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  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
By Melissa Jo Hill
Taste NY has built a brand by introducing consumers to the diversity of foods, beverages, and gifts New Yorkers grow, produce, and create, at Welcome Centers all over the state. Now, through, consumers have access to that same array of New York-grown delights without ever leaving their homes and producers have an expanded market for their food and wares.

The new website complements the in-person shops during a time when social distancing has become part of everyday life, allowing shoppers to participate in local food movement, but will also open online markets and offer greater exposure for New York farmers and producers.

Shop Taste NY is operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension on behalf of Taste NY markets across the street and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Said New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball: “New York’s hardworking farmers and producers and the entire food industry are working around the clock keep us well-stocked and to ensure healthy, local food for our families. Shop Taste NY can also be a useful tool at this time to bring New Yorkers closer to their favorite New York products. We encourage you, while you are shopping for your essentials, to keep New York in mind and to also extend thanks to the industry—from our farmers to grocery store workers.”

The site offers a variety of products from across New York, from honey and jams to goat milk soaps, reflecting each region’s offerings. Currently, nearly 100 farms and food and beverage businesses are showcased on the site. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County previewed the concept for the online store in late 2018, and spent a year working out the logistics of building the e-commerce site, creating systems for orders and shipping, curating goods, perfecting product photography, and writing descriptions.

“CCE Sullivan is devoted to helping New York producers explore and expand new market opportunities, supporting local business and bringing dollars into New York State, now more than ever,” explained Vanessa Petrossian, CCE Sullivan County program market manager of Taste NY at the Hudson Valley/Catskills Welcome Center. “You’re really supporting local on e-commerce and you can trust that you’re supporting local.”

Participating partners and products are featured on a rotating basis to ensure the diversity of the product line and regional representation. “The best part of this project for me was contacting the producers,” Petrossian continued. “When I reached out to them, the excitement they have about their products being on the web—having national and international exposure—tor them, this is a huge deal. Something they never thought they’d see in their business.”

While CCE Sullivan County leads the project, operators across the state are involved in making local product recommendations for the website.

“Taste NY has had a tremendous positive impact on our vendors,” said Michael Myers, Market Manager of Taste NY at the North Country Welcome Center. “They are being recognized for their brand outside their normal farmers’ market circuit. The new online e-commerce platform bolsters this idea. It gives our smaller vendors that may not have the option to have their own webpage as an outlet to showcase their products. It is especially important during this time that we support our local vendors. This gives us a great opportunity to still connect people with the products they love.”

Once a product is selected for inclusion on the site, CCE Sullivan procures goods directly from producers. Products are rotated and adjusted based on customer reviews, vendor feedback, and logistics. Taste NY Market managers provide continuous feedback to Taste NY and CCE Sullivan to identify new sales opportunities.

Shipping is currently free for orders over $50 and all orders are shipped in sustainable boxes and packaging. “We’ve shipped as far away as San Francisco already,” Petrossian said.

The entire project would not be possible without the support of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and legislature devoted to the interests of New York’s farm families and agribusiness.

“I’ve watched customers marvel at the amazing range of New York-made products featured in our Taste NY stores,” said New York Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-123rd and chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. “These stores have provided a huge boost for our local businesses, connecting them with a new and expansive customer base. The Shop Taste NY website will now do even more to expose these businesses to a nationwide and global audience. I’m glad to see that producers in my own community will be featured and I hope to see many more as the web store grows.”

Said Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Jen Metzger: “Shop Taste NY is a great initiative that will enable New Yorkers to easily and conveniently access the diverse array of high quality, fresh local food produced in their region and around the state during the coronavirus pandemic. As we continue to adapt to social distancing, the new online portal will greatly expand opportunities for households, schools, and businesses to participate in the local food movement, support New York’s farms, and contribute to a healthier society and more environmentally sustainable economy.”

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