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Urban Farming and Related Organizations/Programs in NYC

Organization Services and Resources Contact Information
GrowNYC Greenmarkets, Wholesale Greenmarket, Grow Truck Tool Loan Program, Rainwater Harvest Plan, Gardening Factsheets 51 Chambers Street, Room 228
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-7900
Just Food CSA in NYC Program and toolkit, City Farms Program and toolkit, Food Justice Program, Farm School NYC, City Chicken Guide, Urban Farming Tipsheets, Workshops 1133 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 1515
New York, NY 10036
(212) 645-9880 ext. 221
info@justfood.org
GreenThumb
(Program of the NYC Parks Dept.)
Gardener’s Handbook, Structures Guidebook, Events and Workshops 49 Chambers Street, Room 1020
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-8070
greenthumbinfo@parks.nyc.gov
Open Accessible Space Information System Land Use Maps The Graduate Center/CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 6202
New York, NY 10016
(212) 817-2033
oasisnyc@gc.cuny.edu
NYC Beekeeper’s Association Beekeeping Workshops, Best Practices Guide, Government Forms and Information 157 Broome Street, #3E
New York, NY 10002
info@nyc-bees.org
Green Guerillas Plant Giveaways, Community Organizing, Youth Tillers Program, High School for Public Service Youth Farm & Market, Brooklyn Community Garden Fund 232 E 11th Street New York, NY 10003
info@nycgreen.org
(212) 594-2155
New York City Community Garden Coalition Monthly Meetings, Summer Garden and Urban Farm Tours, Annual Gardeners’ Forum, Advocacy 323 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
(347) 699-6099
Email via website
NYC Compost Project Compost Demonstrations, Workshops, Tip Sheets, Technical Assistance, Training, Compost Bins, Signage to Community-Based Composting Sites, Master Composter Certificate Course Find contact information for individual requests here.
DSNY Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling  Compost, Mulch, Service Requests Contact via website
EcoStation: NY Bushwick Campus Farm and Greenhouse, Apprenticeships, Food and Social Justice Workshops, Farmers Market 130 Palmetto Street, Suite 350
Brooklyn, NY 11221
(646) 393-9305
Sean@EcoStationNY.org
Brooklyn Botanical Garden Urban Gardening Toolkit, Events and Workshops, Certificate Programs, NYC Compost Project Host 1000 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
(718) 623-7200
feedback@bbg.org
Boswyck Farms Hydroponics Workshops and Training, Hydroponics Consulting and Installation Services 38-01 23rd Avenue, Suite 203 Astoria, NY 11105
(929) 328-0570
info@boswyckfarms.org
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm Farmers Market, Workshops, Apprenticeships, Public Programming 44 Eagle Street
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Contact via website
Added Value Community Farm, Farmers Market, CSA, Composting Initiatives, Youth and Farm-Based Learning Initiatives PO Box 310028
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-288-6752
Brooklyn Grange Farmers Market, Workshops, Rooftop Gardening Consulting Services (347) 670-3660
info@brooklyngrangefarm.com
New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket, Workshops, Bronx Green-Up Program, NYC Compost Project Host 2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 817-8700
bronxgreenup@nybg.org
Farming Concrete Interactive Garden and Harvest Map of NYC, Record Keeping Materials and Training (347) 746-8314
gardens@farmingconcrete.org
Earth Matter Compost Projects and Learning Centers, Consultations, Workshops, and Networking Contact via website
Queens Botanical Garden Demonstration Gardens, Farmers Market, NYC Compost Project Host 43-50 Main Street
Flushing (Queens), NY 11355
(718) 463-0263
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center
and Botanical Garden
Heritage Historical Farm and Demonstration Site, NYC Compost Project Host 1000 Richmond Terrace
Building P, Second Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 448-2500
info@snug-harbor.org
Queens Country Farm Museum Adult and Children’s Educational Programs 73-50 Little Neck Pathway
Floral Park, NY 11004
(718) 347-3276
info@queensfarm.org
BK Farmyards Training Programs and Apprenticeships, Chicken Farm and Apprenticeship, Honey Farm, Workshops, Consulting Services Contact via website
596 Acres Land Use Maps, Advocacy Services, Land Access/Tenure Resources, Consulting Services Contact via website
(718) 316-6092

Urban Farming and Related Organizations/Programs in Buffalo, NY

Organization Services and Resources Contact Information
Urban Roots Community Garden Center Affordable Garden Supplies, Events and Workshops 428 Rhode Island Street
Buffalo, NY 14213
(716) 362-8982
info@urbanroots.org
Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo Workshops 2495 Main Street, Suite 408
Buffalo, NY 14214
(716) 783-9653
Massachusetts Avenue Project Youth Development and Education, Growing Green Urban Farm, Training and Workshops 271 Grant Street
Buffalo, NY 14213
(716) 882-5327
GrowWNY Urban Revitalization Projects, Topical Working Groups Larkin Exchange
726 Exchange Street, Suite 525
Buffalo, NY 14210
(716) 852-2857
info@growwny.org

