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Eden Valley Growers expansion receives $345,000 in state aid

The Eden Valley Growers, a farming collective in southern Erie County, has received $345,000 in state aid toward a recently completed expansion that allows the vegetable growers to better store and prepare for transport its green peppers, corn and broccoli.

The $500,000 expansion, which was finished in August, more than doubles the capacity of the co-op’s cooling and storage building off Route 62, allowing for safer handling of the fresh vegetables harvested from the 10 nearby farms that make up the Eden Valley Growers.

The state’s Western New York Regional Economic Development Council awarded the $345,052 through its Agriculture Development Fund, which lets area farmers apply for matching grants for equipment purchases or construction. The growers in August also received $80,000 toward the project through an economic development fund administered by the New York Power Authority.

The modern cooler in the new, 8,500-square-foot building more than doubles the capacity of the four, older coolers in the co-op’s existing facility, which remains in use and is connected to the new facility, said David Walczak, the co-op’s sales and operations manager.

The new building is the first of two phases of a planned expansion. The growers next year plan to add a slush icer, the first of its kind in the area, which produces an icy slurry that is applied to broccoli, corn and other vegetables and allows for safer, colder shipping, Walczak said. The second phase should cost between $400,000 and $500,000 and growers are seeking additional state aid.

The co-op employs 18 or 20 workers during the growing and transport season and expects to hire another five or 10 if the expansion leads to additional demand for its produce, Walczak said.