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Economy, Environment, and Equity on the East End

A local food system that is sustainable economically, environmentally, and equitably, supporting all producers and consumers.

Photo of Kate Fullam
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

East End Food Institute

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.eastendfood.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Southampton

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

East End of Long Island, including East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island towns

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Founded in 2010 by John de Cuevas, the mission of East End Food Institute (formerly Amagansett Food Institute) is to support, promote, and advocate for local food and local producers. The organization's mission is to support, promote, and advocate for the farmers, vintners, fishermen, and other food producers and providers on the East End of Long Island. The organization envisions the East End as a place where all farms and food businesses are thriving and supported by an engaged community whose members understand the benefits and uniqueness of local food.

Kate Fullam has served as Executive Director for East End Food Institute since January 2018. Prior to joining East End Food Institute, Kate built her career at Group for the East End, Southampton Hospital (now Stony Brook Southampton Hospital), and most recently at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Her wide range of experience with local and regional issues related to environment, economy, science, and human health are now united toward the goal of creating a more sustainable and equitable local food system.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The East End of Long Island is often thought of as a playground for the rich and famous. However, this area of New York in the United States is also rich with agricultural history, and many of its farms have been owned and operated by families for many generations. Meanwhile, the year-round population is made up of working middle-class and low-income residents that are employed seasonally in agriculture, food service, and other tourism-related jobs that peak in the summer season. The disparity of wealth creates a fracture in the local food system as well, with access often limited to those wealthy individuals who can afford to pay the real cost of high quality local food.

Long Island lies in a transition zone between a humid subtropical climate and a humid continental climate. The climate features hot, humid summers with convective thunderstorms, mild spring and fall weather, and cool to cold winters with a mix of snow and rain and stormier conditions. Springs can be cool and sometimes gloomy due to the relatively cooler temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean also brings afternoon sea breezes that temper the heat in the warmer months and limit the frequency and severity of thunderstorms. Long Island has a moderately sunny climate, averaging 2,400 to 2,800 hours of sunshine annually.

Due to its climate, the East End of Long Island has a relatively short but prosperous growing season. Some of the nation’s most productive agricultural soils are located here, and Long Island farmers continue their commitment to provide an abundant variety of high quality commodities, such as vegetables and potatoes, fruits, wine and grapes, hops and beer, poultry and livestock, nursery and floriculture products and seafood. 

The most recent USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture reports over 600 farms in Suffolk County, comprising 35,975 acres and producing a $239,818,000 market value of products sold. Notably, the number of farms has increased by 19 since 2012, but the value of goods sold has decreased by approximately $300,000 in the same time period. Two-thirds of the farms in Suffolk County are below 50 acres of production, and these small- to mid-sized farms are struggling to make a living. 

Agriculture is possible throughout Suffolk County due to the significant land preservation efforts and farmland leasing options that have been implemented over the years to offset increasing land values resulting from the residential real estate boom. However, food producers on the East End of Long Island face a local economy that relies largely on seasonal tourism, and many farmers struggle to expand their business models beyond peak-season retail sales. 

The general hope for the region is to sustain agriculture (including aquaculture) as a viable legacy and to improve equity throughout the local food system. Positive impacts will then ripple out into the areas of economy, environment, and human health. With community health and social service partners in place, East End Food Institute will also work to improve food access for community members in need. A parallel research project is planned to document health trends over time related to local food access.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

139

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

125442

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In 2015, East End Food Institute produced a Food Hub Feasibility Study using funding from a planning grant via the USDA Local Food Promotion Program. The study found that supply of locally-grown produce on the East End Long Island in New York is high, but demand is concentrated within the seasonal retail consumer market due to logistical challenges for wholesale markets. 

Growers have expressed strong support for an East End Food Hub that could coordinate surplus product sales to wholesale markets throughout the region and to points farther west. Expanded wholesale markets will serve to reduce on-farm waste, improve the economics of farming, and streamline distribution by leveraging software to pair deliveries and optimize routes. 

The East End Food Hub project is designed to continue and expand implementation of the recommendations of the 2015 Food Hub Feasibility Study. 

The planning study recommended the following: 

1. Find additional markets for local farm crops, especially early season and late fall harvest to support year-round economic viability for local farms. 

2. Facilitate sales and distribution of local farm crops to wholesale buyers and distributors, with a focus on Long Island retailers, restaurants, food processors, and institutions. 

3. Establish new produce and product aggregation centers and facilitate distribution of local farm crops via a leased vehicle and partnerships with contracted distributors. 

4. Create a strong East End brand to unite siloed efforts and coordinate partners to promote locally-grown and produced goods with consistent messaging. 

5. Build partnerships to provide technical assistance and food safety training for local farmers and food producers. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Since completing a Food Hub Feasibility Study in 2015, East End Food Institute has implemented several pilot projects and built partnerships to test practical applications of the study recommendations. 

