One man’s dream is another’s...can of corn.
Peas, maybe, too.
Frustrated by all of the produce from his home garden he doesn’t have time to put up and realizing he can’t be the only one, Paul Pehrson of Schoharie hopes to have what he’s calling the Schoharie Co-op Cannery up and running by spring.
Mr. Pehrson already been successful in writing what he called a “modest” grant from the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group for outreach and education for the project and he has the interest of Schoharie County Empire Zone officials as well.
“Peter’s impressed us with his business plan and what he’s been able to accomplish in a relatively short time.” said Empire Zone Coordinator Julie Rohan.
“We’re intrigued with the concept and anxious to help it become a success. As an ag-processing venture creating jobs and investing capital, it should qualify for Empire Zone tax credits.”
What Mr. Pehrson, who rents a farm house at The Rocks, is putting together is a for-profit business run through a non-profit co-op to run what’s essentially a “cannery in a box,” possibly at a site like the Schoharie Business Park.
The cannery would can produce from backyard growers and commercial farmers in glass and tin containers for sale back to the producers or at retail markets.
“I see it as a way for farmers to market local produce after the growing season,” Mr. Pehrson explained.
“With local farm stands almost 100 percent retail, I see it as an opportunity for them to expand that market. For people like myself, it’s a way to do something with all of those extra tomatoes.”
Mr. Pehrson said the idea’s gotten a good reception from just about everyone he’s talked with, both large-scale producers and backyard growers like himself.
The cannery in a box is marketed by Embarcadero Home Canning, a company out of California as a turnkey, modular structure, customized to individual specifications.
“You open the door, take care of the plumbing and the electric and you’re ready to go,” Mr. Pehrson said.
Though typically the canneries are marketed to third world countries—coffee growers in Columbia are one example—“It sounds exactly like what we need.”
One cannery would be needed for vegetable and fruit; a second for meat, fish, and chicken; the cost per structure is $95,000.
Mr. Pehrson’s business plan calls for a three-year investment of $385,000 to get the project on its feet; after that, he sees it standing on its own for-profit feet.
Because of the way it would be set up, funding for the business could come through both private and family foundations, and through co-op membership.
Mr. Pehrson sees the cannery as requiring two to three shifts of six to eight hours each during the heavy production season of April-November with six workers and two working managers per shift.
He sees funding secured, boards selected, and employees hired by June, and 2009 production running from July to November.
Mr. Pehrson will kick off the project with a community outreach and listening session Saturday, February 21, 9:30am-noon, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Cobleskill. Refreshments from local producers will be served.
All are welcome.
The best way to contact Mr. Pehrson—who has a day job in Albany—is by emailing him at email@example.com.
A website for the canner is also up at: www.schohariecannery.org.