It’s Meeting Season

Alyssa Kealy

Winter has arrived and the holidays have come and gone for another year, which means its “meeting season”. This term is fondly used by farmers and agribusiness professionals in reference to a time of year, January-April, in which there’s plentiful opportunities for travel, networking, learning and strategizing at meetings and conferences. Agriculture is such a dynamic industry in which weather, procedures, and even regulations, can change overnight. This calls for continuous education each year to keep abreast of new and exciting research, best management practices, consumer preferences, and new legislation. 

Here is a highlight of one conference coming this spring: 

Presented by Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), the Northeast Dairy Management Conference is a dynamic conference for all progressive dairy farmers in the Northeast. This biennial event, previously known as the NEDPA Conference, will continue to be a high-quality program with a slightly different name, yet the same mission – providing the latest information related to current trends and topics in the dairy industry through dynamic and informative sessions to re-energize businesses and improve performance. 

    The theme for this year’s conference is “Focus on the Future” and sessions will feature diverse topics such as on farm technology, protecting your brand, and environmental issues updates, as well as several presentations on navigating the changes, brought about by the new agricultural labor legislation. In addition to gaining invaluable information for dairy operations, you can also interact with other farmers and industry professionals from throughout the Northeast and beyond. 

    Some of the presenters at the 2020 conference include Jay Waldvogel – Dairy Farmers of America, Steve Bodart – Compeer Financial, Phil Plourd- Blimling and Associates, Cheryl Jones – University of Kentucky, Julio Giordano – Cornell University, Chuck Palmer – Michael Best and Friedrich LLP, Emily Stepp – National Milk Producers Federation, Karl Czymmek – Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY, Chris Wolf – Cornell University, Tom Wall – Dairy Coach LLC, and Rich Stup – Cornell University. 

    Additional conference highlights include sponsored pre-conference presentations, NEDPA Annual Meeting, Exhibitor trade show, Popp Award Presentations, Labor panel, and networking dinner. To learn more: https://prodairy.cals.cornell.edu/conferences/ne-dairy/ 

    Is your farm or agribusiness interested in receiving industry updates all year round? Consider joining the Northeast Dairy Producers Association today. With your membership, you will receive timely industry updates via e-newsletters, social media, website and a quarterly newsletter. In a recent survey of our current membership, the e-communications were one of the most valued benefit of membership. NEDPA has dedicated staff that are available to support member farms and as part of the NY Dairy Issues Team, provide assistance with crisis management. Along with its industry partners, NEDPA serves as a voice, a resource, and a network for the dairy industry in the Northeast. To learn more, visit: https://www.nedpa.org or email me at alyssa@nedpa.org 

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STEM scholarship offers NNY students opportunity

CANTON – A full scholarship offered by New York state to attend college for science, technology, engineering and math related fields could be an important launch for north country students.

The state offers a full scholarship to the top 10 percent of graduating high school students to attend SUNY schools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and who pledge to work and live in New York for five years following graduation.

State Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, is encouraging area students to consider the STEM scholarship as a good step into their future.

“The north country is home to many high-tech industries and world-class universities,” Mrs. Russell said in a statement. “This scholarship is an excellent opportunity that I hope driven young people will take advantage of so they can write the next chapter of development in the region.”

Last year, statewide, there were 553 recipients for the scholarship totaling $2.796 million.

For the north country region, including Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties, there were 15 recipients totaling $84,208.

Students looking to receive the scholarship must graduate in the top 10 percent of their class; attend a SUNY, CUNY or statutory college including Cornell and Alfred Universities; and must maintain a 2.5 grade point average or higher each semester.

For a high poverty area like the north country region, going to college could be tough to picture for many students, but schools in the region are beginning to push these STEM fields early in students’ education which could set them up for opportunities like the state’s scholarship.

“Considering the high poverty level in the area this scholarship could be a great opportunity for students who may not have the ability to go to college,” said Lisa J. Blank, the new STEM director for the Watertown City School District. “You are talking saving kids around $30,000 a year.”

Thomas R. Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, agreed that the scholarship makes college more accessible for students.

“By providing a full SUNY tuition, the scholarship would increase the equity for student access to college,” Mr. Burns said.

Mrs. Blank has worked with several area school districts including Sackets Harbor, Lyme, General Brown and Belleville Henderson to set up programs in science, technology, engineering and math and apply for grants from the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Mrs. Blank recently helped Watertown schools secure a $1.25 million grant from DoDEA to set up STEM programming in the district.

The grant money will be used for teacher training in technology, implementation of video lessons on the computer that can be bought or developed by teachers and several technology-based extracurricular activities, including robotics clubs for elementary pupils and engineering clubs for middle and high school students.

The funding can be applied to 14 clubs.

The money also will buy two new laptop carts each for H.T. Wiley Intermediate School, Case Middle School and Watertown High School, as well as a new virtual learning system.

Mrs. Blank also put schools in touch with STEM programs including Project Lead the Way, which provides STEM curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Mrs. Blank also helped Lyme Central School District connect with the Full Option Science System program which provides hands-on learning science curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Seventy percent of the instruction is hands-on which increases kids’ interest in science,” Mrs. Blank said. “It is important to get kids interested in STEM at elementary school and middle school levels so they are on the right path for knowing what they want to do when they graduate high school.”

Stephen J. Todd, superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, said anything that encourages students to go to college to become STEM coordinators would be good for north country schools.

“There is a shortage of teachers in this area particularly in STEM related fields,” Mr. Todd said. “I think this scholarship is a wonderful thing for the state as a whole. It is a good incentive for students to go into STEM instruction which could benefit our schools.”

Mr. Burns said it is important that the scholarship requires commitment from students to stay in the state after graduation.

“Requiring the recipients to sign a service agreement to stay in New York in a STEM-related field not only promotes STEM-related careers but contributes to better economic development growth while helping to limit the out migration of young people to other parts of the state and country,” Mr. Burns said.

Both BOCES facilities offer career and technical classes for students attending member schools.

“We have been working on many career-focused programs at the BOCES, and again there are some possibilities with this scholarship to insure that students are both college and career ready when they leave high school and college,” Mr. Burns said.

Mrs. Blank said the only concern Mrs. Blank said she has heard from students was that there are not enough fields that apply as STEM-related under the scholarship guidelines.

According to the New York State Higher Educational Services Corporation, the agency that provides information on scholarship and financial aid options, some approved programs under the scholarship guidelines include computer science and programming, agricultural engineering, industrial and manufacturing engineering, solar technology and mathematics and statistics.

“In the long-run, this scholarship will benefit all New Yorkers as we encourage and cultivate tomorrow’s industry leaders and secure a bright economic future,” Mrs. Russell said.

According to the state Department of Labor the median wage for workers in STEM occupations in the north country region is $59,641.

The STEM occupation in the north country with the highest median wage is a physician’s assistant, $103,685, which employed 200 people in 2015.

The next highest median wage for the north country was earned by environmental engineers, $85,216, which employed 80 people in 2015.

The lowest median wage was earned by architectural and civil drafters, $31,250, which employed 80 people in 2015.

Scholarship requirements

Be a legal resident of the state and reside here for 12 months.

Be a high school senior/recent high school graduate who will be enrolled full-time at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University, beginning in the fall term following his or her high school graduation.

Be ranked in the top 10 percent of his/her high school graduating class of a New York state high school.

Be matriculated in an undergraduate program leading to a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Earn a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher each term after the first semester.

Execute a service contract agreeing to reside and work in the state for five years in the field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

By Richard Moody, Times Staff Writer

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