NNY Recognized for Unique Intersection of Industries

ALYSSA COUSE

The North Country was recently recognized for the unique intersection of its two largest industries: agriculture and the military. The area received the honor of being named a Great American Defense Community at the Association of Defense Communities National Conference in Washington, D.C. The award was a result of a collaboration between Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County and the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization to bring this effort into the spotlight, quite literally. Association of Defense Communities (ADC) Director of Communications, Grace Marvin, and her camera man, Christopher Wright of Optix Creative, traveled across the country to film a promotional video highlighting the Cornell Small Farms Program Farm Ops project and how local veterans are finding their roots in agriculture. 

    The video featured three local farmer veterans. All three had very unique backgrounds and expertise from their military experiences and all chose use these skills in their next mission: farming. 

    Lee Igo and his wife Denise had lived on several bases throughout the country and despite being from sunny Florida, decided to make the Fort Drum area their permanent home after Lee’s retirement. The Igo’s now have a poultry farm, Igo to the Farm, in Depauville, NY where they raise their beloved birds and sell their eggs to locals. Fort Drum families make the largest portion of Igo to the Farm’s market. 

    Steve Conaway and his wife purchased an old dairy farm in Alexandria Bay, NY to call home after Steve’s retirement from the Army. With countless hours of research on the wine industry, the Conaway’s decided to take a chance on viticulture in the North Country. The Thousand Islands Winery was the first of its kind in the area and now produces about 125,000 gallons of wine a year! With being located near the beautiful Thousand Islands and the international bridge to Canada, the TI Winery is no doubt a tourist destination for locals and visitors alike. 

    Cody Morse had roots in the Fort Drum area from being raised on an organic dairy farm in southern Jefferson County before entering the military. After leaving the Marines and returning home, he connected with his co-founder, then Agbotic Inc. was born. This farm is a true testament to how the entrepreneurial nature of veterans can help them thrive in agriculture. Agbotic Inc. is comprised of a series of high tech greenhouse that allow for perfect growing conditions all year round. Another unique feature is the robotic system that spans the greenhouses and acts as an all-in-one piece of farm equipment that can perform everything from data collection, irrigation, and seeding just to name a few functions. The innovation that originated in a small test greenhouse in the front of the farm property now has expanded to a multi-greenhouse facility with several patents pending. 

    “You take a soldier who is defending the nation and they transition to a career where they then are feeding the nation and in many ways there’s skills that are transferrable there.” says Kevin Jordan, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. As many farmers look to transition their farms to the next generation, it is evident that veterans are a viable demographic to help fill that void. With similar values, skillsets, and dedication to bettering the lives of others, farmers and veterans are built from similar molds. 

    Below is the link for the North Country cut of the video that premiered at the Association of Defense Communities National Conference in Washington D.C. Enjoy!  

https://vimeo.com/user13701449/r view/341709149/a87e94e886 

The Experience Economy: An opportunity for business

Brooke Rouse

Summer always brings people out; locals, snowbirds, visitors. It’s an exciting time to enjoy our great outdoors, art, culture, events and more. Some people have the gear, the know how and the ability to experience a lot of what is available, and others don’t – partially because they can’t access the opportunity. 

    You may find yourself saying, “I want to paddle that river, but I don’t have a boat, or really want to own a boat or have a place to store it. But I’d really like to go out on the Grasse River.” You may hear about the bike paths and ATV trails and say ‘Hey – I want to try that’, or attend an art festival and say, ‘Wow – I would love to try painting again, with a little instruction.’ Business is about finding solutions, the solution here is the ability to create and offer an EXPERIENCE. 

    The Experience Economy is growing by leaps and bounds, year over year, with the most significant growth in the 18-34 year old population. Still 50 percent of this audience is 45 years or older. This is an opportunity. The term Experience Economy was first introduced in 1998 as an argument that “businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product: the “experience” (Pine & Gilmore). 

    Online shopping has become the number one threat and concern to many retail establishments and brick and mortar businesses and attractions. Business owners are constantly seeking ways to stay competitive in the retail market, typically honing in on tremendous customer service that equates to an EXPERIENCE that cannot be found online. Organizations like the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg have increased their focus on experience, not only for a museum tour, but for the unique opportunity to do yoga in the gallery or learn how to paint. Increased awareness of the museum through events and experiences has ensured greater exposure in new markets and a stronger relationship with patrons. 

