Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Dairy Day at the New York State Fair

Thank a cow and a dairy farmer today.

Here are today's dairy events at the fair:

       o   9 a.m.:  Dairy Day awards breakfast in the Empire Room.
o   10:30 a.m.: Celebrity Milkshake Contest, Chevy Court Pavilion.  Members of the press show off their skill at making a unique milkshake flavor while trying to beat the clock. 
o   11 a.m.: The Big Cheese auction.  Cheese in blocks small, large, and gigantic are auctioned off at the Chevy Court Pavilion.  Free samples available while you bid!
o   6 p.m.:  Dairy Day goes to the State Fair Daily Parade.  Dairy princesses, milk trucks, and lots of streetside giveaways highlight this edition of the parade around Chevy Court.
                o   All day:  Cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufmann will carve cheddar into unique sculptures in the Dairy Products Building.

Cream Cheese Festival is Sept. 19 in Lowville

It's coming. Mark your calendar!

Yum. Cream cheese.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Get Ready for Apple Picking in New York

Gala apples at Abbott Farm in Lysander

Have you ever thought about that custom of bringing an apple to the teacher?

Well I wonder if that started because apples are ready for picking just about the time kids go back to school?

Early varieties of apples are ready now, depending on which  orchard you visit. Orchard owners say there is a great crop this year, with apples big, juicy and tasty.

The U.S. Apple Association forecasts that New York's crop will be great, but not quite as plentiful as last year. The association predicts a crop of 26.2 million bushels in New York for 2015, down from 30.8 million bushels in 2014.

Paula Reds are the first off the tree and a few orchards (Deer Run in LaFayette, Beak and Skiff in LaFayette) are open for customers who desire this tart, juicy and crisp apple.

Some others, such as Navarino Orchard on Route 20 west of LaFayette in Navarino, are open now with Zestars (crisp and juicy) and Paula Reds. Warren Abbott at Abbott Farm on Route 370 in Lysander said he opened Aug. 22 for Zestars and Sansas (sweet apple and a cross of Gala and Akane). Adams Acres in Pompey will be open about Labor Day and O’Neill Orchard in LaFayette plans to open Aug. 29.

Call the Onondaga County orchard of your choice for an exact date on when they will be open for the season.

Here is a list of most of the orchards in Onondaga County:

Beak and Skiff, Route 20, LaFayette, 696-6085

Adams Acres, Sevier Road, town of Pompey, 498-6654

Navarino Orchard, Route 20, Navarino, 673-9181

McLusky Orchard, LaFayette, 677-5176

Abbott Farm, Route 370, Lysander, 638-7783

O’Neill Orchard, Route 20, LaFayette, 677-9407

Deer Run Farm, Route 11A, LaFayette, 677-8087

Clearview Orchard, Tully, 696-6438

Apples also are available in other parts of the state. Go to to find a place where you can pick your own apples in New York state. Also, check out to see all the different apple varieties that are grown in New York, what they taste like and their best uses (applesauce, pies, fresh eating, etc.)

North Country People At the New York State Fair

Here is my story about the first day of the fair and North Country people at the fair:

Katie and Michael Stoffel of Antwerp enjoy their chocolate milk at the fair.
It was exceptionally cool (sometimes downright cold) and rainy on the first day of the New York State Fair Thursday.

But that didn’t keep the folks from coming out for food, animals, music, product demonstrations and rides at the fairgrounds in Geddes, just west of Syracuse.Thousands had come through the turnstiles by Thursday afternoon. And while they were at the fair, they were greeted by many fair exhibitors and fair workers who are from Northern New York.

Here are some of their stories:

Iroquois Village -- The Iroquois Village is a proud part of the
Margaret Burnam, a Mohawk, at the Iroquois Village
fairgrounds in which people from the Six Nations of the Iroquois tell fair visitors of the history of their people and share their customs and lives.

