Let us link you up with the programs you need to grow!
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and its Natural Assets Working Group have identified agriculture and fishing as critical industries that contribute to a high quality of life in Suffolk County. If you own a farm or farm-related business, or you are in the fishing industry in Suffolk County, you've come to the right place. Consider the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning as your one-stop shop for links to programs that can help your business succeed. If you are an aspiring farmer or fishing industry business person and are new to Suffolk, there are many government programs and non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving agriculture and fishing on Long Island.
The Department of Economic Development & Planning produces an Agriculture & Fishing E-Newsletter which provides updates on important meetings, deadlines, and economic opportunities for farmers and fishermen. You can subscribe to this valuable e-newsletter here. If you have specific questions about farming and fishing opportunities in Suffolk County, or if you have any specific feedback about this website, please contact August Ruckdeschel at (631) 853-4714.
The Department has recently released a new report entitled “The State of the Suffolk County Agriculture Industry”. This report summarizes the expressed attitudes and challenges identified by 143 agricultural producers who completed an agriculture survey in 2013 as part of the County’s efforts to develop an Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plan. You can read a copy of the report here.
Suffolk County enjoys a wealth of natural assets that fuel the county’s exceptional quality of life and sustain economic growth. Suffolk County has a rich agricultural and maritime heritage. These industries are the backbone of the Long Island way-of-life. Not only do our farms, farmstands, vineyards, marinas, and fisheries generate the tourism dollars that support our local restaurants and service industries, but they also provide the fresh produce that feeds people locally and across the globe. To support these essential industries, Suffolk County, New York State, and the Federal government offer a variety of programs and funding opportunities. These programs help sustain agricultural and fishing activities in an environmentally-friendly way that will help maintain Long Island’s rich history and magnificent natural assets.
Suffolk County’s Farmland Development Rights program began in 1974 and is the oldest purchase of development rights (PDR) program in the nation. The Suffolk County PDR program continues to be a model for PDR programs across the nation. The farmland PDR program serves many vital functions but most importantly, it ensures that rich, viable agricultural soils and farmland properties within Suffolk County will be preserved permanently for farming use. Suffolk County has successfully protected over 10,000 acres of farmland since the program’s inception.
The statute that governs this program is known as Chapter 8, in Part III of the Administrative Local Laws of the Laws of Suffolk County. When a farmer agrees to sell the development rights to his/her land to Suffolk County, the farmer retains ownership of the land, but the use of that land is restricted to agricultural uses only. There are specific regulations regarding the construction of agricultural structures on PDR land, such as greenhouses and farm stands. A full understanding of these restrictions is key to the successful implementation of PDR agreements. A Suffolk County Farmland Committee was created under Chapter 8, and its most important role is to determine which Suffolk PDR program applications should be recommended to the Suffolk County Legislature for purchase. This evaluation is based on several criteria, including the parcel’s soil quality, farmland contiguity, potential to preserve scenic vistas, the value of the property, and development pressures within the community-at-large. The Farmland Committee also oversees the approval process for new farm structures on PDR land.
The Suffolk County PDR program is successful because it enhances the economic opportunities of both new and longtime Suffolk County farmers. Here are some of the benefits:
Investment Capital – PDR funds help farmer’s meet financial needs, buy additional land, invest in new crops, expand retail operations, and purchase new equipment.
Estate Planning – once the development rights have been separated from the land, the value of the land declines to its agricultural value. This reduces the inheritance tax liability and can increase the likelihood that heirs retain the family farm. PDR funds also help fund farmer retirement while ensuring that traditional Suffolk County farms remain in agricultural use for future generations of farmers.
If you own agricultural property in Suffolk and are interested in selling development rights to the County, you can download a program application here. Please be assured that by submitting this application, you are only expressing an interest in participating in the Suffolk County Farmland Development Rights Program. You are not committing yourself to a sale, nor is the County committing itself to a purchase. The information obtained from this form will only be used by the Suffolk County Farmland Committee to evaluate your application. To learn more about Suffolk County’s farmland preservation policies and programs, please click here.
If you are a participant in Suffolk County’s PDR program and need to file an application for an agricultural development permit click here. For a special event use permit click here.
