Mom-and-pop operations booming

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Travel to 23938 Shoulette Road in Redwood and you’ll find a nice story about business success. The mom-and-pop business located here has been operating for 20 years, and now a son is coming on board, hoping to call it his own someday. They are expanding their product line and are excited about the future.
Roberta and Kurt Hanni own and operate Spruce Acres Custom Cutting and Spruce Acres II Retail Shop. On their website, they explain how their meat processing business grew from butchering animals for a few local neighbors to cutting beef, pork, deer and exotics. They provide vacuum packaging and their facilities include two walk-in coolers, scales, an upright hot smoker and rotisserie hot smoker for finishing hams and bacon. [Read more...]

Ag land costs less to communities

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Recently, I heard about an official from a local town saying farms are not considered businesses. While I was disappointed to hear this, albeit secondhand, it is not the first time this has ever been said. And while one of the local farms in that town employs approximately 40 people with some earning salaries of $50,000-plus, we won’t focus on whether a farm is business or not. I think common sense prevails with most officials and they recognize that farms are indeed very valuable businesses to support in their communities.

Instead, let us focus on the cost of community services from “open working land,” “commercial and industrial,” and “residential development” classifications of land use in a community. Cost of Community Services Studies are case studies used to determine revenues versus a community’s public service costs based on current land use. COCS is a snapshot in time of costs versus revenue for each type of land use. Developed by American Farmland Trust in the mid-1980s, COCS studies provide an inexpensive and reliable tool to measure fiscal relationships, putting working and open lands on equal ground with residential, commercial and industrial land uses.

According to Rebecca Roberts from the Center for Land Use Education at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, COCS studies cannot predict future revenue or expenditures or analyze specific development proposals. Instead, COCS studies provide a baseline of current information to help local officials make informed land use and policy decisions. [Read more...]

Cook up business in a new kitchen

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Entrepreneurs trying to cook up new business now have a great facility in Jefferson County to work in. A shared-use kitchen at Madison Barracks opened its doors last month, providing existing or budding entrepreneurs who manufacture food products a more efficient means of doing so that can in turn help them expand their business. The facility, which has a 20-C license, allows small-scale, value-added food producers to rent time and space to make their product.

A 20-C kitchen is a facility approved by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Not everyone who makes food products for sale is required to use a 20-C kitchen. According to the department’s website, processors of home-processed foods may be exempted from the 20-C licensing requirements if they meet the following conditions: [Read more...]

Promoting ag over the airwaves

Jay Matteson

Many people are two to three generations removed from agriculture. As I attend various meetings, people try to connect back to agriculture, saying, “I come from a farming background, I used to go to my grandparents farm on the weekends.” People’s interest in relating to farming is appreciated, and helpful. At the same time, it becomes a barrier to understanding a rapidly changing industry. The old red barn is cemented in our sentimental values and Holsteins wandering the pasture on a sunny day is a Rockwellian image.

Agriculture is a rapidly changing industry full of highly technical equipment and new vast metal structures that dot our rural countryside, and fewer people directly growing food and fiber comprehend the changes happening and what they mean to the industry. Yes, you will still see red wooden hipped roof structures and pastoral scenes of Holsteins grazing green pastures lightly dampened by morning dew. But these images are fewer. [Read more...]

Cost, turnover obstacles for coverage

Jay Matteson

As with many small businesses, farms face tough choices when deciding on health care coverage for farm operators and employees. Agricultural is a high risk industry. A recent accident in July on a dairy farm in the Town of Rodman and a mishap on a farm last spring in the Town of Hounsfield show how quickly injuries can occur, especially given that farm workers are around large pieces of equipment and unpredictable large animals, and in environments where problems happen quickly and without advance warning.

An analysis published in Agricultural Economics in Jan. 2012 documented annual health care expenditures of self-employed farm households in the U.S. The analysis determined that farm households with no health insurance spend the least, an average of less than $4,000 per year. Farm households where the spouse or farm operator are also employed off the farm and receive health insurance through their outside employer spend slightly more, an average of about $5,000 per year. The highest expenditures tend to occur at farm households where either the farm provides the insurance coverage or insurance is obtained through a private insurance company. In these cases, average annual expenditures are $7,500 and $10,000 respectively. Although most farmers are self-employed, the share of farm operator household members who have no insurance equals that of the overall population of the U.S. —16 percent. [Read more...]

What happens on our farmland?

Jay Matteson

Nearly 31 percent of Jefferson County’s 827,000 acres are used for farming. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 255,900 acres in farmland in 2010, ranking Jefferson County third in New York state behind Steuben (362,800) and St. Lawrence (338,900) counties. As an example, imagine one third of the state of Rhode Island, 33 percent, as farmland. That’s how much land we farm in Jefferson County. So what happens when you have that much farmland?

You have a lot of cows. Jefferson County has slightly more than 62,000 cattle and calves, according to the NASS. Lewis County has 51,000 cattle and calves and St. Lawrence County has 68,000, making our region home to the largest average number of cattle per county. For each person in the tri-county area, there are 1.4 head of cattle. Lewis County folks can still say their county has more cows than people. (Is anyone thinking barbecue?) [Read more...]

A plan that protects our farmland

As Jefferson County considers revising its Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan, taxpayers may ask what this plan is and why we need it. Farmers may ask the same question. A plan can be a critical resource and blueprint for our agricultural industry, which is important to our overall economy. Jefferson County’s existing plan was completed in 2002. Agriculture was a lot different then than it is now.

Jefferson County’s population also was different. In 2002, the county’s population was in decline. As of July 2001, the population was estimated at 109,535. As of July 2012, the population estimate for Jefferson County was 120,262. This represents the ninth-largest numerical gain and the largest percentage gain for all counties in the state since 2010. Natural increases, or more births than deaths, and net migration, international and domestic, contributed to the increase. Jefferson County’s population increase leads to more vehicle traffic, more houses and, because of the influx of many soldiers who are not from agricultural areas, a lot more people who do not understand or necessarily appreciate what farming brings to a community. [Read more...]

Can IDAs help our farms grow?

New York law mandates that it is the state’s policy to “… promote the economic welfare, recreation opportunities and prosperity of its inhabitants and to actively promote, attract, encourage and develop recreation, economically sound commerce and industry, and economically sound projects identified … through government action to prevent unemployment and economic deterioration by the creation of economic development agencies, which are declared government agencies … to grant such industrial development agencies the (necessary) rights and powers.”

The law grants counties authority to create industrial development agencies. It also gives IDAs the purposes and powers to “… promote, develop, encourage and assist in acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, maintaining, equipping and furnishing of industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, commercial, research and recreational facilities.”

[Read more...]

Managing our natural resources

During the Dust Bowl era of the early 20th century, millions of tons of soil eroded off the land into the sea. The United States saw the productivity of farms literally washing away. Farms went out of business, and many of the businesses in local communities that depended, directly and indirectly on farms, followed. [Read more...]

A change for the Jefferson County ag industry

On Feb. 12, the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation’s board of directors held their last meeting, during which board members moved to dissolve the not-for-profit local development corporation. While no one desired that the corporation cease to exist, it was a direction caused by outside influences with no concern for agriculture. [Read more...]