of certified organic produce for the American market – is sustainable, in the sense that the distances the product has had to travel, the costs in gas and hydrocarbons involved in transporting the product, and the environmental cost associated with this transport, offset the positive aspects of how that product was grown.

There is, admittedly, something incongruous about a product – let’s say certified organic garlic – being grown without the use of synthetic herbicides or pesticides by a farmer in Mexico, which is where most organic garlic available in the U.S. comes from over the winter, being loaded on to pallets, trucked to a warehouse, loaded on to tractor trailers, transported from Mexico to distribution centers across the U.S., repacked, reloaded, and re-transported to regional food distributors, and then finally delivered to a retail market. In this scenario, the “carbon footprint” for the imported organic product is quite possibly many times higher than the local, sustainably grown, but non-certified organic product.

There are other issues to consider, as well. First, many local farmers see themselves as “beyond organic,” meaning they employ growing methods that are not only organic, in terms of not using any synthetic inputs or chemical fertilizers, but believe they go well beyond the USDA legal definition of “organic,” in terms of their understanding and cultivation of soil rich in nutrients and microfauna, or their employment of biodynamic and/or permaculture principles for maintaining the health of their farmland.

The Buy Local movement, in the meantime, has documented the significant economic benefits that result when consumers shift their purchasing dollars away from Big Box retailers and national brands (including organic national brands), to local producers. When a dollar is spent on a nationally branded or distributed product, less than 10% of the money spent on that purchase remains in the community, whereas 70% or more remains in and continues to circulate within the region when a consumer buys a local product.

There are other economic benefits as well. The only way that certified organic products grown in California, Mexico, or China can remain affordable in upstate New York is because the workers who grow, pick, and pack the product are paid extremely low wages, and because the cost of gas and other fossil fuels is subsidized by tax breaks for oil companies. That is, certified organic products from these regions are artificially cheap, because consumers don’t pay, and aren’t aware, of the true cost of the products – the poor living conditions of migrant workers in California, the low wages paid to farmer workers in Mexico and China, or the hidden environmental cost of transporting product 1000s of miles to market.

In contrast, products grown locally, which are very often grown organically even if they are not certified organic, allow consumers and retail buyers to pay growers directly for their products, which means the farmer gets most of the money, not the wholesale distributors or middle men. And even when a wholesale distributor is involved, the shorter distances involved in transporting product, as well as the face-to-face relationship between the grower and distributor, ensure that growers receive a fair price for their products. Since these growers are neighbors, who in turn shop and spend money within our communities, this means that farmers earn more money for their hard work, and in turn have more money to spend in the local economy. There are, consequently, all sorts of positive multiplier effects that follow from buying locally, that are lost when the sole concern is to buy certified organic product.

For these reasons, Farmshed CNY’s official position is that whenever possible, it is better to buy local, even if the product being purchased isn’t certified organic. Buying local allows consumers and retail buyers to ask farmers about their growing practices, and to learn whether sustainable farming methods are employed. If the answer is no, there is almost certainly another grower in the same area who is employing sustainable farming practices, regardless of whether or not he or she is certified organic.

Here are some recommended articles to read further on the topic of local versus organic:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1595245,00.html

http://www.treehugger.com/culture/theres-no-such-thing-as-local-vs-organic-food.html

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=281

http://www.gracelinks.org/254/local-regional-food-systems

http://www.sustain.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=7686

http://sustainableconnections.org/thinklocal/why

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html

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Farmshed CNY’s 2013 CSA Directory

By Neil B. Miller | March 17th, 2013

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100 farms, and a whopping 50 pages long! The 2013 Farmshed CNY CSA Directory, our third annual update of all the CSAs available in Central New York and the Finger Lakes, is done!

Even more than last year, 2013 has seen a lot change and development. For different reasons, a surprising number of farms didn’t offer a CSA this year, some temporarily (we hope), including for at least one farm the expected arrival of a new family member! But there are also many new CSAs this year – 16, by my count – as well as an increasingly diverse and exciting range of products being offered, as evidenced by two new subgenres: CSK, for Community Supported Kitchen; and CSH, for Community Supported Herbalism.

As with last year, a number of emerging trends continue to gain in popularity with local growers and producers. The number of Meat CSAs continues to grow, with chicken, beef, pork and turkey CSAs being supplemented by CSAs offering goose, duck, Spanish goat, and even bison. Market Share CSAs, which differ from traditional CSAs by allowing consumers to purchase fixed, or sometimes renewable, amounts of credit with a producer, and then purchase what they want, when they want (also referred to as Buying Clubs, or Flex Plan CSAs), are becoming more widespread, and offer consumers greater choice and flexibility when considering joining a CSA.

Finally, the number of CSAs offering value-added products, everything from soaps and household products to prepared meals and organic ice cream, has jumped significantly, which I think is this year’s most exciting and potentially significant new trend.

