October 22, 2021

Food map to serve as guide to local fare

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Lisa Adams, an employee at the Local Food Market on Main Street in Cortland, looks over some locally produced cheeses at the store. The Local Food Market is one of many sellers of locally produced goods that is taking part in a county-wide food trail map through Seven Valleys Health Coalition.

The idea behind a new Seven Valleys Health Coalition project is simple — use a map to link everywhere in Cortland County where residents and tourists can buy local foods.

Thus the Cortland County Food Trail map was devised.

“The reason we got involved was we really want to help promote local stuff,” said Matt DeHart, an owner of Anderson’s Farm Market in Homer. It was also a way to help promote local small businesses.

“It’s always good when we can band together county-wide and areawide,” he said. “The consumer wants to know where their food comes from.”

Gabrielle DiDomenico, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Market Promotion Program coordinator for Seven Valleys, said the map has been in the works months. “Over a year at this point,” she said.

It started with a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant — $108,500 over three years to create the map and plan a yearround farmers market and commercial kitchen.

“The goal is to create a handheld guide to locally grown food,” DiDomenico said. The map was also a way to look at the local food system and speak to the health of the community.

Seven Valleys is working with the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County to create the map. DiDomenico said local artist Jim Coon is designing it.

Surveying the county’s producers — farmers, stores and restaurants — is complete. Di- Domenico said she hoped to confirm participants by last week.

Around 25 farms are projected to be on the map, with an additional 25 restaurants and stores.

Participants would include Main Street Farms in Cortlandville, Trinity Valley Dairy in Homer, The Local Food Market in Cortland and Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble.

Farming, as of the 2012 agriculture census, is a $63 million industry in Cortland County. But with more than 18,600 households in the county, spending $20 a week — or $20 a week more — on local foods would generate more than $19 million in local economic activity.

Meghan Lawton, executive director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has been helping coordinate the different businesses and efforts.

Farm to table, farm breweries and farmers’ markets are all hot topics right now and it’s great timing for the map, Lawton added. “I think it’ll be a great tool to utilize once the map is printed and complete.”

Once finished, the map will be available in a print form, Lawton said plans to go digital are still in the works.

Chastity Mydlenski, an owner of The Local Food Market on North Main Street in Cortland, said she hopes the map helps further expose the market to the public. She also thinks the map will be great to show people what some of the farms and destination places in the county have going on.

The map could also bring more awareness on the quantity of producers in Cortland County, Mydlenski said.

DiDomenico plans for the map to be available by late spring or early summer. “Out for the growing season,” she said.