The Peconic Land Trust has been working for more than 30 years to provide East End farmers with access to land, and as of today they’re going one step further by helping farmers get access to equipment they need to grow their businesses.
Late last year, the Trust was awarded a $1 million grant through the Empire State Development Corporation to give out to farmers, in sums up to $25,000, to help them purchase equipment ranging from tractors to irrigation equipment and processing equipment, and to help them build barns and greenhouses on their farms.
The Land Trust will begin accepting applications today through a Request for Proposals that is now on their website here.
The awards, titled “Farmers for the Future: Long Island Agricultural Capital Equipment Grant Program,” will enable farmers to cover 20 percent of the purchase price of their equipment, and will be awarded on a rolling basis as applications are received. The Land Trust expects to award between 50 and 100 grants.
“We are blessed to have incredible soils here on Long Island, and agriculture is such a part of our history and a key part of the local economy,” said Peconic Land Trust President John v.H. Halsey at a press conference held Friday morning at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s research farm in Calverton. “Agriculture is facing many challenges, including the price of land, access to land and the high cost of doing business on Long Island.”
Mr. Halsey said he hopes the press conference gets the word out to the agricultural community that there is money available to help them meet their goals.
The grant will be available to farmers who have been in business less than ten years, who are switching the type of crop they plan to grow, or who are making upgrades to comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
The average age of a farmer on Long Island is 55 years old, and the Land Trust is hoping this program will help spur young people to become interested in farming.
Augie Ruckdeschel of the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development said his office helped with the grant application for the purpose of encouraging new farmers.
“Finding new farmers is extremely important to this industry,” he said. “We want farmers to come out and take advantage of these funds.”
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele pointed out that, while Suffolk County has long held the title of producing the greatest value in agricultural crops in the state, yogurt production in upstate New York has pushed Suffolk down to third place on the list.
“I think we’re going to be back on top with all the programs,” he said. “There are many young people that want to get into agriculture.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst agreed.
“We’re working in the Town of Southampton to make agriculture affordable for young farmers,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “It is the lifeblood and the backbone of our community.”