Small Business Startup: Olivia Grant Creative

Olivia Grant poses for a portrait in her office suite in downtown Watertown. Kara Dry/NNY Business

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A ZOOM Call Away: Telemedicine in NNY during the pandemic

Dr. Nathanial Miletta, who is in the dermatologic surgery department at Samaritan Medical Center, participates in a Zoom call with a patient in his office. Sydney Schaefer/NNY Business

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2020: In A Class By Itself

Rande Richardson

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  — Nelson Mandela 

The Class of 2020 will forever hold a chapter in the book of COVID-19. Students have been deprived of the experiences and joys of many things a complete senior year brings: awards ceremonies, spring sports records, friends, proms, yearbook signings, graduation. The ceremonial rites of passage for their hard work in the classroom, on the athletic field, on stage, and with other extracurricular activities will not be the same. 

    We are all a product of a variety of influences. In the mix of nature and nurture, we are largely shaped by our education. Who we become includes lessons from a variety of influences including parents, family members, coaches and other community role models. We have all had teachers or professors who were instrumental in shaping us. Some took a special interest in our success or believed in us in a way that changed the direction of our lives. In recognizing the loss of the senior year, it heightens our appreciation for the way our school experience advances us to the next stage of life. Our community’s educators are due a special thanks for continuing to develop young minds and souls even from a distance. 

    Education is an investment, and one of the most critical we can make. Since its roots in 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has held education high on its list of priorities. Through those 90 years, more resources have consistently been directed toward education than any other area. Community Foundation donors have enabled substantial investments in educational programs, institutions and education-focused nonprofit organizations. For a decade, youth philanthropy programs have educated the next generation about civic service and community needs and resources. Scholarships have helped many thousands of local students as they began or continued their educational journeys, including nontraditional students and those pursuing studies in trade, vocational, and technical fields. Some of those students have remained in the north country, joining our local workforce and helping to meet its needs. Others have chosen to bring their talents elsewhere. Each has contributed to making our world a better place. 

    We are fortunate to partner with many schools in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to provide long-term stewardship of precious scholarship dollars. Many of those schools have also established educational foundations so donors can support learning beyond scholarships to include every facet of education, including the arts and athletics. We have worked alongside community groups to build educational resources for members of the military and their families. The people of our region have a tradition of generosity that has helped change and shape lives, and, ultimately, made our communities stronger and our workforce better equipped. 

    While in many ways the Class of 2020 was shortchanged, they have been given enhanced valuable life lessons that will serve them (and us) well. The Class of 2020 is one of adaptation, resiliency, flexibility, persistence, resourcefulness, patience, appreciation, tenacity, grit, determination, discipline and strength. They are better equipped for whatever may come their way. You have learned how to learn and find solutions to unexpected challenges. 

    The greatest gift an educator can receive is knowing the difference they have made in the lives of their students. The words, “you changed my life” or “because of you” are music to the ears and a testament to what a good teacher can accomplish. To the class of 2020 and all who have shaped them, know that what you do with adversity and challenges will define your character. Just like the teachers and others who brought you here, your impact will be significant, life-long and lasting. You have the opportunity today to inspire and shape a better tomorrow as you lead our community, society and the world. That is a reason to celebrate and be hopeful. In case you haven’t noticed, we need that now more than ever. 

Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Real Property performs all aspects of the land and conservation easement acquisition process, from appraisals and boundary surveys to negotiations and contracts. Most recently, DEC acquired tracts that will bring together larger pieces of land to bolster outdoor recreation opportunities like hunting, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling. 

    Surveying goes back many generations to a time when people were homesteading and governments were looking for ways to bring money to their coffers through taxation. 

    The Adirondack Park encompasses approximately six million acres, nearly half of which belongs to the people of New York state as Forest Preserve. The Bureau of Real Property gives credit to today’s maps and information to Verplanck Colvin. Colvin was state superintendent of the Adirondack Survey in 1882. He and his field crews generated hundreds of field books and notes as they recorded level, traverse, and triangulation data to complete a survey of the Adirondack wilderness. 

    “Colvin was self-taught. He used triangulation to survey the Adirondacks,” said Michael Contino, Region 6 real property supervisor. “It took him 28 years to do it, but Colvin literally placed the Adirondack Park on the map. The work surveyors do today builds on his work and you can still find his survey markers on the summits of many of the Adirondack High Peaks.” 

    The triangulation station on Stillwater Mountain, which sits at the base of Stillwater Fire Tower, is station number 77. The bolt reads, “S.N.Y. Adirondack Survey: Verplanck Colvin Supt. 1882.” 

    Located within the Independence River Wild Forest, the original wooden Stillwater Fire Tower was replaced by a metal one in 1919. It was staffed by 15 total fire observers from 1912 to 1988. 

