The mission of the Essex Farm Institute (EFI) is to advocate for, support, and promote resilient, diversified farms that strengthen the health of natural and human communities in the Adirondacks. EFI envisions resilient Adirondack agricultural lands that promote ecological integrity across the Adirondack Park; that mitigate and adapt to climate change; and foster vibrant communities through an equitable, profitable, and accessible regional food system.
Each year the Essex Farm Institute, as a program of the Adirondack Council, runs a micro-grant program for Adirondack farms and value-added producers. The micro-grant program provides funding to Adirondack farmers and value-added producers to implement environmentally beneficial and sustainable projects. The grant program supports and promotes sustainable and climate-smart agriculture in the Adirondack Park, while helping farmers remain in business and produce healthy local food. Since 2016, the micro-grant program has awarded $158,997 to fund 103 different projects. The micro-grants have funded projects focused on energy conservation, carbon emission reductions, habitat restoration and planting, in addition to other environmentally sustainable practices.
With the rise of COVID-19 in 2020, the micro-grants program expanded its focus to include financial assistance for farms that had been impacted by the pandemic. Approximately $17,492 was awarded in grants to farms in the Adirondacks to help purchase personal protection equipment, support a farm’s transition to providing CSA shares to the local community, and support a farm-run meal service for delivery of prepared meals to local households.
One micro-grant recipient stated, “Thanks to timely funding from the Adirondack Council, I was able to keep my business afloat amidst many pandemic-related pivots. During the spring months, I was able to offer a weekly pick-up of sourdough starter-kits, fresh bread, and herbs for my community.” Another echoed similar sentiments, “As we look to 2021, the infusion of capital from the 2020 Micro Grant program has a lasting legacy on our business. This year we are going to attempt to recover and begin paying loans we took to stay afloat. The investments made by the Adirondack Council not only allowed us to weather 2020, but will allow us to chart a sustainable path to recover in the coming years.”
In the most recent micro-grant cycle, 21 micro-grants totaling $29,601 were awarded to local farmers and value-added producers. Awarded projects include composting units for local food waste recycling, an electric-assist cargo-bike, cover cropping, energy efficient equipment, draft horse equipment, and more.
In addition to the micro-grants program, EFI and the Adirondack Council funded the hiring of a consultant to work with a local food hub, Hub on the Hill, to tackle the challenges of rapid, sudden growth in 2020/2021 as it became a central point for sourcing and providing food to families in need during the pandemic. The consultant improved the food hub’s systems, operations and management, and provided significantly improved capacity, control and visibility. The Hub on the Hill works with 32 local farms to process and deliver food to families in the Adirondack, Albany and New York City regions.