By Paul Smart
You know agriculture’s shifted when it becomes the apple in the eye of key investment firms. Take Hudson Valley Startup Fund’s recent announcement of its decision to invest in Consolidated Harvest Company LLC, following earlier investments in a variety of innovative online businesses and a shrimp farm, among other regional entities.
Consolidated Harvest, the Startup Fund noted, is made up of five businesses merged together to better connect “more farms and more products with more customers across multiple distribution channels” at a scale that “creates the opportunity to provide better quality, broader product offerings, more efficient processes, and more frequent ordering and delivery.”
The consolidated company includes Hudson Valley Harvest, which delivers produce and locally-made value-added foods, to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and corporations; Trusted Harvest, which provides non-local shelf-stable products alongside Hudson Valley Harvest; and Field Goods, the innovative Greene County-based company which uses a CSA-like model to deliver weekly to consumers through schools, libraries, and private businesses throughout the region (and increasingly beyond).
The Startup Fund has compounded its reach into the burgeoning world of Hudson Valley agriculture by becoming part of Consolidated Harvest’s $1.5 million fundraising goal this past July, which has meant use of its investors’ money to fund future business growth and the development of new, more user-friendly mobile interfaces to meet customer expectations with the major companies that each work with dozens of local farms..
“Hudson Valley Harvest is a great opportunity to expand our portfolio,” was how Hudson Valley Startup Fund co-founder and winner of the 2018 Ulster County Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year award, Johnny LeHane put it. “This creates jobs in the Hudson Valley and has economic impact throughout the region much bigger than just those jobs.”
Added Michael Waterman of Consolidated Harvest, “We’re excited that Hudson Valley Startup Fund’s vision is so well aligned with our mission. The breadth of expertise that the HVSF membership offers is a great bonus. We look forward to working with the fund and its members.”
And talk about expanding into high-minded missions! As Hudson Valley Harvest has described themselves on their website, “Our mission is twofold: To be a collaborative partner to our farms, helping them ensure a sustainable future for their land and their business, and to be a trusted source of high quality local ingredients and connect chefs, retailers and institutions directly to the small farms of the Hudson Valley and the Northeast. We work with small and medium farms to source vegetables, herbs, fruit, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, flours, beans, honey, maple syrup, and more. We also make our own salsa, hot sauce, pear sauce, and other delicious pantry staples that you can find in retail stores throughout the Northeast.”
Added Donna Williams, who founded Field Goods early this decade after researching ways to bring farming back in rural Greene County. “We offer a service that delivers produce from small farms to employees and consumers at workplaces and community sites year round. Our company, which started with an old station wagon, two employees and 60 customers has now grown to service New York state, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and our distribution model provides numerous benefits to the community while reducing food waste and supporting sustainability. Consumers gain convenient access to local produce on a regular basis along with information that motivates them toward a healthier lifestyle. Employers benefit from a wellness program that is truly effective in changing behavior of their employees. Small farmers benefit from selling their unique products to a new market at a fair price…Our mission is to open the floodgates for the flow of local food by delivering food of superior taste, freshness, and nutritional value to our customers and to be a good partner to our farmers. We believe that helping people achieve and maintain healthy diets is one of the most critical and cost-effective ways to improve health. At the same time, we support sustainable farming practices.”
Talk about win-win investments on all levels, shepherding all our journeys forward into better, more woke and mindful lives.
“We let farmers do what they do best: create food,” pointed out Hudson Valley Harvest co-founder Paul Alward. “We work to convince big buyers that sublime food from tough-tilling farmers is worth a premium. The basic issue is, people are expecting more from food,” Alward says. “Flavor is the thing now. People expect it at work and at school. Local wins. People start thinking about how an animal lives, about pollution runoff.”
And that Startup Fund behind all this good Hudson Valley product enhancement and growth hope? Launched in 2016, HVSF is a member-managed seed capital fund currently comprised of 65 investors, most of whom are local business and community leaders from throughout the Hudson Valley who invest time and resources to support the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The fund provides seed funding, mentorship, and connections for local entrepreneurs, while delivering investment returns to its members.
Talk about getting this region right.