20 Questions: Professionals Joining Together

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY MAGAZINES

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Growing Our Workforce

Jay Matteson

Recently we completed the 2018 Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference. It was an exciting program with a broad agenda that explored agriculture locally, at the state level and globally. In addition to the actual agenda for the conference, there were several efforts to grow our local agricultural workforce represented.  I didn’t realize until I stood at the podium and thanked everyone for attending, how these efforts were to be represented.

    On our agenda for the conference was our keynote speaker, Mr. Maurice (Moe) Russell.  Moe owns Russell Consulting Group, located in Iowa, which advises farmers not only in the United States, but around the World on marketing and financial issues.  Moe’s presentation focused on the outlook for agriculture in 2018 and beyond and explored the challenges and opportunities facing our farms.  Moe’s presentation was dynamic and challenging.  I expected that. What I wasn’t anticipating, and welcomed, was his message he gave for people coming in to agriculture.  Despite the crisis the dairy industry is in right now, Moe told the audience that there will still be tremendous opportunity for people to work in agriculture.  Even when challenged by a local farmer because of the dairy crisis, Moe stood his ground. He acknowledged the challenges faced by dairy farmers but said there is a future for farming in New York State, including dairy, and we need people, especially young people, to pursue the growing demand for agricultural products.

    In the audience at the conference were students from the agribusiness program at Jefferson Community College.  I had the opportunity to serve as an adjunct instructor for the Agricultural Law and Regulations course this semester.  Seven students, some of whom were present, participated in the class.   It was exciting to be the instructor for the class. As a one credit hour class, we just completed meeting for 2 hours a week for eight weeks to meet course requirements.  Every week the students came to class enthusiastic to learn more.  I challenged them with a course project in which each student had to identify an agribusiness they wanted to start and the community where they wanted to locate the business.  Throughout the eight weeks, the students had to identify the various laws impacting agriculture and especially their business.  The students had to contact resource specialists knowledgeable about the laws and regulations they would be impacted by.  Their task was to interview the specialists and learn how they could comply with the laws and regulations.  The students were tasked with presenting projects and their findings, to the class as if we were a municipal planning board. The project counted as 45% of their overall course grade. It was neat to see the students embrace the class and complete these projects.  To have the students attend the Ag Conference was encouraging as they were able to listen to several presenters provide an interesting, “60,000 feet” program on agriculture.

    Our final panel discussion at the Ag Conference featured Terrence Harris, Associate Vice President of Workforce Development at Jefferson Community College, Bill Stowell, Agriculture program teacher and FFA advisor at South Jefferson High School and Professor William Jones, Chief Diversity and Affirmative Action Officer at SUNY Canton. The three panelists discussed perspectives on the future of agriculture.  Their conversation discussed the strengths and weaknesses of our agricultural workforce.  It was interesting to hear each relate the opportunities they see and the demand for students to go into agriculture careers.  The use of technology in agriculture, each panelist agreed, should be a huge draw for the younger generations who are very interested in technology.  The three indicated that the agricultural industry fails, unfortunately, to emphasize how technology is used, which then results in losing students to other careers.   They encouraged everyone present to think about the messaging we are using to attract people in to the industry and how it might be imporved.

    As the Conference went on during the day, the conversations discussed the opportunities and challenges of working in agriculture.  It was interesting to observe how the need for people to come into agriculture was present in every discussion, it was better to see how there were young people around the room, who recognize this opportunity and are trying to pursue it.  Just in case you are interested in an agricultural career, we encourage you to visit mygpsforsuccess.com and explore the agriculture section of the website.

 

Suicide Prevention and Understanding in NNY

Bob Gorman

Suicide remains the death that dares not speak its name.

    Families often write around the word in obituaries to avoid citing the actual cause of death. Medical examiners are occasionally begged to do the same thing if writing the word “suicide” in their report will mean the loss of benefits for a grieving survivor with three small children.

    And all those drug overdoses? Local death statistics include actual question marks. That’s because even though investigators are pretty sure many of these deaths were intentional, they can’t be certain if there were no notes or witnesses.

