With vast and fertile farmland, knowledgeable local farmers, a welcoming community, and local government willing to go to bat for businesses, Ulster County has earned its reputation as the epicenter of the farm-to-table movement. Farm Bridge’s Jim Hyland has never looked back since starting his business in Ulster County 10 years ago. “I’ve been really happy since we’ve been here. It’s been the best move I’ve ever made, for my business and for my family,” he says. “Ulster is just an ideal spot. We’re close to the city, Albany, and Boston. People can get to us very easily.”
Farm Bridge partners with local farmers to create value-added, shelf-stable products, and helps them sell what they grow without it spoiling. “We’re a bridge between farmers and the people who want their products,” says Hyland. They offer food production facilities, assistance with food regulations and co-packing and private labeling services for farmers and other food manufacturers. Farm Bridge also buys local produce like surplus tomatoes for salsa, basil-tomato sauce, or tomato juice, which it sells through wholesalers and area CSAs, such as Field Goods.
Over the past decade, Hyland has had a front row seat to the region’s changing food economy, and Farm Bridge’s output expanded by 55% between 2012 and 2015. “People are much more interested in where their food comes from,” he explains. Today, Ulster County is “a destination for people who care about their food.”
Ulster County actively supports its growing food and beverage market, notes Hyland. “They’ve been supportive since the very beginning,” he says. “They’re there for you if you have an issue.” Business owners have access to a variety of financial assistance, including tax abatements and grants, and recently Ulster County targeted a low-interest loan program toward the food and beverage industry, and simplified the application process.
Farmers and food producers are already feeling the impact, including Hyland, who says he recently received a loan through the county and is taking advantage of the opportunity to help grow Farm Bridge.
There are countless stories of Ulster County officials supporting businesses in other ways as well. Frequently, officials offer assistance in identifying and applying for grants, including the State’s highly competitive Consolidated Funding Application grants. One such recipient was Charles Ferri, who is preparing to open the Star Distillery and Estate in Esopus. The County Executive and Ulster County’s Office of Economic Development helped Ferri secure over $750,000 through State funding. “Without all of them working together, we might not be where we are now,” Ferri says.
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