Additional Purchase Development Rights (PDR) Programs
If you are interested in selling the agricultural development rights on your property, please keep in mind that Suffolk County government is not your only option. Development Rights can also be purchased by a Town or a private conservation group, such as a land trust. For example, the Community Preservation Fund established in 1999, provides a pool of funds from a 2% real estate transfer tax for the five Eastern Long Island towns to purchase open-space and PDR lands. Each town administers its own funds separately and they should be contacted individually. The five eastern towns are Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, Southold and Shelter Island. Peconic Land Trust also has a successful track record as a non-profit organization structuring and facilitating various types of PDR agreements.
Enacted in 1971, New York’s Agricultural Districts Law (ADL) creates economic and regulatory incentives to aid new and existing farmers. The Program is based on a combination of landowner incentives and protections, all of which are designed to forestall the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. Included in these benefits are protections against overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices. You can click on an explanation of ADL benefits here.
Enrollment in the Agricultural Districts Program can help the farm owner receive property tax assessments based on the value of the land for agricultural production, rather than its development value. These assessments can save Suffolk County farmers a substantial amount of money. Furthermore, it helps ensure that farming in Suffolk County will remain a viable and economically sustainable occupation despite developmental pressures and rising property values.
Owners of farms both within and outside agricultural districts in Suffolk County are eligible for agricultural assessment tax rates if the farm meets certain conditions. Farms of less than seven acres can qualify for agricultural assessment tax rates if they averaged over $50,000 in annual sales during the previous two years. Farms of more than seven acres need to average $10,000 or more in sales during the last two years. The application link for the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance Office of Real Property Tax Services Agricultural Assessment is here.
Suffolk County is currently enrolled in six Agricultural Districts, a map of which can be found here. An application for the Suffolk County Agricultural Districts Program is here. For more information about the Suffolk County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, the enrollment period for agricultural district inclusion and the Board’s meeting schedule, click here.
Suffolk County has actively worked to expand the number of local farmers’ markets across Long Island. Farmers’ markets are an excellent opportunity for both producers and consumers. They give consumers a convenient and affordable source of fresh, healthy food. For example, most of our farmers’ markets vendors accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and/or WIC coupons and are enrolled in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Farmers’ markets help build the financial and social capital needed to sustain our communities and give customers the chance to meet our local growers.
For our producers, farmers’ markets give growers and fishermen the opportunity to realize retail profits by selling directly to their consumers. Farmers’ markets are frequently looking for new vendors, especially in value-added produce. Please reach out to the farmers’ market manager individually if you are interested in setting up a booth. Click here for the most current listing of Suffolk County farmers’ markets maintained by Cornell Cooperative Extension. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service also maintains its own listing of farmers' markets.
Both the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and NY State Agriculture & Markets offer grants and funding programs to establish new farmers’ markets, particularly in low-income and under-served communities. Please visit their sites to find the latest information on available financing programs, such as New York’s Fresh Connect. There are also a variety of non-profit organizations heavily involved in helping set-up and inventory farmers’ markets including Sustainable Long Island, Local Harvest (organics), and the Farmers Market Coalition.
The Farmers Market Federation of New York can also serve as an excellent source of information, including information on signing up for their free wireless Electronic Benefits Transfer point-of-sale program, which allows markets to accept SNAP benefits.
Farmers who are interested in selling produce at a farmers’ market are encouraged to read the New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets. This guide will help you choose the appropriate time and location to join a farmers’ market.
Suffolk County farmers supplement other agricultural and nutritional opportunities with well over one hundred local farm stands serving every pocket of Suffolk County. The Long Island Farm Bureau and The Peconic Land Trust each maintain lists of local Suffolk County farmstands. The Long Island Convention & Visitor's Bureau has also developed its own Epicurean-oriented website which lists farmstands, farmers markets, agricultural tourism options, vineyards and microbreweries, etc. It is highly recommended. Please contact these organizations to have your own farmstand operation added to their lists.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is also becoming a growing segment of the Long Island agricultural industry. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a local Suffolk County farmer. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront and this bulk payment enables farmers to plan for the entire growing season. Click here for a list of local Suffolk County CSAs.
