Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get Out and Visit a Maple Producer

The last of two Maple Weekend events begins today.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, many maple producers across the area will open for tours. People can sample products and learn how maple syrup is made. Some even will have pancake breakfasts.

Go to to find a maple producer near you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Union Springs Woman Doing Well in Equine World

Nice story about a Cayuga County woman moving up in the horse world.

Man Dies in Farm Accident

So sad.

Farm accident in Jefferson County.

Register Now for Farm Service Agency Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia has recommended that farmers and ranchers who plan to participate in FSA programs register in advance.

Producers are encouraged to report farm records and business structure changes to a local FSA Service Center before April 15.

Enrollment for the disaster programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will begin by April 15.

"We expect significant interest in these programs,” said Garcia. “Early registration should help improve the sign-up process and allow us to expedite implementation of the programs. I strongly encourage producers to complete their paperwork ahead of time.”

For further information about disaster programs and USDA’s Farm Bill implementation plan, visit FSA’s 2014 Farm Bill Web page. FSA Service Center locations can be found on the FSA website.

Deadline March 31 to Nominate Someone As America's Farmers Mom of the Year

The deadline is approaching for nominating someone as the next America’s Farmers Mom of the Year.  

Those who would like to nominate an amazing farm mom – one who works every aspect of the farm, keeps everyone on task, and even advocates for the industry she loves -- will have through Monday, March 31, 2014, to submit their entry.

Anyone can nominate their favorite farm mom for a chance to win up to $10,000 -- whether it’s their own mom, sister, aunt, daughter, friend or community member.

To nominate a favorite farm mom, visit between now and March 31 and submit a brief essay online or by mail that explains how the nominated farm mom contributes to her family, farm, community and agriculture. 

Each nomination will be judged based on published criteria by a panel of judges from American Agri-Women, and Monsanto will select five regional winners based on the judges’ decisions. Each regional winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize. 

Profiles of the regional winners will then be posted to, where the public can vote for one national farm mom winner. Announced just prior to Mother’s Day, the national winner will receive an additional $5,000 cash prize above and beyond her regional prize.

For more information on the program or for complete eligibility requirements and official contest rules visit Interested parties may also send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to America's Farmers Mom of the Year, Attn: Sue Dillon, 349 Marshall Ave., Ste. 200, St. Louis, MO 63119.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What If There Were No Farmers?

A column by state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie

From the food we eat to the products we use, not a day goes by that we don’t have a farmer to thank for helping to provide life’s necessities. 

But, what if there weren’t any farmers?  As recent research suggests, that’s a question we should be considering. 

Farming is our state’s most important industry, it’s also a way of life handed down from generation to generation. But as the recent USDA Census of Agriculture depicted, the average New York farmer is changing. According to the report, the average age of New York farmers is 57.1 years, with two farmers aged 65 and older for each one under 35.  

In addition, the survey also pointed to the fact that roughly 50,000 acres of farmland were lost in New York in each of the past five years. There are a number of factors—including skyrocketing start-up expenses, tight profit margins and high risk—that are contributing to this change. 

As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, protecting and preserving the farming industry is a top priority for me.  That’s why I recently unveiled my “Young Farmers NY” plan to help address issues related to the advancing age of New York’s farming population as well as protect the future of family farming by encouraging more young people to consider careers in agriculture and reducing financial roadblocks to starting a new agriculture business. 

Highlights of my “Young Farmers NY” plan include:

  • Loans, grants and tax credits for the sale or lease of land and equipment, as well as for new technological innovations;

  • Estate tax reforms to encourage farm preservation from generation to generation; and

  • Agricultural education efforts including apprenticeship programs, student loan forgiveness and increased funding for the in-school FFA (Future Farmers of America) program.

This plan builds upon the hard work we’ve done in recent years to foster growth in the agriculture industry.  For the past three years, I have successfully fought alongside my colleagues to restore budget funds affecting key agricultural research, education and marketing programs.  

In addition, I was also pleased to back the “Grown in New York Plan,” and other important new laws that support our state’s hardworking farmers, including a cap on farmland tax assessments to cut land taxes and additional funding for efforts that promote farm safety, research and marketing.

