Local Organizations Receive State Agritourism Grants

George Winner

October 30, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) today announced that several Southern Tier-Finger Lakes regional organizations are being awarded state grants under New York’s new Agritourism Grant Program.

"We’re wise to encourage and invest in agritourism development in New York State. Farming and tourism remain economic and cultural mainstays of our region and many rural, upstate New York communities, but we have to keep monitoring the strength of these leading industries," said Winner, who chairs the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources and was a leading proponent of establishing the new funding program in the 2006-07 state budget.

This year’s state budget included $1 million, at the Senate’s insistence, for the Agritourism Grant Program. The new program is administered through the state Department of Agriculture and Markets (Ag and Markets). It’s designed to encourage the development, implementation or expansion of agritourism projects statewide. The current, inaugural round of funding is providing up to $50,000 in matching grants for projects involving traditional agritourism activities, as well as new approaches in promoting New York food and agriculture. Individuals, public and private agencies and organizations, business and industry, educational institutions and local governments are eligible to submit proposals. Eligible projects should involve endeavors which promote New York food and agriculture by attracting visitors to New York State for economic, social, cultural, environmental and/or educational purposes. Examples of eligible projects may include but are not limited to direct marketing efforts, educational offerings, entertainment, lodging and dining.

More information on the new program can be obtained by calling Ag and Markets directly, toll-free, at 1-800-554-4501.

Winner said, "Many farmers are attracting tourists with farm tours, educational facilities, roadside markets, farm-stay vacations and other on-the-farm attractions. Diversifying farm operations with a tourism component has proven profitable for many farmers in New York and other states. It helps them keep their land in farming and heightens the public’s awareness of agriculture’s importance."

Winner announced the following local grant recipients:

> Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, currently operating through the Ithaca-based Cooperative Extension Association of Tompkins County, will receive $49,520 for a project called "Linking Farms, Wineries, and Food Establishments to Enhance Agricultural and Culinary Tourism." The project, which will serve 14 Finger Lakes counties, is focused on linking farmers, food producers, wineries and food establishments in the Finger Lakes through new initiatives including the development of guidebooks, agritourism trails, Agritourism-Culinary tourism visitor packages, education and promotion;

> Finger Lakes Fibers, Inc., located in Watkins Glen, will receive $20,000 for its "Finger Lakes Fiber Tour" project. The tour involves planning and promoting a fiber-themed itinerary that will lead experiential tourists to the southern Finger Lakes region to a variety of fiber producing and processing facilities and offer education in aspects of fiber and craft production including raising sheep, goats and alpaca for fiber; workshops in knitting, weaving and tatting/lace-making using natural, local fibers; and fiber processing including shearing, milling, spinning and dying;

> New York State Maple Producers Association , based in Watkins Glen, will receive $16,000 for a "NYS Maple Trails - Regional Pilots" to begin to establish what’s envisioned as a series of tourism trails in regions of the state with high concentrations of maple producers;

> The Gaffer District of Corning, New York will be awarded $14,018 for its "Getting Fresh in the Gaffer District - Harvest Celebration" initiative; and

> Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension will be awarded $8,000 to develop a "Guide to Yates County Fresh Produce."

Winner noted that he also sponsored legislation, recently signed into law by Governor George Pataki, to promote "agricultural tourism" as an increasingly popular practice vital to the future of the state’s agricultural industry. The new law will include a definition of agricultural tourism in New York’s right to farm laws, as well as in the state’s list of sound agricultural practices. Doing so, according to Winner, will help promote agritourism as a commonly accepted farming practice in New York and protect farmers from nuisance suits and other potential land use conflicts that sometimes arise with neighboring property owners who may be unfamiliar with agricultural operations. He added that the legislation will also help improve the effectiveness of local right-to-farm ordinances being adopted by a growing number of municipalities seeking to preserve a hospitable operating environment for their farmers.