Urban Farming and Related Organizations/Programs in Rochester, NY

Organization Services and Resources Contact Information
NOFA-NY Organic Certification and Resources, CSA Fairs and Factsheets, Events, Workshops, Conferences 1423 Hathaway Drive
Farmington, NY 14425
(585) 271-1979
info@nofany.org

Urban Farming and Related Organizations/Programs in Ithaca, NY

Organization Services and Resources Contact Information
Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming Farm Enterprise Incubator (In Progress), Farmer Training, Sustainable Farming Certificate Program, Farm Business Planning Course P.O. Box 6679
Ithaca, NY 14851
(607) 319-5095
info@groundswellcenter.org
Ithaca Community Gardens
(Project Growing Hope)
Events, Educational Programming, Web Resources List P.O. Box 606
Ithaca, NY 14851
(607) 216-8770
Gardens 4 Humanity
(Tompkins County)
Neighborhood Gardening Services, Educational and Leader Training, Teen Programming, After School Programs, Affordable and Free Food Plants Cornell Cooperative Extension
Tompkins County
615 Willow Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 272-2292
tompkins@cornell.edu

Urban Farming and Related Organizations/Programs in Other Cities

Organization Services and Resources Contact Information
Capital Roots Urban Grow Center (In Progress), Produce Project, Workshops, Gardening Factsheets 594 River Street
Troy, NY 12180
(518) 274-8685
info@capitalroots.org
Syracuse Grows Online Resource Directory, Workshops 144 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
(315) 443-4890
syracusegrows@gmail.com
Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES) Binghamton Urban Farm Program, Farm Open Houses and Workdays, Summer Youth Employment Program P.O. Box 3104
Binghamton, NY 13902
(607) 205-8108
vinesvolunteers@gmail.com
Radix Ecological Sustainability Center Regenerative Urban Sustainability Training (RUST), Program, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living Albany, NY
sk@radixcenter.org
(518) 605-3256

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Urban Farming Books

  • The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal, Penguin Books, 2011
  • Breaking through Concrete: Building an Urban Farm Revival by David Hanson and Edwin Marty, University of California Press, 2012
  • Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World by Thomas J. Fox, BowTie Press, 2011
  • How to Grow More Vegetables than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons, Ten Speed Press, 2002
  • Toolbox for Sustainable Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew, South End Press, 2008
  • MetroFarm: The Guide to Growing for Big Profit on a Small Parcel of Land by Michael Olson, TS Books, 1994
  • Urban Farm Handbook: City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols, Mountaineer Books, 2011
  • Your Farm in the City: An Urban Dweller’s Guide to Growing Food and Raising Animals by Lisa Taylor and the Gardeners of Seattle Tilth, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2011
  • Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres by Pam Dawling, New Society Publishers, 2013

Organizational Resources

  • “Start a Farm in the City” by Rex Dufour, ATTRA: The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, 2009, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=21
  • Just Food’s City Farms Toolkit available for purchase at http://justfood.org/marketplace/tools
  • Just Food’s Online Resource Center, with English and Spanish-language resources, at http://justfood.org/farmer-outreach/online-resource-center and http://justfood.org/farmer-outreach/spanish-language-resources
  • GreenThumb Gardener’s Handbook, available for download at http://www.greenthumbnyc.org/pdf/gardeners_handbook.pdf
  • Syracuse Grows online urban farming resource directory at http://syracusegrows.org/
  • GrowNYC gardening tipsheets at http://www.grownyc.org/openspace/publications
  • The Urban Agricultural Legal Resource Library (http://www.urbanaglaw.org/), a project of the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, California
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden Handbook Series, available for purchase at http://www.bbg.org/gardening/handbooks

 Governmental Resources

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Urban Agriculture & Improving Local, Sustainable Food Systems” website at http://epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/
  • ATTRA: The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service’s urban agriculture website at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/local_food/urban_ag.html
  • USDA Urban Agriculture: An Abbreviated List of References and Resource Guide (2000) at http://pubs.nal.usda.gov/sites/pubs.nal.usda.gov/files/urban_0.htm

Websites

  • City Farmer (http://www.cityfarmer.org/) and City Farmer News (http://www.cityfarmer.info/)
    A website and news stream about various urban agriculture topics worldwide.
  • Urban Farm Online: Sustainable City Living (http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/)
  • Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (http://ruaf.org/)

Urban Farming Meet-Up Groups

All meet-up groups can be found by searching http://www.meetup.com/

  • City Farming NYC
  • Brooklyn Farmers/Gardeners
  • Genessee Valley/Rochester Permaculture
  • Brooklyn Permaculture
  • Rondout Valley Permaculture

Meetup is a network of local groups, organized by individuals at no cost via the Meetup website above.

Urban Farming Training Programs

  • Just Food Farm School NYC in New York City (http://www.justfood.org/farmschoolnyc)
    Two-year certificate program and individual advanced courses on a variety of subjects.
  • The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center Regenerative Urban Sustainability Training (RUST) in Albany (http://radixcenter.org/)
    Weekend-long intensive workshop comprised of lectures and hands-on demonstrations on various urban farming subjects.

