Turning Gowanda brownfields into tourist destination, agri-hub

composite image for Growing Gowanda event
Images courtesy Growing Gowanda

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Gowanda, a once-industrial village left with 18 contaminated or underutilized properties, is working to revitalize itself by becoming a destination for agri-tourism and a hub for agriculture businesses. Not only that, it aims to reinforce and strengthen all the agriculture in this region.

Find out more and get a taste of agri-tourism at Growing Gowanda from 5 p.m. until dark this Friday, Sept. 10 at 10 Industrial Place, Village of Gowanda.

It will be set up like a farmers market. Agriculturally based fresh-food vendors, non-profits, organizations and educational institutions will sell and/or distribute products and marketing about their group or business. (I will be there, too. Stop by and say hello!)

The event is free and family friendly.

Horse-drawn wagon rides will offer views of ongoing village revitalization sites. They will be free and provided by the Collins Draft Horse, Ox and Pony Club.

Experience what local agriculture has to offer at the tables of vendors. One Springville farmer raises crickets (which are high in protein) that he makes into meal and uses in baked goods. Other vendors will sell honey, baked goods, maple syrup, beef, poultry, organic dairy products, goat milk products, alpaca products and popcorn.

Learn about organizations including Fresh Local WNY, a project of NY Sustainable Agriculture Working Group; Food Future Western New York, the food system initiative in WNY; Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), nutrition education for people with low incomes run through Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, and Healthy Corner Store initative, which helps SNAP (food stamp) recipients make healthy food choices.

“This isn’t about trendy food,” said Jason Engel, an agriculture planner with the event. “It’s about good food, good nutrition and making food accessible.”

(Note: It may be buggy during the event, so take bug spray.)

Proposed WNY Regional Agri-Hub, Agri-Tourism District

The Growing Gowanda event aims to get people motivated, to show that things are starting to happen, and to get people thinking about new ideas, Engel said.

Gowanda has a grant from the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program to clean up contaminated sites and revitalize the village. It could use that grant to turn the former AVM industrial site, where the Growing Gowanda event will be held, into an agri-hub.

Ideas for the agri-hub include:

  • Light manufacturing such as a juicery for farmers who grow grapes and berries.
  • Licensed kitchen. Home kitchens may not meet the requirements for preparing food for sale, so providing a licensed kitchen would allow small farmers to process foods into products, such as baked goods. This would allow more variety in locally made products in our region, Engel said.
  • Community garden in raised beds for people to rent or use.
  • Farmers market.
  • Retail store to sell the products made on the site.
  • Food programs and agricultural education.

The agri-hub would provide support and resources for farmers, especially smaller farmers, and keep all the agriculture viable in our region. It would include Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties, but also Allegany and possibly Niagara, Wyoming, Genesee and Steuben.

The buildings on that site where the agri-hub would be look derelict now, Engel said, and will need to be renovated or replaced. That, along with increased agri-tourism, could prompt a revival of hotels and other buildings in the village.

You can already experience agri-tourism by stopping at a dozen small roadside farm markets as you drive south to Gowanda, Engel said. And you can visit farms on the Amish Trail map that specialize in vegetables, flowers, baked goods and eggs as well as other products such as quilts, metal items, toys and furniture. And Zoar Valley enjoys eco-tourism, which beckons tourists for hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, bird watching and other outdoor activities.

The proposed agri-hub in Gowanda could draw even more agri-tourism. The Buffalo, Cattaragus & Jamestown Scenic Railway, which makes stops in Hamburg, Eden and North Collins, could play a role. People could hop on at those stops, take a scenic ride to Gowanda’s agri-hub, do some shopping and take the train back.

These are still proposals; if you have ideas on these projects, stop by the information tent at the Growing Gowanda event.

For more information, call Jason Engel at 716-481-2971.

2 Comments on “Turning Gowanda brownfields into tourist destination, agri-hub

  1. This initiative is currently in its infancy stages. The next step this fall will be to begin conversations between the the Village, the State and developers to create a more comprehensive concept which works with other redevelopment initiatives in the village and best supports regional agriculture. SO an exact timeline may not be available until next spring at the earliest. Thanks for your question!

  2. Sounds great! Especially like the idea of taking a ride on the Scenic Railroad to get there. Any idea of timeline for any of the proposals?

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