The first Long Island vineyard was planted in 1973. Since that time, Suffolk County has become one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the country. Growing grapes and producing wine on Long Island gives our farmers access to one of the world’s most affluent markets in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. Given its lucrative marketing opportunities, beautiful oceanic and rural vistas, fertile soils, and generous farming climate (particularly the availability of PDR land), Suffolk County should continue to expand its global viticultural influence. If you are interested in visiting a vineyard, you can find a map of Suffolk County vineyard tasting rooms here. The Long Island Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau can help you plan a daytrip or weekend around dining, shopping, wine-tasting and agricultural activities.
If You Are New to Farming
An excellent starting point for the next generation of farmers is the Guide to Farming in NYS put out by the Cornell Small Farms Program.
The USDA has new website that is a very useful starting point for new and aspiring farmers. It also offers links to individuals looking to support their local farm community. Visitors to Start2Farm.gov can find and sort funding opportunities, lenders, and supporting agencies by geography.
The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project is another good resource for new farmers, offering webinars, guidebooks, and online courses. This program has a strong pedigree within Cornell Cooperative Extension. There is an excellent FAQ section, as well as a template for a Business Plan, a must-do item for any aspiring farmer.
If you are interested in livestock or poultry farming, The Cornell Small Farms Program produces "The Resource Guide to Direct Market Livestock and Poultry" which can help clarify and explain the complex laws associated with these industries including slaughtering and processing at the local, state, and federal levels. It can also guide you through various marketing channels. You can view the guide or download a copy here.
Some organizations like the Peconic Land Trust and NOFA-NY offer apprenticeship programs for new farmers. Please reach out to the organizations directly to receive information about these programs.
NY FarmLink is a non-profit organization that offers financial consulting services to farmers free of charge. This organization can help you locate newly available agricultural properties. NY FarmNet is affiliated with NY FarmLink and plays an extremely important role in formulating a succession plan for your farming operation. Be sure to engage NY FarmNet early in the succession planning stages (10+ years or more).
Licensing and Permits
Some farming operations and nearly all fishing operations require specific New York State and/or Suffolk County Permits. For assistance in identifying the relevant New York state permits, please visit their Business Licensing site, which can guide you to the appropriate licensing and permitting requirements. For fishing licenses, the DEC lists the necessary and available licenses here.
Suffolk County has a one-stop portal to apply for all county water and sewer permits needed to conduct a business in Suffolk. That website can be found here. Information about Suffolk County Food Licensing requirements can be found here.
Additionally, each town has its own zoning standards that must be met. Please be sure to be in close contact with your town’s zoning board when planning new construction or changing property use. Some things, like shellfish harvesting, require both a DEC license and a town permit.
Crop Insurance protects agricultural producers against crop losses resulting from circumstances beyond the producer's control. The program, which is administered by USDA's Risk Management Agent (RMA), offers several different plans of Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) for most crops. Availability of these policy plans varies by state and county. For a listing of insurance companies and agents offering crop insurance coverage, visit RMA Online.
The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provides financial assistance to eligible producers affected by natural disasters. This federally funded program covers non-insurable crop losses and planting prevented by disasters. Eligible non-insurable crops include commercial crops and other agricultural commodities produced for food (including livestock feed) or fiber and may include other specialty crops such as floricultural, ornamental nursery, Christmas tree crops, turf grass sod, seed crops, aquaculture (including ornamental fish) and industrial crops.
Producers interested in receiving risk protection under this program must file an application for coverage and pay the application service fee prior to the crop's application closing date. These application closing dates are established by the New York State Farm Service Agency and are published annually. Suffolk County’s FSA Office is located in Riverhead and can be contacted at 631-727-5666.
Small Scale Food Processing
Small scale food production is one of the most rapidly expanding cottage industries in the United States. The slow-food, locavore movement has undoubtedly played a massive role in encouraging small scale entrepreneurship. Suffolk County is ideally situated to take advantage of this unique cultural and economic trend. Suffolk County's robust agricultural sector, ranging from strawberries to corn, peaches to cabbage, is uniquely situated to serve high-end restaurants and affluent local consumers in nearby markets such as New York City, the Hamptons, New Jersey and Connecticut.
New York State Small Business Development Center has written an easy-to-read guide to starting your own food production company. That guide, Recipe for Success: Selling Food Products can be downloaded here.
