Speaker Carl Heastie today joined Assemblymembers Monica Wallace and Karen McMahon for a second day of touring in Western New York during his annual statewide tour. During the visit, the speaker joined the members at area eateries, a community center, one of the state's largest hemp farms and a local library.
"From delicious tea and ice cream to the state's growing hemp industry, today's stops in Western New York highlighted all that this region has to offer," said Speaker Heastie. "I am especially proud of the investments the state has made in revitalizing cities and towns across the state, as well as the work we have done to promote hemp production by New York farmers."
"It was truly an honor to host the speaker here again to show him our community's strengths and discuss our challenges," said Assemblymember Wallace. "Having the speaker here to see the investments made thus far and additional future funding needs is invaluable. From revitalizing our downtowns to providing services that help our kids succeed, these projects make a real impact on the quality of life here in Cheektowaga and Lancaster."
"Although far from our state's capital in Albany, Western New York is doing great things to help New York grow and thrive," said Assemblymember McMahon. "Hemp farming has created tremendous opportunities for farmers all across New York, and I am proud of the work being done at the Spoth Farm to help this industry succeed."
Speaker Heastie and Assemblymember Wallace started the visit with a walking tour of downtown Lancaster to see recent and proposed revitalization efforts. During their walk, the pair stopped at the Lancaster Coffee Co. & Café. The café is a recent addition to the community and is located in the center of downtown Lancaster, which has received extensive state investment for revitalization projects in the last year and a half.
Afterwards, they visited the soon-to-be site of the Cheektowaga Boys & Girls Club in the Alexander Community Center. The Cheektowaga Boys & Girls Club will be affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club of Depew-Lancaster, providing the new chapter with guidance and organizational backing. The Boys & Girls Club of Depew-Lancaster has been providing educational programming and opportunities for generations of Western New Yorkers. Earlier this year, Assemblymember Wallace secured $100,000 in the state budget for the creation of the Cheektowaga Boys & Girls Club. She is also working to secure additional funding for building improvements that include ADA compliant building access, interior secure access ways, safety improvements and security upgrades.
Speaker Heastie later joined Assemblymember McMahon for a tour of the Donald Spoth Farm & Greenhouse in Amherst. The Spoth Farm is among nine farms in Western New York permitted to grow hemp, and is now one of the state's largest hemp farms. In 2018, they grew roughly 100 acres of hemp on land that had formerly been used to grow corn.
New York launched its Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program in 2015. The program permitted 10 educational institutions and farms to grow and research industrial hemp. In the 2017-18 New York State Budget, the state increased industrial hemp research by lifting the cap on the number of authorized growing sites. The Spoths grew industrial hemp for fiber and seed research through Cornell University in 2017. In 2018, the state released $10 million in grant funding through two initiatives to advance industrial hemp research and economic development opportunities for industrial hemp businesses. The Spoth Farm now cultivates hemp for its oil, which is processed into herbal remedies for pain and inflammation.
Following their tour of the Spoth Farm, Speaker Heastie and Assemblymember McMahon toured the Williamsville Public Library where they learned about the needs of Western New York libraries. The Williamsville Library houses materials relating to the history of the village of Williamsville and provides access to local documents for the public to review. It also hosts story time, computer classes, among many other events for families. The library is one of four branches of the Amherst Public Library.
The pair later made a stop for ice cream and other delicious treats at Sweet Jenny's Ice Cream in Williamsville. Since 1985, Sweet Jenny's has been creating ice cream, chocolates and confections from fresh wholesome ingredients, handcrafted in small batches in their store.
Five years ago, the owners of Sweet Jenny's purchased the historical Williamsville Water Mill and moved their business to the site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The first floor of the Mill houses the ice cream and candy production and sales, while the second floor is home to 1811 Comics, a unique store that offers comic books and collectibles.