Women’s Roles in Agriculture Grow Strong

ALYSSA COUSE

I recently attended The New York Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Albany.  The theme of the meeting was “Young Farmers- The Future Agriculture Superheroes”.  It is no secret that the agriculture industry has experienced volatility in recent years, whether it be changing markets, new regulations, or extreme weather, so investing in the future of the industry is more crucial than ever.  Building versatile, resilient, invested young leaders is becoming more of a focus and as you look around the room, there is no doubt a growing proportion of lip gloss wearing, braid-bearing farmers. 

    The keynote speaker of the conference, Vance Crowe, director of millennial engagement for Bayer Crop Sciences, discussed the importance of telling the story of farming and building relationships with consumers.  It is evident that this is a significant task, even just from the fact that millennial engagement and consumer relations are now job titles within agribusinesses.  More often than not, it is the mother, sister, aunt, etc. on the farm that takes on the role of managing social media pages, community events/tours, and newsletters. Most women have the inherent finesse to connect emotionally in creative ways, which is key to building relationships with consumers these days.  In addition to online or written outreach, many farms today are incorporating more opportunities for visitors to get a hands on experience. 

    Some farms take advantage of their home being a tourist destination and participate in some form of agritourism.  Agritourism involves encouraging visitors to a farm/ranch for any agriculturally based operation.  Activities offered can be equine boarding facilities, u-pick fruit and veggie patches, farm tours, hay rides, petting zoos, and open houses just to name a few! This can also be an extra source of income for farms and an opportunity to diversify from everyday production. Such experiences are quite literally being craved by consumers today as they yearn to learn more about when, where, and how their food came to be.  This need stems most directly from the fact that many young people today are four to five generations separated from the farming lifestyle.  What the agriculture industry once took for granted was the innate trust and knowledge of the food system that once was, when almost every family had a part in the production from dairy farms to road side stands.  Today, less than 2 percent of the population are involved in production farming.  Yes, those 2 percent are feeding themselves and the other 98 percent.  Thus, reestablishing people’s connections to their food and how it was produced is a growing need.

    Agritourism was another area we focused on at the recent conference, specifically the new Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act.  The “Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act,” now part of New York’s General Obligations Law (“GOL”), provides that owners and operators of agricultural tourism areas “shall not be liable for an injury to or death of a visitor if the provisions of General Obligations Law Section 18-303(1)(a) – (e) are met.” Statutory requirements for protection include directional signage, employee training, warning to visitors concerning inherent risks of farm activities, operator provided written information, visitor responsibility signage, posting of notice of right to a refund, and operator duties. In a nutshell, in order to protect visitors and business owners, there must be posted signage stating any potential risks and well trained employees to help ensure safe and enjoyable experiences.  When thinking about compliance for your agritourism business, think like a paranoid mother of a toddler! What can they get into? What could go wrong? Then make a sign warning against those actions.  For example, if guests are able to feed livestock treats, warn them to be cautious of being nibbled, because fingers look a lot like carrots. It is important to make signage specific to the operation and not just post a few general warning signs. To ensure that coverage requirements are met, it is best to work with a lawyer.  

    For more information: https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/Press%20Releases/Inherent_Risk_Guidance.pdf

    Women’s roles in agriculture continue to grow exponentially.  Based on observations of the crowd at recent leadership conferences, you can expect the female voice to become louder throughout the industry in the years to come.  In addition to becoming great farmers, they will become leaders in technology, marketing, and communications.

Agricultural Outlook for 2019

ALYSSA COUSE

This time last year, I wrote about the upcoming farm bill and hopes for 2018.  As government typically moves at a molasses-like pace, here we are into 2019 talking about the same farm bill, and with the same hopes for the new year as the last.

    Here are a few reactions from the recent passage of the farm bill from New York Farm Bureau President and NNY farmer, David Fisher and Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue respectively.  Both comments focus on the dairy safety net program, which has been a hot topic during the current crisis in the industry:

    “Today’s final vote for the 2018 Farm Bill is a major victory for New York’s farmers, rural communities and consumers. Farmers needed stronger risk management tools in place moving into next year where there are signs that the economic stress will continue in the farming community. In particular, the new Farm Bill enhances the dairy safety net for farms of every size, including increasing the margin that qualifies for federal insurance programs. New York Farm Bureau also appreciates the research and support programs in the bill that will benefit New York’s specialty crop producers. Having some certainty moving forward in challenging times is a relief for farmers.” – NYFB President David Fisher 

    “More than 21,400 dairy producers opted for coverage through the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) in 2018, up by more than 2,000 producers from the previous year. This U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program was significantly updated in February by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said those changes attracted more producers to enroll in the safety net program or to increase their coverage.

    Dairy producers have long been battling low prices, high input costs, and a surplus in the global market. Unfortunately, the 2014 Farm Bill did not provide a sufficient safety net to dairy producers and so it was timely that Congress opted to provide additional support through the Margin Protection Program las February,” – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

    Economic predictions seem to point towards an average increase of only about $1 per hundred weight of milk over 2019.  While it is nowhere near a complete solution, both Fisher and Perdue indicate that the new programs should provide some more relief to farmers than previous programs have.

    A strong leader is a vital role during hard times. Cornell University and Cooperative Extension have several programs currently in session to help dairy producers be the best mangers they can be.  Academy of Dairy Executives is being hosted in the north country region this year and kicked off in December.  Designed for future managers, this program focuses on building effective teams, decision making, and financial stability.  These skills are vital for survival in the current dairy market.

    For more on the program CLICK HERE.

    At the first Academy for Dairy Executives session, agriculture workforce specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Richard Stup, included a slide in his presentation about dairy industry workforce and team building that stuck with me:

    “Never waste a good crisis”

Teams need some adversity to really grow

Stay positive and point out little wins

Frame up the story as eventual victory over adversity

    While this message could be applicable to any field, it rings loud and clear for agriculture right now.  By viewing industry challenges as a chance for growth or improvement and pointing out the little victories, such as a reduced vet bill this month, are much easier to focus on than the stagnant milk price or more bills.  Staying positive and fine tuning efficiencies on the farm may sound easier said than done but can be attainable if everyone is on the same page.

    Other upcoming programs in the north country include Dairy Day, Crop Congress, and monthly shop talks.  In addition to research updates and economic outlooks, winter programs like Crop Congress will feature information on how to best utilize your acres for your farm, and for the volatile market changes we’ve seen.  For more information on dates and locations, visit ccejefferson.org or check social media outlets!

So how can you help the north country’s farmers this year?

    Chat with them. Purchase New York products. Have a question about why the farm down the road does something? Ask.  By connecting with your local farms whether by farm tour, farmer’s market, or a simple conversation at the end of the driveway, trust can be strengthened between producer and consumer, which benefits everyone.  

CLICK HERE for the local food guide!

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 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.

A new venture: Zenda Farms Preserve

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO
Thousand Islands Land Trust’s Zenda Farm Preserve.

[Read more…]

Homestead Organic Roots: Looking at the future of food, agribusiness and leading by example

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Ed Walldroff, owner of Homestead Field, stands with his dairy cows in Lafargeville.

[Read more…]

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

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
A few Dairy cows drink some water off of W. Martinsburg Road in Lowville.

[Read more…]

Artificial Farming Intelligence: Agbotic utilizes robotic tech to grow food

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUISINESS
Darren Strock checks hoses and nozzles on an automated watering machine at Agbotics.

[Read more…]

FARM FRESH to Farmers Market : Bush Gardens family farm stays local from seed to sale

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Loren and Chris Bush pick lettuce in preparation for their Wednesday Watertown Farmer & Craft market.

[Read more…]

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.