The Stony Brook University Incubator at Calverton is an economic development center designated to foster the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies. The facility in Calverton features an Agriculture Consumer Science Center and an Open Kitchen and is specifically tailored to suit the agricultural and food-services industries. The main goal of the incubator is to provide services and resources that will enable entrepreneurs to grow and leave the program financially sound. Conveniently located near the heart of the Suffolk County agricultural sector, the Calverton Incubator offers the resources necessary to experiment with new recipes and market new products. This new facility includes modernized kitchen, processing, and storage utilities which are being made available at affordable rental rates. Applications to rent space at the Stony Brook University Incubator at Calverton can be found here.
Another food incubator has recently opened on Suffolk County's South Fork. South Fork Kitchens, which opened in April 2014, was made possible by the Amagansett Food Institute, an organization that works to support, promote and advocate for food producers on the East End. The kitchen has several ovens, a Hobart mixer, a tilt skillet, ample storage space and more. It is large enough to accommodate multiple users; those wishing to use the space can sign up for four-hour blocks of time around the clock. The commercial kitchen is located on the Stony Brook University Southampton campus. The facility also offers access to Business Development specialists and office space. For more information, please contact AFI at email@example.com.
The Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship, located at the Food research Lab in Geneva, offers assistance in developing a scheduled process for your recipe, developing a processed food product, and labeling. Contact the NY State Food Venture Center at 315-787-2273. The organization puts out an excellent guide entitled Small Scale Food Entrepreneurship: A Technical Guide for Food Ventures which can be found here.
The NYS Small Scale Food Processors Association was created to help preserve the small family farm. A community was created to help organize small-scale food processors. Information about beginning your business and becoming a member is here.
A food hub is a centrally managed business structure that gives small and mid-sized producers the ability to gain access to infrastructure such as warehouses, cold and warm storage, processing space, etc., in order to increase direct marketing opportunities, meet market demand, and enjoy economies of scale.
Recently, local agribusinesses have been given an opportunity to lease subsidized cold storage space at the Grapes and Greens facility operated by J. Kings in Calverton. This opportunity is being made possible by a $500,000 grant from New York’s Empire State Development Corporation to the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) in 2012. The grant funds will be used to defray the cost for leases to the facility for Long Island farms, wineries, and value-added producers. The Peconic Land Trust, in partnership with the LIFB and J. Kings, is coordinating this project. For more information about the facility, please contact Kim Quarty or Dan Heston at the Peconic Land Trust at 631-283-3195.
Virtual food hubs are online resources that match farmers, harvesters, fishermen, and value-added producers directly with buyers including distributors, grocers, restaurants, co-ops, and other value-added producers. There are a number of online virtual food hubs, and those options are not mutually exclusive. Agribusiness and aquabusiness interested in a virtual food hub should explore several options (most have a fee structure of some kind) and choose the hub or hubs that best serve their own business model. Here are some available options:
New York MarketMaker
Farm2Kitchen Long Island
Pride of New York Program was developed to promote agricultural and seafood products grown or processed within New York State. The Pride of New York logo may be used on labels and other promotional materials. It may also be used in conjunction with a private logo or mark under qualifying circumstance. Click here to download the logo. For additional information or assistance with using the Pride of New York logo on your products, signage or literature, contact the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets at 1.800.554.4501.
The Long Island Farm Bureau has launched its own “Grown on Long Island” branding effort that seeks to promote the purchasing of local Long island produce. Logos are made available to members.
Agricultural Funding Opportunities -
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service features sustainable agriculture-related funding information updated weekly and searchable by date and keyword. It is a good place to start for a listing of the most up-to-date grant opportunities and can be accessed here.
New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets – NY Ag & Markets offers a rotating list of loans and funding opportunities related to sustainable agricultural practices, marketing and distribution processes, establishing farmer’s markets in low-income areas, etc. On special occasions, the County can apply for funding on the behalf of certain agencies or private organizations. Please click here for the most recent list of funding programs.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Agricultural Marketing Services – The Agricultural Marketing Services administers four grant programs to help farmers and ranchers market the food they produce, including programs that further farmers markets, specialty crops such as fruit and vegetables, local food marketing, and cost-share programs to help farmers become organic.
USDA: Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) - REAP offers grants and guaranteed loans to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural areas (of which most of the East End is eligible) purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements to their current operations. Helpful information regarding REAP opportunities in New York can be found here.
USDA: Rural Development: Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) - The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain.
USDA: Small Business Innovation Research makes competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefit if successful.