One of them is Margaret Burnam, 73, a Mohawk formerly from Hogansburg, St. Lawrence County. She has been coming to the State Fair since she was 6 years old and still remembers years when she would participate in the dances put on by the Native Americans at the village.

“I would dance when I felt like it,” she said. “Then I would run over to the Midway.”

Thursday, she was cleaning up the Mohawk booth where handmade jewelry and other items are sold. A downpour had just swept through and one side of the booth was wet.

“I love it here,” she said. “People come here and ask questions.”

She lamented the fact that visitors often don’t know very much about the Six Nations of the Iroquois. She tries to help when she can. She recommends books for people to read and has even had people come back to her the next year to thank her for the recommendation.

Ms. Burnam will be at the fair all 12 days.

Milking and birthing cows – Teri Martin, of the town of Fowler,
Teri Martin in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center
St. Lawrence County, is doing double duty at the state fair.

She is in charge of the milking parlor, where all the cows being shown and displayed in the dairy cattle building come at least twice a day to be milked. About 500 cows are milked there and Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative, picks up the milk for processing.

She also volunteers (when cows aren’t being milked) at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center, answering questions from those watching calves being born.

“I was showing cows here about 20 years ago and they needed someone to run the milking parlor. I said ‘I can do that,’” Mrs. Martin said. “Then three years ago when the birthing center started, Jessica (Jessica Ziehm, who run the birthing center) came to us at the milking parlor to see if we wanted to work at the center. So here I am.”

Mrs. Martin is happy to answer questions at the birthing center because “the more we education we can do the better for all of us.”

“And I like answering questions,” she said. “Most people are four generations removed from the farm, so they need to know what we do.”

She’s been asked some doozy questions. Someone wanted to know if you really can tip a cow over. Does chocolate milk come only from brown cows? Do cows bite? Does it hurt cows when they’re milked?

“No question is too silly,” Mrs. Martin said.

Mrs. Martin and her husband, David, have Holsteins and Brown Swiss on their second-generation dairy farm.

Keeping the peace – Sgt. Gary Mattimore is the station
Sgt. Gary Mattimore
commander for the New York State Police in Gouverneur, St. Lawrence County.

But this week, he is the day shift supervisor for the state police exhibit at the New York State Fair. The 21-year state police veteran ensures the exhibit is running smoothly, that all the demonstrations are being done correctly and on time and that fair visitors are getting their questions answered.

“It’s a fun detail. I like to help people out and make sure everything is running smoothly,” Sgt. Mattimore said. He said some of the incidents troopers may have to deal with at the fair include fights, injuries and thefts.

The state police exhibit includes the canine unit and its handlers, the scuba detail, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, recruiters and those operating the rollover demonstration. On Thursday, Sgt. Mattimore was helped with the rollover demonstration, picking up dummies that had been thrown out of the rolling vehicle and putting them back in the car.

This is his third year working the state fair. He is north country through and through, being a native of Lewis County and having worked in Plattsburgh, Canton, Carthage,  Lowville, Ray Brook and Gouverneur during his career. He was senior firearms instructor at Ray Brook.

Merry Christmas – Even though it’s only August, Cathy Jo and
Cathy Jo and Rob Brown of Three B Christmas Tree Farm
Robert Brown always have Christmas on their minds.

They run Three B Christmas Tree farm in Norfolk, located between Potsdam and Massena in St. Lawrence County. They also have a farm in Jordan in Onondaga County.

They were working Thursday at the state fair booth for the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York.

“The foremost thing we do here at our farm is education,” said Mrs. Brown. “When people come out, it’s almost Christmas and everybody’s happy and you can please most people.”

What most fairgoers don’t realize is Christmas tree producers don’t work just from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

I could work seven days a week right now. It started as a hobby, but, it’s not a hobby,” he laughed.

Mrs. Brown said the only time Christmas tree growers aren’t working in the fields is January to March. Then spring comes and they are out trimming trees constantly and then mowing the land around the trees. The Browns have 43 acres in St. Lawrence County and sell blue spruce, Fraser firs and balsams.

