New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today continued the State's 10-year anniversary celebration of Taste NY, New York's official 'eat local, drink local' program, with an open house event at the North Country Welcome Center in Alexandria Bay. The event showcased the diversity and uniqueness of New York State's farmers and food and beverage producers, as well as the North Country’s regional tourism offerings. Today's celebration marked the third in a series of events that are planned across the state in recognition of the 2023 10-year milestone and the Taste NY program's success over the last decade, including $200,000 in sales at the North Country Welcome Center since its opening in 2018.
Commissioner Ball said, “The Taste NY program is key to New York’s mission of promoting our farmers and producers, and the Taste NY Market at the North Country Welcome Center is an excellent example of all the program has to offer. From beef and dairy products to jams, honey, and even locally roasted coffee, this Market brings local North Country products to visitors and local shoppers, highlighting the best of the region. We thank the team at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County for their hard work making this Welcome Center a success and look forward to more great years of eating and drinking local in the North Country.”
Taste NY has grown significantly since its launch, bringing over $100 million in economic impact to New York State producers over 10 years of the program. New York State products can now be found at nearly 70 locations across New York State, including the 11 regional Welcome Centers, airports, State parks, the Javits Center, and more. Over the last decade Taste NY has also partnered with sports venues, such as the MVP Arena and the Blue Cross Arena, and formed partnerships with high profile event organizers to bring Taste NY products to major sporting events such as the PGA Tour, the 2023 FISU World University Games, and the Saratoga Race Course.
Today's celebration at the North Country Welcome Center brought together regional agricultural, tourism, and supporting partners to introduce visitors to the New York farmers and producers whose products are available at the Welcome Center. Vendors sampling at the event included Black River Valley Natural, Churchill Farms, Rock and Jam, and Sackets Harbor Coffee Roasters. Additionally, the Welcome Center offered a spin the wheel promotion with various product discounts and a 10th anniversary gift basket raffle.
First opened in 2018, the Taste NY Market at the North Country Welcome Center is operated through a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. The Welcome Center works closely with area agriculture and culinary vendors to promote food and beverage producers from the North Country area and from across New York, offering one-on-one consulting with vendors to help them expand their business and product offerings. The Welcome Center has brought in products from over 150 vendors across the state, including 59 from the North Country region. Since its opening, the Welcome Center has been responsible for over $200,000 worth of product sales for local vendors.
Additionally, the Welcome Center fosters unique partnerships to place vendors’ products into other retail locations locally, such as in sports teams’ concession stands, a local flower shop, and the Dry Hill Ski Area. They have also worked with Diprinzio’s Restaurant to test their café menu and collect consumer feedback; and assisted another vendor to launch an online sales system and set up a ‘Fresh Farm Bag’ CSA style program, where weekly offerings were picked up at the Welcome Center.
The Taste NY Market at the North Country Welcome Center features a broad selection of fresh-made breakfast and lunch items, including soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts using ingredients sourced from North Country growers and producers. It also offers grab-and-go snacks and specialty local gift items for sale, including I LOVE NY merchandise.
Multiple interactive I LOVE NY kiosks are positioned throughout the Welcome Center, allowing visitors to design a trip itinerary and test their knowledge of the region. A large LED screen promotes regional tourism attractions and destinations. A boat from the Antique Boat Museum pays tribute to the region's boating heritage, and an artifact wall includes regionally specific items. Outside, the Welcome Center features a playground, a large I LOVE NY sculpture that provides the perfect setting for group photos and selfies, and a Walk of Fame recognizes famous New Yorkers from the region.
Michael Myers, Market Manager, Taste NY at the North Country Welcome Center said, “The North Country Welcome Center Team, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County are thrilled to celebrate Taste Turns 10. It has been truly amazing to build relationships with so many vendors and to work with them in showcasing the passion they have for their products. One of the most exciting aspects of this work is seeing people enter the area for the first time and get excited about the unique products available from our New York vendors – all in one store location. We could not offer such a great selection without our New York producers, processors, and value-added businesses.”
Tim Sturick, Thousand Islands Bridge Authority Executive Director said, “The Taste NY brand provides an outlet for local vendors from all across the State where they can display and sell their products to a wider audience promoting tourism and furthering buy local.”
James Munn, Black River Valley Natural General Manager said, “The Taste NY program has provided me with an opportunity to refine my product, pricing, and logistics out in the marketplace in a way that was virtually consequence free. They were very understanding of the challenges a new food startup faces and they went out of their way to help prepare me to scale my business properly. The ability to test different markets through the network of Taste NY stores across the state before spending thousands on marketing and advertising provided a huge advantage to my new business. Businesses are built on connections and I think this is one of the most overlooked benefits to working with the Taste NY program.”
Senator Mark Walczyk said, "The North Country has a storied history of agriculture in New York State and continues to play a vital role in leading the industry in a number of facets. New York's economy would crumble without our North Country farms contributing to the over $5 billion industry. The recognition of their hard work and the success of the Alexandria Bay Welcome Center is much appreciated. Thank you, Commissioner Ball, for visiting the North Country and celebrating 10 years of Taste NY with the 49th Senate District!"
A series of events is planned across the state to celebrate Taste NY's 10th anniversary this year, including at Welcome Centers run by the Department's partners at the New York State Thruway Authority, the New York State Department of Transportation, and Empire State Development. The milestone will also be marked through a special web page highlighting milestone events in the 10 years of the program, social media campaigns, and more. Additionally, ShopTasteNY.com is honoring the statewide #TasteTurns10 celebration by offering free statewide shipping all year with a minimum purchase of $25 and highlighting each region's products with 25% markdowns during the month of their 10th anniversary event. The next event will take place in the Capital Region on May 10 and information about additional events will be posted on Taste.NY.gov when it becomes available.
About Taste NY
Taste NY highlights the quality, diversity, and economic impact of food and beverages grown, produced, or processed in New York State. Taste NY aims to create new opportunities for producers through events, retail locations, and partnerships, such as at the Great New York State Fair and the Barclays Tournament at Bethpage State Park. Over the last 10 years, Taste NY has supported nearly 2,000 food and beverage producers participating in the program through retail outlets, events, and sponsorships. In 2022, 311 new producers were onboarded to the program through New York's Welcome Centers. Taste NY's food and beverage businesses also support the state's farmers by using New York grown and produced ingredients in their products.