Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Apple Time in NYS

It's apple time again in New York state.

For information about all the wonderful varieties of apples grown here, go to When there, click on "find apples/event" to locate a grower near you and click on "varieties" to find out about all the different locally grown apples you have to choose from in New York state.

You also can go the Horticulture Building during the State Fair and check out the apple exhibit. Folks working there would be happy to answer your questions.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dairy Day Filled with Fun, Real-Life Heartache

By Debra J. Groom

It was all about dairy on Monday for Dairy Day at the Great New York State Fair.

Here’s the lo-down on what happened.

Cow is sutured after a C-section in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center
Dairy Drama

The only way any dairy product makes its way to our plates, bowls or cups is with the birth of a calf.

Once a dairy calf is born, the mother cow begins producing milk which the farmer collects, sells to processors and then it is made into yummy fluid milk, ice cream, all sorts of cheeses, sour cream, cream, butter and yogurt.

Fairgoers – for the second straight year – get the chance to witness this “udder miracle” of birth each day at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center. Put on by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition and its director Jessica Ziehm, three calves are born each day at the fair.

But on Dairy Day, things were different. Fairgoers not only got to witness birth, but they got to see the real nitty-gritty of farm life. They got to see that sometimes, things don’t go well.

A 5-year-old Holstein from Walnut Ridge Dairy in Lansing, Tompkins County, went into labor about 8 a.m. Most expected her calf to be born about noon or a little after.

Another cow gave birth about 11 a.m. – a little bull. The Dairy Cow Birthing Center was packed with more than 600 people anxiously awaiting the second birth.

But something was wrong. Steve Palladino, a partner on the Lansing farm, said the labor wasn’t progressing normally. Veterinarians from Cornell University who are working the fair came in to check her out.

Donning their long plastic sleeves, they pushed their arms deep inside the cow’s vagina and uterus. Their diagnosis – there might be two calves (which is rare), the calf or calves are in the wrong position to be born or the calf or calves may be stillborn.

The vets tried to get the calf or calves out the normal way, but it didn’t work. They believed the calf or calves were deformed.

A C-section had to be performed right there, right in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center.

“This is Steve’s cow and he cares very much about all his animals,” Ziehm told the crowd. “This is the best move for the cow.”

Little bull calf born earlier on Monday
The fairgoers were told this would be a bit messy and traumatic and they should decide whether they want to stay for the operation. “Sometimes what happens on the farm doesn’t smell good and doesn’t look good,” Ziehm said. “But unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong when you’re dealing with life.”

The vets gave the cow a local anesthetic, shaved the area where the incision could be made, cleaned the area numerous times, and then made the cut on her left side. This side faced away from all fairgoers but is the normal side for a C-section incision, Palladino said.

When the vet finally cut through to the uterus, he and everyone else still wasn’t sure what he would find. He pulled out one calf – it was deformed and stillborn. There wasn’t a second calf.

A collective “awwwwww” moved through the barn.

The cow was stitched up and will be fine. She will undergo a series of antibiotics to cut down on the chances of infection.

Ziehm, who grew up on a dairy farm and married a dairy farmer, said she had never seen a C-section on a cow. It is quite rare.

“This was not ideal,” Ziehm said. But she said it was important to go ahead with the C-section right there in front of the public to “enhance the transparency” of what farmers do to care for their animals. She said they didn’t want it to be secretive so the public would wonder what they are doing to the cow.

“This is real life and everything we’re doing is for the health of this cow,” Ziehm said during the C-section. “This is as transparent as it’s going to get.”

This was the cow's third calf. Palladino said she will be able to have another calf in the future.

Frank Adamski, right, of the Dairy Products Building Task Force, holds a block of cheese for auctioneer Bill Magee, left.
Do I hear $25?

Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, Madison County, was back at the State Fair again in his role as auctioneer during the annual Cheese Auction. Bricks of sharp New York state cheddar – ranging in size from 2 pounds to 40 pounds – are sold to raise money for the Dairy Products Building.   