    St. Lawrence County has welcomed two new ‘Experience Businesses’ for recreation this year. Seaway Outfitters in Ogdensburg rents bikes, SUP boards, kayaks, rollerblades and offers ATV tours. Grasse River Adventures offers fully guided and outfitted hunting, camping, hiking and canoe trips. This type of service allows people to experience things they may not get to otherwise, reduces risk, and allows for adventure without the hassle. These experiences can be booked on the internet, but are offered and experienced here, on the ground by local businesses. 

    Experience comes from and is shared by passion. Allow yourself to pursue local experiences…if there is not a business offering it, consider creating one or recruiting a friend of family member to do it. Business development assistance is available by local Chambers and Small Business Development Centers. 

    As the Tourism Promotion Agent for St. Lawrence County, we are constantly marketing (and bragging) about our tremendous opportunities to discover things here that even locals don’t know about. We are always seeking more opportunities to refer a business to make the experience happen for visitors and residents. 

The Value of the Unrestricted (Broadly Specific) Gift

Rande Richardson

“The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlives it.” — William James, American philosopher 

I’m often asked what I see in trends in charitable giving. It has become evident over the past decade that the interest in unrestricted giving has been trending downward. Donors have been expressing their interest in being more directed in their support of their communities. 

    When the Community Foundation was incorporated 90 years ago it was done with the premise that making communities better belongs to everyone and that a donor in 1929 could not possibly fully anticipate the needs of the community nearly a century later. Their founding gifts were made with only one restriction —geography. Because of the foresight of these donors, their support has enabled: 

    ▪ Start-up grants to help establish Hospice of Jefferson County, North Country Children’s Clinic, Watertown Teen Center, Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund (Clayton Opera House), Volunteer Transportation Center, and the North Country Children’s Museum.  

    ▪ Transformational grants to advance the work of Watertown Family YMCA, Samaritan Medical Center, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Thompson Park Conservancy, Lewis County General Hospital, Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital, Gouverneur Hospital, Clifton-Fine Hospital, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, Thousand Islands Land Trust, Children’s Home of Jefferson County, Disabled Persons Action Organization, and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center. 

    ▪ Ongoing support of organizations such as the Orchestra of Northern New York, Jefferson Community College, Jefferson County Historical Society, Frederic Remington Art Museum, Thousand Islands Arts Center, SPCA of Jefferson County, and WPBS. Support is provided each year to food pantries, soup kitchens and school programs across the three counties. 

    Many of the grants have come at pivotal points in the evolution of these organizations when there might not have been other resources available. They would not have been possible without the trust of an unrestricted gift. They were enabled by the willingness of community-minded donors who saw an avenue to focus their generosity in the broadest way with the highest degree of impact. Unrestricted giving remains the cornerstone of the ability to respond with flexibility to emerging needs at times when they are most needed. 

    This type of giving requires a deeper level of trust between the donor and the organization. While it is easy to resist the notion of leaving a gift at the discretion of an organization’s board, unrestricted giving is critical to almost every nonprofit organization. Even if a donor is supporting a specific program, those programs cannot thrive without the underlying health and supporting structure unrestricted giving provides. Full commitment to an organization helps ensure its health so the things donors care about most can be ably implemented. 

    For those unable to overcome the thought of a totally unrestricted gift, some Community Foundation donors have taken a hybrid approach. “Broadly specific” giving has seen the number of donor-directed funds at the Foundation grow substantially. Many of these funds support certain fields-of-interest (education, health care, environment, children and youth, history, arts and culture, animal welfare). There has also been a trend toward geographic-specific giving. A donor can restrict the use of the gift to a certain city, town or village, or county. Recently, six separate charitable funds have been established at the Community Foundation to benefit St. Lawrence County, including specific provisions for Gouverneur, Canton, Massena, Potsdam and the CliftonFine region. These join other funds that focus on specific communities such as Lowville, Boonville, Constableville and Westernville, Clayton, Cape Vincent, Alexandria Bay and the Six Towns of Southern Jefferson County. Some of those geographic-specific funds also have directives within them for certain focus areas. 

    Many donors have created endowments to benefit multiple nonprofit organizations in perpetuity in the spirit of an unrestricted gift with the accountability of a directed gift. These funds also contain field of interest language in the event a specific organization ceases operation. This certainly proves the point and has helped provide middle ground. 

    Whether it is unrestricted giving or broadly specific giving there are mechanisms available to help ensure the gifts are good for both the donor and community and are enduring and relevant far into the future. 