CSAs do a great deal of good beyond providing consumers with affordable fresh foods. They also provide much-needed working capital at the start of the growing season, months before most farmers will have products ready for market, and they offer families and individuals the opportunity to get out to the countryside, see how and where their food is grown, and form strong personal connections and friendships with the people who grow and raise their food. Most CSAs offer on-farm pickups, as well as opportunities for farm tours, picnics, harvest dinners and other events.

Dive in, explore what’s available in your area, and remember, the idea behind Farmshed CNY and our annual CSA Directory is to help you “Find Local, Buy Local, Grow Local.”

A PDF file of the 2013 CSA Directory is available here: 2013 Farmshed CNY CSA Directory

Enjoy!

Neil Miller

Farmshed CNY

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FDA Invading Farms for Food Safety (Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rules)

By Devin Morgan | February 10th, 2013

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Editor’s Note: In this third installment of Devin Morgan’s series on small business law for farmers and food producers in Central New York and the Finger Lakes, Devin explains the legal ramifications of the FDA’s recently released Food Safety Modernization Act.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) charged the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with establishing science-based standards for safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.  It is the nation’s response to the various outbreaks of food borne illnesses like e. coli and salmonella in recent years.  And it really leaves no stone unturned, with regulation of agricultural water, soil, health & hygiene, animals in the growing area, and equipment, tools, and buildings–pretty much everything on the farm.

These are the first changes in national food safety laws in more than 70 years.  The big idea behind the FSMA and proposed rules is that we need to prevent outbreaks of food borne illness.  Quick response to contain and recall products after the fact is not enough.  Given that food borne illnesses are estimated to make 48 million Americans sick each year, it is easy to see why the system might need some improvements.

Anyone who has dealt with food regulations recognizes that while they tend to embody some scientifically founded best practices, they can also limit legitimate alternatives or simply add layers of cost and bureaucracy to operations that already had adequate food safety practices (and are working on very thin profit margins).  In short, very few farmers are going to want to be regulated, even if they are already using best practices for food safety.

So, who is impacted?  If you grow fruits or vegetables, there is a good chance you are impacted.  The folks who are selling bulk quantities to food processors are OK, since the FDA appears to have taken the position that processing and the regulations on processors will be adequate to guarantee safety there.  Similarly, agricultural commodities that are always cooked (like potatoes) are exempted.  But that still leaves the vast majority of produce.

There is partial exemption for farms with average food sales of less than $500,000 per year, as long as at least half of the sales are to local consumers, restaurants, or retailers.  For these farms, there would still be some added labeling or notice requirements, but limited other regulations unless there is a problem.  The FDA reserves the right to revoke the partial exemption if there is a specific food safety concern related to the farm.  Finally, small farms with less than $25,000 per year in annual sales would be exempted entirely.

The FDA’s proposed rules for regulating food safety on farms were published for comment earlier this month.  The comment period lasts until May 16, 2013.  So, if you have concerns about how it would impact you, now is the time to take a look at the rules or talk to local agricultural organizations about weighing in on the rules as a group.  The FDA currently anticipates that the new rules would go into effect in July 2013. You can learn more about the proposed rule on the FDA website.

FDA rules tend to be fairly complex and fact specific.  And, farm operations vary.  Ultimately, you will need to have someone familiar with the new laws take a look at your farm in detail for real guidance on what this means to you and what changes you may need to make to comply with the new regulations. If you have over $25,000 in annual produce sales, you should consult a food lawyer to make sure you understand the partial exemption and what the impact of the full rules would be if you do not qualify for the partial exemption (or want to know what happens if it is revoked).

As with most business regulations, you can debate whether they are a fair burden to place on the business and whether they will achieve the desired outcome, but the bottom line is that if they become law, you need to comply with them if you want to stay in business.

Do you have a legal question related to your farm, food, or beverage business that you would like to see answered in a future Farmshed CNY blog post?  Submit your question to Devin using the Eat. Drink. Law. Contact Us page.

About the Author
Devin Morgan is an author, speaker, and attorney with Knull Group (www.eatdrinklaw.com), a firm for food-obsessed business and intellectual property lawyers in Cooperstown, NY.  He is focused on the growth of the craft food and beverage industry in New York State and is the primary author of the Eat. Drink. Law. blog.  Click here to receive a free report from Devin on growing a distinctive food or beverage business.  Knull Group is a big supporter of Farmshed CNY’s quest to map the local food scene across Central New York.  This post is for general information only and is not legal advice.  Attorney Advertising.

