Extension will share plan at fair for building with commercial kitchen

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Cornell Cooperative extension in Orleans County is considering a 70-by-120-foot building in this green space south of the Trolley Building.

Courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension

KNOWLESVILLE – Next week’s Orleans County 4-H Fair will give fair-goers a chance to look into what the future could hold for the fairgrounds.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County is in the early stages of investigating the feasibility of a 70-by-120 foot commercial kitchen/conference center for the fairgrounds. It would be south of the Trolley Building on what is now a grass field.

Extension wants to hear from the public if they would use the building, and if they see it as an asset for the fairgrounds. Some initial renderings of the building will be on display. The building would be bigger than the Trolley Building.

“We want to start the conversation,” said Jennifer Wagester, Extension executive director. “Is this something we want? Is this something we need?”

She sees the site as a draw for many events and conferences, and also as a business incubator for chefs, restaurants and food businesses that could rent the commercial kitchen.

The Trolley Building’s kitchen isn’t big enough to be used as a commercial kitchen, and the building doesn’t quite seat enough for many potential conferences and events, she said. That building also is often used for 4-H events, including rabbit shows.

“It’s a good space and the kids use it,” she said. “But we don’t want to mix it with food.”

The new building would also have room for several organizations to move out of cramped food booths. The Senior Council Stand, pie stand, French fry stand and milkshake booth all need upgrades. They also are short on storage space, requiring daily deliveries during the fair.

The new building would replace the need for this series of food booths that lack storage space and need upgrades.

The new building would have more space to store food, and the site could be used year-round, Wagester said.

She would like the site to be energy efficient. That could help secure grant funding from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority).
The building would be low profile and modest, and would blend in with the neighboring Education Center, Wagester said.

The Extension doesn’t have bids or quotes for the 8,400-square-foot building. She and other Extension leaders will pursue those numbers soon.

The Extension board asked Wagester to look for projects that would bring more resources into the county, and also position the organization for the future. She sees many potential partnerships if the project goes forward. The commercial kitchen could be linked with GCC’s food processing program. Chefs and food businesses could partner with the local ag community, which would produce the food that would be prepared in the kitchen.

“This would reposition us in our place with nutrition and food science,” Wagester said. “In Orleans County we’re an agricultural economy. It would make sense to capitalize on what we have here because food is our biggest resource.”