A Family Focus On Business: Relph Benefit Services serve the north country

From left to right: Jack Gorman, John Bartholf, Bob Relph Sr, Fred Tontarski, Bob Relph Jr, Mike Wiley stand together at the site of their newly built office in 1989.

[Read more…]

A Change In Job, But Not A Change In Mission

Alyssa Couse

Since my last article, quite a bit has changed, both personally and within the agriculture industry. 

    First, I’d like to reintroduce myself as the new director of member services and industry relations for the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. The NEDPA Mission Statement reads: 

    “The Northeast Dairy Producers Association is an organization of dairy producers and industry partners committed to an economically viable, consumer-conscious dairy industry dedicated to the care and well-being of our communities, our environment, our employees and our cows.” 

    This not-for- profit organization serves its members by providing them with timely updates within the dairy industry, working on current issues, and supporting them and the good work they do for their land, animals, families, and their communities. One key issue that has been a focus recently is agricultural labor. The passing of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices act in mid-July, which is due to take effect in January 2020, could affect some farms significantly looking forward, but the uncertainty of what the future farm workforce will look like is greater now than ever. 

    While putting together a newsletter a couple weeks ago, I read an article that has been thought-provoking ever since. The article was titled “A vision of the future dairy workforce” by Richard Stup, of Cornell University’s Ag Workforce Development team. It addressed the current stigma surrounding farm work: low skill, low-wage jobs in a high-skill, high-wage economy. This has made recruiting, hiring and retaining quality workers a tremendous challenge. The dairy industry specifically seems to be at a turning point when it comes to the future of farm labor.  

    “The future of the dairy industry in the U.S. depends on reducing or eliminating low-skill jobs and replacing them with technology and high-skill jobs. This process is well underway, with the adoption of self-guided farm machinery, group calf feeders, robotic feed pushers and automatic milking systems.” said Ricard Stup, Ag Workforce Development . 

    As technology develops and farming becomes more technical and precise, the skills needed to be successful in the industry will also evolve. Cattle genetics continue to improve and with research and development, people are better able to understand which management strategies make cows the most comfortable, most productive, and most free to do what they do best, be cows. 

    According to Dr. Stup, the future dairy farm employee will need an enhanced set of skills such as heightened critical thinking and problem solving, systems analysis, and will need to not only be compassionate and nurturing, but also well educated and data savvy. These are the skills that make for a successful middle to upper manager on farm today, but these skills will need to be characteristics of employees of all levels. 

    The agriculture industry cannot simply wait around for the next generation of ideal farm workers to emerge; the need is now. It is no secret that it is incredibly difficult for farms to attract and rely on a local labor force, especially in times of extremely low unemployment rates. Thus, the industry has had to turn to a workforce of immigrants and people of diverse backgrounds. This process is often complicated with differences in lifestyle, language barriers, and navigating through paperwork and regulations. However, most foreign workers come with an invaluable work ethic. As their birth rates decline and more opportunities arise in their home countries, U.S. agriculture is in growing need of a larger demographic of future employees. 

    So where will the rest of the future ag workforce come from? They will most likely be new to the farming lifestyle and not born into the family business like in generations of the past. Many students are studying animal science and related studies simply because they love animals and want a career with them. Like our farm managers today, future employees will need to be versatile and embrace the balance between manual labor as well as office work, such as navigating cattle health software. Some will enter the industry to fulfill their calling to feed others and desire to do an essential work. The future of farm labor will no doubt be diverse. As the industry evolves and becomes more technical, more high-skill, there’s hope that farm labor will become a sought after, fulfilling career. 

Setting Goals In Life And Business

Kristen Aucter

“A goal is a dream with a deadline” – Napoleon Hill.  

Goal setting is one of the most important life skills you can have to help accomplish whatever you put your mind to. One of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes is “Whether you think you can, or you can’t – you’re right.” Here are some reasons why goals are so important in our lives:  

1- Goals help you be who you want to be. You can have all the dreams in the world, but you if you fail to act on them, how will you get where you want to go? When you know how to set goals, and start going after them, you will be creating a new path of action that can take you step by step towards the future you deserve, and more importantly, the future you want.  

2- Goals stretch your comfort zone.  

in pursuit of your goals you may find yourself talking to more people, attending new events, joining different associations, enrolling in unique training workshops or many other activities. Pushing yourself past your normal comfort zone is the fastest way to grow and have life satisfaction.  

3- Goals help boost your self-esteem and confidence. When you set a goal, and follow through, you have proven to yourself and others that you’ve got what it takes to get things done. Goals not only increase your confidence; they also help you develop an inner strength. 

4- Goals help you rely on yourself. Don’t let the people around you decide your life for you. You can take charge of your life by setting goals and making plans to reach them. Once you get into a goal setting habit you will notice that you feel more assertive and independent. People around you may also start to notice your presence. Goals enable you to turn the impossible into the possible.  