“We sell those because of the frost and cold we get up there,” Mrs. Brown said. “Some varieties don’t do well in those conditions.”

And even though running a Christmas tree farm and selling wreaths and other greenery decorations they make takes them away from enjoying their own Christmas season, they wouldn’t give it up for the world.

“I’ve always enjoyed the tree farm business,” Mr. Brown said. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary in business this year.

Sweet maple --  Nadeen Lyndaker, one of the owners of Lyndaker Maple Orchard in Croghan,  Lewis County, was putting people to
Todd Hofheins, of Attica, Wyoming County, and Nadeen Lyndaker, of Croghan, Lewis County, man the education center for the New York State Maple Producers booth in the Horticulture Building at the State Fair
the test at the New York State Maple Producers Booth at the state fair.

“OK, tell me which is real maple syrup and which is the fake stuff,” she said as she handed a farigoer  two little plastic cups with syrups in it. One was a lighter color and one was a bit darker.

She said it was surprising that some people who said they only eat maple syrup would get it wrong and some who said they would definitely be able to tell the difference also had a difficult time tell real from fake.

Mrs. Lyndaker was working in the maple producers’ education booth, which began last year but wasn’t located near the maple products booth in the Horticulture Building. This year, the education center is directly across from the maple products booth and many more people are checking it out.

“We are teaching them about the new grades (of syrup, which changed this year) and how the collection of sap and making of syrup has changed over the years. We’re here to educate people.”

The education center has photos on the wall depicting sap collection in buckets and the newer modern way of collection via tubing and vacuums. The trees in the center are dripping water (to depict sap) and there is even a place to take a selfie with trees in the background that you then can put on Facebook.

And the workers there also answer questions. Mrs. Lyndaker said some people don’t realize maple syrup really comes from maple trees. One person wanted to know if it could be made sugar free.

“We want them to know it is a real, fresh, local agricultural product,” she said.The Lyndaker Maple Orchard has been around since 1926 and it in its fourth generation.

Enjoying NYS milk – While they weren’t working or exhibiting at the fair, two Antwerp residents were found Thursday enjoying some cold, fresh chocolate milk from the Rainbow Milk Bar.

Michael Stoffel said – tongue in cheek – that he collects his quarters all year to get ready for the fair and the Rainbow Milk Bar. The bar sells cups of white or chocolate milk for 25 cents.

He said he and Katie Stoffel come to the fair each year and always enjoy a cup of milk.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Project Encourages Farmers to Consider Tile Drainage

Submitted by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program:

A Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project report encourages farmers to consider the benefits of tile drainage to both crop production and environmental stewardship. 

The research is especially timely as farms face changes to the environmental standards they are required to meet and at a time when federal and state funding is available for installing the tile drainage.

As many states refine their phosphorus management requirements for farm nutrient management plans, it is critical that the models they use are based on representative field conditions and sound data, says project leader Eric Young, research agronomist at W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY.

Young estimates the return on investment from installing tile drainage on farms with slow or very slow permeability is from seven to 12 percent over five to 10 years.

The goal of the most recent tile drainage research funded by the farmer-driven NNYADP was to compare phosphorus losses between tile drained and undrained test plots designed to simulate field-scale conditions typical of northern NY dairies.

Undrained conditions resulted in greater surface water runoff and phosphorus losses compared to tile drained lots, Young says.

The test plots at the Lake Alice Wildlife Area, Chazy, were managed as reed canarygrass in 2012-2013 planted to corn in 2014. Tile drainage and instrumentation was installed during 2012-2013 to capture real-time changes in both surface and subsurface runoff. Automatic water samplers track changes in phosphorus concentration and sediment over storm events.

The 2014 season was a wet year and included two major storms events in June, another in August, and one large precipitation and snowmelt event in December for measurement.

The vast majority of runoff that occurred in the tile drained plots was through the tiles with only three percent of the total runoff volume occurring as surface water runoff, Young says, and erosion that occurred from tile drained plots was half that of the undrained plots.

