A Healthy Organization For Healthy Communities

ALYSSA COUSE

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County is recognized for its community involvement in many different capacities. However, one theme seems to intertwine them all: healthy communities.  From out to pasture to on post, CCE Jefferson promotes overall wellness throughout the county.  If you aren’t yet familiar with our office, you can find educators in the areas of agriculture, youth development, nutrition, military life and parenting.  When you hear the term “health,” fruits, veggies and exercise probably come to mind, but social and mental health are also important to overall wellness and successful communities. 

Nutrition and Parenting

                In addition to teaching healthy cooking classes and bringing healthy recipes to area schools, the CCE Jefferson Nutrition Program helps other organizations to become healthy workplaces.  Through the Adopting Healthy Habits Community Coalition, wellness policies are developed and changes are implemented to make grabbing a nutritious snack or being active in the workplace a possibility.  If you are interested in getting your organization started, check out the Adopting Healthy Habits page on http://ccejefferson.org/nutrition/adopting-healthy-habits

                The nutrition and parenting departments also interact with families on a daily basis.  Whether it be financial stress or tension within the family unit, educators provide direct assistance to help these families get the most out of their money and their relationships.  For example, Eat Smart New York (ESNY) is a free and completely confidential program that teaches shopping on a budget, meal planning, food safety, etc., to ensure better physical health.  In addition, parenting courses are offered to improve the mental and emotional state of local homes. 

4-H

                4-H youth development is also making health a focus of its programming.  After all, health is one of the H’s! (head, heart, health, hands). As an agriculture educator, I was invited to attend one session during the 4-H afterschool farm-to-table unit. The program began with a healthy snack (varies by day, but usually includes milk and fresh fruit options) and a few minutes to unwind after the school day.  The group had been working on an extensive food web showing how food and other products, such as leather goods, make it from farm to consumers’ homes.  That particular day, the lesson focused on dairy products.  I brought the ever popular wooden milking cow and discussed as much about lactation, cattle nutrition and benefits of consuming dairy products as their attention spans could handle.   The session finished up with the students making their own butter!  This is just one example of how 4-H members are educated about healthy choices and where their food truly comes from.  Other programs, such as    4-H Yoga for Kids, not only teaches kids a new skill but also actually gets their bodies moving!

Agriculture

                The agriculture and food systems department focuses mostly on the health of Jefferson County’s plants, animals, and ecosystems to support the production of wholesome local foods and successful farms.  The health and well-being of the farmers themselves is a growing (pun intended) priority within the industry.  With low commodity prices, increased expenses, and lack of rain, farmers need help now more than ever.  To help with the social stress and even depression that has come with the economic downturn, CCE offices all over the state are connecting producers with resources such as NY FarmNet, transition plans, and even crisis hotlines.  NY FarmNet is a Cornell University program that provides financial counseling as well as personal counseling for struggling farm families.  How can you help the health of farm families? Support them by simply buying their products: milk, cheese, yogurt, fruits and veggies, meats and whole grains.

                There is no escaping healthy habits in this office either. A centrally located healthy snack center makes it easy to choose nutritious snacks like carrots, almonds, or cheese versus chips or sweets. Many staff choose to spend their breaks going for a walk around the block or participate in a monthly challenge.  For example, a challenge might be who can make the most trips up the stairs in a work day.  Just yesterday, we had a six-member team of afternoon break walkers! Even the bathroom stalls are plastered with flyers for physical or food challenges. Staff members also share their heathy habits on the CCE Worksite Wellness Facebook page.  Whether it is hiking with the family, a Zumba class, or kayaking, here you can see how staff practice what they preach…. even after hours!

Interested in finding local foods? Check out the Local Food Guide:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/30623/2018_Local_Food_Guide_FINAL.pdf?1526321007

DEC Aids Farms Through Waste Guidelines

Judy Drabicki

Farms play a critical role in the north country’s economy and many of our farmers are following in the footsteps of generations before them.