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education agency offers grants for growers, cooperatives, municipalities, and other organizations. Applications are due each November. For information about these grant opportunities, click here.
Fair Food Fund - Northeast - FFFNE provides support to enterprises that are working to build a more just and sustainable food system. They target entrepreneurs that are building the middle of the regional food supply chain and whose businesses will improve the viability of small and mid-scale farms in the Northeast. FFFNE provides capital to enterprises that are established and need funding to take the next step in their growth.
Grow New York Enterprise Program – provides grants or loans to finance business expansion related to production, processing or marketing of agricultural products. Please call 1-800-554-4501 for more information. The application is found here.
The AgEnhancement Grant Program is an ongoing educational campaign that supports projects, events, and other activities that promote and strengthen agriculture and commercial fishing industries in the region. Awards range from $500 to $8,000. Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis and are considered three times a year.
Loan and Financing Opportunities
Farm Services Agency (FSA) - If traditional loan or financing options (such as commercial banks) are unavailable to you, you should check-in with the Farm Service Agency. The FSA makes and guarantees loans to family farmers. Loans are either made directly through the agency or guaranteed through a commercial lender.The FSA has a variety of low interest loans and crop insurance programs that may be suited to your farming operation. The Suffolk County FSA office is located in Riverhead and can be reached at (631) 727-5666.
Long Island Development Corporation (LIDC) is part of a 501C3 not-for-profit economic development family providing a variety of low cost loan programs and free technical assistance to help businesses and not-for-profit organizations in New York, concentrating on Long Island.
Suffolk County Industrial Development Agencies encourages job growth on Long Island by providing economic incentives to retain businesses in Suffolk County and encourage new businesses to relocate here. IDA financing is intended for moderate-sized and large organizations, and both private and not-for-profit organizations can apply for funding. Value-added farm and fishing projects are eligible, such as processing and packaging facilities, as well as aquaculture projects.
New York State Targeted Loan Fund - Loans range from $10,000 - $250,000 with long term and fixed interest rates that can be used for working capital, equipment and other business purposes. These are fixed rate loans, self amortizing up to 20 years -currently fixed at 5%. The loans already have a successful track record with Long Island farmers and commercial fishermen. For more information, please call the local Empire State Development office at (631) 435-0717 or the Long Island Development Corporation at (866) 433-5432 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Business Administration Loans - Available programs include SBA 504 subordinate loans of up to $5 million to assist small businesses to buy land and renovate buildings and machinery. The SBA 7(a) loan program offers financial assistance to businesses with special requirements, including NAFTA impacts, exporting businesses, rural businesses and operations in underserved communities.
Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program - Farmers and fishermen looking to expand their production, harvest new products, or invest in new equipment and infrastructure may be eligible for a loan of up to $100,000 at a low fixed interest rate through the Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program. Applicants must meet Whole Foods Quality Standards and preference is given to vendors who already have an existing relationship with Whole Foods. You can find more information here. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. If you are interested in becoming a Whole Foods vendor, please contact the regional Northeast office at 201-567-2090.
Crowdfunding and Alternative Sources of Capital
There are several sources of alternative financing through crowdfunding sites such as - Kiva Zip, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Barnraiser. Many of these sites, and financing options like Slow Money, have social missions in mind, with an emphasis on "sustainability".
Minority and Women-Owned Business Assistance (MWBE)
Minority and women-operated farms, nurseries, landscaping, fishing and aquaculture businesses are one of the fastest-growing segments of these industries.
The Small Business Development Center can help you get your operation started by developing a business plan and/or helping you finds financing for your operation. Suffolk County boasts two SBDC’s - one in Farmingdale and one in Stony Brook. Stony Brook’s Small Business Development Center also has an affiliation with the Business Incubator in Calverton, which is spearheading efforts to produce and market “value-added” Long Island products and produce.
Empire State Development Division of Minority & Women Business Development helps promote equality of economic opportunities for MWBEs and to eliminate barriers to their participation in state contracts. They supplement New York State’s economic leadership with information and resources that increase access opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses throughout the State.
La Fuerza Unida Community Development Corporation promotes sustainable economic growth in Long Island by providing minority and women owned enterprises access to capital, business development services and other tools which will create jobs, community wealth and long-term prosperity.
The Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition (SCWBEC) provide women with tools to compete effectively for contracts with Suffolk County government and local municipal corporations (towns, villages, hospitals and educational institutions) and to engage in other profitable business activities. The SCWBEC also offers excellent networking opportunities for woman-owned businesses
Suffolk County Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Certification will place your information on the Suffolk County M/WBE Directory. The Directory contains a database of Minority & Women owned businesses by National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) code stating the type of goods and services offered. This enables companies seeking particular goods and services to find M/WBE's via code. To apply for certification as a Suffolk County M/WBE, you can download the application here.
New York Agri-Women is a non-profit organization composed of women involved in agriculture across the state. There is also a Long Island chapter. The purpose of the organization is to educate consumers, elected officials, and members of the agricultural community about issues that impact local agriculture.
Finally, the USDA Farm Service Agency earmarks specific funds for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers. More information can be found on the FSA Fact Sheet, “Loans for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers”. The USDA also maintains a registry of minority farmers who serve as a valuable educational and networking resource for aspiring farmers.
Funding for Conservation and Agricultural Stewardship
New York State Environmental Investment Program - Financial assistance is given to projects that help businesses and institutions promote waste prevention, when solid waste is reduced at its source, reused, or recycled into new products. Farm waste is a covered solid waste. Funds are available for capital projects; research, development and demonstration of new products and technologies; and technical assistance to help businesses achieve pollution prevention and recycling results. For more information, applicants can contact staff via email at email@example.com or phone at (518) 292-5340.
New York State Pollution Prevention Institute Lean Energy and Environment Workshop - This workshop teaches practical strategies and techniques to reduce energy use, costs, and risk and reduce environmental damage. The workshop helps businesses increase profitability as productivity is increased and energy use and waste is minimized. For more information, contact Bob Zounek at the Long Island Forum for Technology (LIFT).
United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) – Through the NRCS, the USDA offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers. The programs provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. These programs include The Agricultural Management Assistance, Conservation Innovation Grants, The Conservation Stewardship Program and The Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The local NRCS office is based in Riverhead and works closely with the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District. They can be reached at (631) 727-2315.
Food Assistance Programs
Given our rich soils, temperate climate, and coastal access, Long Island is capable of harvesting some of the world’s freshest, best-tasting produce. However, it is important to ensure that access to fresh produce is not limited by financial hardship. Fortunately, the federal government provides several services designed to expand access to fresh produce. If you will be selling your farm or seafood produce directly to the consumer, please be sure to be enrolled in the following programs in order to maximize your consumer base.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP is the new name for the Federal Food Stamp program. You can sign-up to accept SNAP at your farm stand or farmers’ market online. For additional information, you can contact the USDA Food and Nutrition Service office that serves Long Island at 212-620-7360. Fortunately, if you do not already have a credit card/debit card terminal, New York State, via JP Morgan/Chase, can provide a dedicated Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card terminal free of charge if your business meets specified criteria. It's extremely important to point out that through EBT, using and accepting SNAP benefits has become as simple as accepting credit and debit cards. It can be an important source of additional income for any enterprising food provider.
WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – a Congressionally-authorized program designed to provide resources in the form of fresh, nutritious, unprepared foods (fruits and vegetables) from farmers’ markets to women, infants, and children who are "nutritionally at risk."
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program - A new program in which grants are awarded to States to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community support agriculture programs.