Although the trial size of only two replications limits the ability to show significant statistical differences, tile drainage showed a clear advantage in reducing surface water runoff and total phosphorus leaving the field.

The results of this project were presented at the 2014 Southern Extension and Research Activity 17 meeting in Des Moines, IA; 2014 Soil Science Society of America meeting in Long Beach, CA; and a University of Vermont Extension meeting on tile drainage in January 2015 in St. Albans, VT.

Given the multiple potential agronomic and environmental benefits of tile drainage to agricultural producers in Northern New York, and other regions, there is a critical need to better quantify the environmental aspects of tile drainage to support cost-effective best management practices to maximize both economic and environmental crop production aspects, Young explains.

Miner Institute has received a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program grant for 2015 to characterize tile drainage water nutrient concentrations and flow rates for several farms in the NNY region. 

The 2015 project work will assess the relative importance of nitrate-N and phosphorus in drainage water at different times of year and compare nutrient concentrations in tile drainage flows to levels in surface water runoff and any ponded water from the same field.

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. 

For a complete list of NNYADP 2015 projects and results of past projects, visit the website at

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 Butter Sculpture Unveiled at the New York State Fair

"Thanks for the Milk, Moo York," the 2015 New York State Fair butter sculpture

You can call this “Great American Milk Drive – Part Two.”

This year’s New York State Fair butter sculpture was unveiled Wednesday morning and it is a thank you for everyone throughout New York who has donated milk to needy families through the Great American Milk Drive.

The sculpture is called “Thanks for the Milk, Moo York.” The 2014 State Fair sculpture kicked off the Great American Milk Drive, which resulted in more than 22,000 gallons of milk being donated in the state.

Made of 800 pounds of unsalted butter from O-At-Ka Milk in Batavia, the sculpture shows a dairy farmer, milk processor and retailer each holding gallons of milk. There also are key New York state elements behind them, such as Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the Carrier Dome.

The sculpture is one of the most popular sites to visit during the 12-day New York State Fair. It is in the Dairy Products Building at the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes.

The fair opens Thursday, Aug. 27 and goes through Labor Day, Sept. 7. This is the 47th annual butter sculpture at the state fair.

“We live in one of the top producing milk states in the country, yet many families aren’t getting the nutritious, wholesome milk they want to provide for their children,” said dairy farmer Sarah Noble-Moag, of Pavilion. “The Great American Milk Drive helps draw attention to that need and makes it easy for people to donate, both in store and on line,” she said.

This is the 13th year artists Jim Victor and Marie Pelton, of Conshohocken, Pa., have worked on the sculpture. This is probably the tallest sculpture they have done, since the top of one of the milk bottles in the piece is only about a quarter inch from the top of the butter sculpture’s refrigerated room.

“It’s 77 inches high,” Ms. Pelton said. "In 2012, the sculpture about Greek yogurt during the summer of the Olympics was 2 inches below the grate.”

As part of the Great American Milk Drive and thanking people for their previous donations, the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, which sponsors the butter sculpture, also is asking people to donate extra quarters when they buy their cup of milk at the fair’s Rainbow Milk Bar.

The additional donations will go toward purchasing milk for food banks and food pantries so needy families can obtain milk. The Rainbow Milk Bar also is in the Dairy Products Building and serves delicious, cold glasses of white or chocolate milk for 25 cents.

The Dairy Association and Dairy Council also is conducting an Instagram Selfie Contest to help spread the word about the need for milk donations. Take a selfie in front of the butter sculpture with your cup of milk from the Rainbow Milk Bar and tag it “givemilktoo.”

Each day of the fair, one winner will be selected to receive a $50 gift card for dairy products and a $50 donation will be made to a local food bank to help it purchase milk.

One second prize winter will win an Apple Watch. And one grand prize winner will receive an Ultimate Buffalo Bills Fan Weekend package, including access to pre-game practice, an overnight hotel stay in Buffalo and four club tickets to watch the Bills take on the Houston Texans.

