Beth McKellips, new WAC farm-to-market manager

By Cheryl Petersen
At Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) headquarters in Walton, Beth McKellips works from her desk to promote economic development within all the counties included in the New York City Watershed. With her Irish/German background, comes a healthy persistence.
“The McKellips name is Irish. Dad is 100 percent Irish and mom is German,” said McKellips. “They tease me about being stubborn and I remind them of my heritage, a mix of two determined cultures, Irish and German.”
Beginning in November, McKellips started putting that determination to use at work as WAC’s Farm to Market Manager. “I’ve already met with representatives from Lazy Crazy Acres in Arkville, Catskill Creamery, Cowbella, and Lucky Dog. I’m interested in meeting many farmers and foresters.”

Minnesota native
McKellips grew up in Minnesota. After earning a degree at the University of Puget Sound, in Seattle, Washington, she worked in the Seattle area for six years at a web design company. “The job provided a beneficial foundation with technology,” said McKellips. “Then in 2008, I moved east to earn a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania.” She specialized in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning.
“The field of City/Urban Planning involves a big picture,” explained McKellips. “Not only do we work to develop farming and forestry, but we also develop the processing and transportation stages in the planning.” Everything from growing to marketing is incorporated.
During college, McKellips remembers many field trips. She visited the Philadelphia Self-Help and Resource Exchange, SHARE, facility, which has been successfully providing food to over 500 cupboards since the 1980s, and is a lead agency for the Emergency Food Assistance Program. “SHARE is a good example of a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education, and advocacy,” said McKellips.
“After graduating from college, I held the position of Agricultural Economic Development Director for Cornell Extension in Madison County,” said McKellips. She was instrumental in acquiring a $1.5 million grant to start a food hub within Madison County.

New challenge
“I then took this opportunity at WAC to broaden my professional skills into a larger region,” said McKellips. WAC supplies 1.1 billion gallons of safe drinking water to New York City, daily, from three surface water sources, a region covering the Croton watershed east of the Hudson River and the combined Catskill and Delaware watershed system west of the Hudson.
“The challenge to spur economic growth and yet keep the rural character of the region is intriguing,” said McKellips. “I see a ton of potential in this area because New York City is a wealth of demand for local products.” McKellips strives to connect producers and consumers by taking into account all aspects, including the labor force, anchor agencies, existing businesses, and transportation.
“I’ll also be dealing with economic development for farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture,” said McKellips. Farmers and foresters are encouraged to contact Beth McKellips at 607 865-7090 ext. 217.

Ready for action
“The farms and forests in the region are well poised for development,” said McKellips. “The people I’ve met are dedicated, family oriented, yet small. My job is to makes sure they stay profitable.” McKellips works closely with the Economic Viability Committee. “WAC also works closely with Soil and Water, Farm Service Agency, and Cornell Extension, which are tremendous added advantages to meeting our goals,” said McKellips.

Making connections
McKellips has plans to attend the International Food and Restaurant Show in New York City. “I’ve attended before as a visitor and now will attend as a vendor, giving examples of local made products to restaurant owners,” said McKellips.
The 2014 Pure Catskills Magazine is also being produced. “We’re re-branding Pure Catskills,” said McKellips. “The Pure Catskills Website will be up and running soon and we are planning the Farm to Market Conference to be held in March in the Liberty area.” Pure Catskills also makes a showing at the Northeast Organic Farming Association Conference. “It’s the time to keep making connections,” said McKellips.