The Role of Nonprofits in the Post-Pandemic World

Lt Col Jamie Cox

The novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020 clearly reinforced the need for human-service nonprofit organizations, who can often provide quicker response than the government and can perform programs and services that the government ceded over the years. However, over the course of the past 10 months, we’ve come to realize that our communities cannot financially sustain the multitude of charitable agencies that operate inefficiently, quasi-independently and with less than desirable outcomes. We are too wedded to our legacy and history, and not run as effectively and efficiently as a successful, private or publicly traded company.  We must change. 

In my role as CEO of United Way of Northern New York, I’ve had the incredible fortune to be a first-person witness to many of the miracles that were performed and the overwhelming wave of generosity throughout the north country during the first nine months of the pandemic. But I also observed our shortfalls, competition for limited resources, and degradation in the quality of service to our communities. We must evolve through mergers, restructuring, and financing the priorities that provide the highest return on investment. If we don’t take bold action, economic forces will dictate our future as opposed to taking proactive steps to drive our own destiny. 

Change is never easy and to approach the problem set from an individual agency standpoint will only reinforce the emotional loyalty and biases we feel toward our favorite agencies. I do understand that many social and religious organizations host programs or ministries that are near and dear to them: food pantries and food drives, coat and boot drives, fundraisers for charitable agencies that align with culture and mission, and more. Where can we create a point of collaboration to make all our efforts more meaningful and effective?   

We must start with the needs of each city, town or village. Once quantified and prioritized, an analysis is conducted to determine if there are other resources available to meet the need. If not, then the community leadership collectively develops multiple courses of action. A thorough assessment of each course of action, to include the pros and cons, economic impact, financial viability and measures of quality will be completed. The most effective and efficient solutions will be chosen. 

Over the past 18 months, the UWNNY has been gathering and analyzing data. The 2010 Census created a foundation and has been updated by the annual American Community Survey. Daily, we continue to insert additional data points, such as food insecurity, domestic violence, overdose, and poverty rates, crime statistics, availability of mental and physical healthcare, access to broadband internet and more. This creates an intimate understanding of needs across the north country.   

Through the understanding of information, we can create smart solutions that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our vital programs and services. For example, many of our municipalities have multiple food pantries, which provide life-sustaining food to our vulnerable residents. However, a simple Gantt chart depicts very limited windows of opportunity for families to access food. What if the family only has one car, and it’s being used from dawn until evening for employment? How do they access food? Much like a retail business that evaluates the hours that shoppers are available to come to their store, by combining multiple food pantries and their financial and personnel resources, we can pool resources for one food pantry in a village whose location and operating hours give access when families need it most. That’s how we move the needle.   

Service to vulnerable human beings has evolved over the years. We know that mental health, physical health, financial health, success in education, and emotional and cognitive development are all intertwined. Focusing on only one element will not achieve the desired results. The days of handing out nearly stale bread to prediabetics and Type 2 diabetics must stop. The practice of giving a family short-dated produce, meat and dairy only reinforces the notion that they are not worthy of the foods that we feed our families. We must up our game through cost savings and efficiencies to ensure that our assistance is not physically or mentally harming the wonderful people that we’re trying to help.  Quality is an essential part of putting a person or family on the successful road to independence and self-sufficiency. 

The north country is home to the intellect and passion to enact real change. The United Way of Northern New York continues to reach out to each city, town, village and school district to provide a constructive space for critical thought and innovative solutions. We hope that you’ll join us in creating a higher quality of life for each resident of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. 

 

NNY Economic Development: Now More Than Ever, It’s About Partnerships

Dave Zemibec

The pandemic has had a significant economic impact, often devastating, on individuals, families, businesses, communities, non-profits, educational institutions, and government.  Although the road to economic recovery will not be easy, we can do it.  We just need to work together and determine where we can act now to begin improving our situation.  Even if the initial steps are small, they can add up over time to give us momentum. 

When I speak of working together, I am referring to our many local and regional partners in economic development—and they are many.  Economic development is about much more than marketing the community and offering financial incentives.  It’s about workforce (training, education, recruitment), infrastructure capacity (sewer, water), energy infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, and downtown revitalization.  All these things are necessary to attract and support business growth and development, which in turn requires that we bring all those organizations, local governments, businesses, and appropriate state agencies to the table that share a mutual interest in the issue at hand.   