Go to for more contest information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Donate at Rainbow Milk Bar at the Fair to Provide Milk to Needy Families


From the New York State Fair:

For thousands of fairgoers, the annual trip to the Great New York State Fair isn’t complete without a stop at The Rainbow Milk Bar for a cup of 25-cent, ice-cold white or chocolate milk.  

Now, fairgoers can donate their spare change to the Great American Milk Drive and help ensure more families can get milk year-round, said Rick Naczi, chief executive officer of the  American Dairy Association and Dairy Council and State Fair Acting Director Troy Waffner. 
Through The Great American Milk Drive, dairy farmers and milk processors, in partnership with Feeding America, are helping to give much needed nutrient-rich milk to millions of hungry families through area food pantries and food banks.  

There is a nationwide shortage because milk is rarely donated.  

“Milk is one of the most highly requested items at food banks throughout the country,” Naczi said. “To help provide more milk to families who depend on these facilities, we are asking fairgoers to donate a quarter for every cup of milk they purchase. We’re calling this campaign “Get One, and Give One Too.” If just a fraction of the people that visit the Milk Bar donate, we’d raise $22,000 and that would buy a lot of milk.”

Donations to support the Great American Milk Drive will be accepted at every milk station at The Rainbow Milk Bar. All proceeds will be earmarked for milk purchases and distributed to food banks throughout New York. 

“The Rainbow Milk Bar is one of the fair’s most popular exhibits, and it’s become a tradition for families to stop by and get a cup of ice-cold milk," said Waffner. "It promotes the health benefits of milk and supports our dairy farmers. Now, Fairgoers can use their love of dairy to give back, and help get fresh, nutritious milk to other families in their communities.”

Meetings on Corn Lawsuit Today and Tomorrow

Meetings are coming up today and tomorrow (Aug. 25 and 26) concerning a lawsuit that deals with GMO corn.

The meeting are:
  • Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., Hiffa’s Restaurant, 9560 State Route 12, Remsen
  • Aug. 25 at 2 p.m., Jeb’s Restauant, 5403 Shady Ave., Lowville
  • Aug. 25 at 5 p.m., Art’s Jug, 820 Huntington St., Watertown
  • Aug. 26 at 8 a.m., The Hartwick Restaurant, 3496 NY-205, Hartwick
  • Aug. 26 at 11 a.m., Park Place Grill,7-9 East Park Place, Norwich
  • Aug. 26 at 1:30 p.m, Hobeau’s Fireside Grill, 10 S. West St., Homer
  • Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m., T&J’s Country Kitchen,7423 Seneca Road North, Hornell
The lawsuit deals with a trait in the corn seed that China did not allow to be imported to China. Syngenta, an agrochemical and seed company, was marketing the trait and assuring corn growers that it would be allowed in China, but instead, millions of bushels of corn with the trail were rejected by the Chinese.

The lawsuit states this act put a lot of corn on the market that was supposed to go to China that now couldn't be sold there. The lawsuit claims this drove the price of corn down and farmers lost lots of money.

(China has since agreed to allow the Syngenta corn trait, called Agrisure Viptera, into China).

Any farmer who wants more information or is interested in joining the lawsuit should attend one of the meetings. The meetings are being put on by a Buffalo law firm.

Dairy Cow Birthing Center Again Will Have Live Video of Births

A newborn calf. Photo courtesy Dairy Cow Birthing Center
Be sure to go to to check out live feeds from the Dairy Cow Birthing Center.

State Fair Offers Cookbook Filled with Winning Recipes

The New York State is offering a cookbook filled with recipes from people who have won cooking and baking competitions at the fair.

Open the new "Blue Ribbon Recipes: The Great New York State Fair" book and you'll find recipes judged to be amont the very best in New York state.

The 100-page cookbook filled with grand champion finalist recipes from 2006 to 2014 will be available for $15 at the History of the State Fair exhibit in the Art and Home Center, said State Fair Acting Director Troy Waffner.