Urban Farm Apprenticeships and Internships

  • Bk Farmyards (http://bkfarmyards.com/)
    Adult Urban Farmer Training, Backyard Farms Training, and Chicken Apprenticeship
  • EcoStation: NY (http://ecostationny.org/)
    Adult Apprenticeship Program at Bushwick Campus Farm
  • Eagle Street Rooftop Farm (http://rooftopfarms.org/)
    On-site apprenticeships and internships

Organizational Workshops, Classes, and Events

Several urban farming or related organizations offer workshops, classes, and events to help educate and support urban farmers.  See the Appendix for more information and for organization contact information, or check individual organization websites and event calendars.

For a listing of Cornell Cooperative Extension offices across New York State, visit http://www.cce.cornell.edu/learnAbout/Pages/Local_Offices.aspx.

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Loans and Other Financing Options

The most appropriate source of money for a new farm enterprise is your own cash – no loans, no home equity, and no credit cards. Relying on loans substantially (or entirely) puts your farm dreams at too great a risk. It is worth the patience to build up your own farm start-up account.

Only once your products have a clear demand and you are not able to keep up with sales is it time to consider a loan or financing to allow more rapid expansion of the profitable aspects of your farm. If you reach the stage where you’re ready for a loan, you will need to present potential investors or lenders with a solid business plan that exhibits a realistic strategy for paying it off (see Factsheet #32, Business Planning).

Commercial Banks

Most banks have a commercial lending department to handle business loans, but few banks have an agricultural lending department prepared to work with agricultural business.  Check with your bank to see if they write agricultural loans.  A partial list of New York banks with known agricultural lending departments includes:

  • Farm Credit (multiple branch locations)
    farmcrediteast.com
  • M&T Bank (multiple branch locations)
    (800) 724-2440, https://www.mtb.com/personal/Pages/Index.aspx
  • NBT Bank, P.O. Box 351, Norwich, NY 13815
    (800) 628-2265, http://www.nbtbank.com/home.html
  • Community Bank (multiple branch locations)
    (800) 388-4679, http://www.communitybankna.com/
  • Bank of the Finger Lakes, 389 Hamilton Street, Geneva, NY 14456
    (315) 789-1500, http://www.bankofthefingerlakes.com/

Micro-Enterprise Loan Funds or Revolving Loans Funds

Some county governments have micro-enterprise loan funds with attractive interest rates and repayment terms that can be used to finance urban farm operations. Organizations and banks handling microfinancing in New York include:

  • Capital District Community Loan Fund, 255 Orange Street #103, Albany, NY 12210
    (518) 436-8586, http://mycommunityloanfund.org/
  • Alternatives Federal Credit Union, 125 North Fulton Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
    (607) 273-3582 ext. 816, http://alternatives.org/
  •  Cooperative Federal Credit Union (Eastside), 723 Westcott Street, Syracuse, NY 13210
    (315) 473-0270, http://www.cooperativefederal.org/
  • Cooperative Federal Credit Union (Southwest), 401 South Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13204
    (315) 473-0260, http://www.cooperativefederal.org/
  • Cooperative Federal Credit Union (Northside), 800 N. Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13208, (315) 473-0280, http://www.cooperativefederal.org/
  • PathStone, 400 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607
    (585) 340-3300, http://www.pathstone.org/
  • Kiva Zip, https://zip.kiva.org/
  • CDCLI Funding Corporation, Inc., 2100 Middle Country Road Suite 300, Centereach, NY 11720
    (631) 471-1215 ext. 149, http://www.cdcli.org/
  • ACCION New York, 115 East 23rd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10010
    (718) 599-5170, http://www.accionnewyork.org/

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) also now provides microloans through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. These are direct farm operating loans up to $50,000 with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork and are designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche-type operations – such as urban farms. For more information, visit the FSA website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/or call (315) 477-6300. To link directly to the New York State FSA website, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/stateoffapp?mystate=ny&area=home&subject=landing&topic=landing.

Investors

With the concept of “Slow Money” (www.slowmoney.org) gaining popularity, investor circles nationwide are forming to fund local food systems. Depending on your location and farm plans, you may be able to attract investors to fund start-up or expansion of your farm. You will need to check in with legal and tax advisors about the implications for your farm, and you will also need to crunch the numbers and write a business plan to determine whether this is a strategy that can work for you. Search online for “slow money”, “local investing opportunity networks” and “small farm angel investors” to learn more about the possibilities for your farm.

Residential Finance or Using Your Own Equity

While many banks are unwilling to lend money to an individual to purchase a herd of goats, for example, almost all banks offer home equity loans and/or other personal loans that you could use for your agricultural business. Home equity and personal loans may carry higher interest rates than business or farm loans available through the above sources. Be sure to check rates and terms. Never finance a business using credit cards as interest rates are enormous and, if payments are not made, can quickly spiral out of control.

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Applying for Grants

An increasing number of grant programs are available to farmers from federal or state sources each with specific objectives.  Grants fall into the three general types:  1) grants for business planning, adding value and increasing farm viability; 2) grants for on-farm research and demonstration projects that are mostly production oriented though some include marketing demonstration projects; and 3) grants for farm energy conservation, alternative energy, environmental protection and conservation, waste management, and community building.

Grants, however, are not a reliable strategy for growing your business.  Grants may enable you to expand a particular aspect of your business to make your operation more viable or provide funding to try a new practice on your farm.