    If you talk to first responders, nonprofit leaders and high school guidance counselors, you learn quickly that suicide is a topic that can no longer be avoided. Somebody this year will attempt suicide while in jail, or at a halfway house or after another evening of reading texts from a mob attacking the psyche of a solitary teenager.

    My one lone involvement with a suicide was the death of an employee at the Watertown Daily Times in 1999. Charlie Tenny took his life by hanging himself from a tree in his beloved Adirondacks. Because Charlie was a journalist, many other journalists tried to make sense of the senseless.

    One of Charlie’s friends, who worked at the Hartford Courant, wrote a column almost a year after Charlie’s death that included this: “The timing of his suicide remains incomprehensible to me. He did it while his sister, Carol, was in China adopting a baby girl. Carol got the news of Charlie’s death in Los Angeles, between flights on the way home to Pittsburgh. She screamed “No! No! No!” so loud that people came running across the terminal.

    Back home, Carol fell into depression.

    “I did feel my life changed unalterably from the moment I found out that Charlie did what he did,” Carol told me. “I would look at teenagers laughing, and I would just be amazed. They were like foreign animals. What are these people doing? There just seemed to be such a gulf between me and them.”

    In public places, Carol would suddenly blurt out, “I love you, Charlie.”

    “I thought I was saying it quietly, but people would look at me funnily… but I couldn’t talk to anybody without telling them about [Charlie’s suicide]; it was a central fact of my life.”

    To encourage a conversation about the value of life, the United Way of NNY in late March sponsored events at eight high schools and two evening programs with Roger Breisch of Batavia, Ill. Breisch has spent the last 15 years as a counselor on local and national suicide hotlines, often talking to teenagers who think their lives are useless.

    Breisch’ s talk, “Finding Life on the Suicide Hotline” challenged students to take an inventory of their own lives and find ways to value the person they are, and not give credence to a false narrative about who they aren’t.

    His uplifting message comes at a good time. The region’s suicide prevention coalitions in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties are working to reverse a trend that saw 163 people commit suicide in the three-county region over a five-year period.

    Kevin Contino, a data analyst for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, has statistics collected locally and through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In 2016, the suicide death rate per 100,000 population was:

  • 12.8 for the three-county region
  • 8.5 for New York State
  • 13.9 for the United States

 Over the most recent five years of federal data (2012-2016), the death rate due to suicide was:

  • 14.1 in Jefferson County (83 deaths, 16.6 per year)
  • 21.4 in Lewis County (29 deaths, 5.8 per year)
  • 9.2 in St. Lawrence County (51 deaths, 10.2 per year)
  • The most common mechanisms for suicide were firearms (48 percent), hanging/suffocation (31 percent), and poisoning (19 percent).
  • Eighty-four percent of decedents were male.
  • Sixty percent of suicide deaths were at the decedent’s home, 7 percent were in an outpatient medical facility, and 33 percent elsewhere.
  • During the five year span, the death rate per 100,000 people for the age groups 15-24, 34-44 and 65-74 was almost identical at just over 17 percent.
  • In 2016 residents of the tri-county region had 235 emergency department visits with a principal diagnosis of either suicide attempt or suicidal ideation. The numbers for each county were: Jefferson, 161; Lewis; 15 and St. Lawrence: 59. Seventy-one percent of these patients were younger than 30; the median age was 21 and the percentage of male and female was identical.

    And for every one of these cases, there are dozens of survivors, like Charlie’s sister, who still cry out a loved one’s name.

    As Roger Breisch showed the north country last month, there is never a wrong time to start having a regional conversation to help reduce that suffering.

Bob Gorman is president and CEO of United Way of Northern New York. Contact him at bgorman@unitedway-nny.org or 315-788-5631.

Connecting Countries and Commerce for Decades

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES ARCHIVE PHOTO
During the Thousand Islands Bridge opening in August 1938 cars lined up to travel across to Wellesley Island for the first time.

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Commitment to the Community: WSB celebrates 125 years

COMBINED PHOTO SHOWS WATERTOWN SAVINGS BANK IN 1921 AND THE BANK TODAY, IN WATERTOWN WITH BANK PRESIDENT MARK LAVARNWAY.