Every year at the fair, amateur cooks from across the state submit daily recipes and samples in a wide variety of food categories. Most of the daily winners at the competition go on to compete in the Grand Championship on Labor Day.

"For many years, some of the best food on the fairgrounds has been behind the closed doors of the culinary judging area," Waffner said. 'Blue Ribbon Recipes' throws open and shares these wonderful recipes with everyone. I've already picked a couple that I'd like to try."

This year, 141 New Yorkers submitted 626 creations to the culinary competitions.  Judges sample each offering in the search for the very best.  Winners receive small cash prizes and ribbons that signify their achievement. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Value of Northeast Horticulture Down in 2014

From the USDA:

The northeast region (New York, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) horticulture survey shows value of all production for 2014 is down 6.6 percent from 2013.

The total crop value at wholesale for all growers with $10,000 or more in sales, is estimated at $598 million for 2014, compared with $641 million for 2013.

New Jersey continues to be the leading state in the region, with crops valued at $196 million. New York, the next largest producer, is down from the prior year to $155 million in wholesale value.

The number of producers with operations having $10,000 or more in sales for 2014, at 1,412, is down 23 percent in the four-state region, compared with the 2013 count of 1,821.

The number of producers with sales of $100,000 or more totaled 606 for 2014, down slightly from the 618 producers counted in 2013.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hops Becoming More and More Popular in New York State

From Empire Farm & Dairy magazine:

Empire Farm & Dairy

More and more farmers in New York state are turning to a crop from days gone by to bring in additional cash.

Hops — that small green plant that looks like a pine cone and gives beer its distinct flavor — was the top crop in Central New York in the mid-1800s, but prohibition and a killer fungus ended all of that.
The surge of craft breweries and home brewers means more hops are needed today, so more farmers in New York are putting in the plant to grow and sell to breweries.

Steve Miller, the state’s hops specialist, who works out of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Madison County, said he receives 10 to 15 calls a week from people interested in raising hops as a cash crop. 

He said hops growing in New York started small with a few farmers in the central portion of the state and the Finger Lakes region in the late 1990s.

Today, hops are grown in most counties in New York, Miller said. In fact, the number of acres of hops in the state has increased a lot in just the last three years. The 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, the most recent official statistics available, shows only 19 acres of New York land was in use for growing hops that year. Today, more than 300 acres of land statewide is growing hops, with the number growing by 75 to 100 acres a year.

Gone are the days when people drank beer made only by large companies such as Coors, Anheuser-Busch or Labatt.

“We estimate there is a need for 400 to 500 acres of hops in New York to satisfy the domestic demand,” Miller wrote in his hops FAQs, an informational handout sheet he gives to farmers. It’s also available at

In addition, he said the New York Farm Brewery legislation, which went into effect in January 2013, created new opportunities for on-the-farm brewing and sales.

Kate and Larry Fisher, who run Foothills Hops in the town of Stockbridge, Madison County, were among the first people to get into the resurrected hops industry. 

“We were interested in local history and read a book ... about the early trains that were moving hops and hops workers. Then we went to the Madison County Hops Fest in 1999. From there, we put in one plant, then we were up to 100 plants, which then turned into an industry.”

The Fishers now have six acres of hops that they sell to small farm brewers — Critz Farms in Cazenovia for its hard cider, and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, Empire Brewing Co. in Syracuse, and Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton, Madison County.

But it’s not as easy as just putting hops into the ground, harvesting and raking in the money, Miller said.

He said farmers should study hops and find out if it really is a crop they want to invest in. Several seminars and conferences are held each year for people interested in the subject.