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Farmageddon: a Critical Response

By Neil B. Miller | December 9th, 2012

Just watched Farmageddon on Netflix, and surprisingly I have very mixed feelings about the documentary’s not-entirely-explicit radical libertarian subtext (Ron Paul only shows up in the final minutes). Several of the dairy farmers and coop owners portrayed as persecuted victims legally could have sold their products if they had gotten the necessary permits or otherwise followed existing law. Others knew what they were doing was illegal and did it anyway, claiming an inherent natural right that transcends civil law. That’s a dangerous path to go down that leads inevitably to the notion that anyone can flout any law they perceive as an abridgment of their personal liberty.

There is a serious food crisis in this country; there are many laws and regulations that disadvantage family farms in favor of large corporate producers; and there undoubtedly are incidents where the USDA, the FDA, and state and local officials have engaged in unjustifiably heavy-handed and even fascistic behavior. But I’m not sure that glorifying a Pennsylvania Mennonite farmer who refused on principle to obtain a permit and and then feigns surprise when his farm is subsequently raided, or an Athens, Georgia food coop that knowingly transported raw milk across state lines from South Carolina in contravention of state law, or even a Finger Lakes dairy farmer who sold raw milk yogurt on the grounds that the sales were private rather than public and therefore fell outside state jurisdiction, does the raw dairy movement or the food freedom movement any good. And I say this as a consumer of raw dairy and a committed advocate of food freedom.

It’s one thing if, as an intentional act of civil disobedience, you knowingly break a law and accept the punishment of the state in order to publicize an injustice. Civil rights reformers have employed civil disobedience going back to before the Civil War, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and recognizing the state’s right to render judgment, have both been central to its effectiveness in forcing social change. It’s another thing altogether, however, to claim that the state has no right to make law, or to enforce existing law simply because you don’t like a law or regulation and don’t believe it ought to apply to you. That’s an immature, narcissistic, and anarchistic understanding of personal liberty that spells the end of civil society and takes us back to a time when “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

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An Introduction to New York’s Farm Distillery Law

By Devin Morgan | December 2nd, 2012

Editor’s Note: We’re very pleased to welcome back Devin Morgan to the Farmshed CNY blog. In this second installment of his series on small business law for farmers and food producers in Central New York and the Finger Lakes, Devin explains New York State’s recently passed Farm Distillery Bill, which loosens the legal restrictions regarding value-added production of distilled spirits using New York State agricultural products. Salute!

An Introduction to New York’s Farm Distillery Law

Have you been thinking about making whiskey from your organic corn, applejack from this year’s apple harvest, or pear vodka using your pears and the potatoes from other NY farms?  Distilled spirits can be a fun and appealing value added product for farmers in New York State.  On October 3, 2012, Governor Cuomo signed a new Farm Distillery Bill that makes this opportunity even more appealing.  The big change is opening up more options for direct sale of farm distilled spirits.  Distilled spirits are still more tightly controlled than beer, cider, or wine, but now you can offer tastings and sell them at Farmers’ Markets and State and County Fairs.  Given the growth and popularity of Farmers’ Markets, this is a great new opportunity.

New York State law has enabled the operation of small batch distilleries through a fairly simple and inexpensive licensing procedure since 2002.  The major requirements were a single identified location and use of “primarily farm and food products” from NYS.  That generally means sourcing most of your ingredients from New York State.  You would want to use at least 75% NYS farm ingredients for meeting New York labeling requirements.  It is a little different from the Farm Winery license, in that a Farm Distillery can be on a farm, but it doesn’t have to be.  The new Farm Brewery licensees have the same option.  But for farmers, growers, and other folks interested in making whiskey, fruit brandies, vodkas, and other spirits on a small scale, it still had some pretty significant limitations on distribution.  You could make it, but you could only sell it where it was made (your farm or separate farm distillery operation).  Or, you needed to find a licensed wholesaler or retailer willing to sell it for you just like large scale operations.  Many times it is difficult to get a retailer or wholesaler to take a chance on a new, small batch product without some sort of track record.  And it takes money to find and woo these people.  It is one of the reasons that so many specialty foods get their starts with Farmers’ Markets and craft shows–the ability to prove your product and fund your search for distribution partners with direct sales from the markets and shows.

Under the new law, Farm Distilleries can get a permit to offer tastings and sell their hooch at Farmers’ Markets, as well as the New York State Fair and recognized County Fairs.  Clearly, the use of the many successful Farmers’ Markets across the state for direct-to-consumer sales of spirits is the big opportunity.  But I have already heard talk of distillers planning to make a splash at next year’s New York State Fair.  It might be worth going just for all of the new and not-so-new Farm Distilleries that can now showcase their products.  And I’m sure that up and coming retailers and distributors interested in local craft spirits will be attending the State Fair and other events with this in mind.

Another very cool aspect of Farm Distilleries enabled by recent changes (including the Farm Brewery law passed this summer) is the opportunity to offer tastings and sell New York beer, cider, and wine from other licensed brewers, farm breweries, wineries, farm wineries, and cider producers.  That’s right, you can sell the full line up of alcoholic products on your farm, as long as they are all made with New York stuff.  That’s something that no liquor or grocery store can do.

