NEW YORK (WETM) — In her 2023 State of the State Address, NY Governor Kathy Hochul acknowledged the struggles currently facing small farms and laid out plans to invest in local farmers in the year ahead.

Hochul’s address touched on the rising average age of New York farmers, problems from the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration policies and their effect on farm workers, and high costs associated with farming at the local level.

To address this, Hochul’s 2023 address included plans to have the State buy more from local farms, invest in schools to cook fresh meals sourced from local farms, as well as work with farm owners to address worker shortages. She also laid out plans to promote urban agriculture and community green spaces.

Specifically, the plans said that more food grown in NY will be bought by State agencies and State-funded programs. Hochul plans to sign an executive order that directs State agencies to increase the amount of food they buy from local farmers by 30%.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets will also work with local farmers across the state to address worker shortages and find internships and apprenticeships, according to the book from the SOTS Address. The Ag Department will also target schools to bolster ag education, as well as “building a pipeline for the next generation of agricultural workforce, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”.

To better connect immigrants with agricultural jobs, the State will also work with Cornell for “screening, language services, basic skill development, and placement.”

When it comes to schools, Hochul’s address said the State will provide $50 million over five years to grow “scratch” cooking equipment in schools. This will allow schools to cook fresh meals sourced from local farms rather than “rely on heat-and-serve methods for highly processed foods”, according to the document.

Hochul also said the State will work to expand urban agriculture. Specifically, three initiatives will help create community garden programs, train leaders for these programs, and test the soil in the sites of the future gardens. Again, NYS will work with Cornell University.

Finally, the State will give $10 million in grants to help create “farm markets, supermarkets, food cooperatives, and other similar retail food stores”. These grants will also aim to help support food infrastructure in underserved parts of NY.

Read the full 2023 NYS State of the State address here.