                Although science and technology are the underpinning of farming today, the agriculture industry also relies on trial and error, gut-instinct, and weather. According to local agriculture expert Jay Matteson, our cool climate is well suited for dairy, cold hardy grapes, soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa, grasses, and many other crops and livestock. While the north country has a wide variety of soils ranging from well-drained loams to poorly drained clays, our farmers excel at managing soil resources.

                The farming industry is guided by sustainability and efficiency. Understanding that well-balanced soil creates stronger crops and healthier livestock, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) works closely with local farmers to issue land application permits to spread non-recognizable food processing (NRFP) waste on their fields. This organic waste contains valuable nutrients – especially nitrogen and phosphorous – and land spreading delivers these nutrients directly to the soil. This is a beneficial alternative to purchasing expensive commercial fertilizers and not unlike the time-tested practice of spreading manure on a field. NRFP works well on any soil and is easily applied in the same manner as manure. In addition to the nutrient value, NRFP waste also furnishes organic matter that, when added to fine-textured soils like clays makes the soils looser and increases the amount of pore space available for root growth. Additionally, in coarser, sandy soils, this organic matter can improve the ability of the soils to retain water.

                There are a few farms in our area already spreading NRFP waste on their fields. These farms have collaborated with local dairy product manufacturers to acquire and transport NRFP waste. DEC provides strict oversight of the application of this waste under regulations designed to establish criteria based upon the potential environmental and human health risks involved and protect against nuisances and other possible ill effects of the land application process.

                At its Lafargeville plant, H.P. Hood produces cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. Food production at H.P. Hood also creates waste. This waste is run through another process that prepares it for spreading on the fields as NRFP.

                 H.P. Hood has been a registered land application facility since 2003, when the registration requirements first went into effect. Since 2012, it has been applying an average of 800,000 to two million gallons of NRFP waste annually at BJ Farms, also in Lafargeville. BJ Farms is a 130-acre farm that grows field crops, such as hay. The soil in the fields is tested to make sure the nutrient loading rates are accurate for the crop. The amount of nutrient applied cannot exceed the needs of the crop. 

                Not only is it valuable to the soil, transferring organic waste from large manufacturers to fields means less waste is sent to our landfills, which benefits all of us. Keeping waste out of landfills is known as “diversion,” where waste is diverted to another use such as land spreading or recycling discarded items instead of disposing of them. Diversion is an important goal for communities and landfill operators. Landfilling is expensive and costs are passed on to communities by way of tipping fees to everyone who generates waste. Because we all generate waste, we all share the burden of paying for landfill operations. 

                Diversion is proactive solid waste management, and in the case of land spreading, a benefit to agriculture.

                Eligible land application facilities benefit both our shared environment and the economy when operated in compliance with regulations and basic criteria.

Small Business Success: Agriculture 2.0

Sarah O’Connell

In rural Northern New York, agriculture has been one of the major economic drivers of the region since it was first settled by European immigrants.  According to a 2015 article cited in Wikipedia, New York is “one of the top five states for agricultural products, including dairy, cattle, apples, cabbages, potatoes, beets, viniculture, onions, maple syrup and many others.”  But for a variety of reasons including declining milk prices, global competition, and so on, the iconic small family farms are disappearing.  Or are they?

                What we’ve been seeing in the past few years is a variety of new ways to keep young people on the farm.  They are discovering new opportunities, improved technology, and niche markets as ways to stay (or move here) and earn a living.  As I mentioned in my May column, there are several distinctive ag-related enterprises that make our own north country marketable, whether it’s locally sourced foods (meats, cheese, maple, honey) and beverages (wine, beer, cider, liquors) or ag-tourism (the American Maple Museum, farm tours, bed and breakfasts on operating farms, edible or flower garden tours, etc.).