To participate in FMNP programs and accept these checks, farmers must produce at least 50% of the fruits and vegetables they offer for sale on market day during the program period of June 1 - November 15. They must also complete and sign a FMNP Farmer Participation Agreement and a crop plan. This paperwork must be submitted by a farmers' market manager to New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Once the paperwork is accepted, the farmer will receive laminated signs that must be displayed stating, "We Gladly Accept NYS Farmers' Market Checks." The farmer will also receive a check cancellation stamp, stamp pad, and farmer ID card. The signed ID card must be presented with the cancelled (stamped) FMNP checks at the bank. It is important to note that farmers must re-apply annually. Additionally, only locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables may be purchased with these checks. Other locally grown goods, such as eggs, honey or baked goods cannot be purchased. For more information about FMNP participation, please contact Steve Miller, Cornell Cooperative Extension FMNP State Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shellfish farming is an opportunity to produce seafood in an environmentally responsible manner in Suffolk County. In fact, the Suffolk County Economic Development & Planning Department has identified aquaculture programs as an important driver of sustainable economic growth. Our waters once provided a substantial portion of the world’s hard clams, scallops, and oysters. As Suffolk County works to restore our waterways and bays to their former ecological balance, we are also focused on reviving our shellfish industry and restoring it to its former glory. To do so, Suffolk County continues to take steps to clean our waters and re-introduce shellfish stocks.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Bureau of Marine Resources issues on/off bottom shellfish permits for commercial shellfish aquaculture. Any aquaculture operation where the applicant proposes off-bottom culture is also reviewed by the Department of State's Coastal Management Program and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for consistency with coastal regulations. The DEC administers its own small program to assist shellfish aquaculture in the Long Island Sound through the Temporary Marine Area Use Assignment for off-bottom shellfish culture only. An assignment is defined as a five-acre circular-shaped area that must be located at least 1,250 feet from the shoreline and one-mile distant from established Assignment holders. To apply or get more details, contact the Bureau of Marine Resources at 631-444-0483.
The Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program – This program provides secure access to County-owned, marine-space for private, commercial shellfish aquaculture in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay. Implementation of the lease program is intended to increase private investment in shellfish aquaculture businesses in secure locations that do not pose conflicts with commercial fishermen and other bay users. The production of large numbers of oysters, hard clams and bay scallops in dense populations on shellfish farms will augment the spawning potential of native shellfish populations. The millions of filter feeding bivalves on shellfish farms will also exert a positive influence on water quality by helping to control nutrient cycling and contributing to the prevention of noxious plankton blooms, such as brown tide. These and other ecosystem services associated with shellfish farms are provided on a sustainable basis at little or no cost to the general public.
If you are interested in participating in the Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program, please visit our website or contact Susan Filipowich, Environmental Planner, at (631) 853-4775 or email email@example.com.
The Town of Islip Aquaculture Lease Program - Islip's Aquaculture Lease Program administers 90 acres of underwater lands in the Great South Bay. It is open to off-bottom culture methods only. The plots are leased at $750 per acre, under five-year agreements between the Town and the lessee.
Suffolk Project in Aquaculture Training – Oysters, clams, and other shellfish serve as natural filters in the marine ecosystem. One important reason Suffolk County encourages shellfish farming is because it can help restore our natural habitats. In this spirit, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County augments its own bay seeding program with SPAT, a training workshop where volunteers help seed and grow their own shellfish gardens at their own waterfront or in a SPAT community garden.
The Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center – Also affiliated with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, SCMELC acts as an incubator for shellfish farming businesses. This includes new business startup assistance, help with permit applications, problem solving (marketing opportunities, gear improvements, etc.), as well as demonstrations on new techniques. Aquaculturalists and shellfish harvesters should contact Gregg Rivara at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Finally, the Interagency Working Group on Aquaculture (IWG-A) has released a guide, Information for Shellfish Growers, to help navigate the shellfish aquaculture permit process in the United States. The guide is designed to help shellfish farmers understand the main types of leases, permits, or other forms of authorization need for a commercial shellfish farm. The guide also includes links to additional sources of information and contacts who can help growers identify the specific requirements for their respective state or region. You can access the guide here.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) works with both the public and private sectors to protect and restore our nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. They frequently make grants in support of Long Island fishery management, innovative research efforts, water and watershed conservation efforts, coastal resiliency, and bycatch reduction. You can search through their grant offerings here.
National Marine Aquaculture Initiative is coordinated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant and encourages scientific research and development to support a robust, sustainable domestic marine aquaculture industry. Projects often involve partnerships among commercial companies, research institutions, universities, state governments, and coastal communities.
NOAA Fisheries Finance Program - The Fisheries Finance Program provides long-term financing (up to 25 years) in the form of direct loans for up to 80% of the cost of construction, reconstruction, expansion, and purchase of aquaculture and commercial fishing facilities. The program may also refinance existing loans and there are no early repayment penalties.
NOAA Small Business Innovation Research invests in aquaculture research and development, which encourages small businesses to leverage federal funds to invest in innovative technologies and next-generation products and processes that may lead to commercialization.
Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program - The Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program (SKGP) funds projects that encourage the development of an environmentally and economically sustainable U.S. fishing industry. Please check the website for grant opportunities as funding availability fluctuates from year-to-year.