Grants are highly competitive so apply only if the project you are proposing clearly meets the grantor’s objectives.  Always find out what kinds of projects were funded in the past to determine if your project is in line with what has been funded.

It takes significant time and effort to write a wining grant proposal.  Instructions must be followed precisely. Grants often require a cash or in-kind match that must be documented in the budget you propose.  Grants will not be considered if they arrive late after the deadline for application.  Deadlines for application submission and instructions are generally announced once a year.  Most grants are not available on an ongoing basis.

Once you submit a grant, it may take 3 to 6 months to find out if your application was selected for funding.  If funded, it also takes time to finalize the contract. Generally you will not be reimbursed for money spent prior to receiving the signed contract.  Grant contracts require that you write a report of the results and provide an accounting of how the money was spent; therefore, you must keep accurate records. Grants are also considered income for tax purposes.

The following grant opportunities pertain especially to farmers in urban centers.  More general grant opportunities for farmers are also provided.

Grant Opportunities for Urban Farmers

USDA-SARE Sustainable Community Grants

  • Purpose: For community organizations to make direct connections between community revitalization and farming.
  • Eligibility: Must be affiliated with Cooperative Extension, a municipality, a state department of agriculture, a college or university, a community organization, or other institutional entity. All applications must come from an individual within an organization.  Unaffiliated individuals may not apply, and there is a limit of one proposal per applicant per year.
  • Deadline: Submit applications on line in November for awards in the spring.
  • Information: Visit http://www.nesare.org/Grants/ for more information and for information about how to write a Sustainable Community Grant.

Wallace Center Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Grants

  • Purpose: To make more healthy and affordable food available in low-income areas, increase market access for small- and medium-sized agricultural producers, and promote positive economic activities generated by attracting healthy food enterprises into underserved communities.
  • Information: Offer small enterprise, large enterprise, and feasibility study grants, each with different purposes and awards.  Visit http://www.wallacecenter.org/hufed/ or contact or (703) 531-8810 for more information.

US EPA Brownfields Program Grants

  • Purpose: Provide direct funding for brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training.
  • Information: Provide assessment, cleanup, training, research, technical assistance, and other grants.  Information for each grant type is available at http://epa.gov/brownfields/grant_info/index.htm.

United Way of New York City Seed Grants

United Way of New York City has created an Urban Farms initiative and provides seed grants for Urban Farming through the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).

  • Purpose: Support the creation or enhancement of services in community-based organizations.
  • Eligibility: Must be a community-based organization with 501 c. 3 status.  More eligibility requirements are listed on the website provided below.
  • Information: The grant implementation timeline is January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.  For eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and application procedures, visit http://action.unitedwaynyc.org/pages/urbanfarmseedgrants.

Other Grant Opportunities for Farmers

NYS Funding for Organic Certification

  • Purpose: Reimburse producers for a portion of their annual organic certification renewal costs; can apply annually (75% reimbursement up to a maximum of $750).
  • Information: More information is available from the USDA National Organic Program website (ams.usda.gov/nop) and forms can be downloaded from http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/Organic/.

NYS Specialty Crops Block Grants Program

  • Purpose: Increase the competitiveness of specialty crops, encourage efficiency, partnerships, innovation, and new markets. The RFP includes many areas of focus including: packaging/labeling, environmental quality, distribution, education and outreach, food safety, food security, marketing and promotion, product development, plant health and international trade. 2009 awards were solely focused on plant health.
  • Eligibility: Funding available to non-profits, for profits, individuals, educational institutions, and government; however, individuals and businesses must partner with others.
  • Information: Contact Jonathan Thomson at or (518) 485-8902.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Programs 

  • Purpose: Several programs, incentives and loans for farm waste management (biogas); improved energy efficiency; solar and wind generation; and innovative business practices for energy conservation, alternative energy, and energy use.  Energy audits available.
  • Information: For more information, visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/ (for all programs and services, visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs) or call (518) 862-1090.

USDA-SARE Farmer Grant

  • Purpose: Support on-farm research demonstrations, marketing innovations, value adding activities and other projects (capped at $15,000; capital improvements limited to $500 of total project cost; no match required).
  • Information: For more information, visit nesare.org, email or call (802) 656-0471.

Resources for Grant Writing

The Foundation Center offers a comprehensive proposal writing online short course for purchase at http://foundationcenter.org/ (see Get Started).

Non-Profit Guides are free online grant-writing tools for non-profit organizations, charitable, educational, public organizations, and other community-minded groups, available at http://www.npguides.org/.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms such as http://www.kickstarter.com/, http://ioby.com/, and http://www.indiegogo.com/ offer unique opportunities for fundraising and receiving donations, usually via the Internet.  Be sure to read Terms of Use and other guidelines before using a Crowdfunding platform.

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Labor Laws

Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance on their workers if cash wages are or exceed $1,200 in a year. If you host unpaid interns and apprentices on your farm, they must also be covered by workers’ compensation (the training and/or room and board you provide them is valued in lieu of wages). The only exception to this is if your farm is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Download the Employers’ Handbook at http://www.goer.ny.gov/Employee_Resources/employee_handbook/2011Employee_Handbook.pdf for more information.

