County launches campaign to promote local food businesses

07/13/2018 5:40 AM |

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the launch of a new website Thursday designed to inspire the community to support local and independent businesses throughout the county.

The initiative, a collaborative effort through the website ChooseLI.org, encourages residents and visitors to spend 10 percent of their weekly food budget — which averages $17.60 in New York — on local and seasonal food and beverages across Suffolk County.

“Here on Long Island our agricultural and marine heritage serves as the backbone of our way of life,” Mr. Bellone said at a press conference at Lenny Bruno Farms in Manorville. “It helps sustain our country’s economic growth. This initiative was developed and grown from a simple but important fact — buying locally grown and harvested food is better for our overall health, and it is better for our region. Our farms, farm stands, fisheries and vineyards generate tourism dollars that support our local restaurants and service industries and provide outstanding products to residents and visitors.”

Suffolk County is home to more than 600 farms, employing more than 5,000 people, leading to more than $240 million in sales annually in agricultural goods. Ocean related businesses provide more than 32,000 jobs across the county and generate $1 billion in goods and services. More than 700 Suffolk County commercial fishing establishments create $35 million in direct revenue and $92 million in economic activity, as well as 1,600 jobs.

“If each of the 450,000 households in Suffolk County commits to this 10 percent for a typical harvest season, it would add to over $19 million into our economy,” Mr. Bellone said. “It would create $33 million in total economic activity and create about 1,000 local jobs.”

Those numbers were based off an analysis done by Suffolk County’s Department of Economic Development and Planning, according to the county executive.

Residents can take the pledge at ChooseLI.org, and the site will soon have a complete mapping and inventory of all the farm stands, farmers and fish markets across the county, Mr. Bellone said. A map of the current breweries, vineyards, and cideries can already be found on the site.

The website currently partners with a number of local organizations such as the Long Island Farm Bureau, Peconic Land Trust, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and Island Harvest among others. Mr. Bellone said local businesses can ensure that they are listed on the map by signing up as partner, and are encouraged to promote on social media with the hashtags #1760 and #chooseli.

“The agriculture in Suffolk County is still a very large and thriving industry,” said Rob Carpenter, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “The idea that consumers can support our industry and young farmers and all other farmers that are active is a huge benefit.”

Dominic Bruno of Lenny Bruno Farms and a director of the Long Island Farm Bureau said he was happy be a part of the effort.

“We take pride in knowing the local community values our fresh produce as well as all the effort we put into our farming,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to encourage people to buy local and that’s why this program seems like a great fit for us.”

Bonnie Brady, the executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the initiative also benefits the counties’ fisheries.

“We’re really thrilled to be a part of this movement,” she said. “We have a seafood trade deficit in this country and the best way to do something about it on Long Island is to eat. People want to buy local fish, I think the job here is to show them how to do that.”

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