Group photo at Chester Agricultural Center

Empire State Development Announces More Than $1.3 Million in Assistance to Chester Agricultural Center Through Historic New York State Small Business Credit Initiative

Funding Used to Expand Leases to Start-Up and Historically Disadvantaged Local Farmers

Highlights Broader Efforts to Utilize Provide Support to Diverse Small Businesses throughout New York State

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that Chester Agricultural Center, located in the Town of Chester, Orange County, has received more than $1.3 million in support to expand operations at its 200-acre farm, which leases land in subsections to local farm operators. Many of the leases are awarded to people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and Latinx, which are historically underserved segments within the farming industry. Chester Agricultural Center, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, received a $1.08 million loan through the Capital Project Loan Fund as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), funded through the American Rescue Plan Act. ESD also awarded the center an additional $300,000 capital grant.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "Chester Agricultural Center is a prime example of how Empire State Development is supporting diverse small businesses throughout New York State. Chester Agricultural Center is promoting greater fairness and equity for farmworkers by providing affordable long-term leases to beginning-level farmers and working to create an equitable and inclusive regional food system."

Chester Agricultural Center Executive Director Lucinda Poindexter said, "This funding from Empire State Development is transformational, allowing us to fulfill our mission to provide affordable farmland to underserved farmers, to build pathways for farmworkers to farm ownership and to build a new model of agribusiness in the region."

Chester Agricultural Center will build a new $2.7 million wash-and-pack and cold storage facility to serve its two largest farm operators, allowing the existing wash-and-pack facility to be used more efficiently and equitably by leaseholders. Most importantly, it will allow the Center to meet rising demand for leases and put additional acreage into production. Currently only about 60% of the 200 acres has been leased, given the restrictions caused by the existing wash-and-pack facility, which is aging and overcrowded. This new structure will allow the Center to lease the remaining 40% of the land to mostly first-time or historically disadvantaged farmers.

The Center's new 17,000 square foot facility will comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act, and allow the group to achieve Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. This state-of-the-art facility will also allow the Center to improve energy efficiency, product quality controls, and operational productivity amongst the individual farm operators.

Senator James G. Skoufis said, "Chester Agricultural Center is a key link in Orange County's and the Hudson Valley's farm workforce. The work they do not only to support new farms and farmers entering the industry, but to return sustainable agricultural practices to our black dirt region and stand strong against the pressures of overdevelopment, is an inspiring model for the future of farming in New York. I applaud this critical funding by Empire State Development to help ensure Chester Ag's long-term position as a springboard for up-and-coming agricultural professionals and practices."

Assemblymember Brian M. Maher said, "I am excited to see the Chester Agricultural Center will receive a $1.3 million investment. This will open up more opportunities to start agribusinesses for a variety of new farmers. Agriculture is a heritage industry always on the cutting edge of innovation, and I am glad it is thriving in Orange County. I look forward to the positive impact the project will have on our region."

Orange County Executive Stephen M. Neuhaus said, "Agriculture remains one of Orange County’s largest industries and this funding will greatly assist the Chester Agricultural Center. It preserves key open space and produces food locally which is important for our health and economy. We need to take continued steps in New York to making farming more affordable and sustainable for future generations."

Chester Town Supervisor Robert Valentine said, "Investment in our farms is a part of preservation that is sometimes overlooked, and investment in our farms is an investment in our community. In Chester, we support and encourage the heritage of farming, and applaud the efforts of the Chester Agricultural Center, ESD and New York State."

Empire State Development created nine programs to manage more than $500 million in federal funding to support the resurgence of small businesses across New York State through SSBCI. SSBCI provides funds to support programs for small businesses, including socially and economically disadvantaged individual (SEDI) owned businesses and very small businesses (VSB), to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19 and allow them opportunity to succeed in the post-pandemic economy. With this funding, ESD developed a suite of capital access and equity programs to help New York State small businesses recover from the economic effects of COVID-19 and allow them the opportunity to succeed.

To learn more about the available SSBCI programs visit

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development is New York's chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the State's iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and


Kristin Devoe | [email protected] | (518) 414-1087

ESD Press Office | [email protected] | (800) 260-7313