The Urban Agricultural Legal Resource Library (http://www.urbanaglaw.org/) provides additional information on employment law as it applies to urban farmers, including information on the use of volunteer labor and services.

Minimum Wage

As of the revision date noted on this fact sheet, the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hour.  The New York State Minimum Wage is also $7.25/hour. This wage minimum applies to regular wage jobs and piece-rate jobs on farms with annual payroll over $3,000. It excludes immediate family and minors under 17 years of age employed on the same farm as their parents or guardians who are paid on a piece-rate basis at the same rate as employees over 17.

Finding Volunteers

Volunteer-matching websites such as Get Dirty NYC! (http://getdirtynyc.com/) and Volunteer Match (http://www.volunteermatch.org/) allow you to advertise your urban farm operation and recruit potential volunteers.  Note that Volunteer Match is for use only by non-profits.

Hiring Forms

Employers must keep an I-9 form from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service on file for all employees.  The I-9 requires copies of documentation (a driver’s license and social security card for most), however, the employer is not required to verify that these documents are valid. The form is available from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.

For more information about federal regulations for agricultural employers, download the IRS Publication 51, Agricultural Employers Tax Guide at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p51.pdf.

Payroll Service

Given the complexities and liabilities of properly administering payroll, it is recommended that small employers hire a payroll service from a local accounting firm.  Though expensive, this frees the employer from the liabilities of missing a form deadline, improperly handling a payroll withholding account, and avoids the need to stay current with the various labor forms and regulations at both the state and federal level.

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Record Keeping

At a minimum your farm will need a record keeping system for tax and legal compliance and it is highly recommended that you also keep yield and other farm production records that might be useful to making decisions on the farm.  For example, many growers keep weather logs so that they can evaluate their practices and yields and then make better growing practice and crop variety decisions for the coming year.  Many tools are available as part of the Improving Profitability tutorial on the Northeast Beginning Farmer website at https://nebeginningfarmers.org/farmers/achieving-profitability/profitability-tutorial/.

Paper Records

Many small and beginning farmers and businesses use the shoebox method of accounting. Keep all sales receipts in one folder, expense receipts in another, maintain a capital asset depreciation log, and you may have additional folders for farm yield or other data important to the year. The advantage of this system is that it is simple and easy to do. The disadvantage is that the data is not well organized so when you need farm information you often have to sort through piles of paper and do all computations by hand.

Cornell Farm Account Book

Though geared more toward rural farmers, the Cornell Farm Account Book can be a helpful tool for organizing your finances.  The advantage of the farm account book is that it is easy to understand and the information is well laid out in case you need to access it later.  The disadvantage is that the information may not be laid out how you as a manager would like it, and it is still a hand-entry accounting system so entering farm information may take several hours per week. To order the Cornell Farm Account Book ($20) or the Cornell Classic Farm Account Book ($15) from CUP Services, write P.O. Box 6525 Ithaca NY 14850, call 800-666-2211, or e-mail orderbook@cupserv.org.

Excel Spreadsheets

If you can use a basic spreadsheet in Excel or a similar program, this is a good compromise between paper systems and more sophisticated recordkeeping program.  If you don’t need to generate invoices and have a relatively simple, small operation, a spreadsheet like this may serve your needs well for many years.

Farm Records Service

Some farmers choose to mail all invoices to an accounting service where the accountant will enter the information into a computer records system, provide you with detailed monthly business statements, and perform all tax functions.

The advantage of this system is that it provides a person who does not have the time, understanding of accounting or computer skills the highest level of records information.  The disadvantage is that this system has the highest cost and the monthly business statements take a few weeks to process and get back whereas the person utilizing an on-farm computer records system will have those statements in real time.

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Value Added Processing for Urban Farmers

For urban farmers whose production is limited by space or other constraints, value added processing provides a way to increase the profitability of harvest.

When deciding what product to produce and sell, research your target market and distribution outlets to determine demand, taking into account which foods and products are popular and/or desirable but difficult to find.  You should also consider the cost of inputs, such as time, equipment, and raw materials, and select products that you can produce relatively inexpensively, so as to ensure a high enough profit margin and product viability.

The Penn State University Agricultural Marketing website has a Processing Page with resources to help you assess the potential profitability of your value-added venture at http://extension.psu.edu/business/farm/marketing.

For more information about value added processing and marketing in particular, see the University of Maryland Extension publication, “Processing for Profits: An Assessment Tool and Guide for Small-Scale On-Farm Food Processors,” by Ginger S. Myers, available for free download at https://www.extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/agmarketing/ProcessingForProfits.pdf.

Becoming a Small Scale Food Processor

The Federal government, individual states, cities and municipalities govern the operation of food processing facilities, whether home kitchens or commercial facilities. Regulations differ from state to state and are determined by the type of food product being prepared and the processing methods used.  When considering starting up a home or commercial kitchen, it is important to research which agencies regulate licensing of the product, inspection of the facility, foods allowed and not allowed to be produced in each facility, local zoning laws governing the use of the building, and building codes.

