Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Jim Hyland
Owner and CEO, The Farm Bridge

Category
Location
New Paltz, New York
Farm Credit Affiliation
Farm Credit East
Jim's Perspective

In 2006, with a small state grant, Jim Hyland founded Winter Sun Farms with the simple notion of making food from local farms available all year long. Jim's idea came from his experience freezing the surplus produce from his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share so his family could continue to enjoy local food during the winter.

“I started my journey into local food chasing the wonderful taste and quality of the produce that our farms grew, but I was also seeing the struggle the farms were going through,” Jim says. “I was inspired by the food, but moved to action by the farmers and workers who were growing it. I was inspired to build a business that would support these farms and be part of the local food movement.”

Winter Sun Farms started working with small local farms to freeze their produce and then distribute it through membership in a winter CSA program. By 2009, the growth of Winter Sun Farms and the lack of regional food processing kitchens led Jim to convert an old IBM cafeteria into a 30,000 square foot processing kitchen called Farm to Table Co-Packers. Besides producing Winter Sun Farms products, the kitchen offers freezing, pickling, hot-fill jars, packing and product development services to farmers and food entrepreneurs throughout the region.

Just this past January, Jim combined his two businesses to form The Farm Bridge, which is serving as the anchor of a food hub that fulfills multiple needs in the sustainable food community. The facility works with more than 60 regional farms in the preservation of their own harvests through value-added products under their own labels, and also sources from many of those same farms in the creation of an expanding offering of proprietary products for retail and institutional outlets.

“I believe The Farm Bridge has tremendous potential to make a significant impact in the Hudson Valley, but we can also take this model we have created and spread it to other regions of the country,” Jim says. “I would love to see farming become a great career choice, not just a labor of love. I want to see families supporting themselves by farming, and for farmers to get as much out of farming as they put in.”

The Farm Bridge works with an eye toward innovation and meeting customers’ needs, as seen in the development and success of its five-gallon 'bag-in-the-box' shelf-stable pizza sauce, made entirely from local tomatoes. The local products made at The Farm Bridge can be found all over the region: in local stores, farm markets, CSAs, colleges, restaurants and about any place where good food is served. The Farm Bridge has become a model both in New York State and across the country for how to operate a for-profit, sustainable Food Hub.

The Farm Bridge will enable Jim to further his original mission of enjoying and providing local food throughout the year and has set the stage for future growth and for doing even more to support local farms.

“Climate change, scarcity of water, and soil health will all play crucial roles in where farming goes.I think technology will continue to change and evolve farming, but one of the biggest changes will be people’s understanding of farming and the importance of food to their life and health,” says Jim. “We will continue to see a value shift to clean, healthy, source-identified food and I know we will have the farmers and entrepreneurs ready to respond to this demand in many diverse ways.”

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