Let’s look at workforce development as an example.  Many of the jobs we lost during the pandemic are not coming back anytime soon, if at all.  Some businesses closed permanently.  Many that survived did so by eliminating jobs to reduce expenses.  If we can upskill those who lost their jobs and remain unemployed, or those who are employed in lower wage jobs, we can improve their chances of achieving upward mobility and economic stability.  In turn, by developing a workforce with the essential digital or technical skills desired by employers, local businesses will have more success in recruiting the workers they need to remain competitive.  We will also be more successful in attracting new companies who base their site location on workforce availability.  Building that workforce requires the involvement of many.  The Jefferson-Lewis BOCES and Jefferson Community College have demonstrated time and again their willingness and ability to develop customized education and training programs to meet the needs of the business community.  Organizations such as the Jefferson-Lewis Workforce Development Board and the Workforce Development Institute can provide funding and organizational support.  The shape of those training programs must be guided by input from local employers and trade organizations explaining how their workforce needs may have changed since the pandemic began. 

We also work with our counterparts across county boundaries.  It just makes sense.  Economic activity is not confined to county or municipal boundaries, nor are the many workers that commute to jobs across those boundaries in each direction.  Jefferson County Economic Development, Lewis County Economic Development, the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, and Development Authority of the North Country for several years have worked through Advocate Drum on a business attraction program to promote “Drum Country, NY”.  Together, we promote our collective regional assets and shared connection to Fort Drum in order to stand out more prominently in the site selection marketplace.  That program continues thanks to our ability to leverage financial support from another key economic development partner—National Grid.  Utilities are significant partners in a variety of economic development activities; providing funding and staff support to economic development marketing, downtown revitalization activities, and direct assistance to business expansion efforts.   

In addition to our tri-county region partners, we also work with and through the North Country Alliance.  The NCA serves the seven-county north country region with a board composed of economic developers and private sector representative from each county.  The NCA administers a revolving loan fund and advocates on behalf of the north country to our representatives in Albany.  Given that the member counties are all rural and face similar challenges, it is another vehicle for discussing strategies and sharing best practices.  

This month, here in Jefferson County, we are just getting underway in developing the county’s next Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)—a five-year blueprint for action to support economic growth.  A county-appointed committee representing a wide cross-section of public and private sector stakeholders working together will guide that process.  We therefore begin 2021 looking for short-term actions to address immediate needs, while developing a longer-term plan to guide our unified efforts toward recovery.   

We are fortunate to have a great network partners here in the north country.  They’ve repeatedly demonstrated their dedication, flexibility, and willingness to work together to get the job done.  Their combined talents and capabilities make for a strong team with a deep bench.  That is what gives me optimism as I look ahead in the coming year. 

Dave Zembiec is CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development. Contact him by phone at (315) 782-5865, or via email at dzembiec@jcida.com

Agribusiness: 2021- The Year of Localism

Jay Matteson

Goodbye, and good riddance to 2020.  You have cost us much economically, socially, and personally.  Most of us lost or knew of someone we loved or knew fondly during your 365 days. Those we lost may not have died directly because of the virus unleashed around our tiny planet, but our ability to let go, to mourn, to endure the loss, was abruptly halted by something we could not see but knew it was here and must be avoided.  It became difficult to say hello, and more difficult to say goodbye. 

Many of our businesses closed their doors permanently.  According to a Sept. 28 column on the Fortune website written by Anne Sraders and Lance Lambert, nearly 100,000 businesses “threw in the towel.”  I doubt the information in the article contained data on farm closures.  We know in Northern New York there were several dairy farms that closed. People were laid off work.  In a matter of weeks our region went from a problem of not enough workforce to fill open jobs to thousands going on unemployment.  The agricultural industry, because food is essential to everyone, kept its doors open, or at least tried.  Weaknesses in the food supply chain were laid bare by coronavirus. Food processing companies could not keep up with demand, and especially the change in product demand as our nation went from “food service” buyers to “cook at home” buyers within weeks.  We saw huge lines form at food pantries. Here in Northern New York, we saw 500 cars get in line hours in advance of food distribution events.   

Socially, 2020 was the “Year of the Mask”. In 2019 a person walking into a bank with a mask on would have been greeted by law enforcement officers as they exited the bank. In 2020, a person walking into a bank not wearing a mask would be greeted by those in the bank with disdain and frustration.  The year 2020 certainly brought an abundance of change to every person’s life.   

