Farmer’s Market Season is Upon Us!

Jay Matteson

By: Jay Matteson

A true sign that Northern New York has moved away from snow season is the beginning of farmer’s markets in May. Fresh, local produce, baked goods, potted flowers and local wine are among some of the things that visitors to a market will find.  Having a great conversation with a friend, getting a bite to eat from a food vendor and sometimes enjoying musical entertainment are extras that make our local open air markets something many look forward to.

    The first market of the year to open is the big Watertown Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, beginning May 24, in front of the Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street in Watertown. This market features almost everything you want from an outdoor market.  Local produce, eggs, meats, wine, plants, baked products, fudge, candies, honey and many other farm products are available depending upon the time of the season.  You’ll also find arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, informational booths and many food vendors.  They commonly have musicians providing live performances during the market.  This market begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. The market accepts FMNP, WIC and SNAP benefits.

    Three markets open on Friday May 26, 2017 and run on Fridays until their end date. The Carthage Farmer’s Market is held at the Farmer’s Market pavilion on Riverside Drive from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. This market accepts FMNP benefits.  The Alexandria Bay Farmer’s Market opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. It is located in the Kinney’s Drugs parking lot. The Alexandria Bay Market does not accept any benefit programs. If you can’t make any of the daytime markets, you might want to visit the Jefferson Bulk Milk (Cheese Store) Farmer’s Market on Route 3 in Hounsfield as they start in mid-afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and end at 6 p.m. This market accepts FMNP,WIC, and SNAP benefits. Another market that runs on Fridays but doesn’t open until June 2 is the South Jeff Chamber of Commerce Farm and Artisan Market.  This is the first year for this market which will be held in the big pavilion behind the Adams Volunteer Fire Department.  The South Jeff market starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. allowing people to visit the market after working hours. They will not be accepting any benefit programs.

    On Thursday, June 1, the Clayton Farmer’s Market opens. Held in the Village Park, this market starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. They are not accepting any benefit programs. This beautiful location gives visitors a nice chance to walk around downtown Clayton and view the mighty St. Lawrence River.

    Saturdays are also a busy farmer’s market day. The earliest market opens at 9 a.m. in the pavilion at J.B. Wise Place behind Public Square in Watertown. The Saturday Farmer’s Market opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., beginning on June 3. This market accepts FMNP, WIC and SNAP benefits.  Starting June 17 on the Village Green in Cape Vincent, you will find the Cape Vincent Farmer’s Market. This market opens at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. They do not accept any benefit programs.

    A new farmer’s market in Jefferson County is at one of our newest farm wineries. The Busted Farmer’s Market is hosted at the Busted Grapes Winery at 19557 Ball Road, Black River. They are also the only market open on Sundays. Starting on June 18, they will open at 11 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.  They do not accept any benefit programs.  This could be a fun market to visit if you’re not doing anything on a Sunday, just don’t get busted!

    All of this information is available on the calendar of agricultural events found at www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com. The list of markets is also available in the “Local Food Guide” published by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. The local food guide will be available on their website, www.ccejefferson.org/local-foods as soon as it is published.

Agriculture Gearing Up for the Event Season

 

