For several years, we planned and hosted the Western NY Farmer-Chef Conference that convened food & agriculture businesses from all across the region and New York State as way to engage in business activities and strengthen the connection between local farm to table.
In 2013, Field & Fork Network lead the effort to do a feasibility study for a food hub – which was designed to best determine the appropriate infrastructure needed to allow our small and mid-size farms to larger scale wholesale buyers. What resulted from the feasibility study, subsequent owner-operator search, and business planning, was the development of a produce aggregation facility – the Western NY Food Hub – currently being incubated within Eden Valley Growers.
Field & Fork Network is a proud member of the Western NY Microenterprise Collaborative – a group of non-bank lenders and technical assistance providers who support entrepreneurs and small business in Western NY. As a member of the collaborative, we work together to provide appropriate business services and lending options for those who may not qualify or can afford traditional business services.
We also aim to work with community members and local entrepreneurs to create wealth building solutions to address market gaps in the food system particularly in low-income neighborhoods. By supporting the launch, growth, and long-term sustainability of locally-owned food-based businesses, we hope to create a pathway for community members to strengthen community food security, and benefit from economic development. Services will include: planning, project management, alternative business modeling, capital investment, training, human resource building, and technical assistance. We will have a focus on food and technology related businesses.
Farm to institution is at the core of our mission. We view the institutional (schools, hospitals, hotels, etc.) purchasing of local foods as a game changer in the long term sustainability of the local food movement. A shift in institutional food buying has the potential for major impacts on not only the local economy, but on food access in general. Swaying large institutions with huge food budgets to leverage their purchasing power in support of small and mid-size farms can boost the local economy here in Western NY. The other goal is to open up access to healthy, local food for the populations generally served by public institutions such as hospitals and schools.
Field & Fork Network partnered with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) and a team of food, agriculture and urban planning professionals on a Farm to Hospital initiative in Buffalo. The planning project focuses on five objectives: building a shared understanding of and commitment to local food procurement among member institutions on the campus; completing a market research and analysis for demand of local agricultural products among member institutions; identify and engage farmers, producers, distributors, and processors to connect local products with BNMC institution markets; propose solutions to identified barriers by participating member institutions; and share recommendations as widely as possible at local, regional, state, and national levels.
We also spearheaded a Farm to School planning initiative with the Niagara Falls City School District. As co-chair of the planning committee, Field & Fork Network is assisting the district on improving their school meal programs with increased purchasing of locally grown foods, menu development and culinary training of cook staff to increase their ability to prepare fresh farm products. The farm to school implementation plan will be completed in the spring of 2017.
As a leader in the farm to table and local food movement in Western NY, we often get requests for assistance with sourcing local products at any scale. Our knowledge, expertise and outreach efforts have connected numerous farmers and businesses across the region to one another, catalyzing business relationships that benefit everyone. While much of our local sourcing consulting is on as needed and seasonal basis, we welcome inquiries into these services at any time throughout the year.
Please contact Lisa French, Co-Founder and Executive Director for more information.