Agri-processing plant to help East Enders

A 108,000-square-foot agri-processing plant opening in Calverton could allow East End farmers, winemakers and fishermen to greatly expand the market area for their products, state officials said.

The Agri-Park, supported by a $500,000 grant from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Regional Council initiative, will be a public-private partnership that will allow local growers and fishermen to have access to specialized processing, packaging and cold-storage facilities, some of which will be used by local wineries.

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joseph Gergela said the plant will change the way local crops are shipped. The facility's cooling, vacuum processing, packaging, food cleaning and other specialized equipment are being installed and tested.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Gergela described how corn is husked and wrapped in plastic on foam trays. "That's the way supermarkets want it . . . not in bags," he said. "It's a way of adding value to the product."

The first crops expected to make full use of the plant probably will be fall corn, cucumbers, winter squash and other vegetables that are normally harvested in September and October.

Officials have also been talking to fishermen in Montauk about using a part of the building to help them get their harvest to market. That is likely to require a separate storage area to keep the fishy smell away from the vegetables.

John King, who owns J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a food processing company in Holtsville, will operate the agri-center in a 108,000-square-foot warehouse building at 2711 Sound Ave. The Farm Bureau will set up a farm products processing operation in 30,000 square feet of the building.

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