It is said the best way to work through change is to go through a process of letting go, then transition quickly to the “new” way or settle in to the new “normal”. This final step in dealing with change could be called “renewal”.  2021 will be a year of transition and renewal.   

In agriculture, with the change from food service diets to cook at home diets, there was a “silver lining.”  According to a survey by GlobalData conducted July 8 to 12, 2020, 52% of the consumers they interviewed worldwide claimed locally sourced ingredients were significantly more important or their top priority because of the Covid – 19 pandemic.  The report also indicated that 40% of respondents in each age cohort placed the same importance on locally sourced ingredients. In 2021, we look forward to a continuing demand for local foods.  We see a continuing demand for local meats and are trying to ramp up our ability to produce enough local meat and our processing capacity of livestock.  Our transition to this change must be an increased capacity for marketing those local products to the public.  The public is looking, the industry must help them find local products.  We are working with several potential meat processing projects, hoping that at least a few gain momentum.  

2021 will continue to see challenges for our dairy industry.  Milk production nationwide is up approximately 3%, which is significant.  This could suppress milk prices paid to farmers.   It will be important for the incoming administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to continue the trade work started by President Trump.  We saw improved trade agreements increase demand for U.S. milk and hopefully that demand will continue to increase as other countries see their economies rebound once they begin to emerge out from the pandemic. Jefferson County Economic Development will continue our efforts to attract new dairy processing capacity to our region. 

As we look forward to 2021 and what it holds, I suggest we name 2021, “The Year of Localism.”   It was local people and local businesses that banded together in the face of unknown disaster to get us through 2020.  We found ways to help each other out as best we could.  We turned to local foods to get us through tough times. Our communities recognized the importance of supporting our local economies first. In 2021, we must not let our focus turn away from localism.  We can rebuild our lives, our schools, our economies, our communities by focusing on localism. 

Salmon River Fish Hatchery Serves as Learning Destination

 

Chinook egg collection process at the Salmon River Fish Hatchery, note this photo was taken before precautions for COVID were in place.

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How The Economy Is Doing in “Uncertain” Recovery

Jennifer McCluskey

This article presents a brief overview of how the economy is reportedly doing in this uncertain “recovery” from COVID, and how national trends are echoed in our north country area. As of time of this writing, the first week in October, the economy is starting to grow again, slowly, with a lot of uncertainty. According to The Economist Magazine (9/19/20 edition), after dropping 20% in the second quarter of 2020, global gross domestic product is forecast to grow 7% in the third quarter. Other articles call this a “historic bounce.” While growth is fantastic, there is still a lot of ground to be made up. The Economist reports the global economy is operating at about 90% of capacity. 

    Some industries are doing better than others. For example, housing purchases have dramatically increased, which may in turn lift consumer spending as new home owners begin to buy furnishings and realize they need new water heaters. Even in the north country, properties are getting multiple offers both from local residents ready to upgrade and from downstate people looking to move farther from crowds. According to a local real estate broker, houses with land or waterfront are being snapped up as soon as they come on the market. Local hardware stores and contractors are also busy as homeowners try to get repairs in before winter. Other businesses that relate to home improvement or socially distanced outdoor activities, like powersports sales, RV sales, garden centers, and golf courses, among others, have seen record years. Burpee, the online seed retailer, has said this has been their largest sale year ever in their 144 years. 

    Retail sales have bounced back somewhat nationally and internationally. According to JPMorgan Chase, global retail sales were back to where they were before the pandemic by July. Which makes sense, people stuck at home have had nothing else to do but shop on their computers, and have had stimulus checks with which to do so. There’s also been a little more money around as people commute less and travel less, so save on their gas bill (which is maybe not so good for local gas stations!). This is one of the reasons retail businesses should get into ecommerce. New York state has recently developed several initiatives to help retail businesses sell online. Check out https://coopcareers.org/mainstreet-online for more details and keep an eye on news releases from New York State as other programs may be available soon. 

    Some retail businesses have been busy but have also been hampered by lack of supply from manufacturers. I have heard reports from several people that automobiles are being sold as soon as they hit the lot. Kayaks too are hard to come by, as this summer saw a great increase in demand with less supply coming in from manufacturers. 