“This is not the same type of farming at all,” Miller said, comparing hops growing to other popular crops, such as sweet corn or vegetables. “We encourage people to get information first.”
Here are some of the differences farmers will see with hops, according to Miller:

n Harvesting. The harvesting is completely different from other crops. Hops cannot be hand-harvested — it takes an hour to hand-harvest one plant — so machines must be purchased. The average machine can cost about $30,000.

n Equipment: Once hops are harvested, they must be dried, processed, baled and kept in a walk-in cooler. So to get started, a farmer will need a small tractor, trailer, weed sprayer, crop sprayer similar to what is used in a vineyard or orchard, and then a truck, drying equipment, possible pelleter, a cooler and a building for storage and drying. Some growers look at sharing equipment.

n Planting: The cost of plants and trellises for the plants to grow on can cost $15,000 an acre to start.

n Land: About 10 to 15 acres are needed to get a money-making hops operation off the ground. Some New York farmers have as little as a couple of acres. New York varies from the Pacific Northwest, where farmers grow from 500 acres to several thousand acres of hops.

Miller said land preparation is important, and all land where hops will be grown should be well drained, be flat or have a gentle slope, have access to water for irrigation, and have good air circulation and full sun.

“The biggest holdup people have in growing hops is knowledge and equipment,” Miller said.
Fisher said she and her husband advise anyone considering growing hops to spend a year before planting to ready the soil for the plants and be sure to have all the infrastructure — including lines and trellises — ready in advance.

“We didn’t do that (ready the soil), and we’ve been battling weeds ever since,” Fisher said.

In the FAQs sheet Miller provides to hops hopefuls, he said “expenses are variable, but most growers believe they need to have gross sales of more than $6,000 to $8,000 an acre to break even because of initial investment, equipment, harvesting and processing costs.” 

Miller also said “if the hops are poor and your yield is low, you are losing money. The first year you may have some hops, a partial crop the second, and a full crop the third.”

If you like this story and want to read more great news about agriculture, subscribe to Empire Farm & Dairy magazine. A one-year subscription is $50 and a two-year subscription is $75. Send your information and payment to Empire Farm & Dairy, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New York State Fair Opens Next Week

If there’s anything that says late summer, it’s the Great New York State Fair.

Twelve days of animals, rides, music, fun, education and of course, food, at the Aug. 27 to Sept. 7 event in Geddes, just outside of Syracuse.

2014 State Fair butter sculpture
Probably the least exciting of those is education, but learning is a big part of the fair, according to Acting Director Troy Waffner.

Fair-goers often ask questions of farmers and other producers who show animals or items they grow at the New York State Fair — the first such event ever held in the United States, in 1841.

“It’s our mission to promote everything agriculture in terms of education,” Waffner said. “When I was a fair-goer, I didn’t come here to be educated, but if you tricked me into it, I could find out the most interesting things in the world.”

This year’s fair will offer several new agricultural exhibits for fair-goers and even farmers and producers to check out:

** Equine Avenue exhibit: an interactive demonstration that allows patrons to interact directly with horses, their owners, vets and nutritionists. In a tent outside the Toyota Coliseum.

** Canning demos in the demonstration kitchen. On Aug. 27 and 28, this will feature demonstrations on the best way to can homegrown or locally grown food.

** Sweet potatoes offered in the potato booth for $1. That's in the Horticulture Building.

2014 State Fair Dairy Day Celebrity Milkshake Contest
** A youth horse show in the coliseum on Labor Day.

** New stalls and renovation in the DVM Barn. Dave Bullard, assistant public information officer for the fair, said these improvements will make working in the barn much easier and more pleasant for exhibitors.

** Vegan delight. The first all-vegan/vegeterian food vendor will be in the International Building. Syracuse’s Strong Hearts Café will serve 100 percent vegan fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner and will offer its menu of more than 40 popular milkshakes from its restaurant on East Genesee Street in Syracuse and its satellite location on the Syracuse University hill.

** Gladiola competition. Anyone at the fair at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 can join the new gladiola competition in the Horticulture Building. Fairgoers can try to make a gladiola bouquet arrangement in 10 minutes and then the audience will vote on their favorites.