5- Goals improve your mindset and help you move forward. Moving towards a positive direction is much better than doing the same thing but moving backwards. The momentum you will gain is a real-life energizer.  

6- Goals leads to empowering emotions. Studies have shown that people who set and reach goals are readily performing at their best and are generally satisfied with their life overall.  

Goals utilize a proven concept such as the SMART system from fitsmallbusiness.com for creating attainable goals. 

    Whether it be in your personal or professional life, breaking down seemingly hard to achieve goals into small, manageable and practical steps will give you the ability to turn your “someday dreams” into real-life accomplishments. 

Today For Tomorrow: The power of endowment

Rande Richardson

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb 

More than ever, nonprofit organizations providing valuable services that enrich and enhance our lives are finding the wisdom and necessity of diversifying their revenue. Just as in the private sector, survival is enhanced when there are reliable streams of operating funds. Just as there are short-term, near-term and long-term needs, there should be a resource approach built with each in mind. 

    Currently, over 150 nonprofit organizations, churches and schools serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have committed to ensuring their long-term viability by partnering with the Community Foundation. Through these partnerships, they have consciously established and built dedicated resources for the purpose of creating a financial bedrock for the sustainability of their work and mission and best stewardship of gifts entrusted to them. While organizational endowments are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, I can point to many charitable organizations, large and small, whose strength has been enhanced by a permanent fund with the accountable discipline only an endowment brings. 

    This approach continues to be of interest to donors who seek to extend their annual giving beyond their lifetimes. Individuals often prefer to make major gifts, including legacy bequests, to provide support for specific charities that will remain in place in perpetuity or to those charities for specific purposes. Recognizing the importance of annual support, the typical Community Foundation donor creates or adds to a permanent endowment for multiple charities at various percentages. Contributing to an endowment provides an enduring gift that can support programs, projects, buildings and initiatives that the donor may have helped previously provide for. 

    This is a primary reason why the Community Foundation now routinely couples grants with an incentive to help build protection for the initial capital expense. To that end, we are currently doubling gifts to build endowments for over 30 local organizations. Just as in life, it is wise to consider the ability to maintain, improve and properly care for things we have made investments in. Even for smaller charitable organizations, an endowment demonstrates to the community and donors a long-term thinking and a commitment to building capacity for the future. In many ways, earnings from endowments help complement and maximize the annual giving that is so critical to fulfillment of mission. This may draw further support from those who wish to provide for an institution that has stability, longevity, permanence and strength. 

    While some may point out that an endowment is of minimal help until it reaches a certain level, taking the first step to proactively focus on the long-term may help a nonprofit’s most loyal supporters see a clear pathway to do the same. The endowment goal should be aligned with realistic levels of giving for this institution even though organizations often underestimate the ability of one donor to be a game changer for future strength. By demonstrating to donors a responsible, stewarded mechanism to perpetuate their support, the case becomes more compelling. Community Foundation endowments help build even more confidence knowing that there is an additional layer of oversight and accountability through leadership changes over time. Being able to stipulate alternate uses for endowment funds in the event an entity ceases to exist is also incredibly powerful from a donor advocacy perspective. This aligns closely with the sanctity of donor intent knowing that what an organization does is likely the ultimate motivation for the gift over the organization itself. The delivery of that program or service may someday be offered in an alternate form. 

    Whether you are a board member, donor or employee, if you believe that the work your organization does is important enough to support today, finding ways to support that mission long-term should be equally critical. As with a savings or retirement program, there is no substitute for starting early. Endowment gifts help ensure that legacies are best remembered for generations to come, in service of the things about which you care most. Ultimately, this protects the investments you’ve made in those causes during your lifetime and has the potential to provide many times the impact of a gift made in one lump sum. When the generosity of the past is combined with the actions of today’s donors, a powerful effect is created, making both acts of kindness more powerful and far reaching. Together, this helps increase the chance that organizations that are here for good can remain here for good. 

Rande Richardson is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org. 

Lead-Based Paint: Notice requirements imposed by Federal law

Kevin Murphy

In 1978 the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint, thus effectively stopping the use of lead-based paint in all housing across the country. Prior to that date, lead-based paint was widely used including in housing and homes constructed prior to that date.  If properly managed lead-based paint poses little, if any risk to human health. If allowed to deteriorate (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp), lead-based paint is a potential hazard. It can cause serious health problems, especially to children and pregnant women. 