He auctioned off 22 bricks of cheese and four baskets filled with various cheeses from New York producers such as Kraft, Yancey’s Fancy, Heluva Good, Great Lakes Cheese, Macadam, Colosse, Herkimer Cheese and Sorrento.

Magee, who is chair of the state Assembly Agriculture committee, also works as an auctioneer.

Yogurt Bar a hit

A yogurt parfait with strawberries and blueberries
People were lined up throughout the day to get a parfait made of regular or Greek yogurt at the new YO2GO yogurt bar in the Dairy Products Building.

Gary Repko, who was running the bar, said business has picked up each day of the fair. As of about noon Monday, he estimated the bar had sold 4,500 pounds of regular and Greek yogurt.

“I’ve been surprised, we’re selling more Greek,” he said, noting it’s about 60-40 on Greek to regular yogurt sales.

Fairgoers can buy either type of yogurt which is served in a parfait cup and then have it covered with a variety of toppings. The yogurt is about as fresh as it can get – it’s made at Cornell University in its own processing plant with milk from its own herd of dairy cattle.

Melissa Midgley and Teddy Boileau of The Dinosaur 95.3 and 103.9 radio in Syracuse and Otsego County Dairy Princess Sandy Mravlja work on their milkshake during the celebrity milkshake contest. Their special ingredient was coffee.
If that news gig doesn’t work out …

The team from NewsChannel 9 WSYR TV won the annual Celebrity Milkshake Making Contest on Dairy Day at the State Fair.

Teams from various television and radio stations (with help from county dairy princesses) had to concoct milkshakes using special ingredients they were given, such as Marshmallow Fluff, fiber cereal, coffee and peanut butter. Channel 9’s special ingredient was coconut pudding.

Yancey is Fancy

The annual Dairy Products competition is complete and the winners are on display in the Dairy Products Building.

The grand champion was gouda cheese made by Yancey’s Fancy, located in Corfu in Genesee County.

Gold and silver awards are given in many categories, such as dip, ricotta, cold-pak process cheese, fluid milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, flavored natural cheese, lowfat yogurt and cheeses from milk other than a cow. Then the gold winners are all judged to come up with a grand champion.

Rachel Rouland, of Clifton Springs, with Spice Girl before their appearance on the Bridge Street TV show on Dairy Day.
A large industry

Dairy is king as far as New York agriculture is concerned.

New York’s dairy industry generates more than $2.8 billion in farm sales, constituting nearly half of the state’s total agricultural receipts. The state is the third leading producer of milk in the nation, with 610,000 dairy cows producing more than 13.5 billion pounds of milk annually.

The state ranks first in the nation in the production of yogurt and cottage cheese. Wyoming County is the state’s top dairy county, followed by Cayuga County and St. Lawrence County.


Dairy Day at the State Fair

I'm off to Dairy Day at the Great New York State Fair today.

Check back for a story later!

Friday, August 22, 2014

New York Farm Bureau President Tours State Fair

To see a video about the farm providing cows for the first couple of days at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center, go to

Watching the birth of a calf may seem old hand to someone like New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.

But Thursday, while touring the New York State Fair, Norton, whose family owns a dairy farm in Genesee County, stopped in to see the Dairy Cow Birthing Center and witnessed a new life come into the world.

“People were amazed,” Norton said of the hundreds on hand for the birth – the beginning of the cycle of producing dairy products like milk, ice cream and cheese.

“There were a lot of ooohs and aaaahs,” he said.

This is the second year for the birthing center, which was a hit during its debut at the 2013 fair. It has expanded this year with more space and more seating. Three live births are scheduled for each of the 12 days of the fair.

Norton spent his hours at the fair talking to farmers about what concerns they have in the agriculture industry and talking with state residents about what farmers do and the importance of agriculture in New York state.

He also discussed two pieces of legislation that will be important to farmers this year.

One is the farmworker bill. This proposed law has been written and comes up for action in the state Legislature each year. But to date, it has not passed.