Hardworking farmers are the foundation of New York State and in the weeks to come, I’ll be working just as hard to help support initiatives that encourage growth in the agriculture industry and ensure it stays vibrant for many years to come.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Next Maple Weekend is March 29, 30

Maple Weekend breakfast at Red Schoolhouse Maple in Palermo, Oswego County.

I got out to have pancakes and wonderful New York maple syrup on the first day of Maple Weekend.

Did you?

If you didn't, you still have next weekend to get out there. Go to and check out which sites near you are open for tours (most open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and then click on pancake breakfasts to see who is serving up delicious syrup and pancakes.

Only one word describes this -- YUM.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Federal Money Available for Specialty Crops

A total of $1.1 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being offered to further the research, safety and promotion of speciality crops in New York state.

The Speciality Crop Block Grant program, administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, includes fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, hops and nursery crops, and works to enhance the competitiveness of New York farms by forming new partnerships to create innovations in agriculture that benefit the state's economy.

"New York's agricultural sector offers a diverse array of specialty crops as part of an already robust and thriving industry that has grown continually over the past three years," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "This $1.1 million will help local farmers across the state expand and provide valuable information to benefit our ever evolving agro-food industry, and spread the word on New York products nationwide."

Funding is being provided through the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (amended under the federal 2014 Farm Bill), which authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide state assistance for specialty crop competitiveness programs. 

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets is soliciting proposals that solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and benefit the greatest number of beneficiaries in one of three priority areas. These include research and grower education, food safety, marketing and promotion.

Acting State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Farmers are some of the greatest innovators in the entire world, but many of these innovations cannot be brought to light without strong research behind them. As a farmer of specialty crops, I know firsthand how invaluable the Specialty Crop Block Grant program is in helping farmers enhance their operations.”

St. Lawrence County Wine Trail Included in State Senate Budget Proposal

Go to to check it out.

First Maple Weekend Begins Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day for Maple Weekend.

Go to and then search by county to find producers in your area that are open for Maple Weekend. There also is a tab to click on to find which ones have pancake breakfasts.

Onondaga County Farm Receives Jersey Master Breeder Award

Here is an announcement from the Luchsingers at Silver Spring Farm in the town of Onondaga:

"We are very pleased to announce that Silver Spring Farm will be receiving the 2014 American Jersey Cattle Association Master Breeder award. 

"It is a great honor to be added to this list of elite Jersey breeders during a time when interest for Jerseys is at an all time high. We have strived for a century to breed and develop the kind of cattle that can be profitable and marketable in every kind of operation and would like to thank all of our supporters over the years for all your help in promoting SSF genetics. 

"Thank You!!!"

Congrats to the Luchsingers!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Farm Tax Credit Bill Passes Assembly

The Farm Tax Credit bill, which provides a tax credit for farmers who use the Thruway to transport produce, passed the Assembly today.

Here is one statement:

"I was pleased to vote in favor of the farm tax credit in the Assembly," said Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski.

"This bill establishes a much-needed tax credit for Thruway tolls for farmers. Passing this type of legislation is a good example of how our state can be friendlier to businesses, especially farmers who work so hard to provide local produce and need to travel to reach the fresh-food markets. 

"We should be helping them get from place to place, not discouraging travel with Thruway fees. I was pleased to co-sponsor this measure and vote in favor. I am urging the Senate to take this measure up next. I hope to see similar bills friendly to small business and agriculture come to the Assembly floor for a vote in the upcoming weeks."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's Ag Literacy Week

Holy, moly.

I almost forgot.

Here's a reminder about Ag Literacy Week, which began yesterday and runs through Friday.

The book this year is "Who Grew My Soup?" by Tom Darbyshire and illustrated by C.F. Payne. In the book, Phineas Quinn wants to know about the vegetable soup his mom gives him for lunch -- in fact, he wants to know who grew each and every vegetable in his bowl. A man shows up to answer his questions and he learns about vegetables, farming and the farmers who grow the vegetables.