                At the most recent Business Leaders’ Breakfast sponsored by Lewis County Economic Development, some local food producers were spotlighted.  Cedar Hedge Farm, owned by Jan Virkler and Jeff Van Arsdale, has been producing artisanal goat cheeses: feta, sharp feta and unsalted chèvre as well as a variety of jams, jellies and breads using their cheese products.  Two things that really stood out for me in their presentation.  One is that, although it’s a third-generation farm in the Virkler family, Jan decided to move back  here in 2012 with Jeff from professional jobs in New Jersey to embrace the ag life. The other thing I loved was its motto:  “If we don’t grow it, we don’t make it.”

                If you’ve been at any local events or craft fairs or farmers markets in the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen (and hopefully tasted) the caffeinated creations from Tug Hill Artisan Roasters.  Their various roast blends are also carried by and served in several area restaurants and shops. The company is the brainchild of brothers Ian and Scott Gilbert and friend Gregory Widrick and opened in April 2017.  It meets a couple of the marks of current trends – artisanal coffee represents a unique niche as well as a locally produced product, although of course, we haven’t yet figured out how to grow coffee beans in  Northern New York.  But who knows – no one thought we could grow grapes hardy enough for local wines a few years ago! Two transplants from the New York City area, Julian Mangano and Alice Waite, recently founded Of the Earth for the Soul company, which operates Della Terra as a small, bio-intensive farm in Castorland. In their “About” section on their Facebook page, the farmers note, “We are dedicated to providing food with integrity, engaging in organic, non-chemical, non-GMO practices.”  While not certified organic, they do not use herbicides or pesticides and grow an amazing quantity and quality of vegetables in a very small space called square foot gardening.

                It’s impossible to talk about Lewis County agriculture without mentioning maple syrup.  One of the newer local maple syrup businesses is Silver Sap Maple, owned by Cassandra Buell, who also happens to be the Lewis County planner, and her husband, Brian.  While still very new to the maple business, they are adding their taps by leaps and bounds each year and successfully selling their sweet wares.

                We’re now officially in the summer season.   Just as we encourage people to shop small and local in the winter holidays, we hope everyone will pledge to support our local food (and beverage) producers this summer and EAT local!

                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.

The Dairy Debate: When and how will the industry change?

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A few Dairy cows drink some water off of W. Martinsburg Road in Lowville.

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Loren and Chris Bush pick lettuce in preparation for their Wednesday Watertown Farmer & Craft market.

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Power Lines Can Inhibit Farm Production

Jay Matteson

Imagine you are a farmer. It is the beginning of spring and you are excited to head out to the fields to start preparing ground and planting your crops.  You’ve had a tough go of it for the last couple years because the price you get paid for your milk has been lower than what it costs you to make the milk.  You’ve lost a lot of equity in the farm and had to borrow money to cover operating costs. But it is spring time and with spring comes renewed optimism in the growing season and what lies ahead for your business. 

    The farmer arrives at one of his fields to find new cable lines installed on existing utility poles that are on a right of way given decades ago.  The new cable lines go directly across the middle of the field and are barely 12 feet off the ground.  The tractor you are sitting in needs 15 feet of clearance to pass under the utility lines.  This is not a good way to start the season after the previous bad year. What does the farmer do? 

    Some might say farm around the utility line.  If the farmer can find a way to get his equipment to the opposite side of the field, the farmer could plant as close to the right of way as possible.  Previously the farm was able to plant underneath the existing lines. The only production lost was the footprint of the utility poles. Now, because the farmer cannot plant underneath the utility lines, the farm loses several acres of crop land. If the farmer paid $3,000 an acre when he or she bought the land, the economic loss to the farm quickly builds. In addition, the farm has lost feed production for livestock, that will need to be made up elsewhere.  With large modern farming equipment, it’s not easy to change the cropping pattern to maximize a smaller field.  This decreases potential production. The economic impact of the low utility lines quickly builds into the tens of thousands of dollars.

    The National Electric Safety Code (NESC) prescribes minimum requirements for clearances between overhead utility facilities and land traversed by vehicles. NESC Rule 232 covers the vertical clearances of wires, conductors, cables and equipment above the ground, roadway, rail, or water surfaces. Rule 232 indicates the minimum clearance for communication lines on utility poles, usually the lowest of all lines on poles, is 15 feet, 5 inches.  This distance is measured at the lowest point of the line “sag” to the surface below, such as a farm field.