    While causes may come and go, we need strong charitable organizations to be nimble enough to meet the changing needs of a region bolstered with undesignated gifts. They provide both the fuel for growth and the proper execution of specific programs, projects and endeavors. Knowing the variety of options to support the work of nonprofits and affect change ultimately helps ensure that whatever way you choose to see your values and interests perpetuated, there are a variety of options to better guarantee lasting energy and actions with stewardship both broadly and specifically. In this way, every gift goes further. 

Leadercast Live Comes to NNY in 2020

Kristen Aucter

For anyone who had not heard, on May 3rd, Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Lewis County Economic Development and The Human Factor hosted Leadercast Live at the Tug Hill Vineyards. Leadercast Live is the largest, single-day leadership event in the world and we were able to be a part of it as the only location in New York state outside of New York City. The various speakers provided unique insight on their take of leadership. Many of the participants stated that they took away more from this day than what they had expected to, myself included. The theme of “Building Healthy Teams” was intriguing to many people and hinted at more than just how to lead a team and we were not let down. 

    Dr. Caroline Leaf was one of the speakers for the day. A cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in communication pathology specializing in neuropsychology, Dr. Leaf spoke on the importance of mindset and explained “you can’t always control what happens to you, you can always control how you react.” Something that most of us have heard, but while in the midst of day-to-day activities seem to forget. Her suggestions, when finding yourself falling into a negative mindset, were to take a few moments to re-evaluate, focus on the positive aspects of your life, and identify the accomplishments that you have made so far. According to her, the ability to self-regulate your thoughts can have long-lasting impacts including increasing your overall creativity, efficiency, and productivity. If you breed negativity that will be all you show to the world. Challenge yourself to instead choose happiness so you can be a beacon of light to those around you. 

    Another speaker, Carla Harris, has led an extremely successful career on Wall Street and currently serves as vice chairman, managing director, and senior advisor at Morgan Stanley as well as being a talented gospel singer. In my opinion, her focus on leadership being intentional really stood out. We all know, more or less, that leadership is something that needs to continuously be fed, both in ourselves and in our teams. Being a great leader is not necessarily about being a great manager or director, but how you encourage and inspire others to be their best. It was very inline with another speaker Patrick Lencioni, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” 

    It is hard to summarize a full day of inspiration and motivation into a short article. The intention of Leadercast is to develop leaders that are worth following and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Lewis County Economic Development and The Human Factor are excited to announce we will be hosting Leadercast Live 2020 on May 7, 2020. The benefits of improving leadership skills within our teams, within our businesses and within our community cannot be stressed enough and we are committed to providing this opportunity to our region. If you are interested in being updated on Leadercast 2020 please feel free to email me at kristen@lewiscountychamber.org to be put on our mailing list. 

Young Leaders Provide Glimpse Into Our Community’s Future

Rande Richardson

“It wasn’t until I got into Youth Philanthropy Council that I saw the community is as a whole and what the needs are. It opened my eyes not only in Jefferson County and Watertown, but to Lewis County and St. Lawrence County. I think it taught me great life skills and the lessons that I’ve learned will be with me for a long time to come. Those values that YPC has instilled in me will carry on.” — Marcus Lavarnway, Youth Philanthropy Council alumnus 


Studies show that involvement as a youth is a significant factor influencing how adult volunteers and donors behave. This follows an approach of moving away from viewing youths as problems to be solved to seeing young people as resources to engage in community development. In this way, they can contribute more meaningfully to their own growth as leaders and to society in general. Students benefit from exploring community issues, the work of the region’s nonprofit organizations, and opportunities available for volunteering. They gain knowledge that is not as easily offered in the traditional school setting. This includes interpersonal problem solving, consensus building, diplomacy, confident, productive and respectful disagreement and higher-level communication and networking skills. 

    The Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC) became a pilot project of the Community Foundation in 2010. In nine years, high school students have been entrusted with grantmaking resources and empowered with the responsibility of properly stewarding gifts from generous annual donors combined with matching gifts from major sponsors Watertown Savings Bank and the Renzi Foodservice Charitable Foundation. Their work also led to engagement of middle school students through the Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge. The results are proving the wisdom of asking our youth for their input. 

