Could an abandoned prison become a driving force in the Hudson Valley’s food economy? If the Doe Fund, a New York City-based not-for-profit, is successful, the Hudson Valley could reap the rewards of the Mid-Hudson Food Enterprise and Training Center. In recognition of the facility’s potential benefit to the local community and the regional food economy, the Local Economies Project (LEP) is providing the Doe Fund with $75,000 to complete the site assessment, business planning, and community outreach needed to move the project forward.
The Doe Fund hopes to leverage a state funding program to repurpose the former Beacon Correctional Facility, a 39-acre minimum security complex that closed in 2013, into a fully functioning food processing, training, and storage campus. The project could help generate up to 244 full-time equivalent jobs in the area, provide space and equipment for food and beverage manufacturers, and offer workforce training, youth programs, and social services to low-income individuals. In addition, it promises to further boost the Hudson Valley’s food and agriculture economy by providing crucial infrastructure to connect upstate and downstate communities.
“Sites and places that are in transition have untapped economic potential,” says Doe Fund Chief of Staff Alexander Horwitz. “Based on the location of the prison site [in Beacon], we thought it would be important to tie in food and agriculture.”
The Doe Fund was established in 1985 by George McDonald with a simple mantra: “Work works.” By offering paid work, transitional housing, and supportive services, the organization helps members of low-income communities to provide for themselves. In the past several years, the Doe Fund has expanded its programs to encompass food and the regional food economy, including culinary training, catering services, and urban gardens.
If the Doe Fund’s vision is fully realized, the Mid-Hudson Food Enterprise and Training Center will provide fully equipped rentable space for food manufacturers (including an incubator kitchen for start-ups), a co-working space, and training classrooms for education and social services. As a food hub offering distribution and processing services, the facility will help provide Hudson Valley producers with access to urban markets.
“Food is one of those sectors that has huge economic potential, and there’s already infrastructure in the Hudson Valley,” says Horwitz, “but we need to set up distribution between upstate and downstate.” Horwitz emphasizes the potential of food hubs to help store and distribute produce coming from the Hudson Valley, and the need to create these hubs in a highly collaborative way. “Through a grassroots approach, we are also listening to the needs and ideas of the nearby community,” he explains.
The project is currently in the early planning and feasibility stages. Nonetheless, for LEP this proposal symbolizes the flourishing of the food and beverage sector in the Hudson Valley, its potential to provide opportunity in the communities that need it the most, and the economic and social benefits of adaptive reuse.
Learn more about LEP’s food economy grantmaking.
Learn more about the Doe Fund.
Featured photo of the campus courtesy of WigWam.