New York Agriculture in the Classroom sponsors NY Ag Literacy Week in March each year to support its mission of fostering awareness, understanding, and appreciation of agriculture and the food and fiber system. Volunteers throughout the state go into second-grade classrooms to read the featured book to children. The book then is donated to the school library.

Ontario Orchards -- the Farm Stand with Everything

It's fall at Ontario Orchards when pumpkins and apples are in. Photo by Lisa Hollenbeck

By Debra J. Groom

A stroll through the Ontario Orchards store in Oswego Town shows all that is great about agriculture.

The Ouellette family transformed a chicken and pig farm that started on 132 acres back in 1952 and grew it into one of the most diverse farming enterprises in Central New York. In fact, it’s a one-stop shop, a place folks can visit year round (every day but Christmas) to buy just about everything they need.

And that everything, by the way, is pretty much all local. Can you say fresh?

“Customers are amazed at the selection, the variety and the completeness of the store,” said owner Dennis Ouellette. “They can come here any day and find something they need.”

The farm today is run by Dennis, his wife June and their daughters, Kathy and Laurie. Dennis, at 67, still is at the farm or store most days tending to one thing or another.

But back in 1952, when Dennis was just 6, his parents Dennis and Estelle had the chicken and pig operation, along with the acres and acres of fruit trees in Sterling that took in the cool moist breezes from nearby Lake Ontario.

Dennis remembers as a young boy selling apples and strawberries on a roadside stand atn state Routes 104 and 104A. “This planted a seed,” he said. “How about U-pick apples for $1 a bushel. At this time it became apparent retail sales were more profitable than wholesale and processing.”

The Ouellettes set up retail operations in Fulton, Watertown, Ogdensburg and across the road from the current store on Route 104. Soon, they expanded into the Regional Market in Syracuse. Then the farm extended its sales to Long Island during the fall and Christmas seasons.

“The New York City market was more profit,” Dennis Ouellette said. “It meant prepping during the week and traveling to New York Friday after school and returning Saturday evening.”

The Ouellettes have always had a strict business plan – they want to expand to provide their produce to as many people as possible, but they also remember not to overextend or overexpand.

This was quite evident after June and Dennis married in 1965, after realizing in their senior year at Hannibal High School that they “would become more than friends,” Dennis said.

The beginning of the present-day Ontario Orchards came after the marriage, when Dennis and June decided to offer more than just apples. They got into producing other fruits, vegetables and Christmas trees.

They added a Fall Jamboree and U-pick operation. This, Dennis said, not only helped with profits, but brought people out to the farm so they could see the operation and learn a little about where their food comes from.

On 35 acres, the Ouellettes grow corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, squash and pumpkins. They have 30 acres of Christmas trees. About 90 acres are apples.

After the old two-stall horse barn was converted into the present-day store in 1966, Ontario Orchards sold not only its own vegetables, fruits and trees, but also brought in product from other nearby locales.

Dennis Ouellette said he gets nursery products from local and out-of-state growers and also grows many varieties in Ontario Orchards own nursery behind the farm market.

He sells Tender Loving Compost, made from cow manure on the Fessenden Family Dairy Farm in King Ferry, Cayuga County. He gets parsnips from a farmer in Port Byron. He sells New Hope Mills pancake products from Cayuga County. Honey comes from Snow Valley Honey Farms in Hannibal.

New York maple syrup in his store comes from Croghan, in the state’s largest maple-producing county, Lewis County. All onions and potatoes come straight from the rich, black muck of Oswego County.

Ontario Orchards presses cider yearround. Photo by Lisa Hollenbeck
He sells Hinerwadel’s salt potatoes, Dinosaur BBQ sauce and Hofmann franks and coneys from Onondaga County, Croghan bologna from Lewis County, Grandma Brown’s baked beans from Mexico, Sillman Jams from Dickinson Center, Franklin County, Turkey Joints from Nora’s Candy Shop and olives from Williams’ Homegrown Garlic, both from Rome, Oneida County, Morgia’s pasta and sauce originally from Watertown, Buck’s Seasoning from Mallory in Oswego County and Italian sauces from Canale’s in Oswego.