Foods that Require a Processing License (Article 20-C License) in New York

This regulation applies to anything that is altered by baking, canning, preserving, freezing, dehydrating, juicing, cider making, pickling, brining, bottling, packaging, repackaging, pressing, waxing, heating or cooking, smoking, roasting, manufacturing.  Requirements vary depending on product.  A scheduled process must be developed which outlines recipe testing/formulation, critical control points (to avoid contamination and control hazards), processing steps, storage requirements, distribution and selling conditions/restrictions.

Assistance for developing a scheduled process is available from the NYS Food Venture Center (see below).  For a complete list of products that require an Article 20-C license visit http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/general/license.html or call (518) 457-4492.

Food Safety

HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) Plans are mandated by FDA regulations for certain products and processes, specifying procedures to be followed to minimize contamination and to minimize and eliminate chemical, physical and biological hazards when processing foods.  HACCP plans are required for wholesale sale (not for retail) of seafood, dairy, meat and poultry products, as well as juice and cider processing facilities.  Other sectors of the food industry are coming into voluntary compliance.  For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/HACCP/.

Home Processing Exemption

New York State allows non-hazardous foods such as candy, cakes not requiring refrigeration, cookies, brownies, two-crusted fruit pies, breads and rolls, standard fruit jams and jellies, dried spices and herbs, and snack items to be produced in home kitchens. A review of processing procedures may be required for certain products before exemption is granted.

Anyone seeking a Home Processing Exemption must contact the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets to obtain this certificate (http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FS/consumer/processor.html). An annual water test for bacteria is required for all home processors on private water supplies.  Internet sales are not allowed under this exemption.

Some types of foods may not be produced in a home kitchen, as mandated by federal regulations.  These foods are considered potentially hazardous, and include:

  • Low acid and acidified (pickled) foods packed in hermetically sealed containers must be registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
  • Meat products with more than 3% raw or 2% cooked meat ingredients in a completed product are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and
  • Vacuum packaged and any other reduced oxygen packaged products.

Zoning Regulations

Local municipal zoning and planning boards determine the scale of operations permitted in an establishment. They regulate the number of employees allowed on premises and whether a second separate kitchen facility is allowed to operate on site.  Check with local building inspectors to determine what operations can take place in the kitchen chosen for food production.  There are local building codes that govern the volume of business in a building and egress from a building, drainage issues such as back flow protection, and grease traps.  Commercial equipment must comply with fire codes, FDA and USDA requirements as appropriate.

Minimum Food Processing Facility Requirements in New York State

Procedure Home Kitchen Home Annex Commercial
Inspection Yes, potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water Yes, potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water Yes, potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water
Licensing Non-potentially hazardous foods for wholesale market exempt from licensing by NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM) 20-C license (NYSDAM separate cleaning, sanitizing, and hand wash facilities, Fee: $400.00/2 years 20-C license ((NYDAM), Fee: $400.00/2 years
Inspection
Agency
NYSDAM (may request review of processing procedures by recognized processing authority – only normal kitchen facilities can be used) NYSDAM (Dept. of Health –fresh-serve foods only, kitchen held to restaurant standards – see below) NYSDAM (Dept. of Health –fresh-serve foods only, kitchen held to restaurant standards – see below)
Foods Allowed Candy (non-chocolate, fudge), cakes not requiring refrigeration, cookies, brownies, two-crust fruit pies bread, rolls, fruit jams, jellies spices, herbs, snack items, baked goods (i.e. bread, rolls) for wholesale distribution Any processed food, low acid and acidified foods packed in hermetically-sealed containers (must register and file with the FDA) Any processed food, low acid and acidified foods packed in hermetically-sealed containers (must register and file with the FDA)
Foods Not Allowed Cakes which require refrigeration, pies containing milk, eggs or meat products, chocolates, low acid/acidified foods Meat products (if more than 3% raw or 2% cooked meat ingredients) – USDA regulated Meat products (if more than 3% raw or 2% cooked meat ingredients) – USDA regulated
Zoning Check with city/town zoning or planning board, issues include scale of operation, number of employees Check with municipality zoning/planning board, 2nd kitchen may not be allowed on premise, issues include scale of operation, number of employees Check with municipality zoning/planning board, issues include scale of operation, number of employees

Basic Requirements for a Small-Scale Food Processing Establishment

State of New York Department of Health (DOH): Restaurants

  • Submit kitchen drawings before construction
  • Three-bay sink with stainless steel drain boards or two-bay sink with a commercial dishwasher
  • Separate hand washing/mop sink
  • Washable materials on walls and work surfaces
  • Restaurant grade, commercial tile floors (painted concrete not allowed)
  • Commercial coolers/refrigeration
  • Water from non-municipal water supply (must be tested quarterly)
  • Review DOH “Checklist for New or Remodeled Establishments” (some locales require food worker certification)

NY Department of Agriculture and Markets: Food Preparation and Processing

  • Kitchen requirements based on food item(s) being produced (determined upon inspection)
  • Easily cleanable, smooth work surfaces
  • Non-absorbent, smooth and easily cleanable floors, walls and ceilings
  • Review of processing procedures including hand washing, sanitizing, equipment sinks, water potability and food preparation
  • Review* NYSDAM Circular 951 – Pursuant to the Licensing of Food Processing Establishments, Circular 938 – Rules and Regulations Relating to Food Processing Establishments, and Circular 933 – Good Manufacturing Practices

*Circulars are available through the local Department of Agriculture & Markets (10B Airline Drive Albany, NY 12235).  Contact by phone at (518) 457-3880 or (800) 554-4501.

