One of the benefits of the Economic Viability Program is its ability to explore innovative methods for enhancing the profitability of the working landscapes of agriculture and forestry throughout the region. This program has the ability to move quickly to meet the needs of our farmers, adapt to evolving trends in the agricultural community, and act as a source of support for our growing participant base. Because of this, 2018 has seen one of our largest strategic directional shifts to date.
We not only support the Pure Catskills buy local campaign, but for the first time this year, we developed and implemented a competitive micro-grants reimbursement pilot program for any farmer, logger, forester, forest landowner or Pure Catskills member with property inside the New York City Watershed. We also partnered with the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship (CADE) to financially support the development of professional business plans for watershed farm or forestry businesses in order to better position these business for improved economic profitability and sustainability.
The purpose of our shift this year is simple. We want to continue to strengthen and foster economic vitality in the Catskills Region by encouraging the implementation of activities that can enhance the economic viability of individual farm and forest businesses. The first round of grants were open from September 1–September 30, 2018. We are pleased to report that we had 14 applications and approved $34,940 for reimbursement activities that include training (continuing education) and marketing (branding, advertising, communications related to the marketing services). This is just the start of what our role is, not only internally at the Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC), but externally in what will be crucial for diversification, expansion, advancement in technology and much more for our participants into the near future.
This year marks 25 years of the WAC. Continued growth and success of the Economic Viability Program will continue to push us, this region and our participants into the next 25 years.
Read more of the 2018 Annual Report here.