    Over time, the Stillwater Fire Tower deteriorated and was no longer safe for public use. In August 2015, Jim Fox and the Friends of Stillwater Fire Tower (FSFT) entered into a stewardship agreement with DEC. Over the course of one year, FSFT replaced all steps and landings, installed safety fencing on all eight staircases, replaced the floor and windows in the cab, and scraped, wire brushed, and painted the entire tower. In July 2016, the group gathered at Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower to recognize the completed work and mark the official re-opening of the tower to the public. Last August, they gathered to commemorate the tower’s centennial. 

    Both events were attended by residents of Herkimer and Lewis counties, as well as seasonal residents, DEC staff, and followers of Colvin. Known as the “Colvin Crew,” the group consists of approximately 140 professional surveyors who conduct recoveries of Colvin’s survey sites. “We are following in his footsteps. His work is our Adirondack heritage,” said Contino. 

    During his 2016 remarks, Fox noted the importance of Stillwater Mountain to Colvin’s work and to the surprise of many of those assembled, presented the Colvin #77 original brass bolt. “It was pretty amazing,” said James M. Vianna, assistant superintendent to the Colvin Crew. The original bolt had been taken out years before by vandals and was ultimately found and held by a caretaker off-site. “I had the opportunity to actually place it back in the hole. It fit like a glove. As a land surveyor, I love history.” 

    Seeing the bolt brought tears of joy to many people there, including Fox’s right-hand man Harry Peck of Stillwater. Fox had secretly borrowed the bolt from the caretaker in Wanakena. The original bolt has since been returned to the caretaker. FSWFT had a duplicate created and placed at the base of Stillwater Fire Tower. 

    The next time you hike the moderate one-mile climb to the summit, take a picture to mark your connection to the creation of the Adirondack Park. 

United Way Transforms to Meet Needs of Community

Lt Col Jamie Cox

Over the past five months, our nation and communities have experienced an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and the repercussions continue to ripple through our towns, neighborhoods, homes, businesses, places of worship and schools. As challenging as the past five months have been, the emergency has also expedited the identification of community challenges and vulnerabilities, which are sometimes unique to each town or village. The United Way of Northern New York (UWNNY) rapidly transformed to meet the needs of our communities in March and will continue to evolve as we face the new and persistent challenges before us. 

    While the federal and state governments prepare to care for the individuals and families most devastated by the pandemic through extended unemployment benefits, enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allowances and more, the United Way is increasing our focus on families and individuals who earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basic necessities to have a genuine quality of life. 

    ALICE – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – is an acronym used by the United Way Worldwide to identify families who are highly susceptible to situational poverty or worse. With low wages and no savings, these Americans have no ability to meet their current needs or to adequately prepare for the future. These families are particularly vulnerable to financial shocks like job loss, unexpected medical expenses, and natural disasters. Though many ALICE adults work more than one job, their ability to afford rent, utilities, food, car payment, gas, insurance and other life-critical items are constantly being threatened. One minor car repair can force the family to choose between the car repair and food. Or falling behind on rent. Or paying for a prescription. The chart below demonstrates the dire financial challenges faced by ALICE adults and families in our region.  

    The 2020 United for ALICE study, which was recently released, identifies that 42.3% of households (40,853 out of 96,579 households) in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties are ALICE or in poverty. It’s time that we strengthen and empower everyone in our community. 

    What is the United Way of Northern New York doing about ALICE? 

    In collaboration with communities and local nonprofit organizations, UWNNY is focused on creating and sustaining a stable environment for every resident of the north country through equitable access to quality childcare, the power to purchase nutritious food, the ability to reside in safe housing, and access to superior educational institutions. A self-sufficient individual or family adds to the overall quality of the community. We must be fair, just and equal in our words and actions.   

The United Way of Northern New York’s plan:  

  1. Leadership. Provide leadership in thought and action to take daring steps in addressing the challenges faced by the most vulnerable residents in the region.
  2. Training. Provide critical training for community leaders, nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders on how to more effectively and efficiently address the challenges.
  3. Funding. Provide targeted grant funding to create the greatest return on investment to each community.

COVID-19 has forever changed our world: precious lives were lost, jobs vanished, and businesses collapsed. Getting knocked down and staying down is not in our nature. The United Way is leading the charge by tying together all the critical elements of our community’s ecosystem: physical and mental health, nutrition, education, economic development, childcare, employment, recreation, nature and the arts to increase the quality of life for every resident of the north country. 

    Great leaders rise to the occasion. In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time, let us be bold in thought, word and action to make our communities stronger than they have ever been. The time is now. 

