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ANCA awards $104,000 in local farm grants to 8 North Country farms

By Adam Rombel

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Shannon and Tyler Eaton, owners of Blue Pepper Farm in Jay, N.Y., were awarded one of eight local farm grants to build an on-farm creamery for the production of sheep milk products. (PHOTO CREDIT: LISA GODFREY)

SARANAC LAKE — Eight North Country farms are set to receive grant funding to help support the viability and growth of their businesses. 

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) recently announced the recipients of its Local Farm Grant program, which was launched in October 2019 to support farmers and food producers who are “strengthening the region’s agriculture and food systems.” 

The association has awarded a total of $103,962 in grant funds to the following northern New York farms: 

• Argyle Cheese Farmer in Argyle (Washington County)

• Blue Pepper Farm in Jay (Essex County)

• Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams (Essex County)

• Mace Chasm Farm in Keeseville (Essex County)

• Milkweed Tussock Tubers in Heuvelton (St. Lawrence County) 

• North Branch Farms in Henderson (Jefferson County)

• Peacock and Pony Farm in Natural Bridge (Jefferson County)

• Triple Green Jade Farm in Willsboro (Essex County).

“We received an unprecedented number of applications for this grant, and it was incredibly challenging for the grant committee to narrow it down to the final recipients,” ANCA Executive Director Kate Fish said in a news release. She added that 52 farms and food businesses applied for more than $1 million in funding to support projects valued at a total of over $2 million. “There is clearly a need for investment in our region’s farms if we are to see them thrive and help drive a more robust local economy.” 

ANCA says its Local Farm Grant program was designed to support projects that address gaps in the local food supply chain, boost opportunities for value-added processing, or secure business-development services. “The grants provide financial support where traditional funding resources like bank loans are not accessible,” the association contends.

Argyle Cheese Factory, which is owned and operated by Dave and Marge Randles, says it will use grant funding to purchase a batch freezer and scooping cabinet for producing and preparing frozen dairy desserts. The new equipment is part of a larger business expansion that includes a new retail store.

Blue Pepper Farm owners Shannon and Tyler Eaton say they will use their grant award to construct an on-farm creamery for producing sheep milk yogurt. The facility will allow the farm owners to increase production and expand their dairy product line, which represents a growing segment of their diversified farm business. Blue Pepper Farm, which has been in business since 2012, also produces grass-fed lamb, sheepskins, yarn, pork, eggs, and poultry.

“This grant allows for a significant expansion of our farm business that we’ve been working towards since starting out,” Shannon Eaton said in the release. “After spending the past three seasons renting creamery space to make our sheep milk yogurt, confirming we have a product customers love, we’re ready to expand production. The timing of this could not be better!”

Adam Hainer of Juniper Hill Farm says he will buy equipment for processing butternut squash grown on the organic vegetable farm. The peeling machine will allow the farm to sell more squash to schools and other institutions that prefer minimally processed vegetables. Since processing will take place during the winter, the project will provide more year-round work for employees.

Mace Chasm Farm owner Asa Thomas-Train will use grant funds toward the purchase of a curing cabinet that will help the farm and butcher shop increase sausage and cured-meat production. By expanding its value-added products, the farm will increase production during the slower winter months and opportunities to sell at urban markets outside the local area. 

Catherine Bennett, sole owner and operator of Milkweed Tussock Tubers in St. Lawrence County, will use her grant award to partially cover costs associated with becoming a certified disease-free seed potato producer, which will open up regional and national markets for her organic potatoes. 

Jay and Kathryn Canzonier will use their funding to purchase and replace parts for North Branch Farm’s produce-packing equipment. The equipment helps the farm and orchard business provide “clean fruit and vegetables” for its retail store and for wholesale clients such as Jefferson County Schools. 

Liam Carney of Peacock and Pony Farm in Jefferson County will use his grant award to partially fund the construction of a heated greenhouse and laboratory to help increase the production of gourmet mushrooms on his family’s farm. 

Triple Green Jade Farm owner Dan Rivera will purchase cow-milking equipment to establish a small dairy on the farm. The dairy will allow Triple Green Jade to continue to diversify its farm business, which specializes in wood-fired oven baked breads and crackers. 

ANCA says its Local Farm Grant program was “funded in full by anonymous donors” who participated in the association’s fourth annual Bike the Barns event last Sept. 29. “Inspired by the farms along the route and motivated by their own appreciation of local farms,” the donors committed $100,000 to go directly to North Country agriculture businesses through a competitive grant process. 

“These donors understand the cultural and economic importance small farms have in our communities,” Fish said. “We know their investment will make a significant impact for the grant recipients, their families and employees, and the people and businesses they serve and support.

“While we wish we could have funded more projects during this round of grants, ANCA continues to develop additional ways we can support our region’s farmers. This process gave us a telling picture of their various needs and how we can invest in their future,” she continued.

ANCA is an independent, nonprofit economic-development agency seeking to grow the new economy in northern New York. 

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