July 2016 20 Questions: Dani R. Baker, Cross Island Farms

Organic Growth

Dani R. Baker, co-owner and operator of Cross Island Farms, a certified organic farm on Wellesley Island. The farm is in its 11th year of operation.

Dani R. Baker, co-owner and operator of Cross Island Farms, a certified organic farm on Wellesley Island. The farm is in its 11th year of operation.

Diverse Cross Island Farms enters 11th year, moves toward profitibility

After a career as a psychologist, Dani R. Baker never thought she would own the only diversified certified organic farm in Jefferson County, but since establishing Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island in 2006 she and her partner, David Belding, have turned a small vegetable garden into a diversified farm with about 100 different vegetables, livestock, and her newest endeavor, an edible forest garden. This month we sit down with Ms. Baker to discuss the place of small, niche farms in the north country’s agriculture industry. [Read more…]

July 2016 Cover Story: Family Farms

Investing in the family farm’s future

From left, Michael, Christopher, Andrew, and Carrie Higby at their family farm in the town of Leyden in Lewis County. The Higbys started their dairy operation nine years ago on 120 acres off Route 12D.

From left, Michael, Christopher, Andrew, and Carrie Higby at their family farm in the town of Leyden in Lewis County. The Higbys started their dairy operation nine years ago on 120 acres off Route 12D.

State’s new farmer’s grant fund supports early stage agricultural businesses in Jefferson, Lewis counties

By Norah Machia, NNY Business

Photos by AFM Photography

Nine years ago, Michael and Carrie Higby decided to quit their day jobs and start operating a dairy farm in the town of Leyden. [Read more…]

Watertown agency gets $1.75 to build addiction recovery center

After months of cautious optimism, north country addiction service providers celebrated a victory against the region’s heroin and opioid epidemic on Wednesday. [Read more…]

June 2016: Agri-Business

JeffersonCountyAgriculture.com goes live

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

Mark D. Waterhouse, president of Garnet Consulting Services, Pleasant Valley, Conn., spoke at the Jefferson County Economic Development Forum on May 18. Mr. Waterhouse is recognized within the economic development community for his success in helping communities attract new development and grow existing business. During Mr. Waterhouse’s commentary, he discussed effective marketing techniques to attract new business. His remarks and the data he presented demonstrated the needs for improved efforts and support for some of the actions we’ve taken to improve our presence. [Read more…]

Fort Drum session spreads awareness of agriculture industry to soldiers

As a small handful of soldiers listened to a pitch about getting into agriculture, organizers said their military service could make them the right fit to build the industry’s future. [Read more…]

Lewis County maple products promoted at food show in England

Lewis County maple products traveled “across the pond” to a major food show in England. [Read more…]

Maple Weekend kicks off; to continue next weekend

WATERTOWN — A visit from Olaf from “Frozen” on Sunday afternoon was an adequate addition to the chilly second day of Maple Weekend at Massey Ranch.

“Yesterday it was the rain and wind, today it’s the cold. But it’s been a full house every single day,” said Shawn Massey, owner of the 20605 Combs Road facility. [Read more…]

Dairy farmers get crash course on OSHA rules to prepare for random inspections

Ronald L. Williams with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration told farmers Tuesday that the agency will begin conducting inspections at random beginning Oct. 1. Ted Booker / Watertown Daily Times

Ronald L. Williams with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration told farmers Tuesday that the agency will begin conducting inspections at random beginning Oct. 1. Ted Booker / Watertown Daily Times

Dairy farms across upstate New York will be held to tougher enforcement of safety rules by the government, starting next fall.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will begin conducting inspections at random when the federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1, Ronald L. Williams told farmers during a presentation Tuesday at the Copenhagen Fire Hall hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson and Lewis counties.

Mr. Williams, a compliance assistance specialist at OSHA’s Syracuse office, said OSHA has decided to launch a “dairy local emphasis program” in New York to curb the increasing number of farm-related accidents and deaths in the state. About 20 farmers attending the workshop learned about a dozen farm hazards that cause most OSHA violations. For example, all tractors manufactured after October 1976 must be equipped with roll-over protective structures; manure lagoons must be protected with barriers to avoid machinery-related accidents; a sink eyewash station must be situated where corrosive chemicals are used, and warning signs must be posted at areas where employees could be physically harmed.

Farmers peppered Mr. Williams with questions throughout the two-hour workshop, which was followed by an afternoon tour of Milk Street Dairy, Woodville, led by James Carrabba, agricultural safety specialist at the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health.

Anxiety about OSHA inspections is pervasive among farmers, and for a reason: In 2012, inspection officers from the agency’s 24-county Central New York region, which includes the north country, handed out 1,346 violation citations to businesses during 592 inspections. Fines totaled $2.6 million, with the average about $2,500 and the highest about $7,000. The inspections included various businesses, including agriculture, manufacturing and construction. It was unclear how many of the violations pertained to farms.

