All agree: Amy's Kitchen will be 'a good neighbor'

By Geri Corey

GOSHEN — Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus had only good things to say about Amy’s Kitchen at a public hearing last week. And so began a refrain of good words in support of the natural and organic food purveyor, which wants to build a 369,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on 60 acres known as the Ver Hage property, on Hartley Road in the Town of Goshen.

“This company is good for manufacturing in Orange County, creating jobs that we don’t see any more," said Neuhaus. "It’s a big company and bringing manufacturing jobs. I’ve seen classmates leave the area because of a lack of jobs. And they grow healthier food and treat their employees well. This is a positive for our area."

After accepting the applicant’s draft environmental report (DEIS), the town planning board held a public hearing to gather citizens' comments, the next step in the environmental review process.

Bill Fioravanti, Director of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership, called the project's economic prospect, and the company itself, “outstanding." When he toured the Amy's plant in Santa Rosa, Calif., he said, the pride workers and managers had for the company was evident, as was their good rapport with owner Andy Berliner.

“They’re quality people — Rachel, Andy, and Amy — and incredibly humble, still living in the same home they’ve had for 40 years,” said Fioravanti.

And, throughout the planning process, they’ve kept their word, he said.

“This is not a ‘bait and switch’ project," said Fioravanti. "They’re building the manufacturing plant before the Science of the Soul facility. They’ve kept their word on that."

Science of the Soul is a proposed 200,000 open-air conference center with outbuildings on the Echo Lake property, an approximately 195-acre parcel located on Route 17M and Echo Lake Road in the Town of Goshen. It is an international, non-denominational philosophy based on teachings universal to all religions.

Amy’s “been gracious to us," said Lynn Cione, president of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and a Village of Goshen resident. "The economic impact for us is huge. With 50 percent of our property tax-exempt in the village, the pressure is on the residents to meet taxes. They’ve already hired people from this area — they’ve integrated with us. They’re not just a good neighbor, but a true neighbor."


Quest for local organic food

Amy’s Kitchen purchases 90 million pounds of organic materials yearly, with 95 percent of materials supplied by farms in the United States. Most of the organic produce is from the West Coast, but Amy's is working to increase East Coast suppliers. According to Mark Rudolph, chief financial officer and vice-president of development, Amy’s is working with Cornell University on growing crops locally.

“We’re making significant advances on growing organic produce locally,” said Rudolph.

Goshen resident Betsy Dunlevy asked about helping farmers earn organic certification. Rudolph said Amy’s is working with Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania to provide financial aid to farmers.

“What’s unique about the Berliners is that they own the company,” said Town of Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield. "That’s significant because there’s no board of directors. They do what’s good for the employees. Andy does all he can to meet the family needs, like having an onsite health clinic for employees and their families and assisting their children who want to go to college. We can’t find a better, well-meaning, honest company to work with."

The planning board will accept written comments until June 10.