Cortland selected for EPA local foods program

(Featured photo of farms in Dryden. Courtesy of Andy Arthur on Flickr)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — The city of Cortland has been selected as one of 16 communities by the Environmental Protection Agency to participate in a federal program designed to help communities bolster local agriculture.

The group behind the effort to participate in the initiative is the Cortland Food Project, a countywide coalition of community members that has been working on a wide range of projects; among them, a plan to bring a year-round, indoors farmers’ market to the Cortland area.

As part of the EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP) initiative, a team of agricultural, environmental, public health and regional economic development experts will work directly with the Seven Valleys Health Coalition, the City of Cortland and other community leaders on a wide range of projects.

“We are blessed here in Cortland County with expansive agricultural lands containing quality soils and plentiful, clean water,” said Susan Williams, Seven Valleys Health Coalition Project Manager. “We recognize we cannot take that bounty for granted. We must act to protect and even improve it.”

Mayor Brian Tobin said he hopes the boost in urban agriculture will have a ripple effect through the county and region. He called the project “a natural fit with all the community development work happening in the city.”

Other priorities of the Cortland Food Project include addressing hunger, improving agri-tourism, connecting farmers with food pantries, implementing farm to school programs, and using SNAP and WICB benefits to purchase healthy, local food.

The 16 communities were chosen from more than 75 applicants, with Cortland being the sole winner in New York State in 2018.