You still can’t sell spirits direct to consumer using mail order, common carriers, or the internet, but the combination of what you can do on-site and the ability to go to your customers using Farmers’ Markets represents a great opportunity for farmers interested in mastering the art of craft distilling (or partnering with someone who already has the moonshining know-how).

Do you have a legal question related to your farm, food, or beverage business that you would like to see answered in a future Farmshed CNY blog post?  Submit your question to Devin using the Eat. Drink. Law. Contact Us page here.

About the Author
Devin Morgan is an author, speaker, and attorney with Knull Group (www.eatdrinklaw.com), a firm for food-obsessed business and intellectual property lawyers in Cooperstown, NY.  He is focused on the growth of the craft food and beverage industry in New York State and is the primary author of the Eat. Drink. Law. blog.  Click here to receive a free report from Devin on growing a distinctive food or beverage business.  Knull Group is a big supporter of Farmshed CNY’s quest to map the local food scene across Central New York.  This post is for general information only and is not legal advice.  Attorney Advertising.

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Who Owns Your Farm’s Name?

By Devin Morgan | October 7th, 2012

Editor’s Note: With today’s post, we’re very pleased to welcome Devin Morgan, who will be authoring a series of articles on small business law that should be of great interest to farmers and food producers throughout Central New York and the Finger Lakes. Devin specializes in business law, including intellectual property, and is one of the partners of the Knull Group, “a firm for food-obsessed business and intellectual property lawyers,” located in Cooperstown, NY. The name of the Knull Group’s blog – Eat. Drink. Law. – says it all. I’ve been working with Devin and Chuck since July, and I’ve grown to like and trust them both. They’re very committed to growing, and to being an integral part of, the local food movement here in Central New York.

Who Owns Your Farm’s Name?

Don’t panic.  Chances are that you do.  But many farm owners don’t realize that a farm’s name is a trademark and a separate piece of property from the land, buildings, equipment, animals, crops, and operations.  Generally, the name and the farm stay together, but that isn’t always the case.  I was just reading about a family farm in California that is now involved in a family feud and a Federal lawsuit over the name of the family farm.  No doubt there is some family drama behind the whole thing, but the bottom line is that Antonio and Juliet Campos got the farm and thought that included the name.  Fermin and Veronica Campos didn’t get the farm, but kept going with the name and websites and are now competing against the original Campos farm.  I don’t know how it will settle out, but I’m pretty sure the whole mess could have been avoided if the trademarks and domain names had been clearly addressed in the transfer of the farm.

For farms that have operated a long time without a change in name or ownership, the name and the farm are usually closely linked and relatively safe.  The name and the farm belong to the farm owner and there isn’t anyone likely to dispute it.  But the separation between farm and trademark start to become obvious when you develop direct-to-consumer sales.  When you start having things like websites, brochures, or banners for your Farmers’ Market stall, your name becomes something apart from the farm itself.  People start associating your name with your products and may have no idea where your farm is, what it looks like, or even whether what they are buying really comes from there.

In fact, it is possible to grow a separate business operating under the farm name.  The farm is one thing, the retail and distribution operations are something else.  Many times, these two roles for the farm will be handled by different people.  One person is running the farm and another is running the sales and distribution.  Sometimes it is husband and wife, sometimes siblings or parents and kids, sometimes an employee, friend, or business partner with no family ties.  I don’t have all of the background to the Campos story, but I am willing to bet that this kind of split existed and Fermin and Veronica knew how to run the sales and distribution and could do it with any farm providing the products.  If these two parts of the business develop in different directions or there is a falling out between the people running them, ownership of the name can get murky.  In fact, both sides could own it for different purposes.

Two related businesses with the same name can become most apparent if there is a sale (or estate transfer to the next of kin).  So, when buying, selling, or setting up an estate, it is a good idea to make sure that everyone understands that the name and the farm are different things and they don’t necessarily have to transfer together.  If the farm includes the family name, it may be that either the old owners or the new owners will not want it to transfer.  Or maybe the new owners just have something else in mind–they want to start fresh.  I have also seen farms that supported a great specialty food business, such as jams, under the farm name.  They wanted to sell the farm but planned to keep going with the jam business.  It isn’t uncommon that an aging farmer may have a wife or kids who developed the side business and want to keep it going even if they can’t afford to keep up the farm.  It is really important that everyone agree about what is going to happen with the name and that agreement appears in writing in the purchase and sale agreement or other signed contract.

In a future post, I will talk about some of the external threats to keeping your farm name safe, but a good starting point is realizing that your farm name is a trademark and a business asset separate from the farm itself.  Make sure you keep track of it.