Jay Matteson

   Warm weather is on the way! At least by July the snow will be gone and it’ll be time to get outside. If you visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and click on the calendar tab at the top, you’ll be taken to our calendar of agriculture for Jefferson County and Northern New York. Here are a few of the many events, found on the website, which you can look forward to in 2017.
     On April 21, the annual Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown. From 9 to 10:45 a.m., Chris Lorence from Christopher A. Lorence PR & Marketing Services will provide a workshop on advanced use of social media for marketing and advertising in agriculture. Mr. Lawrence will take course participants on a journey exploring how to use social media for advanced advertising of products and services offered by farms and agribusinesses. The workshop is free, but participants must register in advance due to limited seating capacity.
     Following Mr. Lorence at 11a.m., Christine Watkins, executive director of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation, will provide a presentation on the environmental stewardship efforts of our agricultural industry, highlighting the tremendous work and expense our farms put forward to maintain and improve the quality of the environment in which we live. Mrs. Watkins presentation will be geared both for the public and farm community. Following Mrs. Watkins there will be a light lunch for conference participants. During lunch, I will present my annual overview of our agricultural industry report, discussing the challenges and highlights from 2016 and looking forward into 2018.
     Our keynote presentation at the Agricultural Development Conference will feature a panel presentation from Nichole Hirt and William Stowell. Mrs. Hirt is the agricultural program teacher from Indian River High School and Indian River FFA advisor. Mr. Stowell is the South Jefferson High School agricultural teacher and FFA advisor. Together Mr. Stowell and Mrs. Hirt will look at agricultural education in our local area and across New York State and share with our audience their thoughts on how agricultural education in our classrooms relates to workforce development in the agricultural industry and the challenges and opportunities we face.
     While the Agricultural Development Conference is free, advanced registration is required by April 14. Those interested may register by calling 315-782-5865 or emailing coordinator@comefarmwithus.com.
     On Saturday, May 6, Old McDonald’s Farm Agricultural Education Center near Sackets Harbor will open its doors for the season, weather permitting. If you have not visited Old McDonald’s Farm, it is a real treat. As one of the largest agricultural education centers in New York state, it is a fantastic place to take your children to have fun and learn about agriculture. Visit their website at www.oldmcdonaldhasafarm.com.
     Planning has started for the Jefferson County Dairyland Festival and Parade on Friday, June 2. The festival kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street in Watertown. The festival is geared for children ages pre-school through sixth grade. The festival includes interactive exhibits, displays and demonstrations related to our dairy industry and agriculture. Schools may register their classes by visiting www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and clicking on the festival link on the right hand side of the home page. Classes must register to attend before May 5. The second part of the exciting celebration is the Dairy Parade which kicks off at 7 p.m. The parade lines up at Watertown High School and proceeds down Washington Street, ending at the State Office Building. The judging stand is directly in front of the State Office Building, where our Master of Ceremonies provides live narration of the entire parade. The parade is full of exciting and fun entries, including marching bands, HUGE farm equipment, fire trucks, live animals, floats, youth groups and businesses. Anyone wishing to enter the parade may also visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and follow the directions on the festival page. Entry forms must be submitted by May 22. The parade is a “points parade” for local fire departments. At 8 p.m., the Jefferson County Dairy Princess and her court will dish out free ice cream sundaes in the Dulles State Office Building for everyone as long as supplies last.
     There are many more events, activities, workshops and meetings that may be of interest to you. Check the calendar on our website to keep track of what is happening that you might be interested in. There is a lot to do in our great agricultural community!

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

It’s Maple Season!

Jay Matteson

A true harbinger of spring is seeing sap buckets nailed to the side of massive gray sugar maple trees in a forest still covered in old snow from the winter’s last breath.  Driving down the winding country road, you see blue tubing strung from tree to tree until finally the little river of sweet sap pours into a giant white container.  If you are lucky enough, you stop at a small wooden shack that has steam pouring out of the top. For the untrained, one may wonder what in the blue blazes is going on until they suddenly sniff the sweet aroma of maple sap boiling tinged with the sentimental fragrance of wood fire. Sugar season has arrived.

                Many of us who live in the north country have experienced this birth of spring many times.  Few ever take it for granted. It is now that families start to consider placing the buckets and tubing throughout the maple woods called a sugar bush.  For many, they have been cutting firewood all winter to heat the giant boiling pan in which the sap has the water boiled out to make maple syrup.  Some use gas fired burners to heat the pan. Advanced technologies in the Sugar Shack, the building where they boil the syrup, might include using ultraviolet light to help filter out any impurities.

                In the woods, vacuum pumps may be used with the tubing to promote more sap collection. A lot of sap is needed to provide us the delicious maple products many of us look forward to. Sugar maple and black maple are the preferred trees to tap, but sap can be collected from red and silver maple as well, although their sap has higher water content.  Native Americans enjoyed maple syrup long before Europeans arrived in North America. In the sugar house, some operations are using reverse osmosis units to remove some of the water from the sap before it enters the boiling pan.

                Hopefully, you’re wondering when and where you should go to experience this tasty tradition of springtime.  Our maple syrup producers have made it easy for you.  On the weekends of March 18-19 and March 25-26, we celebrate Maple Weekend across New York State. There are many sugar shacks across the north country that open their doors to public.  Thirteen sugar shacks across Northern New York provide a variety of experiences for visitors during the weekend.  These include hayrides, learning how to tap trees and collect the sap, how to boil the sap into syrup and also how to make all the other delicious treats people love to enjoy. Of course all have maple products for sale. 

                If you want to experience Maple Weekend, you can visit either of two websites. The first website we recommend is www.mapleweekend.com. This provides great information about the maple industry and has a listing of all the sugar shacks across New York that are participating. Then you can visit http://nysmaple.com/mapleweekend/ and find an interactive map where you can search for participating maple producers near you. The other part of Maple Weekend I highly recommend is taking in one of the many pancake breakfasts put on by local organizations. There is a listing on the Maple Weekend website.  With the winter we’ve had here in the north country, why not get out and taste a little of the magic that is our maple industry?

