Local Farms Enthusiastic About "Delaware Bounty", a Local Food Outlet
by Mariane Kiraly
In 2014, the USDA Farmers’ Market Promotional Grant Program was announced. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County had been doing a lot of work with small and start-up farmers to assist them with growing a large variety of products, but most still lacked a year-round venue to market their products. Mariane Kiraly, Core Ag Team Coordinator, submitted a grant for a project that would incorporate marketing local products and nutrition education. In late August, the good news arrived: the grant had been accepted!
The Extension team decided to visit neighboring Schoharie County to meet with Maureen Blanchard of “Schoharie Fresh” to see if some of her ideas could be replicated in Delaware County. “Schoharie Fresh” is an online ordering system that is housed on the SUNY Cobleskill campus and it had been in operation for several years. We decided to duplicate their online ordering system and also develop a walk-in store located in the hub of the county, Delhi. A farmers’ meeting was held to recruit a variety of farmers to be venders for “Delaware Bounty”. The site was to be in the local business incubator portion of the E-Center on Main Street where a large parking lot, a new building and beautiful, bright room awaited.
The grant budget included the costs of a new, efficient glass door freezer, 3-door cooler, a point of sale system that tracks inventory and can process cash, checks, credit cards, and SNAP/EBT sales. Other items were purchased such as a scale, shelving and vegetable bins. Some office furniture was provided by the incubator and the preceding tenants left a file cabinet, tables and some other useful items. The official opening was March 3rd with 25 venders’ products participating. Food is brought to the store on consignment and monthly checks are sent to each farmer/vender by the 10th of the next month. The 20% commission participant farmers pay helps cover rent and other expenses.
“Delaware Bounty” offers a variety of products from Delaware County farms only. Beef, pork, veal, lamb, and chicken round out the meat section. Consumers can further choose from Animal Welfare Approved, Grass Fed, Grain Finished or a number of other attributes. All of the meat is USDA processed. Artisan cheese from three farms is also a big seller, along with eggs (free range, pastured, conventional). Maple and honey grace the shelves along with herbs and mushrooms. Baked goods from fruit pies to sticky buns to bread are top sellers and hard to resist! All farmers had to comply with insurance, labeling and processing requirements specific to their particular product. It took time and effort for each one to do the paperwork for inclusion in the store.
Farmers are pleased so far with sales increasing each month. The long winter made consumers long for backyard barbeques, fresh produce and other products usually only found at farmers’ markets or farm stands. Only food is sold at Delaware Bounty in order to avoid getting into the sales tax calculations and paperwork. Special days are set aside for Senior Citizens (Tuesdays) and for healthy recipes prepared by the Nutrition Teaching Assistants who work at the store part-time. Recipes and nutrition advice is readily available at the store.
Marketing the local food store takes time, effort and money. Regular ads are placed in weekly papers that are free to all in the county. Radio is also used as a mode of advertising along with signage by the road. Extension’s social media such as Facebook and Twitter help get the word out as well. Re-usable bags with the Delaware Bounty logo were ordered and they are given away with each $25 order.
The store is open from 11am – 5:30 pm Tues-Friday and 10am – 2pm on Saturday. The walk-in store has proved most successful so far but it takes time to develop an on-line presence. The website is delawarebounty.com. Extension educators are currently looking for more funding to keep the store going into the future.
Comments on the value of local food from farmers appear on the Delaware Bounty website such as:
“We appreciate customers buying local products. It keeps the money local which is so important to the economy of Delaware County.”-Dennis and Mary Brockway, Stamford, NY
“There are many benefits to buying your food from local producers. The most beneficial is that the consumer can count on a fresh, healthy product that is produced in your very own “back yard”. With the support of our local community we are able to live our dream, and you the consumer can enjoy a safe, reliable, healthy, and fresh product for many more generations.” -Edmara McClenon, Walton, NY
“Food is fundamental to all our lives and because of this we carefully choose how we produce it. The fact is, locally grown food is fresher and tastes better! We strive to buy our farm supplies and services from local vendors whenever possible. This helps stimulate the local food economy. Local agriculture assures a food system that is safe, affordable and accessible by providing produce and at their peak of flavor and nutritional value.” -Michael Warholic, Township Valley Farm
Mariane Kiraly is the Core Ag Team Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Delaware County, NY.
For more information, visit: www.delawarebounty.com.