SARANAC LAKE — The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity will receive funding to develop and build two “state-of-the-art” greenhouses to support the Franklin County Mobile Farmers Market, thanks to $376,000 awarded by the Adirondack Health Institute for health care and quality-of-life projects across the region.
“This will help the whole region,” said JCEO Director Richard LaVigne on Thursday.
The aim of the project is to grow fresh produce and lengthen the Mobile Farmers Market growing season, according to an AHI press release. A full-time mobile market manager and part-time mobile market assistant will be hired to expand the capabilities and reach of the market.
JCEO will be joined by other partner organizations in the greenhouse project, including Community Connections of Franklin County, Franklin County Office for the Aging, Franklin County Public Health, University of Vermont-Alice Hyde Medical Center, Citizen Advocates, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the North Country Healthy Heart Network, the Akwesasne Housing Authority and Catholic Charities.
“With two new greenhouses, we can increase our growing season from three to nine months of the year and extend the market’s schedule from 10 to 14 weeks,” Lee Rivers, executive director of Community Connections of Franklin County, said in the AHI news release. “With that four-week increase, coupled with a dedicated manager and assistant, we’ll be able to grow the presence of the market and serve another 800 people.”
JCEO currently grows produce for both the farmers market and its food pantry in beds around its warehouse and office facility on Creighton Road in Malone. The new greenhouses are expected to be built in the same area.
The project received funding through the AHI Performing Provider System to partner organizations in the Saranac Lake region undertaking “innovative health care projects,” according to the press release.
JCEO had previously sought funding to build greenhouses through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council grant program, although the project to be funded by AHI is somewhat different than the group’s earlier proposals.
The earlier JCEO proposal called for construction of a commercial-scale greenhouse to grow tomatoes that would be sold to restaurants and food processors. The facility would have been heated by methane gas generated by the Franklin County landfill.
The proposal was designated a priority project by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council in both 2014 and 2015, but it failed to win state funding both years.
The Adirondack Health Institute funding will also finance two other projects:
n Expanding transportation services for Franklin County residents in need “by way of the dissemination of bus tickets, gas cards, assistance with minor vehicle repairs and ride assistance from taxicab companies and other providers for non-medical needs”
n Staffing St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation counselors on premises at Community Connections and North Country Community College to provide in-community services and referrals for those with substance use disorders
“Each of the awarded innovation fund projects in the Saranac Lake area aligns with the overarching DSRIP goal of improving population health and creating an integrated delivery system,” AHI CEO Eric Burton said in the release. “This is the fourth round of funding the AHI PPS has made available to partners. For this round, we placed an emphasis on supporting projects involving multiple organizations from a wide array of sectors working closely to positively impact community health.”
The “innovation funding” is part of the state’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program’s efforts to restructure the Medicaid system. DSRIP´s aim is to “fundamentally restructure the health care delivery system by reinvesting in the Medicaid program,” according to the news release, with the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by 25 percent over five years.