By Jann Wiswall

People interested in purchasing locally produced food soon will have a new resource available to help them quickly find growers and producers in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

Southern Tier West (STW) is in the process of producing a comprehensive, web-based guide for consumers to help them find farmers markets, roadside stands, CSAs, producers and farm businesses in the tri-county region as part of its Local Foods Program.

“A lot of people are committed to eating food that is locally grown and at the peak of its nutritional performance,” said Kim LaMendola, the program’s manager.

The guide, called “From the Ground Up: Local Food in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties,” is intended to help people find the freshest vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats, dairy, eggs, honey, etc., along with products made from these fresh items such as jams, pickles, smoked meats, cheeses, sauces, maple products and baked goods.

The 17 recognized farmers markets in the region (defined as those with three or more producers on-site), along with an ever-growing list of individual farmers and producers (more than 200 to date) will be included, as will maps and a Trip Planner to help consumers plot their shopping trips. Profiles of featured producers will provide background on individual farms.

The new guide is part of the Local Foods Program’s effort to “demonstrate the nutritional, economical and environmental benefits of consuming locally grown produce and locally made goods.” It is supported by grants from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets and other sources.

LaMendola notes that, based on findings of a consumer survey conducted last spring, people want to purchase from local suppliers and are willing to travel for it. As a result, she sees the project as a benefit not just for local producers and consumers, but also for the entire region in relation to its role in increasing tourism and economic development.

The new guide will go live in April and will be updated at least twice a year. Producers who would like to be included in the directory can go to www.freshlocalwny.org and click the link for Farmer/Producer Directory Listing to add information about their business and food products at any time. LaMendola also can mail you a print version of the Farmer/Producer Directory Listing form if access to the online form is unavailable. For more information, contact her at (716) 945-5301 or email klamendola@southerntierwest.org.