Even his refrigerated case has local products, such as cheese from various places like Macadam from St. Lawrence County, Heluva in Sodus, Wayne County and Yancey’s Fancy in Genesee County,  Hudson Farms eggs from Elbridge, Onondaga County and milk from Hudson Dairy in Fulton.

The farm store also has a full bakery, an outgrowth of pies made in June’s home kitchen and sold at the retail sites in the early years.

“David and George (two farm workers) came to work on the farm on weekends and said ‘how bout you make some apple pies with those drops?’” Ouellette said of the apples that drop to the ground.

He said June began making the pies and others delivered them to the retail sites. The customers loved them.

“Then one day, a deer jumped out in front of us and all the pies went all through the car,” Ouellette said. That was when the full bakery in the farm stand was born.

“The expansion of the farm, farm market, cider mill, bakery and nursery was a direct result from the increases in customers,” Ouellette said.

Dennis credits many of the new ideas at Ontario Orchards to his daughters and other employees.

“Not only did the two girls, but also the very young staff had a lot of new energy and ideas,” he said. “And with this in mind, what was the horse barn in 1966 has become one of North America’s most complete family-owned farms and farm markets.”

And while many farm markets are open only in the summer and fall when the crops are harvested, Ontario Orchards is open year round. This was an unheard of idea a few years ago – but Ouellette said it works at Ontario Orchards.

“Our variety allows us to be open seven days a week,” he said. “We really don’t have a season here.”

The store is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m .in the winter, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the spring and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer.
“And we press our own cider 12 months a year,” Ouellette said.

In addition to expanding the hours, Ouellette said he has always thought “outside the box” on how to improve the business and bring in more customers.

He knows he can’t make a living off the person who might drive up from Syracuse once a year to visit Ontario Orchards. He needs to draw repeat customers in throughout the year – who them that the store is more than just a place to come get apples.

“Advertising and promotions at specific times of the seasons has extended the customer base out 100 miles,” he said. “Each season is a whole new energized season and each time you have a new season, you come up with a new idea.”

What he wants to do more of in the future is product sampling. He began a couple of years ago with cheese, but is tinkering with offering other products for people to try. He might even have some cooking demos to show people how to prepare things he sells.

For example, he mentioned parsnips, a root vegetable that many people think of as a white carrot. He said people will look at them at the store, sometimes pick them up, but put them back because they aren’t sure what to do with them.

Ouelette said he also plans to improve the facilities, work on upgrading the website ( and growing the ever-popular Fall Jamboree.

“There are not many of us that are this complete,” Ouellette said. “In this day and age, everyone wants local, fresh, homegrown, completeness.”

A fourth generation, Dennis and June’s grandchildren Taylor and Nichole, now are involved in the business, so it looks as though Ontario Orchards will be serving its customers for a long time to come.

“Entrepreneurship and self employment is great, but a very difficult challenge,” Ouellette said. “Fortunately adjustments are made and met. Ontario Orchards wants to extend its many thanks for everyone’s support and ideas. The three generations – Dennis and June, Laurie and Kathy and Taylor and Nichole, look forward to being a part of your lives and the community.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Plan to Help Young Farmers Gains Bipartisan OK

From the office of state Sen. Patricia Ritchie:

Sen. Patricia Ritchie’s “Young Farmers NY” plan to secure the future of family farming and encourage more young people to pursue careers in agriculture won bipartisan approval Sunday March 16 as part of the Senate’s state budget plan that also included nearly $9 million in new investments in programs to help farmers grow.

That amount is the largest increase in support for agricultural research, marketing and education programs in at least six years.

Senator Ritchie’s Young Farmers NY plan was modeled on successful programs in other states that are bringing young people back to agriculture.

“To keep farms growing from generation to generation, we need to break down some of the barriers to young farmers, such as the high cost of farmland and equipment, education and red tape,” said Ritchie, who chairs the Senate’s Agriculture Committee.

“Approval of my Young Farmers plan by the Senate is a step toward ensuring that family farmers will continue to feed New Yorkers into the future," she said.