Homebuyers 

    Federal law requires that before being obligated under a contract to buy housing built prior to 1978, buyers must receive the following from the seller:  

  • An EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards titled Protect Your FamilyFromLead In Your Home.  
  • Any known information concerning the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home or building.
  • For multi-unit buildings, this requirement includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation.
  • An attachment to the contract, or language inserted in the contract, that includes a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirms that the seller has complied with all notification requirements.
  • A 10-day period to conduct a paint inspection or risk assessment for lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards. Parties may mutually agree, in writing, to lengthen or shorten the time period for inspection. Homebuyers may waive this inspection opportunity. If you have a concern about possible lead-based paint, you may secure a lead inspection from a certified inspector before buying. 

Renters 

    Federal law requires that before signing a lease for housing built before 1978, renters must receive the following from your landlord:  

  • An EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards, Protect Your FamilyFromLead In Your Home. 
  • Any known information concerning the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in • For multi-unit buildings, this requirement includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation. 
  • An attachment to the contract, or language inserted in the contract, that includes a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirms that the landlord has complied with all notification requirements.

Property Managers and Landlords 

    As owners, landlords, agents, and managers of rental property, you play an important role in protecting the health of your tenants and their children. Buildings built before 1978 are much more likely to have lead-based paint. Federal law requires you to provide certain important information about lead paint before a prospective renter is obligated under lease to rent from you. 

Landlords must give prospective tenants of buildings built before 1978: 

  • An EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards, Protect Your FamilyFromLead In Your Home.  
  • Any known information concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards pertaining to the building. 
  • For multi-unit buildings this requirement includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation. 
  • A lead disclosure attachment to the lease, or language inserted in the lease, that includes a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirms that you have complied with all notification requirements. 

Real Estate Agents and Home Sellers 

    As real estate agents and home sellers, you play an important role in protecting the health of families purchasing and moving into your home. Buildings built before 1978 are much more likely to have lead-based paint. Federal law requires you to provide certain important information about lead paint before a prospective buyer is obligated under a contract to purchase your home. 

Real estate agents must:  

  • Inform the seller of his or her obligations under the Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule. In addition, the agent is responsible if the seller or lessor fails to comply; unless the failure involves specific lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazard information that the seller or lessor did not disclose to the agent. Read the regulations that includes these requirements. 
  • Provide, as part of the contract process, an EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards titled Protect Your FamilyFromLead In Your Home. Attach to contract, or insert language in the contract, a “Lead Warning Statement” and confirmation that you have complied with all notification requirements. 
  • Provide a 10-day period to conduct a paint inspection or risk assessment for lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards. Parties may mutually agree, in writing, to lengthen or shorten the time period for inspection. Homebuyers may waive this inspection opportunity. 
  • A copy of the pamphlet Protect Your FamilyFromLead In Your Home is available at: 

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-06/documents/pyf_color_landscape_format_2017_508.pdf 

Kevin C. Murphy is a member of the Wladis Law Firm, P.C., located in Watertown and Syracuse. He concentrates his practice in the areas of environmental compliance and litigation; environmental and white-collar criminal defense, and complex litigation matters. Contact Mr. Murphy by emailing KMurphy@WladisLawFirm.com.

20 Questions: Nurturing Northern New York

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Nutrition Program Manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County April Bennett poses for a portrait inside the cooperative’s office kitchen in Watertown.

[Read more…]

Learning The Trade

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Inside the mechatronics lab at the Lewis County Jefferson Community College Education Center in Lowville.

[Read more…]

Women STEM Out: Clarkson University expanding programming in science, technology, engineering and math

Photo provided by Clarkson University

[Read more…]

Property Mixed For First Six Months of 2019

Lance Evans

The first six months of 2019 have seen mixed results in terms of real estate sales in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Overall, 2019 single family home sales are up slightly in the tri-county area, while days on the market (the time from when the listing contract is signed until the purchase offer is signed) declined when compared to January to June 2018. Depending on the location the median price for a home either stayed relatively flat or rose. It should be noted that the “median price” is the middle point for real estate prices. It is not the same as the average price. The median price is the price in the very middle of a data set, with exactly half of the houses priced for less and half priced for more. 

    Sales of other types of property (commercial, land, and multi-family) in the tri-county area declined year over year. Again depending on the county, the price and the days on the market varied. 

    Looking at Jefferson County, sales of all property and single-family homes rose slightly with an increase of 1 to 2 percent over the previous year with 582 properties selling of which 489 were single-family. The change in year to year days on the market was flat with the number for all property up a day to 127 and down a day for single-family home sales to 107. The biggest change was median price which rose 5.4 percent to $128,000 for all property types and 8 percent to $140,500 for single family units. 

    Lewis County was a different story with declines seen in the units sold and a rise in the days on the market for all property and for single-family homes. Property sales for all types dropped 26 units to 105 and days on the market increased to 214, up over a month from 2018. The price stayed about the same, declining 1 percent to a median of $90,000. The number for single-family homes were similar with a drop of 23 units year over year, a decline of about 1 percent in median price to $110,000. There was a seven day increase to time on the market to 146 days. 