Do you have a legal question related to your farm, food, or beverage business that you would like to see answered in a future FarmshedCNY blog post?  Submit your question to Devin using the Eat. Drink. Law. Contact Us page here.

About the Author
Devin Morgan is an author, speaker, and attorney with Knull Group (www.eatdrinklaw.com), a firm for food-obsessed business and intellectual property lawyers in Cooperstown, NY.  He is focused on the growth of the craft food and beverage industry in New York State and is the primary author of the Eat. Drink. Law. blog.  Click here to receive a free report from Devin on growing a distinctive food or beverage business.  Knull Group is a big supporter of FarmshedCNY and Neil’s quest to map the local food scene across Central New York.  This post is for general information only and is not legal advice.  Attorney Advertising.

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A Fork in the Road: Localism, Sustainability and the Politics of Pleasure

By Neil B. Miller | June 5th, 2012

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this essay appeared in the New York Cork Report.

As the owner of a technology start-up dedicated to promoting local foods, I suppose I should have been offended by the remarks made by chefs Thomas Keller and Adoni Luis Aduriz in their recent New York Times interview with Julia Moskin.  In the interview, which is excerpted in Moskin’s article, Keller and Aduriz, the award-winning executive chefs, respectively, of The French Laundry in Yountville, California and Mugaritz in northern Spain, disclaim any responsibility for supporting local farming or sustainable agriculture. In one passage, Keller questions whether it is his responsibility, given the small number of people he feeds, “to worry about carbon footprint?” In another, Aduriz opines that to align oneself “entirely with the idea of sustainability makes chefs complacent and limited.”

Oddly enough, I found myself only mildly irritated by Keller and Aduriz’s statements. As excerpted in Moskin’s article, Keller and Aduriz come across as mildly glib and dismissive of doctrinaire locavorism, but the everyday praxis of these chefs so closely parallels core values of the local food and sustainability movements – the New York Time­s once named Keller “Napa’s most celebrated devotee of local produce” – that I can only assume the chefs were being intentionally controversial to promote the release of Aduriz’s first English-language cookbook, Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking.

If that was their intent they clearly succeeded, because publication of Moskin’s article set the Twittersphere aflame with a firestorm of histrionic outrage and authoritarian cultural politics. Sadly, despite the fact that Keller and Aduriz’s critics are allies in the local food movement, I believe they got just about everything wrong in their responses to Keller and Aduriz’s comments.

Moskin, whose own article is provocatively titled “For Them, a Great Meal Tops Good Intentions,” set the stage for later rhetorical excesses. Supporting local agriculture, she asserts, is “too narrow a goal” for these highly acclaimed chefs, while helping save the planet is at odds with their priority of creating “great, brilliant food.” Keep in mind that these are Moskin’s words, not Keller or Aduriz’s. Later, Moskin sarcastically concludes that Keller and Aduriz “are united in their belief that their responsibility as chefs is primarily to produce breathtakingly delicious and beautiful food – not as some of their colleagues think, to provide a livelihood for farmers living near their restaurants, to preserve traditional culinary art or to stop the spread of global warming.”

Paula Crossfield, managing editor of Civil Eats, ups this gamesmanship another notch by characterizing Keller and Aduriz as “dinosaurs” in comparison to younger chefs (Aduriz is all of 41), who take a “local, values-driven approach” to their cooking. Keller and Aduriz’s “antiquated remarks,” especially Keller’s commitment to “quality above values” (since when is “quality” not a “value?”), are, in Crossfield’s estimation, “staler than the day-old bread at Bouchon Bakery,” one of Keller’s other establishments

Elsewhere, Twilight Greenaway, writing for Grist.org, describes Keller and Aduriz as chefs who feel no “obligation to the environment,” and who “opt out of caring for the impact the producers of your food have on the soil, water and the atmosphere.” In quick succession, Greenway then goes on to characterize their statements as “irresponsible,” “destructive,” and – quoting Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth – “shocking.”

The litany of crimes for which these chefs have been charged continues on for many more articles and tweets – one writer even compares Keller to Marie Antoinette! – but you get the idea. These are bad, bad men, whose actions and attitudes are apparently as morally indefensible and environmentally destructive as those of Monsanto, the Koch Brothers, and supporters of the XL Pipeline.

And yet, if we set aside the statements quoted in Moskin’s article, and examine what these chefs actually do in their daily practice: how and from where they source their products; how and why suppliers of the world’s finest and occasionally rarest foodstuffs must be concerned with responsible stewardship and sustainability; why – unlike nearly all commercial food products – the true cost of these products, including the cost of their carbon footprint, is very likely passed on to patrons, a very different picture emerges of who these men are and what they truly believe.

The French Laundry’s Culinary Garden, for example, a three-acre farm that provides the restaurant with most of their specialty crops – including all the products featured in their daily vegetable tasting menu – is almost as famous as the restaurant itself. It is also fully organic and open to the public, so that Tucker Taylor, the garden’s resident farmer, can educate home gardeners as well as kitchen staff on unusual heirloom varieties and sustainable farming practices like crop rotation and organic composting.

