The project has been on the drawing board for at least 10 years, with numerous twists and turns along the way. Now, finally, the earth-moving machines are moving lots of earth in preparation of the Southern Catskills Red Meat Processing Facility.
A ground-breaking ceremony on October 10 brought out about 75 people including numerous politicians, county officials and a number of farmers. Jennifer Brylinski, executive director of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) said the new sign heralding the project was built to the exact specifications required by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA). Given that EDA is providing the bulk of the money for the project, $800,000, they get to have whatever kind of sign they want.
Not that many people will see it. Early on in the process, it became clear that no matter how much the community supported the idea of a slaughterhouse, almost no one wanted it to be built in their back yard. So the final location chosen is an exceptionally rugged parcel down a dead-end road past the Village of Liberty water and sewer facility, where there are no neighbors who are likely to object to living next door to a slaughterhouse.
It will be a 5,000-square-foot facility, and the designers envisioned that it would employ perhaps three or four people and would process or slaughter mostly beef. However, other animals such as sheep or goats could also be part of the mix.
Animal activist Star Hesse has urged that the “humane” slaughter designs created by Temple Grandin, a recognized expert animal slaughter, be incorporated into the facility, but it’s not clear if that will happen. It seems that much of the final design of the facility will be determined by the eventual operator; the IDA will soon start the process of seeking one.
But Temple Grandin design or not, the facility is one that has been eagerly anticipated by some members of the agricultural community. Farmers raising beef cows must now transport their animals up to 80 miles or more, and this facility will likely encourage more farmers to raise beef.
Cindy Gieger, county legislator and dairy farmer, said, “We have the land, we have the farmers, we have an agricultural community and we have the market 90 miles away.” She said she has had numerous enquiries about the facility. She said the piece that now needs to be addressed is the marketing and branding of the meat from the county.
The project has included the cooperation of various entities, including the IDA, which along with shepherding the project along also kicked in $150,000; and the county, which also provided $150,000. Also, officials from the Village of Liberty, the Town of Liberty, and the state and federal governments were involved.
In his remarks at the ceremony, county chair Scott Samuelson was effusive in his praise for legislator Ira Steingart, current chair of the IDA. Samuelson said Steingart pushed the project over the finish line. Samuelson also said, “I think the most exciting thing about all of it is that it has been such a cooperative effort, that everybody has worked together. And for everybody to work together in Sullivan County for this long—that is a real testament, it’s really very exciting.”