"SUNY Commits" to Support New York State Farms, Food Manufacturers

October 16, 2013

State Colleges Buy 1,000 Gallons of Tomato Sauce Made in Vernon, Kingston

Albany — State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher today announced the launch of “SUNY Commits,” a program in which the university system commits to using more locally grown and manufactured products on its campuses.

For the launch, 12 SUNY campuses agreed before the growing season to collectively purchase 1,000 gallons of tomato sauce processed by Tasselberry Farms in Vernon, N.Y., and Winter Sun Farms in Kingston, N.Y., from tomatoes grown in the state. In subsequent seasons, SUNY will look to expand the program to include more SUNY schools, as well as more New York products, such as meats, fruits, and vegetables.

“We live in an agriculture-intensive state, and with a campus in or near every New York community, SUNY is uniquely positioned to support the industry,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “This program allows SUNY to support New York State farms, food manufacturers, and distributors through a commitment to purchase more of their products, and it will give our students more healthy, New York-grown food options on campus.”

The goal of the project is to increase the procurement of fresh and minimally processed New York-grown produce by SUNY dining services at a competitive price that provides a sustainable profit margin for farmers. It will include an educational campaign to increase awareness among campus faculty, staff, and students on the benefits of purchasing locally grown fruits, vegetables, and meat.

In addition to Tasselberry and Winter Sun farms, partners in the tomato sauce commitment include Gillette Creamery in Gardiner, Purdy and Sons Foods in Sherburne, Red Barn Produce in New Paltz, Renzi Brothers in Watertown, numerous New York farmers, and the following 12 SUNY campuses: University at Albany, Alfred State College, University at Buffalo, SUNY Canton, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY ESF, SUNY Morrisville, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Purchase.

“There is no question that the SUNY Commits initiative to use the 'SUNY Sauce' product is a winner,” said Vicki Purdy, owner of Purdy & Sons Foods. “It is a great first step toward advancing the cause of truly sustainable solutions for college campuses across New York State. It isn't just a great idea or a feel good effort – it will truly help farmers, processors, and distributors because the commitment allows them to budget and plan for growth. We look forward to further commitments that will get great tasting, natural foods to the SUNY system, as well as benefit the folks who work hard to produce them.”

“I feel pretty good that my tomato product is being used by these colleges – it's a boost to the kitchen,” said Ron Acee, owner and operator of Tassleberry Farms. “We are using what we have to make the best. Being a smaller company, you strive for quality first. These commitments are a nice addition to the local value added products.”

“Over the 2012-13 school year, 30 percent of the pork and about 10,000 pounds of frozen vegetables served in University at Albany dining halls were grown and processed by local farmers, and the campus spends as much as $60,000 each semester on local produce,” said UAlbany President Dr. Robert J. Jones. “We are delighted to be a part of SUNY Commits, which will further our partnerships with local growers as well as our colleagues across SUNY.”

Deborah Howard, SUNY's director of sustainability, said that as a result of the success of the tomato sauce campaign, SUNY Commits will be funded in part by a $100,000 two-year grant through the American Farm Trust's Farm To Institution NYS Initiative (FINYS), a statewide partnership of agricultural, public health, and economic development partners who have come together to strengthen the state's farm and food economy while improving the health of its citizens.

By matching SUNY campuses with local farmers and food processors and their respective distributors, SUNY Commits will increase purchases of high-demand local produce, such as potatoes, lettuce, leafy greens, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, and green beans. More information on the program as well as other environmental sustainability activities at SUNY is available online.

"SUNY has more than 460,000 students – that's a lot of eaters," said New York State Director for American Farmland Trust David Haight. "We're excited to be working with SUNY to feed these students more healthy vegetables grown on farms in New York. Such efforts expand markets for local farmers and, by keeping farms profitable, reduce pressure on farmers to sell off irreplaceable agricultural land to real estate developers.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school and business in the state. In 2015–16, SUNY served nearly 1.3 million students, including nearly 600,000 in credit-bearing courses and programs and more than 700,000 through continuing education and community outreach programs. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in nearly $1 billion of externally sponsored activity each year. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.


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