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 or visit .

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

An Agricultural Outlook for 2018


Intense anticipation for the next farm bill stems from the pressure that farmers are under due to the “kick me while I’m down” status the industry has experienced the last few years.  Low commodity prices, unpredictable weather, diminishing markets, raise in minimum wage, and just plain getting older to name a few.  While some have adapted to survive the times, others have had no choice but to sell out.  Martin Luther King, Jr., who we honor on the 15th day of this month, said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

                With the drought of summer 2016 leaving farms with minimal options other than to pay to drill more wells, pay for water to be trucked in, and pay for their feed commodities to be sourced in because they were unable to grow a sufficient crop on their own land, wallets were also sucked dry. Coming into the fourth year of low milk and commodity prices, farms could have used a bumper crop year in 2017 to help compensate, but instead fields were flooded by rain.  Planting and harvest was less than desirable and sometimes impossible. To learn more about making the best out of your core acres and feeding the right crop versus the best crop during tough years (among other great dairy related topics), see Joe Lawrence/Ron Kuck speak at Dairy Day Jan. 23 at Ramada Inn in Watertown. To register, call CCE Jefferson at 315-788-8450 or email me at

                In challenging times it is common to feel like you are alone in your struggles; this is not the case.  Financial and emotional counseling is available to help you make the best decisions for the farm and your family.  Such services are available through local organizations like Cornell Cooperative Extension, NY FarmNet, SCORE, Farm Credit, and USDA Farm Service Agency.  

How the Government could help: Farm Bill and Tax Reform

      The first farm bill was in 1933 as a response to major hardships resulting from events such as The Great Depression and Dust Bowl and they continued sporadically in the decades to come.  It was not until the 1970’s that the farm bill was taken up by Congress on a set, four–year schedule.  The latest is available for download on the USDA’s website if you’d like 357 pages worth of light reading.  The farm bill has been described with analogies like a two–engine freight train or a Swiss army knife with many tools available for use in a pocket–sized gadget.  Though these objects are drastically different, they both indicate that the farm bill is multifaceted.  It contains 12 titles and while content remains fairly constant, titles can vary from farm bill to farm bill: Title I: Commodities, Title II: Conservation, Title III: Trade, Title IV: Nutrition, Title V: Credit, Title VI: Rural Development, Title VII: Research and Extension, Title VIII: Forestry, Title IX: Energy, Title X: Horticulture, Title XI: Crop Insurance, and Title XII: Miscellaneous. Unbeknownst to most, 80 percent of the funds go to nutrition programs.

                Budget reconciliation, which allows for reconsideration of certain tax, spending and debt limitations, is important to mention in the context of the 2018 bill due to the fact that House and Senate Republican leaders have announced their intention to use this tactic at least twice throughout 2017.  Dairy, crop insurance, and commodities are among the areas stated to be in need of substantial reform.  For example, the Margin Protection Program that was created for dairy in the 2014 Farm Bill has left many dairy producers severely dissatisfied.  Many farms grow their own crops to feed their animals so improvements to these programs could have a positive impact on multiple aspects of their farm business. Several states would like disaster assistance to farmers facing droughts and other extreme weather events. Although Northern New York doesn’t have to deal with enormous wildfires or relentless hurricanes like other areas of the country, there is no doubt that drought and excessive precipitation has taken a significant toll on our local agricultural industry over the recent years. 

                In addition to the potential changes brought about by Farm Bill 2018, the new tax reform recently passed in late December could provide some relief for farmers.  A few ways the new tax bill could benefit farmers include repeal of estate tax, full expensing of certain capital investments, and lowering of tax rates on pass-through businesses, which comprises 94 percent of farms (  In last year’s economic outlook from Jay Matteson, an underlying message was one of hope. It seems that this sense of hope for the future has only intensified looking towards 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

Attention Educators: Ag teachers needed!

Jay Matteson

BY: Jay Matteson

September 22 was National Teach Ag Day.  I had never heard of the day. But as I learned more about its purpose recently, it became necessary to share this story with you. National Teach Ag Day is organized by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.  A small part of the observance is to say thank you to the existing ag teachers across the United States for the fantastic job they do.  The primary reason for National Teach Ag Day is to highlight a gaping demand for ag teachers.

    The website for Teach Ag Day is The website makes very clear the purpose of the day is to “bring attention to the career of agricultural education, get students thinking about a possible career in agricultural education, and support agricultural teachers in their careers.”  There is currently a national shortage of agricultural educators at the high school level. Mrs. Tedra Bean, the Belleville Henderson High School Agricultural teacher recently told me, “there are 40 schools interested in starting agricultural education programs, but they don’t have agricultural teachers.”  Bill Stowell, ag educator at South Jefferson High School supported Mrs. Bean’s statement, adding that recently 24 ag teachers were added across New York state.

    Mr. Stowell and Mrs. Bean indicate that ag education programs at the high school level have three components: classroom instruction; FFA membership and participation; and supervised agricultural experiences.  The classroom instruction includes regular classroom instruction and laboratory learning.  Classroom instruction may cover sciences, business development, and a variety of other courses that develop the knowledge base of the student.  Laboratory instruction involves hands-on learning that may include handling animals, plants, food products, and technology. FFA brings a great opportunity to build leadership and communicative skills as well as the critical tools of time management. FFA ( also allows students to join with thousands of students across the U.S. sharing common interests in a dynamic and large youth-led organization.  Supervised Agricultural Experiences provide students the opportunity to go into fields of their interest and gain true work experience. They may work in a number of fields that could include communications, farming, agribusiness, veterinary, environmental stewardship, and many other agricultural related career paths.   All three components combine into an ag education program that is a powerful tool to prepare students for the many career opportunities that exist in agriculture. 

    Those who graduate from college with a degree in agricultural education have more than one career opportunity they can pursue. Yes, there is tremendous opportunity to become a high school agriscience teacher with the huge demand that exists. College graduates might also follow a path towards being an ag literacy coordinator, an ag education professor in college, farm business management instructor, or a variety of other possibilities.  Here in New York state students graduating high school could pursue an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and then go on to SUNY Oswego to obtain their masters degree. There are many ag education programs across the nation to look into. The Teach Ag Day website mentioned earlier provides many resources for those interested to look at. 

    In addition to the ag programs at South Jefferson and Belleville Henderson schools, there are ag programs at Carthage, Indian River and Alexandria schools in Jefferson County.  In Lewis County ag programs exist at South Lewis, Beaver River and Lowville school districts. St Lawrence County has ag programs at Canton, Gouverneur and Edwards Knox schools along with a specialized program through BOCES called the St. Lawrence Agriculture Academy.   Unfortunately Oswego County does not have an ag education program despite their agricultural industry.

    With so many schools across the nation showing an interest in developing agricultural programs in their schools, and ag teacher positions going unfilled, students will take a second look at this opportunity.   Workforce development is critical to any industry, including agriculture, and having a robust offering of agricultural classroom opportunities in our high schools is important if we want to maintain our food supply.  At the core of providing educational opportunities in agriculture, is the all-important agriculture teacher. Thank you for doing what you do.

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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 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, 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 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
     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
     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 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 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 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 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 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?

Maple producers and experts see economic opportunity for birch syrup

AMANDA MORRISON / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Tomm L. Maxon, at Farmhouse Maple in Dexter on Thursday, which he owns with his wife, Marsha A., said farmers would need more birch sap to produce a gallon of syrup because it has 50 percent less sugar than maple sap.

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