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Small Business Startup: Igo To The Farm

HOLLY BONAME / NNY BUSINESS
Denise Igo holds a chicken that produces eggs at her farm, Igo To The Farm

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Personal Testimonies Show NNY Pride

Rande Richardson

“When we decided to move back we wanted to create the culture that we wanted to live in. If it’s something that we love, then we want to help create it. In many ways, if you live in a small community, where you give helps to decide what becomes important. If you want a certain community and you want it to have a certain feel or if there’s an area that you want to strengthen, then you have to go do that.” -Jeff Ginger

“There are a lot of negative aspects of humanity, but you often find what you look for. If you’re looking for the positives in others, you want to recognize the positive gifts that have been given you and then the best way to say thank you is to give them to someone else. It is important to give back to that community. It’s where we raise our kids. It’s our community. It’s our home. We decided to live here, and we want to see the community flourish.” –Brenna Ginger


In 2016, through this column, the Community Foundation, in partnership with WPBS-TV announced the launch of an oral history initiative: Northern New York Community Podcast- Stories from the Heart of Our Community. The intent was to capture personal testimonials about their life in the region, why they’ve chosen to live here, and the various ways they’ve found to enrich their experiences through their community and the organizations that make it special. Since that time, 23 interviews have been conducted, with more scheduled. The full conversations are available at www.nnycpodcast.com.

    As more interviews have been completed, they have come to provide an interesting, diverse and varied portrait, representing Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Some of the interviews are well-known names, but I’ll bet there are some that you don’t know. The more the project progresses, we’ve been able to uncover some great gems of civic pride. While you can find a common thread in the stories, each one has its own special message. One of the primary goals was to capture the essence of what has driven community involvement and citizenship across the generations. It was hoped that providing insight into how others have seen their role in shaping their community’s quality of life could provide the backdrop for conversations with those who will inherit that same community. We still maintain that this type of inspiration will be an important enduring legacy of this endeavor.

    As we’ve begun to capture stories in a multigenerational way, the podcasts help provide valuable insight into the means through which those who will inherit our community will strive to make a difference. I would recommend taking the time to listen to Jeff and Brenna Ginger’s podcast. This young couple was raised in the north country, went away, and came back start their own family and careers. Their message of proactively helping to create the community they want to live in embodies both the mission of the podcast initiative, but also of the Community Foundation itself. The most transformational leadership within all of our region’s nonprofit organizations carry that theme. It is this type of lead-by-example thinking that distinguishes good from great.

    Other than our Youth Philanthropy program and our Young Professional LEAD program, documenting these stories has become one of the Foundation’s most transformational endeavors. Their example can encourage us all to more deeply explore what makes for a fulfilling life. If that is accomplished, our community and the organizations that help enhance it will be much better positioned to continue the tradition and heritage of what makes Northern New York so special.

    This is an ongoing initiative and we want to continue to broaden their scope and reach. Part of doing good comes not only in the good itself, but as a catalyst to inspire others. The best way to honor our community’s history and heritage is to perpetuate its relevancy through meaningful expressions of care. If there is a story that needs telling, there is no better time to inspire than now. Our community’s future is calling.

               

Opportunities Found

Sarah O’Connell

The federal government and New York state are committed to ensuring that economically or socially disadvantaged businesses have an opportunity to participate in direct contracts or subcontracts with government agencies and/or prime contractors. They have instituted specific programs to give these firms an opportunity to certify and register. For some contracts, there is even a specific percentage goal that must include small businesses from these designations (called set-asides).  These designations may include women, minority or service-disabled veteran firms.

    For specific federal programs, the SBA.gov website is an excellent resource. Specifically for women-owned businesses, the federal government offers the Women-Owned Small Business designation (WOSB). Doing any business with the government requires registration in the System for Award Management (SAM), and women can self-certify their company as women-owned. However, to get access to what are considered “underserved” industries, women must apply specifically to be a WOSB company. These industries are identified in the WOSB section of the Small Business Association’s website. If the company is determined to be eligible (more on that later) it can work its way through the process at certify.sba.gov.