    Services, however, have been significantly down as these are much more susceptible to people avoiding crowds, and restrictions like decreased dining capacity in restaurants. According to data from OpenTable, the number of diners in restaurants remains 30-40% lower worldwide. This is likely even lower in New York state due to strict social distancing regulations. Flights, travel, and hotels are also way down. Consumer confidence is somewhat unstable as well, falling in August to its lowest level since 2014. This is likely a combination of the end of government stimulus programs and increased COVID cases in parts of the country. Visa surveyed small business owners (www.visa.com/EconomicInsights) and found that 35% report they have started to recover financially and expect to fully recover in the next 12 months. Of those that have not yet started to recover financially, 43% expect to start seeing recovery in the next three to six months, while 22% do not. The long-term employment forecast is also pretty slow, projections from the Fed indicate unemployment will not return to is pre-pandemic levels until 2023. So while there are some high points, there is still a lot of ground to cover, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Further federal stimulus money seems somewhat unlikely at this point unless there is another surge of COVID forcing additional business closures, but these industries in particular could benefit from more assistance. 

    If your business needs help with recovery, you can contact your local Small Business Development Center to talk with a business advisor confidentially and free of charge. You can reach the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262. 

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Jay Matteson

You may hear new terms applied to agriculture and farming, “regenerative” or “restorative” agriculture. These terms are cropping up, describing new thought processes on farming methods that have been around many decades and the importance of soil to our environment. It is important to think about soil before we dig into what these new terms mean. 

    Soil is different than dirt. Dirt is what you find on the kitchen floor after the kids come in from playing outside. Dirt is what your big furry friend leaves on your clothes after excitedly running through the mud puddle to greet you when you get home from work. Yes, dirt is those misplaced remnants of soil that you now must clean up. Soil is a critically important natural resource that is part of our ecosystem. It helps clean our environment, capturing carbon from the atmosphere or filtering pollutants out of water as the water travels through the ground. Soil is the primary resource we use for growing our food. Soil types can vary from well drained sandy soils to poorly drained muck soils. In your backyard, you may have two or three, or more, different soil types, left by glaciers, floods, decaying plant matter and eroding rock types. Soil is 25% water, 25% air, 45% minerals and 5% organic matter. Remove any of these components and you are back to dirt. And good soil takes a long time to make. An inch of topsoil takes approximately 100 years under natural conditions. That is why preserving prime farmland is so important. Once you cover it with a house or pavement, it will take generations to replace. 

    In addition to the components of soil, good healthy soil is its own ecosystem. Soil is a system of living, once living (organic) things, air, water, and minerals, all interacting in balance to maintain inter-relationships with each other. Small microbes break down minerals and organic matter, providing nutrients for bigger living things in the soil. Small animals, such as earthworms, help break down more organic matter into nutrients, feeding the soil. Plants grow within and on the soil, using the nutrients, capturing carbon, and sequestering it. When the plants and animals die, they go back into the soil as organic matter. The healthier the soil ecosystem, the better soil can play its role in our environment and our human systems. Healthy soil also has better capacity to store water, reducing the impacts of heavy precipitation and providing water to the environment during dry times. 

    Good, healthy soil is important to agriculture. The healthier the soil, the more we can grow food. The healthier the soil, the more carbon is removed from our atmosphere, reducing global warming. The non- agricultural community is awakening to regenerative, or restorative agriculture. For many decades, the agricultural industry has been working to improve soil quality. 

    Decades ago, deep tilling the soil was commonplace. Dragging big plows into the soil layers to break up the soil and prepare it for planting happened every year. The fields did not look right if they were not properly “fitted” for planting. Over the years, farmers recognized that it was not necessary, and not good for the soil to deep till it every year. Farms began adopting minimum till and no till practices where the soil surface is barely disturbed. Yes, there are times when farms still must deep plow a field to break up old sod or to break a hard layer (hard pan) of soil beneath the surface that is preventing drainage. But using minimum till or no till practices saves on fuel expenses and is better for the soil ecosystem. 

    Cover cropping is another practice farms have been slowly integrating into their practices. Instead of leaving the soil surface bare in between plantings, allowing erosion to occur, and not adding organic matter back into the soil, farms now plant “cover crops” to protect and further enrich the soil. These crops might be seedings of grasses that are then turned into the soil just before planting, or radishes that grow deep roots adding organic matter to the soil and providing deep pores for air and water to enter the soil systems. In addition to farms using cover crops to restore soil fertility, they spread animal manure to bring nutrients back to the soil after harvesting their crops. Using animal manure versus chemical fertilizers is better for the soil and its ecosystems. 

