Ag Weekly: Grant program is good news for food producers

Ag Weekly: Grant program is good news for food producers
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:52 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - “Well, we’re very excited to share with people that we are accepting grants for round two of the Jefferson County Food Resiliency Program,” said Jay Matteson, Jefferson County’s agriculture coordinator. “So, exciting news.

The Food Resiliency Program is back and bigger than ever. The first round was released in 2022.

“It was 400,000 dollars we awarded for value-added processing, and the results have been very exciting,” Matteson said. “We had three meat processing companies apply, two dairy processing companies, a whole bunch of small livestock, vegetable growers, and so on.”

One of the recipients was Bechaz Riverdale Cheese in Clayton. They make cheese and gelato, and received $40,000.

“We were able to get a new gelato machine and a small vat pasteurizer and a new chiller,” owner Jeff Bechaz said. “Just with gelato, we went from probably doing two quarts to eight quarts per batch. It also gave us the capability of adding creamline milk, yogurt, kefir down the road.”

Bechaz says the Food Resiliency Program benefits consumers as much as it does the producers.

“It’s nice to know where your products are actually coming from,” he said, “and as a small dairy, it helped us stay in business.”

“This stems out of the pandemic,” Matteson said. “You recall the long lines of people looking for food. We didn’t anticipate it, but we learned. If something happens, locally we can increase the amount of food that will be available.

This year, there’s even more money available through the program: $600,000 in total to go toward Jefferson County producers. The money comes from the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

“They use American Rescue Act Funds they received,” Matteson said, “and part of those funds they allocate to us.”

Applicants have until December 1 to submit applications and awards will be given in January.

“The best place to go is our website,,” Matteson said. “Or you can call me at 315-782-5865, extension 232.”