    Rule 232 indicates that if facilities are out of compliance with current NESC standards, the applicable utility shall be responsible for rectifying the situation. If the facilities are shown to follow the standards, but the farmer desires the line to be elevated to allow for access or equipment operation, the farmer is responsible for paying the cost of the work to elevate the line.

    If utility lines are encountered that are in the way of equipment, farmers should never attempt to touch or move the line. The line should always be considered “live” and dangerous. Farmers are advised to contact the appropriate utility company. If the farm is not successful in determining the name of the company, then they should contact the local electric company.   In the event the issue is not being resolved satisfactorily, then contact the New York State Department of Public Service at 1-800-342-3377.

                Our office is currently working with a local utility company to rectify problems with new utility line installation.  The company has indicated a strong willingness to work with our farms and that is very appreciated. If any farmer has questions, please call our office at 315-782-5865.

June Festival Offers Ag Education Opportunities

ALYSSA COUSE

Now more than ever children need to be educated about agriculture.  Mainly due to the fact that if they aren’t taught about it, they may never understand it or be able to experience it.  Most kids are three to four generations separated from farming, which makes having hands on experience and knowledge of the food system much harder to grasp.  The message that food originates from farms and doesn’t magically appear on the grocery store shelves is becoming more crucial to relay to our future consumers.  A few examples of efforts being made locally to help increase agriculture and food awareness include farm tours, Agriculture Literacy week, and participating in community events, such as career fairs and festivals. 

    An upcoming event is the 2018 Dairyland Festival and Parade.  This is an annual event held in June, because June is dairy month! So, you may be wondering why we dedicate a whole day to dairy.  New York is the third highest milk producing state, only preceded by California and Wisconsin.  There are over 160 dairy farms in Jefferson County, alone as well as several dairy processing plants.  Dairy farming is evidently a staple of north country agriculture and the economy. Many have tried to imitate this natural product with different substitutes, but none have come close to wholesome, nutrient-packed milk.  Cow’s milk has nine essential nutrients and according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference on the American Dairy Association website, they are called essential for a reason.  These nutrients are potassium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A.  In just one eight-ounce glass of milk, regardless of flavor, there is as much potassium as one banana, as much protein as 1 ½ medium eggs, as much riboflavin as 1/3 cup of almonds, 20 cherry tomatoes worth of Niacin, the same amount of calcium as 10 cups of raw spinach, one cup of kidney beans worth of Phosphorus, as much Vitamin B-12 as 4 ounces of cooked turkey, ¾ ounce of cooked salmon worth of vitamin D, and as much Vitamin A as ¾ cup of broccoli.  Thus milk is one of the most affordable, nutrient-dense sources of nutrition.  Chocolate milk has even been proven to be one of the best recovery beverages an athlete could ask for.

     This year’s Dairyland event will be held at the Dulles State Office Building on Friday, June 1st.  This is also World Milk Day, thus the theme “As the World Churns: Celebrating World Milk Day.”  From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the doors are open to elementary school students, teachers, parents, and the public to go through and learn from farmers, agencies, and organizations involved in agriculture in Jefferson County.  Visitors will get to sample different dairy products, participate in games/activities, and get hands-on with animals, plants, and food!  A few examples include the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s infamous wooden milking cow, making cheese curd and butter, garden in a glove, Dairy princess and her court, and a Critter Corner full of animals to visit.  Since the theme of this April’s magazine is motorsports, I’ll mention that there will be equipment and farm safety demonstrations at Dairyland Festival as well!  Tractors, ATVs, skid steers, and trucks are vital for efficient operation of most modern dairy farms.

