to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

309 North Aurora Street | Ithaca, NY 14850 | info@tccpi.org

Planning a Sustainable, Accessible Local Food System

The big question of how people are fed is underpinned by complex systems and big implications for environment, health, the economy, and how communities function. Although the makings of a food system generally spool far beyond the borders of any one town or region, a growing movement to address intersectional issues through localizing and regionalizing food systems has made national strides and is seeing a new growth budding in Tompkins County.

The project is known as Tompkins Food Future (TFF) and comes from the Food Policy Council of Tompkins County, a citizen-led advocacy group. There are a lot of names involved in the council and development of TFF, but two figures at the center of the work are Don Barber, chair of the Food Policy Council, and Katie Hallas, the Community Food System Plan Coordinator.

The planning process is now nearing the end of “Phase 1,” which is supposed to be an assessment of the current challenges and opportunities of the food system as it is in Tompkins County. To develop this baseline, the Food Policy Council wanted to emphasize a strong element of community engagement to “ground truth” the inferences the council might be able to make from hard data sets from sources like the USDA.

The Food Policy Council has been making the rounds presenting its preliminary findings to the likes of the Tompkins County Legislature, as well as at community gatherings where they’ve drawn input from the public for what they would like to see in a food system. They’ve been sharing the barriers and opportunities they have identified and trying to incorporate public input to shape the plan they form.

The Council is aiming to publish full reports by the end of the year on its findings before it moves onto developing the food system action plan, which they aim to present to the County Legislature in May 2022.

The initial findings of the Food Policy Council show that of the 523 farms in Tompkins County, 94 percent are for growing animal feed. About 75 percent of them are under 180 acres, leading the Food Policy Council to classify them as small farms. According to the USDA, the average size farm in 2020 in the U.S. was about 444 acres.

Around 70 percent of the farms in the county sell less than $40,000 of agricultural goods annually. The Food Policy Council found that 55 percent of farms in the county are reporting net losses. One of the core points that the Council wants to make is that localizing aspects of a food system, like the production and distribution of food, presents an opportunity for economic development.

In its baseline assessment, the Food Policy Council estimated that the total market value of the agricultural goods produced in the county is around $65 million. It’s unclear how much of this money leaves the county.

The Council found that only about 19 percent of farms are selling directly to consumers in Tompkins, an indication of what both Barber and Hallas have called a robust local agriculture scene, but one that has room for growth.

-- Jimmy Jordan, Ithaca Voice, 11/30/21

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News and Events

Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, Blockchain: The Promise and the Peril

A technology exploding across NYS is celebrated for its transformative potential while criticized for its environmental impacts. To better understand this important issue, the League of Women Voters through its local chapters in Cortland and Tompkins counties will present a program on the above topic at 7 pm on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

Speaker Irene Weiser, Coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins, will cover the basics of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies and how the energy appetite of some forms can threaten to derail achievement of NYS climate goals. While not throwing the blockchain baby out with the bitcoin bathwater, she will discuss possible directions forward.

Weiser has spent 10 years working toward local and state energy policies that will bring an affordable, equitable transition to renewable energy. She was elected to three terms as council member in the Town of Caroline, serving from 2012 to 2020.

When: Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 7:00 pm

To Attend: Bookmark this page for the free webinar on Zoom or watch live on our FaceBook page here.

Next TCCPI Meeting

Friday, January 28, 2022
9:00 - 11:00 am
Due to the current pandemic, the monthly TCCPI meetings have moved online. Contact Peter Bardaglio, the TCCPI coordinator, for further details at pbardaglio@gmail.com.

If you have any issues you would like to bring to the TCCPI monthly meetings, please e-mail us at info@tccpi.org. General meetings are on the last Friday of every month, except for November and December. Because of the holidays, the November-December meeting is held on the second Friday of December.

The Ithaca 2030 District


Visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.