April 2016: Agri-business

Big business in high-quality ag products

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

The north country is very fortunate to be home to some of the highest quality agricultural products and businesses. Recently, one of our newest agricultural businesses, Aviagen, was recognized for its excellence as a global poultry genetics company. Aviagen begins operation this spring in the Jefferson County Industrial Park. It purchased the former Morris Northstar Hatchery that operated successfully for several years. Morris Northstar hatched approximately 300,000 chicks a week for export to broiler chicken farms in Canada. Aviagen indicates it is a higher-end hatchery. It will hatch out chicks that instead of growing directly into meat chickens will be used as parent stock to meet other poultry company demands. Aviagen provides the parents for many different poultry operations around the world. Officials indicate many of the chicks born in Jefferson County will be exported around the world. Aviagen is noted as one of the world’s leading poultry genetics companies.

The Aviagen story is not unusual for our agricultural industry in Northern New York. We find many agricultural companies and products that receive the same recognition of excellence. Great Lakes Cheese, HP Hood, formerly Crowley’s, in LaFargeville and Kraft-Heinz in Lowville have been recognized for their excellent dairy products. Great Lakes Cheese, Adams, is well known as one of the world’s best naturally aged cheddar cheese manufacturers. Its manufacturing process, highly skilled employees and excellent quality milk supply help it to achieve this level of success. The same applies to HP Hood and Kraft-Heinz. HP Hood has won numerous awards for its cultured dairy products, including cottage cheese and sour cream. Kraft-Heinz is not only the world’s largest cream cheese plant, but one of the best. We are highly anticipating its expansion over the next couple years. It will be very beneficial for our dairy industry and our communities.

At the end of Willow Street in Watertown is another success story of high-quality production and exciting growth. A once abandoned feed manufacturing plant was purchased and refurbished in Afgritech. The Afgritech plant began manufacturing AminoMax, a feed supplement for dairy cattle. The product immediately took off and the plant has undergone three subsequent expansions. The facility in Watertown is now the North American headquarters for its company.

Our wineries also continue to receive awards for their excellence. Go into the tasting room at Coyote Moon Winery in Clayton and you’ll see more “bling” on the wine bottles on display than in many MTV music videos. I’m not sure if there’s a wine competition of any note that exists where they haven’t won an award. And when you taste their wine, you’ll know why. Thousands Islands Winery, Otter Creek, Cape Winery, Venditti, and Tug Hill Winery have collected their fair share of competition medals, too. It is amazing to watch an industry start in the early 2000s and grow into the award-winning business it is today.

And although they haven’t won awards yet because of the youth of these businesses, I’m watching with excitement the growth of our artisan cheese businesses. Fultz Family farm, Bechaz Dairy Farm and now Homestead Dairy are each producing great cheese products. In my opinion, all three are making great cheese and I think it’s only a matter of time before they become recognized for their excellence in taste and quality.

These are examples of how well our agricultural products hold up to the rest. Maybe it’s that cold climate that brings out the flavors and quality of the raw products. It could be our highly skilled workforce in the case of our dairy and feed plants. Whatever it is, we are fortunate to live in an area so capable of growing and making high-quality food products. We are truly in the land of milk honey and wine.

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. He is a lifelong Northern New York resident who lives in Lorraine. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.