Then there is Keller’s relationship with his outside suppliers, who appear mostly to be small artisanal producers for whom Keller has such high regard that he features them prominently on his website. This ironically also seems to be where Keller earns the greatest scorn from his critics, because several of these suppliers, such as Keith Martin’s Elysian Fields Farm in Waynesburg, PA, which supplies The French Laundry with “holistic” lamb raised without hormones, antibiotics or exposure to pesticides, are out-of-state producers rather than local farms.

For this unpardonable sin, Moskin, as already noted, derides Keller for his “radical” commitment to create “breathtakingly delicious and beautiful food” rather than to provide a livelihood for local farmers. Paula Crossfield, in turn, compares both chefs to Damien Hirst, implying, I assume, that their restaurants, like Hirst’s art, are unapologetically apolitical and sensationalistic. “It’s about the experience,” Crossfield writes, “and whatever it takes to create radical and inspiring food is more important than the potential impact on the environment.” Twilight Greenaway, in turn, simply chides Keller for downplaying “the role of the local food economy your restaurant supports.”

It’s not clear which local food economy Greenaway is referring to. Presumably, she intends Napa Valley, whose economic security apparently hangs in the balance depending on whether or not Keller sources his lamb from a local producer. And yet, the local food economy of Western Pennsylvania, a decidedly less well situated and economically secure region of the country, undoubtedly has benefited from Keller’s patronage, so much so that Martin has enlisted several other farms in Pennsylvania and Ohio to raise lambs according to his exacting methods, and opened a mail-order business to direct-market fresh lamb to consumers.

Similar economic benefits presumably have been felt in the rural community of Orwell, Vermont, where Animal Farm Dairy, an artisanal farmstead creamery that produces butter for Keller’s restaurants, is located, and in Petaluma, California, in Sonoma County, where Soyung Scanlan, the renowned cheesemaker at Andante Dairy, makes cheeses for, and first drew her inspiration from, The French Laundry.

In truth, it appears that the criticisms directed at Keller and Aguriz are premised on an ideologically rigid localism: upscale restaurants like The French Laundry and Mugaritz should source all their ingredients from local producers, not because they are the highest quality, or the freshest or tastiest, but simply because they are local. And leading celebrity chefs like Keller and Aduriz, in particular, should do so to set an example for younger, up-and-coming chefs.

Though not stated explicitly, it’s also implied that ordinary consumers ought also to limit themselves exclusively to what is locally and sustainably grown. That’s a sentiment I largely share, so much so that I founded a business dedicated entirely to promoting local food and connecting consumers with local farmers and food producers. But exclusively so? Many products – some rare and highly prized, others commonplace – are either not produced locally, or not at the quality-level found elsewhere in the world. Does locavorism really mean that the world’s most unique regional foodstuffs should be enjoyed exclusively by local consumers? Would that be good for producers, or consumers, or the environment? Would this be good for Western Pennsylvanian lamb producers, or Finger Lakes winemakers, any more than it would be for Iberian hog farmers or Tuscan olive growers?

In the absence of secondary national or international markets that supplement regional sales, how certain are these critics that local demand will enable artisanal producers to sell through their inventories and earn a decent living? Setting aside luxury items like Jamon Iberico or French wines, what about everyday pantry items like salt and black pepper, or olive oil, or tea, coffee, and chocolate?

There is a cultural politics at work here that I find disturbingly authoritarian. The local food movement, consequently, as well as the movement for agricultural and socioeconomic sustainability, finds itself at a fork in the road. One road leads us in the direction of tolerance, inclusivity and engagement between chefs like Keller and Aduriz, for whom pleasure must remain an operative principle; the Slow Food movement, which shares a similar commitment to the politics and pleasures of the table; and the locavores, environmentalists and sustainability advocates who are transitioning America away from its destructive, dehumanizing, industrial past.

The other road takes us further down the path set ablaze in last week’s “food fight.” If Moskin and other critics truly believe that cordwood should be piled around Keller and Aduriz’s feet because of a few controversial statements, then locavorism and sustainability are in danger of becoming cults rather than secular social movements.

Monty Python once famously warned, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” That may be, in part, because no one ever sees themselves as the Inquisitor, not even those who would seek to impose a new agro-gastronomical orthodoxy on the rest of us. Demons do exist, but we don’t need witch hunts or holier-than-thou attitudes to fight them. Some of us believe that change begins at one’s own doorstep, and simply want to eat – and enjoy – healthier food, support our local communities, and leave the world a better place than we found it.

