Hudson Valley Parent

HVP March 2015

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Page 8 of 41 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 9 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Steve Neuhaus: Local food for local families By BRIAN PJ CRONIN T he scene was a boardroom meeting in the offi ce of Orange County Executive Steve Neu- haus. Around the table, all in suits, were the executives of Amy's Kitchen; a leading organic and natural foods company based in California and Ore- gon. The company had been looking for a place to build an outpost on the eastern seaboard, and Neuhaus was on the verge of fi nalizing a deal to bring them to Orange County. Suddenly the door to the board- room fl ew open, and in ran Neu- haus's 5-year-old daughter Emma screaming "Daddy, daddy, we're going to have a baby brother!" Family-friendly o ce place For many businesses, such an intrusion would have been a deal breaker. But as Neuhaus recalls, his daughter's announcement had the opposite effect. "The CEO of the company, instead of being offended that someone interrupted the meeting, got up and gave my wife a hug, even though he had never met her," Neuhaus said. "He then turned to me and said 'This is the type of community we want to come to.' Coincidentally, his compa- ny, Amy's Kitchen, is named after his child. Everyone seems to be happy that we have a young, family-friendly atmosphere here in the offi ce." Access to fresh, local food Trying to bring new business and new jobs to your county is standard operating procedure for any politi- cian. However, for Neuhaus, who just fi nished his fi rst year in offi ce as the Orange County executive, bring- ing Amy's Kitchen to the table was especially meaningful. Neuhaus was born and raised on a farm in Orange County that his family still owns; he and his wife currently raise honey- bees and keep chickens on their own property. Making sure his constit- uents have access to fresh, local, healthy food has been one of Neu- haus's top priorities. "A lot of parents are concerned about what their kids are eating," Neuhaus said. "My wife and I are no different." Bolstering local farmers Besides bringing Amy's Kitchen to Orange County, Neuhaus has been in- strumental in making sure that local agencies that provide food to schools, senior centers and veterans are using more local produce. Neuhaus also recently procured a $100,000 grant from the USDA to support current Orange County farmer's markets and create new ones — including some that will stay open year-round. Neuhaus says that bol- stering the county's farmer's markets is a win-win situation: It lends eco- nomic support the county's thriving agricultural industry while improving the health of Orange County citizens. "The markets are a very popular thing with families," he said. "I know it's very popular with my family." Making time for family Food and family are inextricably linked for Neuhaus, and not just be- cause he grew up on a farm. Despite the grueling schedule of a county executive, Neuhaus makes sure that he and his extended family — includ- ing his parents, sister, and brother-in- law — get together for breakfast and dinner once a week. He admits that his job doesn't always make this easy, but he knows that's no excuse. "Everyone has some- thing in their life to make them busy, whether it's school or work," he said. "But you always have to fi nd time for this. You don't have to have a glam- orous meal. It just matters that you spend some time together." Neuhaus's career in politics, as well as his career as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, has given him a unique perspective on the fragility of life. "I've seen people that I've loved and cared for pass away. You don't want to have any regrets, or think 'I wish I had had more time with them; I've been too busy at the offi ce.'" And that's why, no matter who he's meeting with, his family and the families of his staff members know that his door is always, always open. Year-round markets County Executive Neuhaus announced back in October that Orange County would be awarded a $100,000 grant from the United State Department of Agriculture's "Farmer's Market Promotion" program. The award is the highest amount that the USDA distributes through this program, and will be used to promote the county's cur- rent markets as well as establish a year-round farmer's market. While the idea of a winter farmer's market may seem like an oxymoron at fi rst (what grows in January?), many Hudson Valley towns have established year- round farmer's markets that sell local meats, cheeses, wine, honey, jarred goods, and hardy storage crops like onions and potatoes.

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