March 2015: Agri-Business

Maple Weekends on tap in March

Columnist Jay Matteson

Columnist Jay Matteson

March is one of the sweetest times of the year as fragrant steam wafts out of the top of sugar houses across our state. Native Americans started a tradition long ago that continues today, capturing the sweet sap of certain trees and boiling the water off to make a delicious sap. Since many of you are already saying, “OK, time to visit a sugar house and get some syrup,” you should know that Maple Weekend is March 21 and 22 and March 28 and 29. This is the 20th year of the annual celebration. This harbinger of spring provides an excellent chance to learn about syrup production, taste all the great products made from syrup, and buy enough to bring home and last the rest of the year. [Read more…]

February 2015: Agri-Business

What’s ahead for local agriculture?

Jay Matteson

Columnist, Jay Matteson

We are coming off a good year for agriculture in Jefferson County and across Northern New York. Our dairy farms prospered, the Afgritech Plant in Watertown completed an expansion, and another agriculture-related business opened its doors on Bradley Street. On balance, 2014 for most was an upbeat positive growth year locally and across  the state. As we focus on the year ahead, a few more challenges face our dairy farms that will slow growth, but in other ag sectors we should see the excitement continue. [Read more…]

Young people need to sharpen skills

Agri-business column by Jay Matteson

Agri-business column || by Jay Matteson

During the 2014 Workforce 2020 program hosted by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, Paul Mason from Riverhaven Dairy Farm near Cape Vincent, Mike Hunter, agronomist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County and I interviewed approximately 45 high school students interested in agricultural careers. As we went through the morning, with students lined up sometimes 10 deep waiting for an open seat, Paul, Mike and I were excited and concerned about the conversations we had with local juniors and seniors. [Read more…]

Agri-Business: Farm-based beverage sector grows

Within the past decade, Jefferson County and Northern New York witnessed a refreshing emergence of new businesses making beverages and growing ingredients from agricultural products. Our region is well known for producing large amounts of high-quality milk and turning that milk into award-winning cheeses and cultured dairy products. Our dairy industry will continue to thrive and grow for the foreseeable future. But the emergence of other opportunities in agriculture has invigorated local entrepreneurs not interested in dairy farming. The question is, what can our region support? [Read more…]

A different type of regional toursim

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Each year thousands of people travel to Northern New York to enjoy the beauty of nature and the relaxing climate and culture that places like the Thousand Islands region offers. With more than 150 miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Jefferson County certainly offers opportunities to sit and watch sunsets, fantastic fishing, and many other water-related opportunities. Inland, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties boast the foothills of the Adirondacks, hundreds of miles of forested trails, canoeing, kayaking, camping, and other types of tourist related opportunities. Traditional tourism is a big part of our north country economy. There is another type of tourism that is slowly growing here. [Read more…]

Where’s the beef industry in NNY?

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Northern New York is well known for its dairy farms and great-tasting dairy products. Part of the reason for this is our region has a climate and soils well suited to growing great grass. I mean the kind of grass that cows like to eat. In fact, within 100 miles of Watertown, there are 275,800 dairy cows. Northern New York is ranked as one of the leading milk producing areas in the United States.
But our ability to produce high-quality forage doesn’t only benefit dairy cows. [Read more…]

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, www.spruceacresmeatshop.com 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…]