Growing A Community: Agbotic, Inc. plants seeds for the future

Agbotics, in Sackets Harbor, uses technology they engineered and temperature-controlled greenhouses to grow plants they sell to local restaurants and businesses all year round. Lauren Miller/NNY Business

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Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 6 covers five counties, all diverse in terms of their natural beauty and opportunities for recreation. Our weather in Northern New York is conducive to golfing in the summertime and we are fortunate to have several dozen golf courses in our region that each offer a unique opportunity for a challenging day on the links. The diverse terrain and natural settings draw local golfers and those enjoying a summer vacation near the water or the mountains.  

    Kelly E. Hale is an avid north country golfer and environmental program specialist in DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation. “I strongly encourage people to play golf,” she said. “It is a lifelong sport. My grandmother played until she was 83, and that is my goal.”  

    Hale is the former captain of the St. Lawrence University golf team and currently plays on two leagues, the Clayton Ladies Golf League and the LaFargeville Ladies Golf League.  

    In our region, resident and migratory Canada geese also enjoy taking to the greens. Migratory geese pass through New York on their way north and south, stopping briefly each way. Resident geese do not leave the state and are here over the winter. DEC biologists estimate the current resident geese population in New York state to be about 200,000 birds. Based on the growing statewide severity of complaints, biologists would like to see that number reduced to fewer than 85,000 birds statewide.   

    Canada geese are a natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public, but sometimes, their presence creates challenges. These days, resident geese are nesting and feeding at some area golf courses in higher numbers than the past, which has proven to be a nuisance to golf course owners and the occasional golfer.  

    “Geese are grazers and love to eat lush, green grass,” said Andrew MacDuff, Region 6 DEC wildlife manager. “Also, most golf courses have numerous small ponds that make good nesting and loafing areas. There are also very few predators on golf courses compared to more natural landscapes.”   

    Once these birds make a golf course their home, problems can follow: Canada goose fecal matter carries harmful bacteria; the noxious odor of goose droppings can make some people ill; and there’s also potential for geese to harass golfers. Canada geese are territorial and will fight to protect their nests and eggs.  

    What are golf course owners to do? There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in an area. Persistent application of a combination of methods usually yields the best results.  

    “There are numerous methods to mitigate goose issues at golf courses from harassment and physical barriers to allowing in-season hunting,” said MacDuff. “It can be challenging to move them once they become established, but steady pressure should do the trick. If they are nesting, oiling or addling the eggs will often get them to leave.”  

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Horticulture Educator, Susan Gwise said, “The best way to control geese is with trained dogs. But the dogs need to harass the geese on a daily basis.” Persistence can pay off. If not, DEC’s website www.dec.ny.gov features a section on “when geese become a problem” http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7003.html. In some situations, federal or state permits are needed.  

    How should golfers proceed? Hale has encountered her share of geese on the golf course. One specific incident cost her a stroke penalty. “I had to call for a ruling. My ball had rolled next to the pond. It was nesting season, and the geese were along the perimeter of the pond. I could not get close enough to identify my ball, because the geese were trying to protect their nest,” said Hale. “We all took caution, not to anger or get close to the geese. Since I could not identify my ball, I had to take a stroke penalty and continue my round.”  

    She advises golfers to take care around wildlife on the course. Always tread with caution and do not harass the wildlife. All Canada geese, migratory and resident flocks, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations. DEC shares management responsibilities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

    Perhaps the best advice is to be aware of the potential for Canada geese on the golf course and not to let it affect your concentration on the sport. “A sport like golf is an individual sport, but you still have to help your teammates along the way,” said Hale. “Golf taught me a lot about patience, time management, camaraderie, and how important it is to think about your next shot, rather than dwell on the previous one.” 

Progressive Dairy Farming

Alyssa Kealy

Dairy cattle are much larger than the typical companion animals, and they are more technically savvy. I am not saying that cows carry around smartphones, but they do interact with technology in their day to day lives. Technology in dairy barns is not necessary to keep the cows in touch with their friends (they prefer to socialize face to face or muzzle to muzzle), but to focus primarily on cattle health, comfort and production. 

    Here are several examples of technology you can find on progressive dairy farms: 

  • Fit Bits: Dairy cows wear pedometers and/or activity pendants around their neck. This tracks their activity, which can be indicative of overall health. If a cow’s device is showing abnormal activity patterns, such as she didn’t get up to eat, this can be a red flag for the farmer to give her a closer look. Activity monitoring is a proactive process because it allows those caring for the cows to see abnormalities before they become clinical symptoms of illness, which could prevent serious health issues or the need for treatment in the future.

    RFID (radio frequency identification) tags- These are the ear tags worn for identification; they are so much more than a monogrammed earrings. Today, ear tags have radio frequency that communicates with the farm’s dairy computer program, like Dairy Comp 305, to keep a profile for each cow with data like her breeding dates, any medical treatments, due dates, etc. as well as communicates with parlor systems to track milk production. Essentially, cows carry their medical records with them! 