    Former YPC members recently reflected upon their experiences as they related to their time in college and as they advance their careers and personal lives. Each alumnus cited YPC as their most transformative high school experience. Others said the program helped them “find their place” in the community and become connected with adults and organizations in meaningful ways. They all agreed that it caused them to seek out opportunities to serve. They now see community service as a fundamental part of a fulfilling life. (To hear their full comments, visit www.nnycpodcast.com). 

    This year’s YPC is preparing to make its $20,000 in grant recommendations. Nonprofit organizations should take note of some emerging trends of this generation:  

  • They take very seriously the responsibility of being entrusted with other people’s money.  
  • They prefer to provide support for the heart of a program, project or initiative. 
  • They are not inclined to offer help unless they are confident in the organization’s ability to do what they say they will do. They expect accountability and good stewardship. 
  • They don’t allow geographic “boundaries” to get in the way of supporting something worthwhile.
  • Despite “youth” in its name, YPC members see their mission and responsibility as transcending programs that exclusively benefit young people. 
  • They understand the balance between supporting basic human needs with enriching the quality of life. 
  • They demonstrate an ability to remain assertive while respecting, valuing and appreciating opposing points of view.
  • They do not want to be underestimated or marginalized.

Youth philanthropy is, at the broadest level, passionate involvement of young adults giving of their time, talent and treasure in support of the common good, just as philanthropy is itself. The added ingredient we can all provide is the energy, excitement and spark that will continue to nurture the types of communities where all of our lives will be enriched. This helps us all to better answer the question: “What do I care about?” 

    More importantly, we affirm that we must have a desire, commitment and will to integrate caring more deliberately into our daily lives. There should be no doubt that we all benefit from a community and a world where authentic caring, respect and stewardship is valued, expected, affirmed, and non-negotiable. By learning from each other, we help ensure that the leadership of the past is linked to the leadership of the future. 

Adjusting Business Plan for Seasonal Changes

Jennifer McCluskey

Many businesses, especially here in Canton and Potsdam which have large college student populations, struggle with slower summer months.  Others in more touristy areas, such as near Higley or out in Clayton or Alex Bay, have the opposite seasonal changes.  A survey from Wells Fargo reported that 45 percent of business owners say they reliably have several times of the year that are faster and slower than others.  But no matter when your business’s slow season is there are many strategies for dealing with slower seasonal sales. 

    One strategy is to close up shop during the slow months. You’ll keep having to pay rent, but utilities, employees, and other costs will be gone or minimal.  This is the strategy that is often employed in some predominantly tourist areas.  However, if your product can serve locals as well, possibly staying open when everyone else is closed might lead to some small profits, or possibly large ones if there is an ice fishing derby or some other event. The Wells Fargo survey mentioned previously also reported that 62 percent of small business owners said they reduce their capital expenditures during slow seasons, and 43 percent said they reduce hours for their employees.

    Another strategy is to set money aside during the high sales months.  This is hard for many business owners.  Forty-one percent of business owners surveyed said seasonal differences make it more difficult to manage cash flow.  Planning can be difficult when you don’t know what’s right around the bend, or if you’re just barely making it during the better parts of the year.  If this is the case for your business, you may want to use your slow season to take a hard look at your financials and see if there are ways you can trim costs during the rest of the year so that you can be better prepared for next year’s downturns, or create a financial budget if you’re just winging it.  Make sure you are realistic with your cash flow projections for the future by having a good idea of past trends and sales in both slow and peak times. Update your forecasts regularly to make sure you are on top of any changes in trends.  Your SBDC advisor can help create and analyze projected budgets. 

    You may be able to delay some expenses until different times of year.  Talk to some of your vendors, for example your insurance company, to see if you could pay at a different time of year.  Even if they say no, I’m sure they won’t mind if you pay your bill ahead of time in the spring so that you’re all set when it’s due in the summer.  Another idea to improve cash flow during slow months is to collect a deposit from customers, for example half down and half on delivery.  This works especially well when there is a substantial gap between booking your service and service delivery. 

    Also, develop a positive relationship with your bank.  There are possibilities of obtaining a seasonal line of credit to get equipment and other items you need to get ready for your high season and then pay it off when the sales start coming in.  This could work well for something like a lawn care business which will need new equipment in the spring but won’t have money to pay for it until the summer. During slower times of the year, one in five business owners (21 percent) reported increasing their use of business lines of credit or business credit cards to bridge cash flow gaps. During busier times, two-thirds (64 percent) said they pay down debt or reduce their use of credit.   