    Regenerative and restorative agriculture, new terms applied to what agriculture has been doing for decades. Our farms continue to work hard to improve their techniques and there is always room for improvement. Generations of farmers have always been looking to the future and worry about being good environmental stewards of the places they call home. 

COVID-19: Important Documents to Consider

Timothy Doolittle

It is always important to have estate planning documents in place to face the unknown that the future holds. During a pandemic like the one the world is facing now, it is even more important, one may argue essential, to have the proper estate planning documents in place. Generally speaking, any adult would do well to have the following documents in place:  

1) Last Will and Testament  

This is the document most are familiar with. In a will, an individual describes exactly how they wish their assets to be distributed upon their death. The individual will also appoint a person to serve as the executor of their estate when the individual passes away. The executor serves in an administrative function, filing the paperwork with the Surrogate’s Court and ensuring that the deceased individual’s wishes are carried out as specified in the will. 

    An individual with minor children will also appoint a guardian for their minor children. This is a monumentally important position that can be appointed through a will so that the parent’s wishes are known. Planning with minor children in mind usually also entails creating a trust to receive the child’s inheritance if they are under a certain age when the parent passes away. This is to protect the inheritance until the child reaches a mature age to handle the inheritance.  

2) Durable Power of Attorney  

The durable power of attorney is a document in which the individual appoints a person to act as the individual’s “agent”. The power of attorney is designed to give the named agent(s) the authority to act on the individual’s behalf in connection with personal, financial, legal, and business matters. This document becomes a very important instrument that can save a lot of time and money in the event the individual becomes incapacitated for any period of time and is unable to manage their finances. 

    Many parents with adult children either in college or just out of college may do well to arrange for their children to complete out a power of attorney (and health care proxy) naming one or both of the parents as the agent(s). This allows the parent to step in to assist the adult child should something happen while the child is away from home.  

3) Health Care Proxy (or Health Care Power of Attorney)  

The health care proxy is another document in which the individual appoints a person to act as the individual’s “agent”. The health care proxy authorizes the named health care agent to make health care decisions for the individual in the event the individual is unable to make a health care decision due to any sort of incapacitated state. Again, parents would do well to have their adult children execute a health care proxy naming the parents as agent to assist with any medical decisions that need to be made if the child is unable to make them herself. 

    The above documents are simply a bare minimum of what every adult should have in place to protect against the unknown. Speaking with a qualified attorney about your own unique situation could reveal the need for additional documents or procedures that need to be put in place. As the past year shown us, the future is not certain and making sure you have an appropriate plan in place is essential. 

Timothy Doolittle is a member of the Wladis Law Firm, P.C., located in Syracuse, New York. Contact him at 315-445-1700.

Women’s Council of Realtors Network Top Producer Events

Lance Evans

The Tri-County Women’s Council of Realtors Network held its Top Producer events in September (St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors) and in October (Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors). The award was based on sales of single-family homes, two-to-four family homes, commercial buildings, land, farms, and seasonal properties sold between Sept. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, as recorded in either the St. Lawrence County Multiple Listing Service (www.slcmls.com) or the Jefferson-Lewis Multiple Listing Service (www.nnymls.com) and residential rentals in the Jefferson-Lewis MLS. The top 20 percent of realtors were awarded a Top Producer Certificate as either Gold (11%-20%) or Platinum (top 10%) Producers. While it is not necessary to be a WCR member to be recognized, this year twelve of the network’s 23 members were Top Producers. 

    Normally given out as part of a dinner event, this year’s ceremonies took place on Zoom due to COVID restrictions. Each Top Producer was sent a bright green envelope with a noise maker, mini-clapping hands, a “gold” metal, a bag of confetti, and some candy along with an invitation to the Zoom ceremony. Both events recognized WCR’s 2020 sponsors – Gouverneur Savings and Loan, Homestead Funding Corporation, and the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. 

    The St. Lawrence County edition was held on Sept. 30. Lucille Kassian, Kassian Real Estate, was recognized as the top producing Realtor in the St. Lawrence County Multiple Listing Service. This is the sixth year in a row that she has won this honor. 

    In addition to Ms. Kassian, the “Platinum Producer” list included (in alphabetical order) Gail Abplanalp, Christine Amo, Tracy Bernard, Patricia Collins, Rick Cutway, Cathy Garlock, Debbie Gilson, Michael Kassian, Erin Meyer, Phillip Paige, Timothy Post, Mildred “Cookie” Recore, Rhonda Roethel, Lori Snyder, Jennifer Stevenson, Elizabeth Trego, and Cheryl Yelle. 

