Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) has been named a key partner in establishing a Regional Food Business Center that will serve the agricultural industry across the Northeast.
The United States Department of Agriculture awarded the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation $30 million to help farmers and food businesses access new markets and available federal, state and local resources, such as technical assistance and funding opportunities. Additional partners in the initiative include the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and Buffalo Go Green.
“CREA fuels economic growth and diversity through entrepreneurship and innovation; providing the agricultural community in the Northeast with entrepreneurial support and pathways to technical assistance will lay a foundation for the increased sustainability of its farms and food businesses,” said Jenn Smith, director of food and agriculture innovation programs at CREA. “We are inspired by the vision of a strengthened regional food system that we share with our partners.”
As part of the Northeast Regional Food Business Center, CREA will build and deploy an online platform to host a curriculum of entrepreneurship and technical services offerings, manage user intake and assessment and match users with education, training and technical assistance. The curriculum, which will be developed by a committee co-led by Buffalo Go Green, will seek to expand agricultural production and processing, increase the amount of regionally grown products, create new products, encourage the development of food hubs and strengthen the food supply chain.
“The CREA team brings key experience to this initiative, cultivating more entrepreneurship mindsets and processes among those working together to expand agricultural production in the Northeast,” said Krystyn J. Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation. “Food production has always been marked by innovation, hard work and technology development. This USDA grant helps strengthen connections between the creative producer supply chain in our region and the broader consumer market.”
Course offerings will include launching new products, developing value propositions, branding, shifting from product mindset to customer mindset, demonstrating demand, funding and fundraising. Emphasis will also be placed on customer segmentation and distribution.
“This is a remarkable opportunity to support our New York food and farm communities with much-needed startup resources and a hub for innovation,” said Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with CREA in this effort – sure to expand locally grown produce and agriculture production and processing in the region – and grateful to our federal and state partners for their tremendous support to make this a reality.”
States in the Northeast service area include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland. Outreach to stakeholders will begin this year and the availability of funding and technical assistance resources will be announced as they become available.
USDA will establish 12 Regional Food Business Centers across the United States that will serve all areas of the country, targeting their work to historically underinvested communities in their region. In September 2022, USDA announced $400 million available to fund this initiative.
Lauren Simpson is a marketing and communications coordinator for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.