Farming Magazine - December, 2009

SUGARING

Producers Top USDA State Grants List

More than half of recently announced 2009 USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants awarded in New York will be going to maple producers—all members of the New York State Maple Producers Association. The Association provided grant-writing services to the 15 producers who applied for the federal funds for energy saving projects, mostly for reverse osmosis systems.

A total of $89,833 will be awarded to the New York maple producers. Among the successful applicants was White Oak Farm in Yorktown Heights, the first agricultural operation in Westchester County to ever receive funding from the USDA, according to owner Bri Hart.

Hart, who will use his $5,018 grant toward the installation of a new reverse osmosis system, is the only commercial maple producer in Westchester County, a mostly suburban county outside New York City.

He expects the system will increase his sap processing from about 150 gallons per hour to 750 gallons per hour. He hopes to save upwards of $4,000 in energy costs, primarily wood.

The Maple Producers Association estimates fuel cost savings of upwards of 85 percent as a result of the process changes funded by the 15 grants. Incalculable savings will be achieved in producers’ time.

White Oak Farm runs about 700 taps now and will be expanding to 2,000 over the next four years, Hart said. His success comes in a region where agriculture gets little recognition, and Hart hopes his USDA grant will have repercussions beyond his sugar bush.

“It’s a two-pronged gift. We need this grant to purchase the equipment, and it definitely is going to help agriculture in the county. My hope is that this grant will let local politicians know that there is viable, traditional agriculture taking place in Westchester County,” he said.

Hart said he had done years of research on applying for federal assistance, but ran into “dead end, after dead end, after dead end.”

“This would not have been possible without the help of the maple producers,” said Hart, who received his USDA grant payment at a news conference ceremony in October.

“I’m thrilled at the 100 percent success rate that our members achieved,” Maple Producers Association Executive Director Mary Jeanne Packer said. “I’m also very proud of my staff for the tremendous amount of work that they undertook to prepare these grants on behalf of our members.”

“It was a huge undertaking—absolutely unbelievable,” said Andrea Nichols, project coordinator, who oversaw the preparation of an energy assessment for each site necessary for the application and who, along with Office Manager Pam Bianco-Dennis, assembled each 50-page-plus application—in triplicate.

Dan Henning of Trout Creek Farm in Prattsburgh in Steuben County, who was notified by his local congressman, Eric Massa, that he would be receiving a USDA grant worth $8,991, also credited the assistance of the association for his approval. Like Hart, Henning additionally praised the help of Scott Collins, assistant to the state director for USDA Rural Development in New York.

Packer said the association’s decision to offer the grant-writing service came directly from the May meeting of the state Maple Task Force, at which Collins spoke. “It shows how the state Department of Ag & Markets convening the Task Force has already led to a positive outcome,” Packer said.

Henning also will be installing a new RO system, as well as a new 2.5-foot-by-10-foot oil-fired evaporator with a pre-heater and hoods, which will replace two older evaporators, one oil-fired and one wood-fired. After the upgrades, he expects to increase sap processing from a total of 65 gallons per hour to 125 gallons per hour.

He plans to add to his 525 taps by renting 1,200 for the next four years. Sales, he hopes, will go from about 120 gallons of syrup to upwards of 400.

“This is all part of a major expansion for us. A lot of the timing was very good for this,” Henning said.

The REAP grants to the New York maple producers were part of $62.5 million in loans and grants awarded to 705 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 45 states and Puerto Rico. The REAP program was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill.

The New York maple producers that will receive REAP grants:

  • White Oak Farm, Yorktown Heights.
  • Trout Creek Farm, Prattsburgh.
  • Cedarvale Maple Syrup Co., Syracuse.
  • Critz Farms, Inc., Cazenovia.
  • Dutch Hill Maple, Tully.
  • Fairbanks Maple, Forestville.
  • Harder’s Maple Syrup, Attica.
  • Burnham’s Pure Maple Syrup, Watertown.
  • Komrowski Maple, Memphis.
  • Loomis Maple Homestead Co., Morrisville.
  • Mathews Maple, Oswegatchie.
  • Perls Maple Products, Varysburg.
  • Randall’s Maple Products, Alexander.
  • Shadow Hill Landscape, Inc., Ontario.
  • Wayne Mortimer, Averill Park.

For more information, contact New York State Maple Producers Association, Inc. at P.O. Box 210, Watkins Glen, NY 14891; call 607-535-9790; or visit www.nysmaple.com. Comment or question? Visit www.farmingforumsite.com and join in the discussions.