Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation  -- Hudson, New York

The idea of "local agriculture" is extremely popular in urban fringe areas such as NY's Hudson Valley, which serves both Manhattan and Boston populations. But agriculture specifically suited to the locality is less well understood by the public or even by the flood of new want-to-be farmers leaving New York City and starting out in agriculture. Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corp (HVADC) intends to expand its classroom and on-farm teaching capability by developing a program of "Local Lamb Lessons." The curriculum will emphasize breed selection suited to the local land, product development suited to the local market, and sheep-farm mentors available to assist with dairying, wool development, meat market development; we will also provide the needed business expertise to help new sheep farmers master the balancing act of serving all three market segments within their farm management plan. Land in urban fringe areas is very expensive - acreage with good soils sells for $5,OOO-$10,OOO/per acre in the Hudson Valley, and yet the new young farmers choose to farm here so they can maintain their ties to the city, and at the same time reach dense, urban, high-margin markets. Developing large flocks is impossible, given land and labor costs, so maximizing profit from a small herd is the optimal business model. HVADC has been developing and managing training sessions for ag interests for ten years and recently completed a goat study (gratefully funded by NSIIC) that was widely embraced by new farmers looking to raise livestock. We are responding now to interest by new farmers in sheep production, which is the heritage of the northeast. Having marshaled the assistance of sheep experts in several narrow areas of ovine expertise, HVADC is seeking funds to bring together a curriculum for new young farmers that will reinvigorate the sheep industry and make "Local Lamb" a profitable undertaking.This training is aimed specifically at the new young farmer who is beginning or wanting to begin to build a profitable sheep enterprise.

1. The first objective is to evaluate the direct to consumer local market, the potential benefits it offers in cheese, fleece/wool, and lamb. This education module will explore product pricing strategies such as cost plus and marketplace pricing models and will offer pricing considerations for different farm management plans - one emphasizing meat, one emphasizing wool, one emphasizing sheep milk/cheese.

2. The second objective is to determine which sheep breeds to emphasize, with a focus on those best suited to the local climate, topography, and soil types.

3. The third objective is to segment the loca l market for meat; it is comprised of two entirely different sectors, both very vibrant, one ethnic with its own demands for certain lamb characteristics, and one high-end, white table-cloth restaurants, who also have very unique, and very different requirements for lamb.

4. The fourth objective is to determine what types of fleece and/or wool market opportunities exist, by interviewing those in the Hudson Valley who have created successful direct-to-consumer businesses from these products.

5. The fifth objective is to provide a comprehensive overview of dairying markets, for raw milk to be processed by others, or through creation of proprietary cheese products on a small local scale. There are many small locally based goat cheese producers in many parts of the country and sheep dairying has the same potential to be embraced as a distinctive product. Very little, however, is known by potential sheep dairymen about the regulatory environment, the appropriate breed characteristics, the opportunities to collaborate with other cheese makers. and the realistic profit potential.