Norton said the bill – being pushed by legislators from New York City – would require overtime, mandatory days of rest and collective bargaining for farm workers and more inspections of worker domiciles.

Farm Bureau is opposed to the bill because of the additional cost and regulation it would put upon farmers. Norton said the bill is unneeded because farmers already treat their workers well.

“Legislators from the city seem to think we’re harming our workers,” Norton said. 

Norton said he and Farm Bureau also hope to work with the state Legislature “to help rural counties start FFA programs.”

“We would like to put together a fund to expand FFA and agriculture education throughout New York state,” Norton said. He said tight budgets and other educational mandates preclude school districts in the state to create FFA program, so county farm bureaus, educators and other officials could work together to see gifts, grants and state money to start these FFA chapters.

“Ag education is very important,” Norton said.

In addition to talking to fairgoers and farmers and discussing legislation, Norton also made time for a fair tradition.

“I got my Gianelli sausage sandwich,” he said.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grants Available to Form Dairy Profit Teams

From the New York Farm Viability Institute:

The New York Farm Viability Initiative is encouraging dairy farmers to apply now for $2,500 grants to form dairy profit teams for their farm.

“Right now, with milk prices so good, is the time to think about improvements. You want to maximize your yields, while continuing to manage your costs," said Ron Robbins, owner of North Harbor Dairy in Sackets Harbor and a Farm Viability Institute board member. "The right team of experts, all chosen by you, can help you see where the opportunities are. Lining up your money now, while it’s available, is a smart move.”

“I understand that taking that first step can be challenging. It’s hard to step back from the daily priorities and share with others the big picture of your operations,” Robbins said.

Profit teams are a well-proven concept in New York. The state’s farmers have been using this approach, sometimes called advisory teams, successfully for the last 10 years.

The New York Farm Viability Institute is honored to have been entrusted with a legislative appropriation through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to help dairy farmers who haven’t used profit teams get started.

“I hope more farms will enroll and utilize the funds available to them. Over the years I’ve seen such great results from this approach. In many cases the work from these teams has literally saved a business," said Managing Director David Grusenmeyer. "The funds are directed solely by the farmer; some teams are improving herd health, others are focused on milk quantity. Some are even working with financial advisors to develop succession plans. It’s all up to the farmer to decide.”

The application for a Dairy Profit Team grant can be found at

New York State Fair Opens Today

Go to for information on all agriculture exhibits, schedules and events.

New York state is agriculture.

And agriculture is New York state.

How can you tell? Just visit the Great New York State Fair.

Yes, folks, there is much more to the fair than the rides, the concerts and the food. It’s amazing what you will see if you venture just a short ways outside the Grandstand, Chevy Court or the Midway.

Step inside any of the animal buildings and see all the different breeds of cows, sheep, goats, horses and poultry. Talk to the farmers. Ask them questions. They don’t mind. In fact, they love it.

Beef cattle in the beef barn in 2013
Do you know the difference between a Charolais and a Limousin? Go to the beef cattle barn to find out. Why do some farmers raise Jerseys or Belted Galloways instead of the ever-popular black and white Holsteins? Ask the farmers in the dairy cattle building.

Why do roosters crow? Each day at 11 a.m. in the poultry building, roosters from across the state compete in a crowing contest. I bet some farmers there can give you the low-down on that noisy affair.

And while the state doesn’t have a lot of goat, pig and sheep farmers, that doesn’t mean these folks aren’t passionate about their animals.

This goat checks out the photographer at the 2013 fair.
Go to the goat barn to find out the difference between meat and dairy goats and what goat meat and milk are used for. In the same building, see all the swine of different colors and sizes. Watch a sheep being shorn and find out about what all that wool is used for in the sheep barn. 

Also check out the llamas and alpacas, other animals which supply fiber for clothing. They also are some of the most curious creatures and love having their photos taken.

There are few animals more beautiful than horses and you not only can see them up close and personal in the horse barn, but then go to the Coliseum to watch them compete. There is every type of horse imaginable in this great state of ours – from miniatures to the grand workers Percherons and Belgians – and they all are majestic and mighty and worthy of our attention.