Young Farmers NY included a number of provisions intended to ease the passage of farms across generations, as well as help beginning farmers star their own successful farm businesses, including:

· a $5 million revolving loan fund to help beginning farmers purchase land and equipment, and tax credits to encourage retiring farmers to sell their business to another farmer, instead of a developer;

· $1 million in innovation grants to provide start-up funding for novice farmers;

· Farm Savings Accounts to encourage families to save for the purchase of a first farm;

· An apprentice program for beginning farmers, administered by local BOCES;

· Student loan forgiveness;

· Increased funding for high school based ag education.

In addition to embracing the Young Farmers plan, the Senate also approved increased funding for agricultural programs, as well as funding for new initiatives.
The $9 million in added funding is a significant increase, and continues Senator Ritchie’s efforts to reverse years of cuts that occurred before she joined the Senate, and which devastated many programs that farmers relied on to improve their bottom line and help their businesses grow.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Farm Workshop Being Offered in Mexico

Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Oswego County will be hosting a workshop titled "So you've bought a farm… now what?” from 6 to 9 p.m. March 27, April 10 and April 24 at the Mexico Library.

The focus is to educate new landowners and farmers interested in transitioning or adding to their current business. This program is designed to help these farmers make use of their land resources in a manner that fits their personal and business goals.

Individuals attending the workshop will have an opportunity to attend three evenings of agriculture topics. 

Topics to be discussed include maintaining land value for agricultural production, the purchase of farm machinery, raising livestock, including beef, sheep, goat, poultry, and swine, planning and production of fruits, vegetables and managing greenhouse operations.

Cost of the workshop will be $15 per person per session. Anyone interested must pre-register no later than the morning of March 27. For more information or to register please call Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County at 963-7286.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ag Secretary Comments on Obama's Budget

Here is a statement from Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack on the proposed federal budget from President Obama:

“The President’s 2015 USDA budget proposal achieves reform and results for the American taxpayer; fosters opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and supports innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.
The budget focuses on creating jobs and building a foundation for future economic growth, particularly in rural America, where 85 percent of our nation’s persistent poverty counties are located.

It supports farmers, ranchers and growers as they achieve net farm income well above the average of the previous decade. Mid-sized farms and livestock producers continue to face challenges as a result of prolonged drought. We are hopeful that implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, which restores disaster assistance and invests in programs to help beginning, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, will provide much-needed stability for producers moving forward.

To support hardworking Americans as they find and keep jobs and transition out of nutrition assistance programs, we have invested in programs that will build the skills they need to get back into the workforce. 

The budget continues to fund programs that, since 2009, have helped more than 800,000 families buy, repair or refinance a home; extended new or improved broadband service for more than 7 million Americans and 364,000 rural businesses; improved or constructed more than 90,000 miles of electric line; invested in 6,700 water and wastewater projects for nearly 20 million Americans; and provided grants and loans to assist nearly 75,000 rural small and mid-sized businesses in rural America, creating or saving more than 377,000 jobs.
To help America’s producers break into new exports markets for farm and ranch products, and building off of President Obama’s recently announced Made in Rural America export initiative, we will continue funding for trade promotion and market expansion. Last fiscal year, farm and ranch exports reached a record $141 billion and supported nearly one million American jobs.

Here at home, we continue to capitalize on nearly limitless opportunities to use what is grown and raised on our farms and ranches in innovative and unexpected ways. Supported by the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill, the budget makes targeted investments in biobased product manufacturing, local and regional food systems, and specialty crops and organic production. 

Building on historic efforts underway across rural America, the budget adds about 23 million acres of land to USDA conservation efforts and sustains 25 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, ensuring clean air, clean and abundant water and critical wildlife habitat for generations to come. 

The budget also proposes a new approach to wild land fire suppression, which will allow the Forest Service to stabilize and invest in programs that more effectively restore forested landscapes and support those living in communities impacted by wildfire to avert and minimize damage from future wildfires.
The 2015 budget makes strategic investments that further innovation and encourage creative approaches to solving rural America’s most pressing challenges. The budget provides increased funding of $325 million for our premier competitive grants program to support the cutting edge research that will help producers adapt and succeed in the face of modern challenges, including a changing climate. It also provides $25 million each to three public-private innovation institutes that focus on biobased product manufacturing, pollinator health, and anti-microbial resistance research, respectively.