    If you would like assistance planning for seasonal changes in your business cash flow, you can get in touch with your local Small Business Development Center office.  You can contact the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262 for free business counseling.  The Wells Fargo survey referenced can be viewed at https://wellsfargoworks.com/small-business-optimism-reaches-highest-point-in-a-decade.

               

How Will Mandatory Overtime Pay Impact Agriculture?

Jay Matteson

Agriculture tends to be a labor-intensive industry. Dairy farms depend upon labor for everything from milking cows to planting and harvesting crops.  Apple Orchards have only a few weeks to harvest apples in the fall.  Vegetable farms need help all season long planting, weeding, harvesting and processing their produce. New York agriculture is second only to California in the cost of farm labor as a percentage of the value of receipts for products sold.   Farm labor is 13.2 percent of the value of farm receipts in New York state. The national average is 9.5 percent

    High risk is part of farming especially when you consider the dependency on natural cycles and Mother Nature.  A cold wet summer or hot dry growing season can equally spell disaster. Diseases and illness can severely impact crops and livestock.  A disease or crop pest can sweep in on the wind unexpectedly and wipe out crops. Livestock herds may be impacted by illness, requiring money and labor to help nurse a herd back to health.

    Most important, when thinking about the impact of labor on agriculture, is the seasonal vulnerability of the farm.  Short windows exist to plant and harvest crops. These periods are intense and workers hired to perform planting and harvest know coming in to the position, they’ll work many hours to get the job done.  This is part of farming and is expected.

    Mix all of this, with slim margins and, for dairy farms, no control on the price they are paid for their product, and you have an industry that is very susceptible to negative impacts from government imposed arbitrary mandates. In New York state minimum wage increases and now a proposed mandate for overtime pay for farm workers could place many farms, or their workers, in jeopardy.

    The New York State Senate and Assembly have introduced legislation to mandate farms pay their employees overtime if they work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. According to a report from Farm Credit East, “The Economic Impact of Mandatory Overtime Pay for New York State Agriculture” (February 2019), estimated farm labor costs would increase 17.2 percent. This is in addition to the impacts of increasing minimum wage.

    Combined together, mandatory overtime pay and scheduled minimum wage increases will cost our farms in New York state $299 million, the Farm Credit East report indicates, as well as driving down net farm income by 23.4 percent.   That is hard to fathom.  New York state is imposing mandates that will drive down net farm income by almost 25 percent, according to Farm Credit East, a respected and well-established financial institution. It is also notable that payroll taxes and workers compensation costs, paid to New York state, will increase.

                It is not hard to anticipate how farms will adjust to these government mandated expenses. In talking with farm owners, there are three common replies. One common response is that they will reduce full time employees to part time workers. Part-time workers do not receive all the benefits paid to full-time employees and the farm will have several part-time workers coming in shifts to do the work of a full-time worker. This allows the farm the ability to avoid mandatory overtime pay.  Another response is to cut benefits paid to workers to make up the difference in overtime pay. A third common response is to shift to less labor-intensive crops and reduce the farm workforce.  In any of these scenarios, it is a lose-lose-lose situation.  The farmworkers will lose, the farm will lose, and New York State will lose. It is that simple. A question for you, how much more are you willing to pay for your food?

Is Your Business Planning (ahead) For A Successful Transition?

Michael Besaw

Across the north country region, family business owners are debating their future, and determining how the business they’ve worked diligently to create, will transition after they retire – is it letting a younger family member take the reins, or having a business valuation to prepare for an open market sell, or maybe moving to an employee-owned model; these are the complicated decisions that business owners in the north country are trying to navigate.

The ‘Need for a Transition Strategy’ estimates that more than 10,000 businesses in the Adirondack north country are owned and operated by Baby Boomers, who are planning to retire in the next few years in what has been referred to as the “silver tsunami”. Closure of these businesses means loss of services and tremendous loss of employment. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of businesses nationally have an exit strategy planned. This is where the inspiration came from for the Adirondack North Country Association’s “Center For Businesses In Transition” (CBIT) — a collection of public, private and nonprofit partners working together to provide the training, resources, and connection to existing services to support a business in creating their transition strategy, as well as matchmaking services, in an effort to match the newer generation of aspiring entrepreneurs with a business already established in the north country.