    Realtors recognized as “Gold Producers” (in alphabetical order) included Penny Bogardus, Nikki Coates, Angela Frost, Matthew Garlock, Katie Geidel, Rowena General, Janet Handschuh, Nicole Hayes, Suzanne Liberty, Brittany Matott, Robert McLaughlin, Martha Morrison, Doreen Radway, Wendy Jane Smith, Nicholas Sterling, Diana Thayer, and Scott Woods. 

    Several weeks later, on Sept. 22, Jefferson-Lewis Realtors were honored. The Top Producer in sales for the fourth year in a row was Amanda Miller, Lake Ontario Realty. For a third consecutive year, Micah Matteson, Matteson Property Management, was recognized as the top Realtor for rentals. 

    Joining Ms. Miller as Platinum Producers for sales (in alphabetical order) were Britt Abbey, Roger Abbey, Jeremy Briggs, Vicki Bulger, Patricia Calhoun, Teresa Capara-Ostrum, Kathy Cook, Melanie Curley, Carole Dunbar, Jennifer Flynn, Cathy Garlock, Matthew Garlock, Lori Gervera, Marsha Gibbons, Kirk Gilchrist, Michael Hall, Jeffrey Jones, Amy Kenney, Amanda Kingsbury, William Leepy, Brenda Malone, Amanda Mattimore, Gail Miller, Rob Moyer, Bambi Norman, Lorie O’Brien, Karen Peebles, Jeff Powell, Maxine Quigg, Desiree Roberts, Jason Smith, Barry Stewart, Jennifer Waite, and Lisa Spear-Woodward. 

    The Gold Producers for sales (in alphabetical order) included Julie Ablan-Woodrow, Mary Adair, Darren Ashcroft, Sara Beard, Penny Bogardus, Marcia Brooks, Sara Bulger, Yvonne Carle, Stacey Garrett, Anne George, Joan Gerni LaLone, Janet Handschuh, Les Henry, Aaron Jantzi, Eileen Kaleel, Barry Kukowski, Stephen Malone, Tara Marzano, Marcie McCrea, Erin Meyer, Elizabeth Miller, Diane Mullen, Lori Nettles, Terry O’Brien, Tammy Queior, Gayla Roggie, Nancy Rome, Jill Rosette, Sarah Smith, Vickie Staie, Nancy Storino-Farney, Kiah Sugrue, Michael Tufo, and Gayle Wiley. 

    In addition to Mr. Matteson, the top Realtors recognized for rental as Platinum Producers included Teri Benitez, Marsha Gibbons, Rhonda Rogers, Danielle Stover, and LuAnn Twombly. The Gold rental list included Mark Anderson, Daniel Conlin, Sonia Conlin, Marco Echevarria, and Lisa Spear-Woodward. 

    The Tri-County (NY) Network of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® was founded in 2008. The members live in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Its mission is to work to advance women and men as real estate professionals and leaders in business, the industry, and in the communities they serve. 

United More Than Ever

Lt Col Jamie Cox

Each year, the United Way throughout the world runs a fundraising campaign to highlight problems and inequities in communities and proposes programs and plans to address the challenges that we face. This year is much different. The circumstances that have brought us to this point in time have been monumentally unlike anything in our recent history. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in late February, we pulled together as a nation and community to fight for our survival, but then political division stemming out of Washington and Albany tore us apart. When our nation was confronted with the horrific death of George Floyd, we all felt a sense of loss for his family and wondered how we can create and maintain better communities, but then fringe groups from the right and left tore us apart. As I write this, we are in the home stretch of our presidential election, where two dominant parties are tearing us apart by demonizing each other and forcing us to choose sides. When did we cede control of our thoughts and lives to others? When did we allow elected leaders – many who are no smarter than you and me – to tell us what to believe? Who let the bullies take control of the schoolyard? 

The United Way of Northern New York chose United More Than Ever as the theme of our annual campaign as more than just a symbolic use of words to make a point. United More Than Ever is a belief that starts at the grassroots level – in a neighborhood, classroom or village – to unite us for a common cause: equal opportunity to pursue one’s dreams and care for those who are unable to succeed due to physical limitations, mental health issues or other barriers. 

