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CoE Bite Weekly: How we connect food producers to institutions

We packed our CoE co-working space full on Thursday for the latest in our monthly CoE Coffee, Coaching & Connections event series.

This month’s panel discussion was focused around connecting farmers and other food producers with institutional buyers, such as schools and other public entities, on the local, state and federal level.

Panelists Virginia Smith (U.S. Small Business Administration), Becky O’Connor(Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest NY), Anna Vulaj Fitzsimmons (Monroe County Finger Lakes APEX Accelerator), Ryan Smith (Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development, Empire State Development), and Michelle Warren (USDA Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization) spoke about their respective organizations and their roles in helping connect producers to new markets and opportunities.

Whether you’re a farmer looking to supply your local school cafeteria, fulfill a contract with the Department of Defense, or somewhere in between, this panel provided tremendous insight into what it takes to identify opportunities and make the connection.

CoE Executive Director Cathy Young served as moderator for the lively discussion.

Thank you to everyone who attended and a special thank you to our panelists for sharing their knowledge and expertise with all of us!

For those unable to attend, a video recording of the discussion is available below.

CoE Coffee, Coaching & Connections returns May 9

Growing a successful food business takes more than simply having good products. Marketing, communications, package design and brand development are all vital components of any thriving business.

For May, CoE Coffee, Coaching & Connections will be all about food brand building, featuring some of our area’s leading experts.

Meet our May panelists:
Maureen Ballatori – Founder and CEO, 29 Design Studio
Bill Hutches – Founder, Works Design Group
Where: Food Research Lab, Cornell AgriTech, 665 W. North St., Geneva.
When: Tuesday, May 9, from 9 – 11 a.m.
How much: Free! Breakfast will be provided.

May 9-10: In-Person Better Process Control School

For the first time in over three years, the Cornell Food Venture Center will be hosting itsBetter Process Control School in person at the Cornell AgriTech campus in Geneva.

The two-day course covers the training requirements for facilities manufacturing shelf stable foods using mild thermal processes, such as acidified foods and water activity controlled foods.

Topics that will be covered include thermal processing system operations, microbiological food safety, equipment operations, acidification a and container closure evaluation for low acid and acidified canned foods.

The course runs from 8:20 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 9 and from 8:20 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 10.

Registration is $450, which includes the full course and textbook. Lunch is included both days.

Apply for 2023 Grow-NY

Applications are now open for the fifth annual Grow-NY competition!

The Grow-NY business competition provides funding, mentorship, business development support, and other key resources to leading food and ag startups from around the world.

Innovative startups are encouraged to apply for their chance to win up to $1 million. A total of $3 million in prizes will be awarded to seven startups.

This year’s Grow-NY summit will be Nov. 14-15 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Binghamton. The festivities will be capped off with a with a cocktail reception and award presentation at the SUNY Broome Culinary & Event Center the evening of Nov. 15.

In 2022, 385 startups applied and 20 were selected as finalists. Of those 20 finalists, more than half had previously worked with us at the CoE.

Interested companies can attend an upcoming virtual information session hosted by the Grow-NY team to learn more about the program and gain additional insight on how to make your application more competitive.

Click the links below to register:

If you’re a current CoE member interested in applying for the 2023 Grow-NY competition, email us at

Seeking RAs for Summer Scholars Program

The Cornell AgriTech Summer Research Scholars Program is seeking Cornell University graduate students to serve as resident advisors for the 2023 summer program.

The RAs will act as live-in mentors in the summer scholars residential housing at Hobart and William Smith (HWS) Colleges in Geneva. The program runs from May 29 to Aug. 5.

RAs are expected to:

Educate Summer Scholars on policies and encourage a positive living experience.

Coordinate use of university fleet vehicles by the summer scholars.

Develop and maintain camaraderie with the summer scholars in an inclusive environment.

Be visible and available to the summer scholars, to understand and mediate conflicts or resolve difficult situations.

Communicate with and support all members of the Cornell AgriTech Summer Research Scholars’ community and HWS security and facilities staff – to foster a sense of community, ownership and respect.

Serve as confidential liaison and advocate for summer scholars’ needs and concerns to the Cornell AgriTech Summer Research Scholars program director and human resources, especially for any summer scholars in crisis.

Help summer scholars adjust to a new living situation and interact positively with peers.

Identify and report abuse of property and inappropriate behavior and work with program leaders to enforce any necessary disciplinary actions.

Report any bias incidents to human resources in a professional and confidential manner.

Qualifications: Must be a Cornell University graduate student in good standing based on the Cornell AgriTech campus. Must be personable, responsible, and a role model for summer scholar behavior. Previous experience as a Cornell AgriTech summer scholar preferred. Must be pre-approved to drive university vehicles. Must maintain a personal cell phone for communication with summer scholars, program faculty, and Cornell AgriTech staff.

Compensation: The RA will receive a stipend, paid through the Bursar System.

Application and selection: Email 1) a cover letter fully outlining your interest and qualifications to serve as an RA and 2) a current resume/c.v., to Cornell AgriTech Summer Scholars Program Director Kyle Wickings (

Candidates will be selected by program leadership based on qualifications to meet the responsibilities described above.

What the CoE offers

The Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech works to increase the size and scope of the food and agriculture economy in New York by serving as a hub connecting businesses and entrepreneurs with the services they need to start and grow in New York.

Becoming a CoE member gives food and ag businesses and entrepreneurs the edge they need to succeed.

A few of the many services we offer access to:
Cornell food, beverage and agriculture research.
Business mentorship.
Incubators and accelerators.
Training and education.
Product development, testing and validation.
Business-to-business partnerships and supply chain asset resources.
Connections to processors, manufacturers, production facilities, co-packers, warehouses, distribution, retail and marketing services.
State, federal and local economic development resources.
Co-working, lab and manufacturing spaces.

The best part? It’s free. Just contact us at and let us see how we can help.

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