    The market was mixed in St. Lawrence County. The overall number of units sold declined by over 3 percent to 334, while the median sale price also went down by about 6 percent to $80,000. A bright spot in property sales was the thirty-four day drop in time on the market to 194 days. By contrast, single family home sales increased by 9 percent to 313 units. Similar to all property sales, the price declined, however it was only a 2 percent decline to $90,000. Days on the market also fell by over a month to 184 days. 

    These figures are in line with New York State data which is similarly mixed. Statewide, the median price of single family homes increased 5.8 percent over the period in 2018. Days on the market dropped 3.7 percent and the number of units sold decreased 5.2 percent. 

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes that, through May, sales for the year are down about 1.1 percent while the median price increased 4.8 percent and days on the market were flat. Narrowing it to the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont), NAR said that this region experienced the biggest increase in sales. 

    What does this mean to buyers and sellers in our area? Overall, the tri-county market is healthy through the first six months. If the trend continues, housing sales will be equal to last year with modest increases in price and sales happening a little faster. With interest rates still relatively low, it may be a great time to buy. 

    One word of caution, in certain areas within the tri-county region, sales, median price, and/or days on the market may vary greatly from the above figures. Similarly, certain types of property or price ranges may also experience stronger or weaker sales. Your best source of information is a Realtor. He or she can give you a much more focused report that will fit your needs and desires. 

Pollinator Partners In The North Country

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) understands the critically important roles bees and their pollinator partners—bats, butterflies, and wasps—play in supporting public health, our ecosystems and our economy. That is why DEC is abuzz with activity designed to support honey bees. 

    A honey bee’s daily job of collecting and discarding pollen is a heavy workload for a flying insect that only weighs .00025 pounds; 4,000 bees together weigh just one pound. Despite their size, New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of these and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. 

    Honey bees can fly up to 12 miles per hour and visit as many as 100 flowers each day to collect nectar. These bees live only five to six weeks and can produce about one tablespoon of honey during their lifespan. It takes the work of several hundred bees to fill a 9.5-ounce jar of honey. 

    Unfortunately, honey bees and their pollinator partners are facing a host of threats that are harmful and, in some cases, deadly. These threats include: 

  • habitat loss;
  • non-native species and diseases;
  • pollution;
  • pesticides; and
  • climate change.

These are just a few of the threats these species face. To combat these threats, DEC works with its partners to support the four priorities of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force, which works to conserve and grow the state’s pollinator populations. Priorities include sharing best management practices with pollinator stakeholders, enhancing habitat, research and monitoring, and developing educational outreach programs for the public. 

    With a third round of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocated in the NYS 2018-2019 budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, New York continues to make great strides restoring the health of pollinators. Our state’s leading efforts to promote the health of pollinators include policies to enhance foraging habitats, the creation of an inventory of wild pollinators, and encouraging pollinator-friendly planting and the use of natural forms of pest management on state lands, just to name a few. 

    For instance, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets is expanding its NYS Grown & Certified marketing program to include honey producers. The program markets local farmers and producers that adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. To be eligible, honey producers must harvest 100 percent of their honey in New York and must successfully complete Cornell University’s Honey Food Safety Best Practices Manual test and label their honey products accordingly. Applicants must also submit the Honey Bee Health Information form and are required to have a bee health inspection every two years. These efforts are in addition to the state’s creation of a Technical Advisory Team that assists beekeepers in identifying and combating the causes of poor hive health. 

    DEC staff are also diligently working to educate the public on ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators. Additionally, the agency has a dedicated hotline to report pollinator incidents (a situation where several bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying). The public can call DEC’s Pesticide Program Headquarters at 1-844-332-3267 to report it. 

    We also participate every year in promoting “Pollinator Protection Week,” which highlights New York’s key pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. This past June, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation commemorating the importance of pollinators to New York’s environment and agricultural economy and affirmed New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of the state’s pollinator population. 

    Recently, DEC’s Region 6 operations staff and wildlife experts planted approximately one-quarter acre of pollinator seed in a small field at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. DEC plans to increase this acreage over time in hopes of providing flowering plants to benefit the declining native bees and other insect pollinators. DEC also plants flowers at its regional substations and campgrounds to attract pollinators and encourages the public to participate by planting their own native plant species. These so-called Pollinator Pathways can make a big difference in a bee’s lifespan and will add color to properties. 

    The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management has a brochure online that contains everything the public needs to know about pollinator pathways https://www.sleloinvasives.org/learn/educational-material/slelo-pollinator-pathway-project-brochure/ so that all New Yorkers can support DEC’s work to protect this crucially important wildlife.