NY farmers doing something unheard of, may help diversify farming with new crop

Local News

SCHUYLER COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Farmers in Schuyler County are planting a crop new to New York State.

It’s part of a Schuyler County-Cornell partnership with Ithaca Hummus and several other groups to help an Ithaca start-up, but it could also end up being a big benefit for farmers.

Mother and son farmers Carl and Jean Taber are putting a new seed into the soil and taking a chance on chickpeas.

“Saying that it’s produced locally, you know there’s a little bit of value to that.”

Carl Taber

“[We’ll] see how the chickpeas like the New York weather because we might not have the same climate conditions they have in Idaho,” Jean Taber said.

Originally, the goal was to make the local start-up Antithesis Foods more profitable. The Ithaca-based company makes Grabanzos, a crunchy chocolate-covered snack made from chickpeas.

Photo of Grabanzos. Courtesy: Cornell

The Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development Judy McKinney Cherry tells NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla the whole project stemmed from the desire to reduce the supply chain and the cost of moving goods, or chickpea seeds, across the country.

“That was the ultimate goal was to say is there a way to help you [Antithesis] become more profitable and establish a stronger manufacturing presence in the Finger Lakes area,” McKinney Cherry said.

They realized that until now, chickpeas weren’t grown locally. “No one really knew why it wasn’t happening, it just had never been tried before,” she said.

Once they found a farmer and had everyone they needed on board, the Tabers planted three acres of three varieties of chickpea seeds last winter.

They planted late, handled a weed problem, and had a late harvest. So, much of the crop was past its maturity date. Even so, they learned it is possible to grow them here.

“Not only do they grow, they thrive. One varietal was thriving into December after two snowfalls.”

Judy McKinney Cherry

The trial run brought great news for the project and an even bigger goal than simply helping Antithesis.

This gives the farmers an opportunity to find a higher-value crop. So, it’s a crop that actually could pay them more than what they’re getting from say soybeans or corn.”

Judy McKinney Cherry

Meaning, it can help diversify New York’s agricultural community and boost business for a number of companies.

“The market for chickpeas is going to continue to grow and that we’re going to see new products that are going to be used with chickpeas,” said McKinney Cherry.

The team took what they learned last year to plant again this winter.

When they harvest in late September, if it works, New York would be positioned perfectly for the growing market.

“I think there’s potential for it, yeah,” said Carl Taber.

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