by Austin Wheelock firstname.lastname@example.org
Agribusiness has been a critical industry sector in Oswego County throughout its history.
As the county’s economy has evolved over time, many of the historic food processing agribusinesses that made Oswego County home — like Nestle Chocolate, Miller Brewing and Birds Eye — have moved on. But many of the agricultural assets that attract this industry remain, creating opportunities for new and existing businesses to hatch and grow.
These businesses include new craft breweries, wineries, organic farms developing their own product lines and food processing using local ingredients. Operation Oswego County, Inc. recognizes the importance of a strong agribusiness cluster and has developed several programs and initiatives to assist projects both financially and by promoting and marketing our unique agricultural assets.
Through OOC and the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency (COIDA), there are several gap financing programs including the Manufacturing & Agribusiness Revolving Loan Fund, the Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund and the USDA Intermediary Relending Program, which could help agribusinesses acquire real estate, purchase machinery and equipment or finance working capital needs. There are also tax incentive programs in the form of a payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) available through COIDA that could assist eligible expansion and relocation projects in being more competitive.
Additionally, the staff at OOC can assist agribusinesses in identifying and applying for federal, state and local grant opportunities.
Here are some examples of agribusiness projects we have recently assisted and recognized.
• Maple Hollow Farm, in the town of Hannibal, constructed and equipped a milk plant to produce value-added dairy products. The “micro dairy” is up and running and they have received their NY Ag & Markets dairy license. They are currently featuring a selection of flavors of fresh cheese curd made with milk from their own Brown Swiss cows. Cheese curds, certified grown in NY maple syrup and certified grown in NY eggs are available for sale at the farm. The cheese curd can also be found at select local retailers. A NY state grown and certified grant of $50,000 was secured with the assistance of CNY Enterprise Development Corporation. Financial assistance also was provided through a National Grid grant and a COIDA micro-enterprise loan. The project created two jobs.
• Bella Fattoria, also in the town of Hannibal, expanded its agribusiness with a new 5,500 square foot winery and cidery operation. The facility includes a production area, a tasting room, a small kitchen, cold storage and equipment storage. They have been producing hard cider since 2014. It can be found at local retailers, bars and restaurants under the Country Pickins brand. Bella Fattoria expects to launch a selection of wines as well as open their facility to the public this year. They will offer tastings of their products, as well as food from the onsite restaurant. Bella Fattoria uses local apples and grapes for the production of their ciders and wines. The project created six jobs. Financial assistance was provided by the COIDA, USDA and Pathfinder Bank.
• 6 Acres Farm Brewery was established in 2019, named after the six acres of land that the Behling Orchards farm originated on, in the town of Mexico. 6 Acres Farm Brewery was the first-place winner of the Next Great Idea 2021 business plan competition hosted by OOC. The brewing company, which produces fruit infused beer with locally grown fruit as well as New York state sourced ingredients, was begun as a home brewing passion by Jenna Behling and Denyel Busch. The $50,000 NGI prize was used toward scaling up the brewing capacity and development of the 5,000 square foot tasting room. The tasting room will be completed in 2023 and at full production the business will create 25 jobs.
• In 2012 Elizabeth and Richard Hamilton fulfilled their dream of opening a winery when they purchased 15 acres of land in Constantia, establishing the Grace Tyler Estate Winery. In 2017, they were able to produce their first commercial batch of wine with their own harvested grapes and quickly sold out. Since then they have expanded their vineyards and production capacity to include several other vintages and have received over 25 awards in more than a dozen competitions. In 2022, Operation Oswego County awarded the Dee Heckethorn Entrepreneur Award to Elizabeth and Richard Hamilton for enhancing the growing agribusiness and tourism industry on the north shore of Oneida Lake in Oswego County.
The agribusiness cluster is also supported by public sector investments in transportation and physical infrastructure. The Port of Oswego is an important strategic agribusiness asset, particularly for grain farmers and exporters. Less than a year ago, the port opened a state-of-the-art USDA-qualified grain testing lab as part of its Grain Export Center. The lab, which tests each load of grain delivered to the port, is operated in collaboration with SUNY Oswego, which staffs the lab with student interns learning alongside certified staff.
Farmers in and around Oswego County now have the ability to deliver their grain locally for testing and transportation, rather than trucking it to Ohio or Baltimore, saving them significant time and money. The port also has the ability to assist value added producers with their new foreign trade zone designation allowing companies to utilize the port to save on tariffs for raw materials and finished products. The increased capacity for grain storage, testing and multimodal transportation by ship, rail or truck has turned the Port of Oswego into a hub for grain exports all over the world. The Grain Export Center was funded by a $15 million grant through the New York State Department of Transportation and a $250,000 grant from NYS Department of Agriculture for the lab equipment.
OOC and COIDA are also investing in strategic sites around Oswego County for industrial use including agribusiness. Land acquisitions and public infrastructure investments at the L. Michael Treadwell Oswego County Industrial Park in the town of Schroeppel and the Airport Industrial Park in the town of Volney will support the attraction and expansion of multiple companies. The renovation of 800,000 square foot of privately owned space at the Riverview Business Park in the town of Volney with financial assistance from COIDA will be a regional asset for new business growth and it is well suited for manufacturing and agribusiness.
As you can see, support of the agribusiness sector is a clear priority of the county’s economic development strategy.
For more information on how OOC and COIDA can assist your agribusiness company, please contact Austin Wheelock at 315-343-1545 or by email at email@example.com. You can also find more information at www.oswegocounty.org.
Top image: Bella Fattoria in Hannibal is a winery and cidery operation. The facility includes a production area, a tasting room, a small kitchen, cold storage and equipment storage. They plan to open their facility to the public this year.
Austin M. Wheelock, Certified economic developer (CEcD), is the executive director of Operation Oswego County, Inc. For more information, call 315-343-1545 or visit www.oswegocounty.org.