How Community Liaisons for the CBIT are helping
Transition planning isn’t often mentioned when passing a business down to the next generation, whether it’s family members or exploring less traditional transition options such as employee ownership models. In the north country region, there are community liaisons in Ticonderoga County, Franklin County, Hamilton County, Lewis County, and St. Lawrence County who are making the effort to connect with transitioning businesses to help them understand the process and how to plan for it. These individuals have been chosen for their understanding of area business and involvement in their communities are part of their county Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Agency, or the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); ensuring the sharing of resources, information and objectives.

Workshops Planned for Transitioning Businesses and Entrepreneurs
A top priority of the CBIT is helping businesses connect the dots to the resources available for transitioning. To accomplish this goal, the CBIT is holding monthly workshops across the north country from April to August. Each workshop covers an element of transitioning planning or the process of purchasing a business, including “Business Transitions Overview: Where do you start?”, “Preparing to Sell Your Business”, “Transitioning to Worker Ownership”, “Intergenerational Family Transitions, Creative Solutions & Alternative Structures”, and “Entrepreneurs: Taking over an existing business”. Registration and the date/time for the workshops are available online at www.adirondack.org/CBITWorkshop Series, or on the St. Lawrence County Chamber’s website www.SLCchamber.org.

Using the latest technology, the workshops will also be live streamed at “Viewing Parties” to offer a level of convenience to both businesses and entrepreneurs who are unable to travel to workshops out of their county. Workshops will also be recorded so that interested business owners can view them at their convenience and as needed in the future.

The Real Deal
Transition planning can take up to five years, and it’s never too early to get started. North Country business owners looking to transition their operations to new owners or a new ownership model, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs looking to take over an existing business, can contact the Center at transitions@adirondack.org or 518-891-6200 for more information or to be connected with a community liaison in your county.

Let’s work together to keep businesses in the north country and continue to grow the beautiful region that we all love to live, work and play in!

Michael Besaw is a native of Massena, and the Assistant Director/CBIT Liaison of the St. Lawrence County Chamber.

Best Stories Of the North Country Are Its Human Ones

Rande Richardson

“I am bound to them, though I cannot look into their eyes or hear their voices. I honor their history. I cherish their lives. I will tell their story. I will remember them.” — Author unknown

Funeral directors don’t deal well with mortality. Staring daily into the face of death has many effects, including a continual awareness of the fragility and transitory nature of life. At the same time, it has a way of helping sort through the things that matter, creating urgency around living your life with purpose and meaning.

    Last month, one of my funeral director mentors died at the age of 80. There were feelings of regret for not having had that last conversation, that last opportunity to say “thank-you” for the way he shaped my life. I learned so much from him and his son. In many ways, his funeral service served to provide the bridge to the next step in accepting a world without him in it. In that moment, too, as I witnessed the memorializing of someone who had always been on the other side of serving families in need, the importance of remembering became even more fundamental. In so doing, we remind ourselves that each of us, in our own time, is responsible for carrying on, just as those who have come before us.

    I am often asked where I work, what I do. In many ways, what I do is very similar to what I did as a funeral director. I am the temporary custodian of something preciously valued. I am honored with the duty of care in honoring the memory of our community’s people. Ultimately, the stories of the north country are its human ones; people who, during their lifetimes, lived, loved and cared in a way that affected others.

    I prefer to answer the question of why I do what I do. I feel a tremendous obligation to tell our community’s stories honorably in a way that helps ensure that those who have come before us are lovingly remembered. Perhaps more lasting, though, is how their lives provided an example of a continuum of care for where they spent their lives — the teacher who left an imprint on thousands, the doctor or nurse who was there to comfort and heal, the person from any walk of life who simply chose to make a difference. Not only is it right to honor these legacies, it is how others are inspired to continue that tradition.

    After a decade at the Community Foundation, I’ve been there long enough to carry out the wishes of those whom I had previous conversations regarding how they intended their support of important causes to endure when they were gone. Because of their thoughtful planning, they continue to support the people, places and organizations of the region with consistent, thoughtful, lasting care.

    At the end of the day, the things that make our community more than average are made possible by the work and mission of our region’s charitable organizations, through the support of donors of time, talent and treasure. Many caring citizens have partnered with nonprofit organizations as a tangible expression of their interests and values. These range from education, health care, a wide scope of human services, animal welfare, arts and culture, history and recreation.

    The early citizens who made gifts to build the Community Foundation did so long before many of today’s needs were clearly apparent. A donor in 1929 likely would not have anticipated the desire to offer hospice services in the region 50 years later. They would be pleased to know that the stewardship of their desire for a better community could impact lives in meaningful ways far into the future. It is hard to separate honoring one’s memory and telling the story of the forever effect of their existence. Just as matter is neither created nor destroyed, kindness, caring and generosity has an extended half-life. One way or another, each of us is forever part of our community’s story.