The following measurable outcomes resulted from a 2018-19 pilot program conducted at a shared commercial kitchen facility operated by East End Food Institute in Southampton, New York: 

• More than $154,000 in wholesale and retail revenue generated by production of value- added products and cafe meals made from local farm produce. (Note: Revenue generated by entrepreneurs who rented the shared commercial kitchen to produce and sell local goods is unreported.) 

• Nearly $100,000 in revenue generated from over 4,000 hours of shared kitchen rental fees for production of local food and beverage products, many of which source ingredients from local farms. 

• Creation of at least 1 full-time salaried and 4 part-time hourly jobs to support operations. (Note: Number of jobs created by entrepreneurs who rented the kitchen and farms who hired seasonal workers is unreported.) 

• Over 6,000 lbs. of local produce processed and frozen and approximately 2,000 lbs. of local beef warehoused and re-distributed for the benefit of local food pantry partners, including on-site bilingual nutrition education and handouts for food pantry patrons. (Note: This program was engaged as a pilot to test logistics of minimally- processed produce and will be expanded to generate revenue via wholesale, with continued food pantry donations.) 

The East End Food Hub project has the ability to produce significant positive impacts to the economy, environment, and human health by enhancing and streamlining local food system exchanges. 

East End Food Institute needs support to invest in infrastructure improvements and equipment that will streamline food hub activities and stabilize production costs.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The East End Food Hub project will positively impact the following groups: 

• Small to mid-sized farms on the East End of Long Island will gain access to value-added processing and distribution systems that will enable them to sell to a wider range of wholesale markets. The anticipated long-term benefit will be increased market value of products sold. 

• Local food entrepreneurs will benefit from access to shared kitchen space to launch new food and beverage products using locally-sourced ingredients when possible and adding to the selection of complementary products a farm may wish to add to the variety of items offered at the farm stand. These entrepreneurs will also benefit long- term from food safety training, distribution, and united marketing efforts. 

• Local food businesses and institutions seeking to support and benefit from the local food system will gain streamlined, more efficient ordering and distribution of local produce and products. The anticipated long-term impact is increased patronage and revenue at local restaurants, cafes, and markets. For institutions, there is an anticipated added value related to improved education and community health. 

• Job seekers will see a long-term increase in jobs related to agriculture, food production, and food industry, with training more readily available to enter these industries. 

• Retail consumers will benefit from increased choice of locally-made products and year- round availability of locally-grown, nutrient-dense produce, whether fresh or frozen. The anticipated long-term impact is an improved economy and increased access to locally-produced foods. 

• Food pantry patrons will gain access to year-round, locally-sourced produce and education on nutrition and recipe preparation. The anticipated long-term impact is improved community health. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

East End Food Institute is currently in pursuit of funding to more formally establish and expand a unique and diversified food hub serving the East End of Long Island. The East End Food Hub will be a centralized point of aggregation, processing, and distribution for produce and products from regional farms and food businesses. 

The current facility at the Stony Brook Southampton campus occupies about 3,000 square feet, including a retail cafe, food demonstration and workshop space, commercial kitchen, large volume processing equipment, walk-in refrigerator and freezer, dry storage, and loading dock. 

Following are the goals for the East End Food Hub project:

Centralize Sales and Distribution: East End Food Institute has leveraged existing relationships with farmers, food producers, and buyers to test the logistics related to aggregating, processing, and distributing local food products. The East End Food Hub project will expand these efforts to serve additional farmers and food producers by centralizing the marketing, sales, aggregation, processing, and distribution of local products. 

Build Relationships with New Buyers: Following logistics testing via a pilot project serving food pantries in 2018, East End Food Institute has secured institutional wholesale accounts to sell minimally-processed, frozen surplus crops from local farms. Additionally, several restaurants and food entrepreneurs are engaging East End Food Institute to manufacture food products, with a focus on sourcing local ingredients. Additional new buyers will identified and targeted as the program grows, with a portion of wholesale revenue supporting food pantry donations. 

Establish a North Fork Sub-Hub: East End Food Institute has engaged a partner nonprofit to establish a North Fork sub hub that will implement a pilot farm to food pantry initiative in 2020. The goal is to leverage institutional knowledge, program design, and operations of the East End Food Hub to grow this location into a larger sub-hub in the future.

Engage Partners to Improve Distribution: Acknowledging that seasonal traffic is a significant obstacle to efficient distribution on the East End, East End Food Institute has secured partners to streamline transportation rather than add more vehicles to the roadways. A software partner will be engaged to efficiently coordinate marketing, sales, aggregation, production, and distribution centralized at the East End Food Hub in Southampton. 

Unite Branding & Marketing Efforts: To create a strong brand for regional farm and food products, East End Food Institute will coordinate with partners to evaluate and unite efforts. 

Improve Access to Training and Technical Assistance: East End Food Institute has built a strong network of farmers and food producers over nearly a decade. The organization coordinates regional partnerships to implement programs such as Farming and Food Business Apprentice Matching, Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT), and training in food safety, business planning, product development, and marketing for all food businesses. The East End Food Hub will expand upon existing partnerships to formalize training opportunities, increase the frequency of offerings, and improve access for food producers on the East End. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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