And of course, agriculture isn’t just animals.

Maple syrup at the 2013 State Fair
Be sure to stop at my favorite building – the Horticulture Building -- to see the busy bees making honey, taste some gooey sweet maple products or buy a New York state apple for a delicious and nutritious State Fair snack.

There also are many booths and exhibits of other state agriculture products, such as grains, beer, plants, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees (yes, folks, this all is agriculture).

And just outside the right front door of the Horticulture Building, fairgoers can begin to dream of a white Christmas by checking out the New York State Christmas Tree Growers Association and its display of award-winning trees. You might even see Santa and some snow!

The biggest part of the state’s agriculture industry is, of course, dairy.

New York ranks third in the United States in dairy production, behind California and Wisconsin. It ranks number 1 in the country in the production of cottage cheese and yogurt. Annual sales of New York milk total nearly $500 million.

Farmers in New York supply milk to plants throughout the state that are making all types of hard and soft cheeses, fluid milk, ice cream, regular and Greek yogurts, butter, cream and half and half. There’s nothing better than coming out of a store with some dairy products that you know were made just a day or two ago from fresh, New York milk.

While at the State Fair, be sure to taste some of these dairy products in the Dairy Products Building, where you can get milk at the ever-popular Rainbow Milk Bar, cheese, ice cream and – new this year – yogurt at the Yo2Go Yogurt Bar.

Photo supplied by NY Animal Agriculture Coalition
Also, be sure to stop into the dairy cattle building and see all the different breeds that call New York home. Then head back toward the FFA Building and next door, stop at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center. The center, run by the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, is in its second year and features the live births of dairy calves.

This is where the process of all that delicious milk begins.

Anyone who wants a beverage with a little more a kick than milk can go to the Colannade (the columned area between the Dairy Products and Science and Industry Buildings) to visit the Wine Court. Here you can buy and taste wonderful New York state wines. Talk to the winery owners and find out about just what New York state has to offer.

Tastings of various wine and cheese pairings also are available in the Pride of NY Room located in the back of the Horticulture Building at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. every day except Labor Day. Each day will be hosted by a different New York. On Labor Day, the area will host beer tasting seminars at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.

Holstein ready to show at the 2013 State Fair
You see – you could spend an entire day at the Great New York State Fair and do nothing but check out the agriculture offered by the farmers of this state. This is the time for the farmers to shine, to show off what they do 365 days a year to all of the great consumers in the state.

So, even if you do attend a concert, play some games on the Midway or chow down on sausage sandwiches or blooming onions, please try to spend some time with the farmers. Thanks to them, we have the most fabulous food in the world that is grown or raised right here in our backyards on our plates each day.

I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

State Fair Butter Sculpture Unveiled

The 2014 New York State Fair Butter Sculpture
The campaign to get more milk into food banks and onto the tables of lower-income families is the theme of this year's Butter Sculpture at the New York State Fair.

Sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton have put together a piece that shows a dairy famer dropping off fresh gallons of milk at his local food bank. Dairy farmers, milk processors and Feeding America have joined forces to raise awareness and improve access to milk for families in need through the Great American Milk Drive.

And fairgoers will be able to help out too.

"We're encouraging fairgoers to make their own donations, either by visiting the website or by texting MILK to 80088, to give $5 to Feeding America," said Rick Naczi, chief executive officer for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council in Syracuse. "These donations will be converted into coupons for milk so that local food pantries can best manage their supply."

The state's food banks are able to provide only about one gallon of milk each year to the families they serve, according to statistics from the American Dairy Association. Feeding America, dairy farmers and milk processors -- through the Great American Milk Drive -- hope to bring more milk into food banks.


Cornell Makes Yogurt for Fair Yogurt Bar

Check out Cornell's yogurt at the New York State Fair.

Go to to check out the story.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy Birthday!!!

Got this off Facebook. A great organization. Happy Birthday, American Farmland Trust!!!