Shared-Use and Incubator Kitchens

To reduce the cost of inputs and save money, consider using a shared-use commercial or incubator kitchen, or co-packer, listings of which are provided by:

  • Culinary Incubator at http://www.culinaryincubator.com/, and
  • Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Food Science at https://necfe.foodscience.cals.cornell.edu/kitchens-supplies/small-co-packers-commercial-kitchens/new-york.

Not included in these listings but serving food entrepreneurs is the Syracuse Community Test Kitchen, a program which trains participants in business planning, market research, recipe development, sensory analysis, and FDA requirements.  For more information, visit http://whitman.syr.edu/programs-and-academics/centers-and-institutes/falcone/programs/comtek.aspx.

Helpful Resources for Small-Scale Food Processors

For assistance in developing a scheduled process for your recipe or developing a processed food product, contact the New York Food Venture Center at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva at (315) 787-2259 or .  Request the publication Small Scale Food Entrepreneurship:  A Technical Guide for Food Ventures from Elizabeth Keller at (315) 787-2273 or , or access the online version at http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/rtfiles/entrepreneurship/Small%20Scale%20Food%20Entrepreneurship_Initial%20Guide.pdf.

Product development, processing and distribution assistance is also available from Nelson Farms at SUNY Morrisville (www.nelsonfarms.org).

The USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) agency has published a plain-language guide to Value-Added Food Processing that is available online at http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Topics/Value-Added.

To learn about small scale food processing activities in New York State, join the NYS Small Scale Food Processors Association (www.nyssfpa.com) and become a member of Pride of New York (www.prideofny.com).

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What are Food Stamps?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program, known as the Food Stamp Program in New York State, which provides benefits to low-income households in the United States.  These benefits are distributed via Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, which work like debit cards.

Farmers can now accept EBT cards at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and for community supported agriculture (CSA) memberships.  Note that EBT cards can only be used to purchase foods for home preparation and seeds and plants for households to grow food.  For more information about eligible items and the SNAP program, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/.

Accepting EBT Cards

The following information is provided by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) and can be found in full at http://www.nofany.org/foodjustice.

Note that the guidelines below are for sites with electricity.  For sites without electricity, the New York State Farmers Market Wireless EBT Program, administered by the Farmers Market Federation of New York, provides wireless terminals for the JP Morgan or independent POS terminals.  For more information or to apply for this program, contact Diane Eggert at (315) 637-4690 (after being approved by the FNS). Visit http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/ebt-and-creditdebit-machines/ for more information.

For Farm Stands or U-Pick Operations:

  1. The first step is to become licensed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Call the FNS at (877) 823-4369 to receive a paper application or apply online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/fm.htm (apply under the designation of a farmers’ market).
  2. Mail your application and all required documentation, including the application signature page, to the address provided in the application.
  3. Processing and approval may take up to 45 days.  Once complete, you will receive a welcome packet from the FNS with your certification card.  You will also receive a welcome packet from JP Morgan* and an application for a state-sponsored EBT terminal.
  4. Complete the JP Morgan application and mail it to the specified address.  You should receive verification and manual vouchers (in case your terminal is or becomes temporarily inoperable) within 14-16 days.  Note that farmers also have the option of having EBT cards added to their existing Point of Service (POS) terminals, though an initiation and/or monthly fees might apply.

*JP Morgan is a global financial services firm and works with U.S. state governments to accept and process forms and payments from constituents, including electronic benefits transfers.  For more information, visit https://www.jpmorgan.com/pages/jpmorgan.

For Farmers’ Markets:

A farmers’ market organization can become authorized as an EBT card retailer and accept EBT benefits on behalf of farmers and vendors in the market.  Once authorized, the market is provided with a single wireless EBT machine free of charge, as well as wooden tokens or paper scrip, training, and promotional support.

At farmers’ markets, EBT consumers swipe their cards at the EBT machine at a market manager’s booth and receive $1.00 or $5.00 tokens or scrips.  Individual vendors can accept these tokens or scrips in place of cash for eligible products.  At the end of the market, vendors redeem their tokens or scrip with the market manager for full dollar value.

Market managers will be asked to complete a farmers’ market EBT participation agreement and a service provider application.  Farmers and vendors wanting to participate must also complete a participation agreement, to be submitted to the market manager.

For agreements and to apply, contact Diane Eggert at (315) 637-4690 (after being approved by the FNS).  Visit http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/ebt-and-creditdebit-machines/ for more information.

For CSA Memberships:

Become licensed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), applying under the designation of retail merchant.  Call the FNS to receive a paper application at (877) 823-4369 or apply online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/application-process.htm.  Follow the same steps provided for farm stands or u-pick operations.

Note that members paying for CSA membership with EBT benefits may need to be provided with alternate payment schedules, such as paying on each pick-up date.

Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (WIC and SFMNP)

The FMNP is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and provides free supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, as well as to infants and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk.

Additionally, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants to states, territories, and federally-recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and CSA programs.  For more information, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfmnp/senior-farmers-market-nutrition-program-sfmnp.

Farmers, farmers’ markets, and farm stands can be authorized by the State to accept and redeem FMNP coupons.  For more information about FMNP, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/FMNP/ and http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/fmnp/, or contact Darrel Aubertine () or Kevin King ().

Additional Resources

Just Food’s Online Resource Center features additional tipsheets with information about FMNP, Food Stamps, and Health Bucks, available in English (http://justfood.org/farmer-outreach/online-resource-center) and Spanish (http://www.justfood.org/farmer-outreach/spanish-language-resources).

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What is a CSA?

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a direct marketing relationship in which farmers sell their products directly to consumers.  Farmers receive payment up front at the beginning of the season, and CSA member receive a share of the farm’s produce throughout the season. CSAs allow for greater early season capital, price control, and risk-sharing for farmers. There are many models for CSAs, and these and more general information is provided by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) at nofany.org/organic-farming/food-justice-program/csa. In cities, CSAs can provide urban farmers a relatively low-risk direct marketing option, as well as reduced transportation costs and opportunities for community engagement in their farm.

Just Food CSA in New York City Program

Just Food’s CSA in New York City program provides an array of resources for urban farmers interested in marketing via a CSA, including tipsheets and the Just Food CSA in New York City Toolkit. Note that these resources are specific to New York City residents and farmers participating in the Just Food CSA Network, but include some general information that is relevant to urban farmers statewide.

Just Food also hosts monthly CSA in New York City workshops on subjects including accepting food stamps, outreach, tracking member data, and more. Visit the Just Food website at justfood.org for details.

The following information is provided by Just Food, and can be found in-full at the website provided above.

Size and Variety of CSA Shares

Because urban dwellers tend to have smaller households and dine out more frequently, urban CSA shares are often smaller than rural shares. Just Food offers the following guidelines for determining appropriate share size:

  • Describe the size of your share in terms of 1) number of items per week, 2) number of people that the share could feed, or 3) weekly dollar value of the share;
  • Survey CSA members to determine the best share size for your farm;
  • Conduct an end-of-season survey to determine if share size was appropriate and what produce members did and did not like, or what they would have wanted but did not receive.

Share Pricing

Urban farmers should take the following three factors into account when pricing CSA shares:

  1. Cost of production for the CSA, including labor, land, inputs, equipment, infrastructure, transportation, administration, health insurance, as well as long-term costs such as land tenure;
  2. Wholesale and market prices of crops intended for the CSA share; and
  3. Market rate for New York City and other city CSA shares.

Distribution Sites

Things to consider when choosing a distribution site include a space to park without getting ticketed, a minimum number of stairs from the street to the distribution site, a secure storage space if intending to store supplies between distributions, and a space that is easily cleaned.

For More Information

Just Food’s Online Resource Center includes tipsheets with additional information about the CSA in NYC program and urban CSAs. Tipsheets are available in English (justfood.org/farmer-outreach/online-resource-center) and Spanish (justfood.org/farmer-outreach/spanish-language-resources).

Elizabeth Henderson’s Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007) provides information on crop planning, yield information, and budgeting for CSA planning, as well as a survey of varying CSA models across the country.

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Marketing in Urban Environments

The unique characteristics of urban environments offer some urban-specific market niches, such as producing crops that do not transport well, taking advantage of warmer urban micro-climates to produce crops earlier or later than the average season, and cultivating specialty crops in demand by local ethnic populations and markets.

MetroFarm: Growing for Profit In or Near the City by Michael Olson (TS Books, 1994) provides helpful business insights for urban farmers interested in urban market farming.

Marketing to Improve Food Access

Urban farmers often aim not only to be profitable, but also to improve their community’s and city residents’ access to fresh, healthy, local food.  Though each of those marketing options noted in the Guide to Farming in New York State, Factsheet #26, does increase food accessibility for urban dwellers, other distribution options more directly intend to promote food justice.

Additionally, there are often designated funds available to subsidize projects that provide fresh, nutritious, affordable food to low-income or other underserved populations.

Mobile markets, for example, enable farmers to reach communities and areas that might not have a farmers market, grocery store, or other place to buy fresh and healthy food.  Capital Roots’ Veggie Mobile®, for example, operates Tuesday through Saturday and makes one-hour stops at assisted living centers, public housing projects, and other densely populated neighborhoods in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy (http://www.capitalroots.org/programs/veggie/veggie/).

Programs such as Just Food’s Fresh Food for All improve access to food by connecting farmers within 250 miles of New York City with food pantries and other emergency food programs (http://www.justfood.org/farmer-outreach/grow-nyc/fresh-food-all).

The GrowNYC Wholesale Greenmarket not only makes local produce available to city retail stores, institutions and restaurants at competitive prices and quantities, but also includes food access initiatives such as the Fresh Food Box Program and YUM Fresh Food for Northern Manhattan (http://www.grownyc.org/wholesale).

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