OSHA officers now inspect dairy farms only when they receive a safety or health-related complaint or referral from an employee, resident or other agency, Mr. Williams said. Starting next fall, the agency will begin conducting inspections at random on dairy farms. OSHA started a similar inspection program in Wisconsin in 2012.

“We’ll come up with a listing of all establishments, and then we’ll randomly choose them for inspections,” Mr. Williams said.

A lively discussion during the meeting centered on what rights OSHA inspectors have during farm visits. Inspections are permitted only on farms that have 11 or more employees, and/or have established a temporary labor camp during the past 12 months. Despite what many believe, OSHA does not have the authority to inspect the living arrangements of farmworkers, Mr. Williams said; those inspections are done by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Dairy farmer William J. Marks, a managing partner at Marks Farms in Lowville, said he is disconcerted that OSHA inspectors sometimes are accompanied by representatives from advocacy groups when they conduct inspections. One such group he referred to is the Workers’ Center of Central New York, a Syracuse-based organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented immigrant farmworkers.

“There are some advocacy people that OSHA is dealing with, and these groups claim they have the same rights as OSHA,” Mr. Marks said. “But you can tell them to get off your site because they don’t have the authority.

But we don’t know how to handle it, because these advocacy groups come on hard. Is it my job to call the police? Because I think OSHA should be responsible to make sure they’re not there, because they’ve created a liability.”

In response, Mr. Williams said farmers have the right to refuse access to advocacy groups that wish to participate in OSHA inspections. He said OSHA would be responsible for advising such a group to leave if a farmer objects. But he did not know whether the agency could force the group to do so.

Mr. Marks continued, “How do we comply with any of these regulations? I’ve dealt with OSHA people throughout the state, and it’s all up for interpretation.”

Farmers learned Tuesday that, on average, it takes OSHA about six months to resolve an investigation.

Michael R. Burger, owner of Deer Run Dairy in Adams, said his farm already has made some changes to comply with OSHA regulations. It has improved its training program, for instance, to ensure employees know about the farm’s health and safety policies. Though the OSHA guidelines have spurred Mr. Burger to make changes, he said, most large dairy operations already provide a safe working environment without government intervention.

“The problem is that farming is not like operating a factory because we’re busy doing different things all the time,” Mr. Burger said. “Accidents are going to happen, and not necessarily because of work safety issues.”

Farmers can view a webinar on OSHA compliance or download the PowerPoint presentation from Tuesday’s workshop at http://wdt.me/o5UVNf.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times

Going green will save your green

Sarah O'Connell

We had some unusually hot weather this summer, so air conditioners seemed more of a necessity than a luxury for many of us. Normally, our utility bills are highest during the cold weather of winter (and fall, and spring) because of heating. But certain types of small businesses, including convenience stores, restaurants and retail shops, incur significant utility costs year-round because of their heating and cooling systems, lighting and refrigeration units.

For example, Monnat’s Country Store in Croghan was erected in 1922 and has 14-foot ceilings and multiple coolers; energy costs were a significant part of operating expenses.

Owner Gerald Schneeberger, who has been operating his business there for 18 years, came to the Small Business Development Center for help with obtaining a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority energy review. This audit is free and available to small businesses with an average monthly energy use of 100 kilowatts or less. [Read more…]

CCE to hold ACA workshops in 6 north country locations in Sept.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Northern New York will hold free workshops at six north country sites in September to help farmers, small business owners and individuals navigate the changes created by the federal healthcare overhaul. The workshops will address questions on a wide range of topics, including exchanges for both small business owners and individuals, which are slated to open Oct. 1 in New York state.

CCE is one of 34 organizations working in partnership with New York City-based nonprofit Community Service Society to help disseminate information about the Affordable Care Act.

Pre-registration for the workshops is requested by Sept. 20. The dates of the workshops are as follows:

Plattsburgh

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1 to 3 p.m., CCE Office, 6064 state Route 22. More information: Peter Hager, (518) 561-7450.

Westport

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 7 to 9 p.m., CCE Office, 3 Cisco St. More information: Anita Deming, (518) 962-4810.

Malone

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 1 to 3 p.m., 911 Building. More information: Harry Fefee, (518) 483-7403.

Canton

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 7 to  9 p.m., CCE office, 2043B State Highway 68. More information: Anita Figueras, 379-9192.

Watertown

Thursday, Sept. 26, 1 to 3 p.m., CCE office, 203 North Hamilton St. More information: Peggy Murray, 376-5270.

Lowville

Thursday, Sept.26, 7 to 9 p.m., CCE office, 5274 Outer Stowe St. More information: Peggy Murray, 376-5270.