    The fun continues later that evening at the Dairyland Parade.  Downbeat Percussion, the official drumline of the Buffalo Bills, will kick things off with a performance starting at 6 p.m. in the Dulles State Office Building courtyard.  The “As the World Churns: Celebrating World Milk Day” Parade will start its route at 7 p.m. from Watertown High School to the State Office Building.  If you are into motors, this parade is for you! Farm equipment of all shapes, sizes, and colors will be comingled among the floats and marching bands. (to join the parade, visit http://www.comefarmwithus.com/dairyland-festival-and-parade/ ). Afterword, the Jefferson County Dairy Princess Court will be serving a free giant ice cream sundae to participants and attendees.

If you are interested in reading more about dairy products, check out: 

https://www.americandairy.com/

https://www.midwestdairy.com/nutrition-and-health/dairy-nutrition/

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy-nutrients-health

If you are interested in EXPERIENCING more…. see you at the Dairyland Festival and Parade, June 1, 2018!

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.

Small Business Startup: Igo To The Farm

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Denise Igo holds a chicken that produces eggs at her farm, Igo To The Farm

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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.

Agricultural Development Conference on March 23

Jay Matteson

On Friday, March 23, agriculture will be showcased at the annual Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown. The conference is free to attend, but advance registration is required by March 16. The morning agenda will look at local agricultural development efforts underway or proposed for Northern New York. A nationally recognized keynote speaker will discuss opportunities and challenges for our agricultural industry in 2018 and beyond during our midday program. In the afternoon, the event will feature panel discussions that examine the future of agriculture and workforce development issues. Those interested in more information or in registering should call (315) 782-5865.

    Our keynote speaker, Moe Russell, is the cofounder of Russell Consulting Group, a leading provider of marketing and financial advice to crop and livestock producers.  Moe is a frequent business speaker on motivation, planning and entrepreneurship. He developed a webinar series on commodity marketing and writes for Farm Journal magazine.

    Prior to starting Russell Consulting, he spent 26 years with Farm Credit Services and served as division president, branch lending, where he was responsible for 82 lending offices in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Moe has international consulting experience in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Middle East and South Africa. He is also on the faculty of the “The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers” (TEPAP) program at Texas A & M University.

    Our keynote presentation will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m. with a break for lunch. Immediately following the keynote presentation, Moe Russell will be joined onstage by Mr. Chris Laughton, director of knowledge exchange at Farm Credit East and John Jennings, plant manager of Great Lakes Cheese in Adams. The panel will build upon Mr. Russell’s presentation, examining current events in agriculture, the strengths and weaknesses of Northern New York agriculture, and will discuss their thoughts on how to grow our industry.

    The conference begins at 8:15am with an important update on the Regional Food Hub Program and what efforts are being made to help farms with marketing and distributing their food products. Building upon the food hub program, we’ll also learn about the Drive for 25 Farm to School initiative to get more local farm products onto our school lunch menus.  These two programs are chipping away at the barriers that have made it difficult for produce farms to thrive in our region.

    At 9:30 a.m., there will be a report on the International Agribusiness Park of the Thousand Islands. Much work is being done to develop this industrial park for agriculture and conference participants will hear the progress being made on this exciting project. Tied to the Agribusiness Park presentation, Dr. Travis Maddock from Dakota Global Group of North Dakota will be on hand to discuss the feasibility of a USDA meat processing facility here in northern New York. 

    Our final program of the day features a panel discussion on pathways for agricultural workforce development.   The panel discussion begins at 2:30 p.m. and features Dr. Stephen Todd, superintendent of Jefferson – Lewis BOCES, Dr. William Jones, who helped create the new agribusiness degree program at SUNY Canton, and William Stowell, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at South Jefferson High School. This panel will discuss the various programs they are involved with at their institutions and what opportunities and needs they see affecting our agricultural workforce.

    The Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown.  Participants may choose to attend a portion or all of the conference.  Lunch is served from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. The entire program is free thanks to sponsorship from Afgritech LLC, Great Lakes Cheese Co., Midway International Logistics, North Harbor Dairy Farms, Farm Credit East, Monroe Tractor and Jefferson County Local Development Corporation.  To learn more about the program or register, one may call (315) – 782-5865, email coordinator@comefarmwithus.com or visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com .

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