Over the past 99 years, the United Way of Northern New York has grown from the Community Chest of Watertown to encompass all of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. From Massena to Cape Vincent, Adams to Star Lake, and Colton to Port Leyden, our mission is focused on improving the quality of life for all residents. We do this irrespectively of the color of skin, political beliefs, sexual orientation, country of birth, financial status or religious belief. 

The United Way of Northern New York has three main priorities as we look ahead to 2021:  

  1. Improving survivability for the most vulnerable in our communities;
  2. Healthy, educated and happy children; and
  3. Opportunity for meaningful employment. 

These three simple pillars allow us to invest your donation to create the highest return on investment through our programs:  

ALICE. The Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed program sole aim is to keep working families out of poverty. These families do not have the income or savings to financially absorb any crisis such as a doctor’s visit, a flat tire or a broken furnace. ALICE provides immediate financial resources to families in all three counties to avoid the steep slope leading to poverty. There is no other government or private program that addresses these families.  

Community Impact. Working with village mayors, town supervisors, school superintendents and other community stakeholders, we work together to devise the best solutions and fund the right programs to address the biggest needs in each town, village and school district. We are a force multiplier.  

Center of Nonprofit Excellence. As the certified focal point of nonprofit organizations in the region, the North Country Center of Nonprofit Excellence is committed to providing professional training to nonprofit agencies, businesses and communities to improve our performance, enhance our programs and reduce our costs in serving each community. We bring out the best in each organization.     

The sole reason the United Way is able to facilitate and create success is your generosity and loyalty to our towns, villages and neighborhoods. It is your dollars that allow us to make the north country live up to its potential. 

The United Way of Northern New York is your best investment tool to create success in the north country. Please give now at unitedway-nny.org/donate. 

What Will Agribusiness Look Like Following The Pandemic?

Alyssa Kealy

It is quite hard to predict what the future will look like after the pandemic, especially when the end of the public health crisis itself cannot be predicted. The dairy industry is no stranger to unpredictability. Farmers are subject to volatility all year long, from fluctuating milk prices, variable weather conditions, new regulations, etc. However, the coronavirus pandemic caused dairy market disruptions that nobody could have predicted. This exacerbated the challenges already faced. With the rapid closure of schools, restaurants, and many other businesses, there was a sudden loss in markets for milk. As I mentioned in my last article, milk production does not have an off switch. Thus, some creativity and quick work were needed to find a place for dairy products. 

    The pandemic put a spotlight on the fractured food supply chain and thus provided opportunities to reconfigure the connection between Upstate New York farms and downstate consumers in need. With excess product from upstate farms and hungry families downstate, it made perfect sense to connect the two. Over the last several months, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, along with partners such as the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, NY Corn and Soybean Growers Association, Senator Jessica Ramos, and many upstate farmers coordinated food deliveries to NYC through the Nourish NY Initiative. Products delivered included thousands of gallons of milk and other dairy products, pallets of fruits and vegetables, New York potato chips, and even coloring books and crayons for children. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has also provided opportunities to reinforce the farmer-to-consumer connection virtually. Farmers have been doing a stellar job sharing their day-to-day with consumers at home via social media platforms. This is as important as ever since the pandemic has restricted face-to-face outreach. Interested in what farms are up to? Missing the infamous Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the New York State Fair? The New York Animal Agriculture Coalition (NYAAC) has the next best thing with the “Dairy on the Moo-ve” Initiative. Simply by following NYAAC on social media, you can visit farms from the comfort of your home. A few weeks ago, I was on location with NYAAC, who highlighted two Jefferson county farms- Murcrest Farms and Porterdale Farms. You can view videos from these visits here: www.facebook.com/NYAnimalAg videos/?ref=page_internal. Keep an eye out for other New York State farms featured here throughout the fall! 

    After almost seven months from the beginning of the pandemic, the dairy industry has seen a few silver linings, including enhanced appreciation for agriculture as part of the ESSENTIAL framework of our nation and improved farmer image. In a recent article published by Gallup, Farming Rises, Sports Tumbles in U.S. Industry Ratings, farming has jumped to the top of the list of positively viewed U.S. business and industry sectors for the first time in 20 years! Farming now has the highest positive view of 69 percent, an 11-point increase since last year. This is likely due to recognition of farmer dedication to providing vital goods to Americans during the pandemic. You can read the full article here: https://news.gallup.com/poll/319256/farming-rises-sports-tumbles-industry-ratings.aspx 

    So, what does the future look like? There is no crystal ball to look into, but you can be assured that dairy farmers will meet whatever comes next with vigilance and resilience.