Organic Milk Production in Jefferson Co. and NYS

Agri-business column by Jay Matteson

Northern New York is one of the leading dairy-producing regions in New York State and the nation. Dairy farms in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties combined produced approximately 1.8 billion pounds of milk in 2010.  That is a lot of milk!  All three counties rank in the top 10 of dairy-producing counties in the state and top 50 counties in the United States.

                We are also seeing continued growth in organic milk production in our region. According to Sharad Mathur, chief operating officer with Dairy Marketing Services, it is estimated that Northern New York has over 100 dairy farms producing about 5 million pounds of pure organic milk every day. Nearly one-third of the organic dairy farms in the state are located in Jefferson and St Lawrence counties. There are conventional dairy farms interested in converting to organic dairy production, but are looking for good markets for organic milk.

                Organic milk is different than conventional milk in that certified organic dairy farms are required to follow strict guidelines that govern use of pesticides, herbicides and type of fertilizer applied to farms, the type of feed that can be used to feed cows and the management practices a farm may use to keep cows healthy. The price organic dairy farms receive for every one hundred pounds of milk they ship is generally higher than what conventional farms receive for their milk, but the cost of producing one hundred pounds of organic is generally higher than producing one hundred of conventional milk.

                We are now seeing a limited number of farms further differentiating their production method by going to certified grass-based milk production.  This certification required the farms to follow a different set of regulations regarding the use of grass in feeding cows on the farm. Certified grass-based farms receive an even higher premium than organic farms.

                In our efforts to attract new agribusiness into Northern New York from Europe, this diversity in our milk production is important.  Our office is currently talking with two dairy manufacturing companies that are interested in organic milk.  The fact that Northern New York produces pure, high-quality milk, and especially is a leader in organic milk production, is critical to our efforts. Our area has potential to grow our dairy production, especially organic milk production, and that is what these two companies are looking at.

                For the consumer, we are very fortunate to live in an area where you have choices between pure and nutritious choices in dairy products.  Our farmers are fortunate that our soils, temperatures and terrain provide opportunities for diverse production methods that suit the management styles of the farm owners. Whatever your preference is for great tasting dairy products, Northern New York provides some of the purest milk available.

 

Economics and agriculture in the future

Jay Matteson

I couldn’t find a fortune teller with a crystal ball so I called two people who have a good grasp on what expectations are in the dairy industry for the coming year. They are members of the informal cadre of people I turn to for guidance on what is happening in agriculture. Ron Robbins is an owner of North Harbor Dairy Farm near Sackets Harbor, a 1,000-cow dairy operation. Ron’s family owns Old McDonald’s Farm, an agricultural educational and entertainment destination.  Ron has served on a variety of state, regional and national organizations and was the state executive director of USDA Farm Service Agency for New York for a number of years.

                Bruce Krupke is the executive vice president of Northeast Dairy Foods Association based in Syracuse, serving dairy processors across eight states in the northeastern United States. Bruce also serves on many state regional and national committees. Both Bruce and Ron do a good job of keeping their finger on the pulse of the dairy industry.

                Dairy farmers have been suffering through very difficult times for the past two years.  The price they are paid for their milk, measured in units of one hundred pounds of milk shipped, or hundredweights (cwt), has been well below the cost of production.  The average cost of production in Northern New York tends to run at $18 per hundredweight or one hundred pounds of milk shipped. Prices have dipped as low as $14 per hundredweight over the last two years.  At $14, if the price stayed that low the entire year, a 500-cow dairy with each cow producing an average of 90 pounds of milk per day per cow would lose approximately $657,000 for the year. That is a significant loss.

                Mr. Robbins indicates that it is looking like prices will remain below cost of production until halfway through 2017.  Why? According to Ron there is a tremendous supply of milk and milk products on the market.  Even though demand is strong for dairy products, the low milk prices over the last two years allowed manufacturers to build a tremendous inventory of products that now has to work its way out of the system. Ron indicates that even though U.S. production continues to be “on a tear” with cow numbers increasing and production per cow moving higher, world production is coming down.  That could be very beneficial to U.S. dairy prices paid to the farmer.  Mr. Robbins believes the last six months of 2017 will hopefully see farm gate prices finally cross the profitable threshold.  Unfortunately, it will take many months for farms to recoup the losses they’ve incurred through this low price cycle.

                Bruce Krupke indicates a similar trend, anticipating prices to gradually rise into 2017.  Mr. Krupke heavily emphasized the importance of the world market for U.S. products. “This is where our future lies” Mr. Krupke said.  World dairy prices are rising enough to bring parity with U.S. dairy prices allowing our industry to become competitive. Bruce indicated that we would benefit most if we could achieve a good dairy trade situation with our neighbor to our north. Canada is putting heavy tariffs on ultra-filtered milk products that are hurting two dairy plants in New York, one in Batavia and one in Cayuga County. Bruce indicates concern that the situation will “back up” milk supply in the state.