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Our IndieGoGo Rewards: Great Products from Great Local Producers

By Neil B. Miller | April 22nd, 2012

We’ve got a month left to go on our IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign, and to generate excitement as we count down to the end of the campaign, we’ve added a bunch of great products donated by local businesses. The IndieGoGo website only allows us to describe individual rewards in 500 characters or less, which is virtually impossible given the number of great products we’ve lined up for contributors, so we’re going to list them all here and explain how and where you can get them.

First, we’re raising this money for a 25-week summer tour of regional farmers markets that hopefully will take us to 50 different farmers markets throughout Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and parts of the Southern Tier and Catskills. Our goal is to promote the Farmshed 2.0 Mobile app, which works on iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerrys, and the release this past week of the new Farmshed 2.0 Web app, which makes the Farmshed CNY Directory of 1,500+ regional farms, farmers markets and food producers available for the first time on PCs, laptops and tablets. False modesty aside, the Farmshed 2.0 Mobile and Web apps are beautifully designed applications with clean, easy-to-use interfaces and lots of powerful features.

The new Farmshed 2.0 Web Homepage.

We need to pay up-front vendor fees, purchase a tent and table, print up displays and marketing materials, cover the cost of gas, food and lodging, and show some TLC to the mighty Subaru, which has 285,000 miles on it and is in need of some serious love. So we’re asking friends, friends of friends, business associates, fellow Buy Local and local food advocates, and anyone else who wants to see independent farms and food producers thrive in this region, to make a small contribution to our IndieGoGo fundraising campaign, which ends on May 19th. Local farmers and food producers have donated some truly fantastic products, and all you have to do to get them is make a small – or large! – contribution.

Click here to go to our IndieGoGo campaign page and make a contribution.

The Rewards

Turtle Tree Seed Co. seed packets - our Natural reward!

1. Natural. $15.00-$24.00. The Natural reward lets contributors select one packet of biodynamic, open pollinated flower or vegetable seeds from Turtle Tree Seed Co. The following seed packets are available (while quantities last):

Diane’s Pink Aster
Petunia Perseverance
Arugula
Lettuce Mix
Ruth’s Perfect Tomato
Landis Tomato

Turtle Tree is a small non-profit company in the Hudson Valley that cultivates, preserves, and sells 100% open-pollinated, biodynamic and organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds. All their seed is non-gmo, non-hybrid, never treated, and grown without the use of chemical inputs. Turtle Tree Seed Co. is part of a Camphill Village in Copake, NY, an intentional community that includes people with developmental disabilites. For more information on the company, or to view their entire product catalog, please visit their website.

JUST ADDED! 2. Super Natural. $25.00-$34.00. Select one seed packet from Turtle Tree Seed Co. (see the Natural reward above), and receive a 1-year subscription to Plank Road Magazine AND an A-List Organics tote bag.

Plank Road Magazine, located in Tully, New York,  is a new quarterly publication that celebrates the beautiful landscapes, history and vibrancy of Central New York, and tells the stories of the remarkable people and small businesses that make this region such a great place to live and work. Steve Simon, the publisher of Plank Road Magazine, and his staff are doing with words and photos what Farmshed CNY is doing with data and technology: connecting Central New Yorkers with their neighbors, and promoting local resources and producers.

3. Free Range. $25.00-49.00. The Free Range reward includes one packet of Turtle Tree seeds (see the Natural reward above), and ONE of the following products donated by a local farm or food producer (while supplies last):

1 package of Organically Hip Oatmeal Raisin or Chocolate Cookie mix

1 1-ounce bottle of Fruit of the Fungi Dried Shiitake Mushroom Powder

1 jar of A-List Organics Hot Pepper Jelly or Fiesta Salsa

1 jar of Old Goat Foods Fruit Salsas – Vinca’s Sweet, Violet’s Medium, or Spike’s Hot

PLUS: an A-List Organics farmers market tote bag.

I can’t say enough good things about these products, or these producers. The Organically Hip cookie mixes are delicious, and are the products of two very entrepreneurial Syracuse friends and moms, Maria & Angela, who started up the business because they wanted their kids to eat healthier snacks.

Fruit of the Fungi is a husband and wife team, KC and Kristi Mangine, who started cultivating Shiitake mushrooms a few years ago and are now selling fresh mushrooms and a range of innovative dried products at regional farmers markets throughout Madison County and the Mohawk Valley. Their Dried Shiitake Mushroom Powder is delicious in scrambled eggs and miso soups, and a little goes a long way, so a 1-ounce bottle will last you a while.

KC Mangine of Fruit of the Fungi, at the Poolville Winter Farmers Market

A-List Organics is a start-up organic farm in Pompey, NY owned by Lori and Abe Tannenbaum. Lori has developed a line of delicious homemade jams, jellies and preserved foods using surplus crops grown on the farm. In addition to the four extraordinary gift baskets she donated to our campaign – 2 savory baskets, and 2 sweet & savory baskets, which are available for $100.00 contributions – Lori also donated a dozen jars of her terrific Hot Pepper Jelly and chunky Fiesta Salsa. She’s also given us a bunch of A-List Organics farmers market tote bags to give away.