    In the New York State MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) program, the woman-owned business must already have been in operation for a minimum of one year. The process is fairly rigorous and calls for uploading of a number of documents as part of the application process, followed by an interview by the agency to confirm the business is truly woman-owned and operated. (Note: the OGS – Office of Government Services – oversees the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business program.)

    How is a business determined to be woman-owned? Some of the basic requirements include at least 51% ownership (where one partner is not female) and meeting the benchmarks that determine that a company is considered a “small business.” These may include reporting that annual sales fall below a certain mark and that personal assets also fall below a certain mark.

    The business must also prove that the business is truly woman-owned and operated, so that a male owner can’t just designate or add a female owner to take advantage of the system.  It must show that the female owner had financial investment in the start-up and continues to have an integral role in the operation of the business. Being the “keeper of the books” is not enough – the woman owner has to have knowledge of and show control over all facets of the business which may include bid estimating, contract writing, control over ordering, etc.  The female owner must spend the majority if not all work hours involved in the business; employment in another workplace is a red flag and may result in rejection of the application.

    The advisors at the Small Business Development Center can help steer companies through the certification processes for both WOSB and MWBE.  Once the requirements are met, opportunities open up for the woman-owned small business. In Jefferson County, 31 companies are certified in the federal WOSB program (according to the Dynamic Small Business Search at sba.gov). The New York State Contract System identifies 108 women-owned business enterprises (WBEs) in the North country region which covers Plattsburgh to Watertown to Oswego.

    Once a business is certified as woman-owned, it can start exploring opportunities that exist within its service area. Many of our businesses work closely with the local PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center), located at the Greater Watertown-North country Chamber of Commerce to identify potential projects to bid. The north country PTAC will be offering a matchmaker event on April 4 where all small (not just women-owned) businesses interested in government contracts can meet with key people from government agencies and prime contractors to introduce themselves and share their capabilities. Visit http://www.northcountryptac.com

for details.

    Planning is underway for our 14th Annual Business of Women networking conference in May. Watch facebook.com/BusinessofWomen/ for more information.

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.  St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

SARAH O’CONNELL is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.

Women’s Role in Ag Industry Increasing

ALYSSA COUSE

You may have noticed there are more female faces behind the windshield of a tractor and more mascara around the agribusiness roundtable. It is undeniable that the face of agriculture is changing. Exhibit A: I am a living, breathing example. I am a graduate of St. Lawrence University (65 percent female) who went on to do an agricultural research experience at William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, which comprised of a class of 12 female interns, working hand-in-hand with the research director, as well as one of the PhDs who is principal investigator for many of the research trials, both of whom are female. The trend continues as I navigate through my first two years at my current job with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

    The majority of staff in our local office are women and the North country Regional Agriculture team is 5:1. This is evident in the agricultural youth groups CCE caters to as well. Here’s a few examples: The 2016-17 Dairy Prospects class, a group of local high school students exploring careers in the dairy industry, was comprised of seven young women and only one young man. A number of young girls became new 4-H members this year. The Dairy Princess program, facilitated by the Jefferson County Ag Promotion Board, which is also majority farm women, mothers, and young female professionals, is through the American Dairy Association North East. It provides opportunities for girls who are passionate about the industry to educate other youth and spread awareness of the value of dairy products and the people that produce them. If you hadn’t guessed from the name, this is currently an exclusively female group…for now. We hope to acquire some “dairy dudes” to help advocate for dairy locally as many of the girls have brothers, cousins and friends that already help at events.

    To give you a broader perspective, the number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978 according to the USDA 2012 Ag Census. Across the country, nearly 300,000 women serve as principal operators on 62.7 million acres of farm and ranchland, accounting for $12.9 billion in farm products in 2012. There are 18, 750 women farmers in New York State (34% of NY farmers) alone and they represent 2,635,328 acres of NYS land, and have a $215.9 million economic impact (USDA). The USDA supports projects designed to help women in agriculture improve production, develop good business and risk management practices, and transfer knowledge to other women agricultural leaders. To help connect this growing group, the USDA created a Women in Ag mentoring network at AgWomenLEAD@usda.gov and by searching #womeninag on social media you can join the conversation.