                I also asked both gentlemen about expectations for the impacts of the Trump administration on agriculture.  Mr. Robbins said right now there is mixed expectations about President Trump.  President Trump’s pro-business tendencies are welcomed in agriculture. The last several years of intense regulatory burden, rapidly increasing cost of business due to federal policies and heavily increasing tax burdens are expected to ease and that will be very welcome. Ron said there is a nervous anticipation within the industry at the same time.  Agriculture, including the dairy industry, is heavily impacted by foreign trade.  There is concern about the unknowns of the new president’s trade policies.  Much work is being done behind the scenes to help the administration better appreciate the importance of trade to agriculture and our farms.

                Bruce Krupke shared a very positive outlook for the business policies of President Trump.  Mr. Krupke indicated he believes that the administration will be very business friendly and that should generate a positive outlook for dairy manufacturers. Bruce hopes that the president will improve our dairy trade opportunities with Canada which will especially benefit New York’s dairy industry.

                Let’s hope that the expectations of both men are correct. Our dairy farmers need a light at the end of the tunnel.  Prices have been too low for too long.   If we can improve the business climate for our farms and manufacturers, the dairy industry can thrive.  Should our business climate improve, perhaps more dairy or food manufacturing opportunities will come along.

Ag a major driver for regional tourism

 

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

The Thousand Islands International Tourism Council recently hosted a bi-national tourism summit at the Clayton Harbor Hotel. With more than 100 people attending from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, and great discussions generated from the day’s presentations, the summit was very successful. I was excited when Gary DeYoung, director of tourism for the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, asked me to present about the role that agriculture plays in tourism and some of the changes we’ve seen. Over the past few decades, agriculture has emerged as a major driver in tourism in the Thousand Islands region.
Since 1986, we have benefited from the creation of “destinations” based on farming. The “Mother of Ag Tourism in Jefferson County,” Nancy Robbins, started Old McDonald’s Farm near Sackets Harbor. Old McDonald’s farm, according to Nancy, started because she found that friends wanted to bring their children to see farm animals and learn about farming. Nancy capitalized on that interest and built one of the foremost agricultural destinations in New York, this year educating nearly 40,000 about farming.
Another development that spiked our region’s tourism opportunities is the development of a farm based craft beverage industry. In the early 2000’s a Fort Drum officer was retiring from the Army and fell in love with the St. Lawrence River and how it reminded him of German river valleys he saw while traveling in Europe. Steve Conaway found cold hardy species of grapes that could grow in our frigid climate and began making wine in a garage on a farm he purchased. This was the beginning of Thousand Islands Winery, the largest farm winery in Northern New York. Steve was quickly joined by fellow visionaries Phil Randazzo, Nick Surdo, and Kyle and Rick Hafemann who recognized the potential for a northern wine industry based in the Thousand Islands. Their wineries, Coyote Moon Vineyards, Yellow Barn Winery and Otter Creek Winery quickly inspired others. Today we have 16 farm-based wineries, distilleries, and breweries drawing people to our shores, year-round.
Unfortunately the industry is growing faster than we are attracting people from outside our area. During the summit I described our tourist base as a pie. Right now we are in a transition time where we haven’t reached a critical mass of destinations to become a huge draw similar to the Finger Lakes. Every new farm-based craft beverage facility divides the “pie” of customers into thinner slices. This is not a suggestion that entrepreneurs shouldn’t go into the craft beverage industry. But, everyone should realize the challenge we face of trying to expand our customer base.
One barrier that hurts the Thousand Islands region is the “tariff wall” placed by Canada on their citizens that severely limits Canadians from purchasing our alcohol based craft beverages. With major metropolitan areas within a few hours’ drive to our area from Canada, we could increase our customer base for our craft beverage industry. It is very expensive for Canadians to cross the border to visit our craft beverage facilities, purchase our products and bring them back into Canada.
The Tariff Wall is far more severe than any placed on U.S. citizens visiting Canada. Phil Randazzo, owner of Coyote Moon Vineyard, has suggested previously, and I reiterated during my presentation at the Tourism Summit, that possibly we should consider working with our friends across the River to create an International Farm Beverage trail that accomplishes two key things. The first is two create a unique device to market our international region to attract an increasing number of visitors. Second, as I proposed during my presentation, create a tariff-free zone starting at a westerly line from Kingston, Ont., to Sackets Harbor and proceeding east to the Ogdensburg International Bridge. The tariff free zone would extend 25 miles inland from those points and the St. Lawrence River. Any farm based beverage produced within that region could receive a special label that exempts the product from being charged with tariffs when transported across the border. Obviously there are many details that would need to be worked out, but it is worth considering.
It is exciting to witness the growth of an industry from its infancy that serves both agriculture and tourism. Our work should be to do everything we can to attract more people to our area and remove barriers that inhibit our growth.