At the same time, the 2015 budget recognizes fiscal realities. It supports USDA’s ongoing efforts to modernize and update the way we do business. It builds off of our efforts through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, which in recent years has saved the American taxpayer a total of $1.2 billion while ensuring that USDA customers receive the best possible service. Our leaner workforce continues to find ways to implement increasingly complex programs with fewer resources.
The security of our nation’s food and fiber supply depends on what we do today to support a rural America that is increasingly nimble, diverse and responsive to changing consumer tastes. The 2015 budget proposal, and the tools provided in the new farm bill, will help to create jobs and drive long-term, sustainable economic growth in rural America, while equipping our farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to survive and thrive.

Senate GOP Introduces "Young Farmers NY" Program; Will Include Funding for it In Budget Resolution

Sen. Patricia Ritchie, center, is pictured at the press conference with Jessica and Orion Behling, left, of Mexico, Oswego County, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, at podium, and Sen. Cathy Young, right.
State Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today unveiled her “Young Farmers NY” plan to address issues related to the advancing average age of New York farmers and to preserve the future of family farming.  

The initiative will support and encourage a new generation of farmers and help strengthen the state’s leading industry for decades to come.

“Young Farmers NY,” which was announced today at a Capitol news conference, is a series of proposals to smooth the transfer of farmland to the next generation, preserve existing farmland, and help young farmers overcome obstacles to give them a greater opportunity for a successful career in agriculture.

 “Farming is critically important to the economic success of our state. It’s also a way of life, handed down from generation to generation,” Ritchie said. “But the next generation of family farmers is being driven off the land by skyrocketing start-up expenses, tight profit margins, and high risk. 

"The real risk we face is a continuing decline in family farms if we don’t do more to preserve them by investing in the next generation of farmers. The Senate plan would do that and more,” she said.

The Senator was joined at the news conference by Orion and Jessica Behling, co-operators of Behling Orchards, a family-run apple farm in Mexico, Oswego County. Orion is also president of Young Farmers and Ranchers of Oswego County.

“When farming is in your family's DNA, it's hard to imagine doing anything else," Orion Behling said. "Farming is hard work at any age, but beginning farmers face particular challenges in starting their business, and the Senate's plan takes away some of the uncertainty, and helps us create a foundation for future success.”

Young Farmers NY is in response to research that shows the average age of New York farmers is increasing, as fewer young people pursue farming careers.  

According to new data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the average age of New York farmers is now 57.1 years. There are two farmers aged 65 and older for each one under age 35.  This and other factors lead to farmland being lost forever to development.  About 50,000 acres of farmland were lost in New York in each of the last five years, the federal agency reported.

Young Farmers NY addresses these problems in two ways, by helping to encourage more young people to consider a farming career, and by reducing financial roadblocks to starting a new agriculture business. The plan calls for a state investment of more than $30 million.

Highlights of the Young Farmers NY program include:

  • Loans, grants and tax credits for the sale or lease of land and equipment, as well as for new technological innovations;
  • Estate tax reforms to encourage farm preservation from generation to generation; and
  • Agricultural education efforts including an apprenticeship program, student loan forgiveness and increased funding for the in-school Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.
"As the average age of farmers grows each year, it is imperative that we encourage and promote the development of our young farmer community," said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau and a dairy farmer in Genesee County. 

"This plan is designed to not only help young farmers that are already involved in agriculture, but to get more young people involved in farming. New York Farm Bureau thanks Senator Skelos, Senator Ritchie and the Senate Republican Conference for their work to ensure that New York State agriculture remains the state’s top industry,” Norton said.

Additional components of the Young Farmers NY program include the following:


The biggest single obstacle to starting a farm business is the high cost of land, equipment and supplies for starting farmers. 