    While these alone are some astonishing numbers, this does not include the women who work in the agricultural industry off-farm. Countless more women live, work, and raise families in rural America in addition to being veterinarians, nutritionists, breeders, consultants, researchers, saleswomen, legislators, educators, etc. This trend is due a great deal to the fact that more young women are pursuing animal science, environmental science, sustainability, ag communications, and food science degrees. Between 2004 and 2012, the largest percent increases of bachelor degrees awarded to women included environmental science (128%), food science and technology (98%), animal sciences (52%), agricultural mechanization and engineering (49%), and fisheries and wildlife (45%).                

    “Better representation of women in agriculture means more than just an increase in the amount of food produced on women-owned or women-operated farms and ranches. It means expanded opportunity for today’s women agriculturalists to access credit and grow their operations, assume leadership roles at the local, state, and federal level, and perform cutting-edge research that will help ensure the future food security of our nation and the world.” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

    Interested in joining in? Here are several “women in agriculture” resources:

Dairy girl network
https://dairygirlnetwork.com/
 

Women in Ag mentoring network AgWomenLEAD@usda.gov

Dairy Food Advocacy Network (DairyFAN) http://mail.adadc.com/dairyfan.html

Annie’s Project http://www.anniesproject.org/home/media/AnniesStory.pdf

NYS Senator Patty Ritchie Press Release https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/patty-ritchie/women-sowing-seeds-agriculture

ALYSSA COUSE is an agricultural outreach educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Born and raised in the north country, she feels at home working with Jefferson County residents, both two-legged and four-legged. Contact her at amc557@cornell.edu.

Women in STEM Rising

Judy Drabicki

I have served as the Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 6 for more than a decade. In that time, we have doubled the number of female employees in the region, which covers St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer and Oneida counties. In the five-county region, 50 women are currently employed in professional roles—a significant increase from the past.

    DEC offers excellent careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), careers in high demand that have been traditionally filled by men.

    In Susan S. Silbey’s 2016 article, “Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field,” from the online Harvard Business Review, Silbey noted that engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM, with just 13 percent of women making up the workforce.

    DEC’s Region 6 Environmental Engineering Unit currently employs six women engineers, up from just one a few years ago. While all employees are selected because they are the best qualified for the job, at DEC we actively encourage managers to hire women, particularly in professions such as engineering, law, and biology—all fields where women are traditionally under-represented.

    Yuan Zeng is a professional engineer for DEC’s Division of Material Management in Watertown. Zeng has worked for DEC for more than 20 years. “I like my environmental career for its positive impact on the environment, such as air pollution control and waste reduction,” says Zeng.

    Her advice to younger generations who may also want a similar career path is to do well in school, intern with professionals, and demonstrate a strong work ethic.

    Jennifer Lauzon is a professional engineer in DEC’s Potsdam, St. Lawrence County office. She says, “My job has never been the same and is always adapting to the current environment. I like that the work I am doing will, in some way, benefit the environment and benefit the world that we live in.”

    Her advice for young women that like math and science and see themselves in an engineering career is to get a dual degree in engineering and engineering & management (E&M).

    As regional director, I see multiple benefits in increasing the number of women in all aspects of the DEC workforce. First, having been underrepresented in the past, seeking equity will mean the absolute best people are doing the work of protecting the environment. Second, women often have a different approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution, which benefits our collective decision-making. And third, the role models women present to the hundreds of students we meet through DEC’s outreach efforts benefits all of the young men and women interested in entering the field of environmental protection—they will see for themselves that DEC is a welcoming agency that employs a diverse group of New Yorkers from a variety of backgrounds, genders, in a range of demanding professions.

    Regardless of gender, our day-to-day business is handled by a team of highly skilled professionals. Working together, we are committed to the DEC mission, the health and safety of New York’s environment, and the communities that we call home. 

Judy Drabicki is regional director, Region 6 NYSDEC, with a career that spans three decades of ensuring the natural beauty of the north country is protected and enjoyed for generations to come. She oversees a staff of more than 200 people, including engineers, biologists, permit writers, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers, operations staff, and many others.