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

A natural way of life: Adirondack beef Co. started to provide healthy food for family

From left, Adirondack Beef Co. owners and operators, Michele Ledoux, son, Jake, 20, a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, studying international agriculture and rural development; daughter, Camille, 17, a student at Beaver River High School and a member of the FFA, and husband Steve, co-owner.

From left, Adirondack Beef Co. owners and operators, Michele Ledoux, son, Jake, 20, a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, studying international agriculture and rural development; daughter, Camille, 17, a student at Beaver River High School and a member of the FFA, and husband Steve, co-owner.

[Read more…]

Opportunities for NY hemp production

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Last June, the state Legislature passed legislation that allows for the transportation, processing, sale and distribution of hemp grown as part of New York’s research pilot program.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the legislation into law, kicking off an opportunity for universities and colleges to partner with farms to establish research trials and businesses to produce industrial hemp. This action became permitted through the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill.

So what exactly is hemp?

According to the website hempbasics.com, hemp is primarily cannabis sativa, a species of the plant cannabis that grows wild throughout all 50 states. Cannabis sativa is grown for industrial use and has no drug properties because of its low THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, content. Cannabis indica is the species of cannabis commonly known as marijuana and has enough THC content to produce a psychoactive response.

Hemp was grown by Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and was a major American crop from 1776 to 1937. The plant is used in the production of fiber, which has antimicrobial properties. The fiber can then be made into twine and cordage, yarn, rope and webbing. It is reported that a single acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton. Hemp fiber is stronger and lasts longer than cotton fiber.

Paper products may also be produced from hemp fiber, from tissue paper to cardboard. It takes two to four acres of trees to produce as much paper as an acre of hemp. Many websites reported that hemp can be used to produce fiberboard that is as strong as wood.

Trees take many years to grow before they can be used for wood or fiber production. Hemp requires 120 days to grow before it is ready to harvest. A substance similar to cement can be made from the silica that is leached from the soil, combined with unslaked lime. This material is waterproof and fireproof.

Hemp seed oil provides essential fatty acids, lanolin and linolenic acids. You can purchase food items such as smoothies and have hemp seed oil added to enhance the nutritional benefit of the smoothie. Hemp oil is also being used in the production of body care products. The protein produced from hemp seed has the potential to produce tofu, veggie burgers and salad oils and can be ground into flour.

Hemp has potential for biomass production. Researchers are looking at hemp for biofuel production as 70 percent of the plant is the “hurd” or woody core of the plant. The oil from hemp may be used in biodiesel production.

With so many good uses of hemp, why is it not grown commercially across the United States?

Because it is difficult to visually distinguish between the different species of cannabis, prohibitions were put in place to prevent the growth of any cannabis species legally. Even though THC levels are extremely low in hemp, there was concern that it might be possible to extract THC from the plant. Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany have allowed hemp farming and commercial production.

The Germans use hemp fiber in composite automotive panels. Other countries are looking at hemp derivatives as a replacement for petroleum-based chemicals. Slowly, we are seeing the easing of regulations against growing hemp in the U.S., allowing this historically valuable plant to come into production again.

It appears there is a future for hemp production in the United States. There is reportedly a bill working through the state Legislature to allow full commercialization of hemp production.

The challenge will be to enforce laws that prohibit growing marijuana while allowing growth of hemp.

 

August 2016: Agribusiness

Come grow with us in the north country

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

If you are driving on Interstate 81 in the Watertown area, you may have noticed two very large Holstein dairy cows watching you drive by. Their faces are almost 11-feet tall and nearly 8-feet wide. That’s a large Holstein by any standard. [Read more…]

July 2016: Agri-business

One man’s junk is another’s necessity

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

It is not unusual to encounter situations where farms keep old equipment and materials that may appear as “junk” to the non-farm public. Old tractors, farm machinery, and building materials may be kept by the farm for later use as replacement parts or building materials. Old tires may be kept for use to hold down plastic film placed on bunk silos storing animal feed. Farmers have always been masters of the three “Rs” of waste reduction: reduce, reuse and recycle. The three Rs apply when they keep old equipment to use for parts or to make devices to help complete daily farm chores. [Read more…]