    Moocall– This technology was designed specifically for cows about to give birth. A small meter gets fastened around the tailhead and based on contractions and muscle loosening; it will send a text the farmer when the cow is about to calf. With these alerts, farm staff will be able to respond to any needs of the mother and calf. 

  • Robotics: Some farms are taking technology to the next level and replacing manpower with robotics. Examples include robotic milking systems and feed pushers.

    Robotic milking systems- Cows can enter the individual stall at their leisure, are fed grain/supplements, and finished milking within minutes. Whether it is the snacks or the relief that milking often brings to the mammary system that keeps cows loitering around the robots, waiting for their next turn. Since manual labor isn’t needed for milking, this system gives farm staff even more time to focus on cow health and facility hygiene. 

    Robotic feed pusher- Cows can even have a robotic waiter help serve them food. Farms often feed once a day which means a big pile is distributed and meant to last throughout the day. Sometimes, as feed gets eaten and pushed along by muzzles, feed can get pushed just out of reach. Farms can use a skid steer to push the feed, or high-tech farms use a robot to travel along the feed area and push the food closer to the cows throughout the day, ensuring they always have access to fresh food. 

    Dairy farms that have larger cow numbers are turning to a different style of milking parlor, literally. Rotary parlors allow 100 cows to be milked at once on what is essentially a merry go-round equipped with milking equipment. Cows get on the rotary and go for about a 5-minute ride while getting milked, sanitized, and then meander back to their barn. This is a very expensive technology, however as farms grow and agricultural labor becomes sparser, farms are choosing technology to fill voids on the farm and ensure cows get the best, most efficient care, possible.

The Best Communities Shine Amid Challenging Times

Rande Richardson

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller 

The value of partnerships become even more apparent during challenging times. Amid a crisis, when friends and neighbors are frightened, hurting and vulnerable, every possible resource must be deployed to help ensure health, safety and well-being. Our region’s nonprofits are often the front lines to work to complement and supplement the efforts of government. Our organizations will be there for now and for the long-term after the immediate crisis subsides, to address the emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of residents. As our lives are overturned, having that strong network of community resources is critical. 

    Despite the clouds that hover over us during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there are glimpses of sunlight that break through. As with past community challenges, the people of the North Country provide countless examples of “we” over “me” as individuals, organizations, schools, churches and businesses join together so that we all can emerge stronger, braver and healthier. 

    As it should, government takes the lead in responding to situations such as this. During the early stages of this battle we are fighting, I received a call from Scott Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Legislature. He was looking to link actions at the state and county level with our community nonprofit network. All contacted responded immediately and willingly. Within a day, a group of officials representing the nonprofit, education and child care sectors convened at the Community Foundation. It was the perfect display of collaboration, cooperative sharing of information, insight for preparedness, planning and solutions. Watching people who love their community combine resources together is powerful and inspiring and makes one proud to call this place home. 

    That same week saw all hands on deck. You didn’t have to look far to see the North Country tradition of unified response through its public health agencies, hospitals, school districts, businesses, civic and nonprofit organizations and the media. At the same time, neighbors were helping neighbors on the personal level, one friend at a time. 

    Due to these pressing concerns, and because of the unique way community foundations can respond to emerging needs, $50,000 was provided to seed the Northern New York COVID-19 Community Support Fund to provide rapid response micro grants with maximum reach and effectiveness. Within hours of announcing the fund, donors stepped forward with thousands more. As fundraising continues, we will collect resources and coordinate support responsibly. 

    Consideration for grants is limited to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or other charitable organizations able to receive tax-deductible contributions, such as schools, faith-based organizations serving community needs, and other public entities based in or primarily serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence county communities. Grants will be made on a rolling basis as we collect information. As a central hub we are already learning of situations that we were not aware of. 

    We know there will be short-term needs and longer-term demands which are bound to increase in the months ahead. Together, we can do more for those nonprofits on the front lines. We are intentionally streamlining the process and hope to be able to make decisions and supply funding in seven to 10 days. We also want to know of needs that may fall outside of the current focus so that we can be prepared to best allocate future resources. Nonprofit organizations should contact Kraig Everard, director of stewardship and programs, to apply at 315-782-7110 or at kraig@nnycf.org. To join the effort to extend the reach, secure gifts can be made online at www.nnycf.org or by mail to the Community Foundation at 131 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601. 

    We will continue to come together as a community as we always do, in good times and in bad, acting in unison so that we emerge from this crisis stronger because of the way we respond. Meanwhile, may we all stand ready to bolster those organizations that carry out that work for us every day. We are one community with caring, local leadership. Our collective response now will help shape tomorrow for all of us. It is often at the darkest times that our stars shine the brightest. 

20 Questions: Jefferson County Dog Control

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO
A Dog Control Officer plays with the five puppies of the recent litter of one of the four dogs rescued in Watertown in the largest rescue case of 2018.

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