By JIM KEVLIN
The crowd listening to the speeches couldn’t help but be distracted by the aroma wafting across the front of Larry’s Custom Meats’ smart new building just south of the hamlet on Route 205.
The distraction came from a grill where John Van Vranken Jr. of Edmeston was slow-cooking a whole pig. Soon, everyone knew, tender chunks of pork would be piled high in the serving dishes, ready to be piled high in the hoagie rolls.
Let’s not talk about the baked beans, or cole slaw, or potato salad and, certainly, not the cookies.
We digress, but isn’t that really what Larry’s Custom Meat is all about? Good food for the eating?
The dignitaries under the new sign included USDA Rural Development State Director Jill Harvey, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, co-proprietors Larry and Julia Althiser of New Lisbon, Otsego County Chamber President Rob Robinson and Bank of Cooperstown President Scott White, who provided some of the financing.
The Rev. Jay Henderson, who preaches from several pulpits in the Burlington
and Edmeston area and is administering a successful school in that area, blessed the Althisers’ undertaking.
“When agriculture is doing well, Upstate is doing well,” Seward added in his remarks.
Then the Althisers, with big shears, cut the red ribbon across the doorway and led the first round of tours inside.
Among those in the applauding crowd was Dana Mockoviciak, a USDA inspector, who explained that, until now, farmers could bring their livestock to Larry’s Custom Meats’ former building, across Route 205, but they could only have it processed for their own use.
The USDA certification of the new plant means that livestock can be processed for sale throughout the state, nation and even the world, opening up possibilities for a whole new local industry.
Now, said Mockoviciak, the closest USDA-certified plants are in Bridgewater to the north and Otego to the south, but the demand is much greater than those plants can meet.
Already, the new plant is busy, and it’s expected that this fall Althiser’s six-employee operation will be running 24-7 to meet the demand of processing hogs.
The Otsego County Industrial Development Authority, the county’s Economic Development Office and CADE (the Center for Agricultural Development and Education) helped make the 3,000-square-foot structure possible.
In an interview, Jill Harvey, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, said the growing demand for organic meats along the Eastern Seaboard is making projects like this one a priority.
Larry’s benefited from an R-BEG, a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant, among other funding sources, Harvey said. The $99,000 grant went to the IDA, which bought the equipment and leased it to the Althisers at a reasonable rate.
Because of the demand, the USDA is operating two mobile slaughterhouses in the Hudson Valley, she said.
While many in the crowd under the tent were friends and relatives of the Althisers, the organic-farming segment was well-represented, too, including beef-growers up from East Meredith.
There were samples of the Althisers’ kielbasa and hotdogs which, with USDA-certification, they can sell from the plant if they wish.