- Amagansett Food Institute - AFI 's mission is to support, promote, and advocate for the farmers, vintners, fishermen, and other food producers and providers on the East End of Long Island.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County – the local website for the pre-eminent source of on-the-ground agricultural and fisheries assistance.
- East End Tourism Alliance - responsible for the promotion of the East End region as a travel destination for visitors, meetings, weddings, seasonal vacations, day trips and overnight stays.
- Farm Credit East – a specialized lending and financial services agency servicing northeast agricultural and commercial fishing businesses.
- Local Harvest – This website allows you to search for organic farms, CSAs, farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocery stores and meat processors by geography.
- Long Island Cauliflower Association - Long Island's last remaining full-service farm supply company. The Long Island Cauliflower Association serves vegetable growers, sod growers, wine grape growers, nurserymen, landscapers, greenhouse growers, municipalities, school districts, and homeowners.
- Long Island Community Gardens - a one-stop resource to help Long Islanders start, fund, and maintain community gardens. Created in partnership with the Stony Brook University Family Medicine’s Community Roots Project, Sustainable Long Island and the Suffolk County Food Policy Council.
- Long Island Convention & Visitor's Bureau - The official tourism promotion agency responsible for promoting the Long Island region as a destination for tourism, meetings, conventions and sporting events.
- Long Island Farm Bureau – non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Long Island-based farmers and fishermen.
- Long Island Wine Council – Industry association dedicated to promoting the efforts of Long Island grape growers and wine producers.
- National Agricultural Statistics Service - The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. NASS is committed to providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture.
- New York Department of Agriculture & Markets – promotes the economic viability of agriculture, fosters agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguards food quality in the state of New York.
- New York Farm Bureau – non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of New York state farmers.
- New York Farmland Trust – the local division of the American Farmland Trust, the New York Farmland Trust is a non-profit devoted to preserving agriculture as an important environmentally sustainable industry that advances overall food quality and protects New York’s cultural heritage.
- NY FarmLink - a non-profit organization that offers financial consulting services to new and existing farmers. This organization also helps new or expanding farmers locate new agricultural properties.
- NY FarmNet - provides farm families with a network of contacts and support services to help them develop skills for dealing with life challenges and transitions - through personalized education, confidential consulting, and referral. This network covers every aspect of high-pressure decision making from partnerships and transfers to stress management, family communication, domestic concerns, and disaster response.
- NY Farm Services Agency - The FSA has a variety of low interest loans and crop insurance programs that may be suited to your farming operation. The Suffolk County FSA office is located in Riverhead and can be reached at (631) 727-5666.
- New York Farm Viability Institute – a farmer-led non-profit that awards grant funds for applied research and outreach education projects that help farmers increase profits. Ideally, funded projects, when successful, would serve as replicable models for other farmers.
- New York State Sea Grant - New York State Sea Grant supports nearly 50 research and outreach projects annually in technology and product development, fisheries, coastal environmental quality and processes, aquatic nuisance species and other areas of special interest.
- New York State Vegetable Growers Association – a non-profit organization that serves commercial fresh market, storage, and processing vegetable growers. Promotes New York producers at the local, regional, and national levels.
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) – an organization of consumers, gardeners, and farmers promoting land stewardship and organic food production. NOFA-NY has been accredited by the USDA National Organic Program to certify organic farmers and processors in New York.
- Peconic Land Trust – a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving Long Island’s working farms and natural lands. Heavily-involved in farmland preservation programs.
- Suffolk County Division of Planning and the Environment – the County’s highly professional staff of planners, environmental analysts, and others are dedicated to protecting the broad, long-term vision of Suffolk County development. This division is integrally involved in Suffolk County’s farmland and open space preservation programs.
- Suffolk County Food Policy Council - created by the Suffolk County legislature in 2011 to promote the production, distribution, consumption and awareness of healthy, locally grown food.
- Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District – the County district devoted to preserving and maintaining Suffolk’s superior soil and water quality. Helps farmers control sediment erosion and develop irrigation and drainage strategies.
- Sustainable Long Island – non-profit organization promoting economic development, environmental health, and social equity. Prominently involved in establishing farmers markets in high-need areas.
- USDA Economic Research Service - Another comprehensive source relating to the economics and statistics of U.S. agriculture.