    In a recent CBS “On The Road” feature, Steve Hartman remembered his dad, stating “His death makes me an orphan. I can tell you this is a unique kind of emptiness. When there is no one left on earth to love you quite so unconditionally.” Sooner or later, we all can relate. “Although losing such a parent can feel like kryptonite, remembering them in all their glory can make your heart fly.”

We are at the intersection of today and tomorrow. Remember that our own lives will continue to ripple throughout our communities for a long time to come. Be ever aware of the story you were born to tell. Focus not only what you leave behind but what you made possible. Not so much for the gifts you give, but the love behind them. Do so with purpose so that others will want to remember you in ways that causes many more hearts to fly and the goodness in our communities and its organizations to endure across the generations.               

 

Women’s Roles in Agriculture Grow Strong

ALYSSA COUSE

I recently attended The New York Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Albany.  The theme of the meeting was “Young Farmers- The Future Agriculture Superheroes”.  It is no secret that the agriculture industry has experienced volatility in recent years, whether it be changing markets, new regulations, or extreme weather, so investing in the future of the industry is more crucial than ever.  Building versatile, resilient, invested young leaders is becoming more of a focus and as you look around the room, there is no doubt a growing proportion of lip gloss wearing, braid-bearing farmers. 

    The keynote speaker of the conference, Vance Crowe, director of millennial engagement for Bayer Crop Sciences, discussed the importance of telling the story of farming and building relationships with consumers.  It is evident that this is a significant task, even just from the fact that millennial engagement and consumer relations are now job titles within agribusinesses.  More often than not, it is the mother, sister, aunt, etc. on the farm that takes on the role of managing social media pages, community events/tours, and newsletters. Most women have the inherent finesse to connect emotionally in creative ways, which is key to building relationships with consumers these days.  In addition to online or written outreach, many farms today are incorporating more opportunities for visitors to get a hands on experience. 

    Some farms take advantage of their home being a tourist destination and participate in some form of agritourism.  Agritourism involves encouraging visitors to a farm/ranch for any agriculturally based operation.  Activities offered can be equine boarding facilities, u-pick fruit and veggie patches, farm tours, hay rides, petting zoos, and open houses just to name a few! This can also be an extra source of income for farms and an opportunity to diversify from everyday production. Such experiences are quite literally being craved by consumers today as they yearn to learn more about when, where, and how their food came to be.  This need stems most directly from the fact that many young people today are four to five generations separated from the farming lifestyle.  What the agriculture industry once took for granted was the innate trust and knowledge of the food system that once was, when almost every family had a part in the production from dairy farms to road side stands.  Today, less than 2 percent of the population are involved in production farming.  Yes, those 2 percent are feeding themselves and the other 98 percent.  Thus, reestablishing people’s connections to their food and how it was produced is a growing need.

    Agritourism was another area we focused on at the recent conference, specifically the new Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act.  The “Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act,” now part of New York’s General Obligations Law (“GOL”), provides that owners and operators of agricultural tourism areas “shall not be liable for an injury to or death of a visitor if the provisions of General Obligations Law Section 18-303(1)(a) – (e) are met.” Statutory requirements for protection include directional signage, employee training, warning to visitors concerning inherent risks of farm activities, operator provided written information, visitor responsibility signage, posting of notice of right to a refund, and operator duties. In a nutshell, in order to protect visitors and business owners, there must be posted signage stating any potential risks and well trained employees to help ensure safe and enjoyable experiences.  When thinking about compliance for your agritourism business, think like a paranoid mother of a toddler! What can they get into? What could go wrong? Then make a sign warning against those actions.  For example, if guests are able to feed livestock treats, warn them to be cautious of being nibbled, because fingers look a lot like carrots. It is important to make signage specific to the operation and not just post a few general warning signs. To ensure that coverage requirements are met, it is best to work with a lawyer.  

    For more information: https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/Press%20Releases/Inherent_Risk_Guidance.pdf

    Women’s roles in agriculture continue to grow exponentially.  Based on observations of the crowd at recent leadership conferences, you can expect the female voice to become louder throughout the industry in the years to come.  In addition to becoming great farmers, they will become leaders in technology, marketing, and communications.