Bernie and Denise Szarek are very simply two of my favorite people in the world, as well as two of the hardest working people I know. In addition to holding down day jobs, they own and operate Szarek Greenhouses, Three Goat Farm CSA, Old Goat Foods, which produces several lines of products including their Fruit Salsas, named for their three goats (they’ve got a special love for goats), and have started up and are managing the Westmoreland Winter and Summer Farmers Markets and the Westmoreland Food Swap. I’m probably leaving something out here, but you get the idea.

Bernie and Denise make me glad every time I see them that I founded Farmshed CNY. They represent the best of what I love about the local food movement in Central New York, and their Fruit Salsas kick ass.

Denise & Bernie Szarek of Szarek Greenhouses and Old Goat Foods

4. Grass Fed. $50.00-99.00. The Grass Fed reward includes one packet of Turtle Tree seeds (see the Natural reward above), and TWO of the products listed above in the Free Range reward category (while supplies last)

5. Pasture Raised. $100.00-249.00. The Pasture Raised reward takes our reward program to a whole new level. In addition to a packet of Turtle Tree seeds; TWO of the products listed in the Grass Fed reward category – the Organically Hip cookie mixes, Fruit of the Fungi Dried Shiitake Mushroom Powder; the A-List Organics Hot Pepper Jelly or Fiesta Salsa; the Old Goat Foods Fruit Salsas, and the A-List Organics farmers market tote bag, Pasture Raised contributors also select ONE of the following:

1 12-ounce bag of Cafe Kubal roasted Guatemalan El Injerto coffee beans

1  The Imaginary Farmer Grow-it-Yourself Gourmet Mushroom Kit

Guatemalan El Injerto is widely considered the premier coffee bean grown in Central America, and it’s one of the signature small-batch roasted beans produced by our friends at Cafe Kubal in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse was recently named one of the top cities in the country for locally roasted, artisanal coffee, and in my opinion Cafe Kubal is the best of the best. They also demonstrate that social entrepreneurship and successful business management go hand-in-hand.

Owen Tallman, the Imaginary Farmer, foraging wild mushrooms in Cazenovia, NY.

Owen Tallman, The Imaginary Farmer and a bit of a mad scientist, has developed and cultivates several different species of edible and medicinal mushrooms, including a variety native to Central New York he has named the Hantana Phoenix, which he found growing wild on his farm and coaxed into commercial production. He’s now taken his passion for mushrooms one step further and has come out with Grow-it-Yourself kits that provide everything you need to cultivate mushrooms at home. Kits are available for his signature Hantana Phoenix, Elm Oyster, Golden Enoki and Reishi mushrooms.

6. Certified Organic. $250.00-$499.00. What can we say about our Certified Organic reward? If you are this generous, and can contribute this much money to our IndieGoGo campaign, we are going to hook you up with the mother of all reward packages, featuring the best of the best of EVERYTHING we have available for contributors.

7. Sustainable $500.00-$999.00, and Biodynamic $1,000.00 and up. If a selection of the region’s best local food products isn’t enough for you, how about a personal, one day or weekend guided tour of the best family farms, creameries, food producers, wineries, microbreweries, and/or locavore restaurants in Central New York and the Finger Lakes? That, respectively, is what we are offering for our Sustainable and Biodynamic rewards.

Over the past two years, we’ve gotten to know 100s of the best organic growers, artisanal food producers, cheese makers, winery owners and wine makers, and other businesses in this region, and we would be glad to plan and guide you on a one day or weekend agritourism excursion to show you the best that this region as to offer.

Set up a behind-the-scenes tour and wine tasting at the best wineries in the Finger Lakes? Or a day-trip of the best artisanal and locavore food producers and restaurants in Ithaca or Rochester? Done. How about a personal guided tour of the top creameries and cheese makers in the Mohawk Valley, with tastings right in their creameries of their cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses? We can make that happen, too. In fact, our first agritourism client enjoyed her day-trip of Mohawk Valley cheese makers so much that she’s already contributed $500.00 to our IndieGoGo campaign and can’t wait for her next trip to the region. In her words, “Farmshed CNY tours are the best!” And who are we to argue with a satisfied customer?

At whatever level you contribute, we are deeply, deeply appreciate of your contribution to our IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign. Every dollar gets us one step closer to reaching our funding goal and our plans for a successful summer promotional tour. We’d like to think – in fact, we truly believe – that Farmshed CNY’s success is tied directly to the success of regional farmers and food producers, and that together we will build, and are building, a vibrant, sustainable, and delicious local food culture in Central New York.

Find Local, Buy Local, Grow Local.

 

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