Long-time farmers face pressure to sell to developers for higher prices than can be gained from keeping land in farming, lenders can be wary of extending credit to untested new farmers, and the state’s tax code makes it difficult for farmers to pass on their business to the next generation. Young Farmers NY seeks to help prospective farmers overcome these obstacles.

  • Young Farmer Farm Preservation Tax Credit: Provides eligible farmers with up to 10 percent of the sale or rental price for the sale or lease of land or equipment to a new farmer. This preserves farmland, allows retiring farmers a more equitable return on their lifelong investment, and lowers the cost of farmland for beginning farmers. ($5 million)
  • Young Farmer Revolving Loan Fund: Provides $5 million for start-up loans for land and equipment purchases by new farmers. ($5 million) Young Farmer Innovation Grants: Allocates up to $50,000 for new farmers through a competitive grant program that seeks to encourage new technology or production innovation. ($1 million)
  • Farm Savings Accounts: Establishes savings accounts similar to college or retirement accounts.  Savings intended for the purchase of farmland or equipment would grow tax-free. ($5 million)
  • Estate Tax reform: Increases the estate tax exemption and lower rates as proposed in the Executive Budget. ($14 million)


Just as many other successful industries, modern farming relies on technology and cutting-edge information to improve production, cut costs and boost profits. Young Farmers NY includes:

·         Young Farmer Apprenticeship Program: Provides funding to BOCES programs to establish partnerships with real working farmers to help young people gain hands-on experience they can bring to their own successful farm operation. ($500,000)

·         Young Farmer Student Loan Forgiveness Program: Directs the Board of Regents to establish a student loan forgiveness program for up to 10 agriculture degree graduates annually who agree to work full-time in agriculture a minimum of five years. ($100,000)

·         Funding for Agriculture Education: Increases funding for the in-school FFA program, which encourages careers in agriculture. There are 77 FFA chapters in New York, including in New York City. ($158,000)

The Young Farmers NY program will be included in the Senate’s budget resolution.

State Offering Request for Proposals for Farm Market Initiative

The state of New York today announced a $130,000 Request for Proposal for the “FreshConnect” Farmers’ Market program, which assists New York farmers by promoting the sale of locally-grown food products. 

The program, in its fourth year, focuses on bringing fresh farm products to nutritionally-underserved communities and improving nutrition education statewide.

This year, the $130,000 Request for Proposal will focus on supporting at least 13 traditional farmers’ market and youth market grant projects across the state. Under this initiative, new and existing farmers' markets, municipalities and nonprofits may apply for up to $10,000, and those with the best ideas on how to improve access to farmers' markets participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be awarded funding. 

In addition, $200,000 in "FreshConnect Checks" will be released this year to serve low-income families across the state, including, for the first time, $50,000 directed to veterans of all ages. Checks will be begin being distributed through veterans facilities this summer, based on proximity to eligible farmers' markets.

The “FreshConnect Checks” program encourages the use of SNAP benefits at participating farmers’ markets by providing $2 incentive coupons for every $5 in SNAP benefits. 

In 2013, over $3.2 million in SNAP sales occurred at farmers' markets throughout the state. In addition to SNAP, FreshConnect-funded projects aim to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are encouraged to accept other nutrition incentives, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit & Vegetable Checks, Farmers' Market Nutrition Program checks, and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition checks.

Press Conference Today on Future of NYS Farming

State Sen. Patricia Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will be joined at 1 p.m. today by members of the Senate Republican Conference to make an announcement about a new initiative to preserve family farms.

The press conference is at 1 in Room 124 of the State Capitol. Ritchie and the Republicans also will be joined by many young farmers and leaders in the agriculture industry.

The new initiative is aimed at preserving family farms, encouraging the next generation of young farmers and strengthening the ag industry in New York state.

The news conference will be livestreamed at


Organic, GMOs, Yes or No??

Check out this interesting blog entry from the Genetic Literacy Project.

Then send some comments on what you think.

Monday, March 3, 2014

State Begins new Ag Task Force

A new Strategic Interagency Task Force on Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture (SILO) has been formed in New York state to address barriers to the growth of New York’s agricultural economy. 

Task force members, comprised of leadership from state government and representatives from the field of agriculture, will work together to ensure that state agencies that deal with farmers are communicating regularly, interacting efficiently, and lessening regulations on farms. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo already has conducted a number of "summits" to learn more about various parts of the agriculture industry to try to help them grow. The summit approach already has paid dividends for New York agriculture. 

Since the inaugural Yogurt Summit, where state government listened to the needs of industry and acted accordingly, New York has become the yogurt capital of the nation and reclaimed its status as the number three producer of milk nationwide. New York has also experienced a 72 percent increase in farm-based beverage licenses since 2011, in part as a result of reforms enacted at the first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit.

Additionally, New York is traditionally the second highest producer of apples in the nation and by many accounts, 2013 was the best year for the state’s apple industry in a generation. New York also ranks first in cabbage production, second in maple production, and third in wine and grape juice production. 

Industry members of the Task Force are as follows:
          Brian Reeves, co-owner, Reeves Farms, Baldwinsville, NY
      Jeff Williams, Director of Public Policy, New York Farm Bureau
      Jim Bittner, President and General Manager, Singer Farms, Appleton, NY
      Cathy Martin, Co-Owner, Martin Farms, Brockport, NY
      Ken Schmitt, retired vegetable farmer, Melville, NY
      Dave Fisher, Owner, Mapleview Dairy, Madrid, NY
      Tim Stanton, Owner, Stanton’s Feura Farm and Markets, Feura Bush, NY
      Tonya Van Slyke, Executive Director, Northeast Dairy Producers Association

State agencies taking part in the Task Force are as follows:
    New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets 
    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 
    New York State Department of Labor 
    New York State Department of Transportation 
    New York State Public Service Commission
    New York State Department of Health
    New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
    Empire State Development 
    Department of Tax and Finance
    State Liquor Authority

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Documentary on Migrant Women Farmworkers to be Shown March 2

An award-winning documentary that follows the lives of five women migrant farmworkers in Wayne County will be shown Sunday, March 2 in Central Square.
"After I Pick the Fruit: The Lives of Migrant Women," by Nancy Ghertner, will be screened at 12:30 p.m. at First Universalist Society of Central Square, 3243 Fulton Ave. (state Route 49 just west of US Route 11). Ghertner will speak after the 93-minute screening.
The film begins and ends in the apple orchards around Sodus, but includes footage shot in Chilapa de Diaz, Mexico; at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, the orange groves of Florida, the Capitol Building in Albany and the women's homes when the work day is done. Ghertner spent 10 years filming the women.
Sunday's program is co-sponsored by the Workers' Center of Central New York, based in Syracuse.
"After I Pick the Fruit" follows the women as they struggle to fulfill their roles as workers, wives, mothers and members of an isolated community that's almost invisible to the outside world. It is an intensely personal film, born of friendships between Ghertner and each of the five women, who ask to be identified only as Soledad, Vierge, Maria, Elisa and Lorena.
The Bush Administration's post-9/11 crackdown on illegal immigration is pivotal. Three of the women are undocumented. Ghertner shows how raids in 2006 affect the women, their families, farmers and residents in and around Sodus.
"I was inspired to make the film after seeing women working in the fields and orchards near my  hometown of Sodus," Ghertner says on her website, "I wanted to meet them, to understand how they lived and what happened -- after they picked the fruit."
Once she got to know the women, Ghertner says she was driven "to make the invisible visible" and raise awareness about the human price of getting fresh fruit to the supermarket.
The film earned an award of excellence at the 2012 International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration, and Equality. It received a documentary award at the Southern Appalachian International Film Festival.
In 2012, "After I Pick the Fruit" was an official selection for both the Reel to Reel International Film Festival and the Twin Cities Film Fest.
Ghertner will have DVDs available for purchase after the Central Square screening. Proceeds, less production costs, benefit the Las Mujeres Divinas Scholarship Fund, which supports farmworker women and their children's education.
Donations in support of the Workers' Center of Central New York also will be accepted, although the program is free. The Workers' Center advocates and empowers low-wage and vulnerable workers, including farmworkers.