**  War Dog Memorial. The unveiling of the new memorial honoring canines who have served in the military will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 3. The event will include a wreath laying by members of the military, assisted by Gold Star mothers, as well as brief memorial speeches from dignitaries. The memorial is at the Veterans Memorial in front of the
2014 State Fair maple winners
Horticulture Building.

** There will be no poultry exhibits due to concerns about the Avian bird flu. The flu has not been found in New York state, and state Agriculture and Markets officials want to keep it that way, so they canceled all poultry exhibits and competitions at county fairs and the state fair this year. 

** The piglets and sows will be back this year in the Swine Building. They were absent last year because of a problem nationally with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.

The most exciting of these new exhibits is the Equine Avenue. Waffner said there were comments in the past from fair-goers who were dismayed at not being able to get closer to all the horses for the International Horse Show.

Sheep at the 2014 State Fair
“They couldn’t get that close to them in the horse barns to see their beauty,” Waffner said. “With the horses outside on Equine Avenue, people will be able to pet them, take photos with them, paint them, and people who want to study equine science can check out all the breeds up close. Horses have a special allure, heritage and history.”

Another big change at the fair this year: the poultry building won’t contain any poultry.

The state fair and all county fairs in New York state canceled all bird shows and exhibits this year because of concerns about the Avian flu. 

None of the flu strain has been found in New York state, but the state Department of Agriculture and Markets wants to ensure that poultry in the state remain flu-free.

This also means the popular daily rooster crowing contest will not be held. The poultry building instead will house rabbits and cavies. The state fair is replacing the rooster contest with a rabbit-hopping demonstration on seven days.

There will be a special demonstration on Sept. 1 of combing and cutting fur from angora rabbits and spinning the fur into yarn to make hats and mittens.

The New York State Fair has operated since Sept. 29 and 30, 1841, except for 1942 through 1947, when the fairgrounds were used as a military base during World War II.

With state money given for the promotion of county fairs in 1841, the New York State Agricultural Society created the state fair, and more than 10,000 people attended that first year.

The fair moved around after that — to Albany, then to Rochester and other New York cities. But in 1890, Syracuse was chosen as the permanent site of the event.

This story originally ran in Empire Farm & Dairy magazine. If you're interested in more stories like this, subscribe to the magazine by sending $50 for a one-year subscription or $75 for two years to Empire Farm & Dairy, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY  13601 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sad Ending for C-Section Cow from 2014 State Fair

Vets operate on the cow during the 2014 State Fair to deliver her calf.

The veterinarians pulled out a stillborn calf. The audience members had been on the edge of their seats for more than an hour, wondering how this drama was going to end.

Their collective sound of pain told the story.

It was Dairy Day at the 2014 New York State Fair, that glorious 12 hours to celebrate all that is great about milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

Thousands of people were on the fairgrounds watching milkshake making contests, trying out yogurt parfaits, tasting great New York cheeses and visiting the Empire State’s fabulous dairy cattle.

They also had filed in and out of the Dairy Cow Birthing Center to watch the beginning of the milk cycle -- the miracle of a calf’s birth. It was the second year for the birthing center and a huge hit at the fair.

But this day was a little different. Life played out in front of hundreds of people in the birthing center at about 3 or so that afternoon.

A dairy cow owned by Walnut Ridge Dairy in Lansing, Tompkins County, was ready to give birth. People packed the bleachers and seats to witness the birth.

Each day, three cows would give birth to calves in the center. Adults and children alike ooohed and aaahed as the cute little Holsteins slipped into the world. The mother cow would produce milk from giving birth and from there, she would be milked daily to provide all of us delicious milk to drink or dairy products to eat.

But on Dairy Day, of all days, things didn’t go as planned for this one cow.

“What’s going on?” I asked a lady on the bleachers as I sat down, a few minutes after the drama had begun.

“She’s having problems,” the lady said of the cow. “They’re not sure what’s wrong.”

After watching for a while, I heard Steve Palladino, a partner in Walnut Ridge Dairy, and others on the scene thought either she had a stillborn calf or possibly there were twins on the way.

A bunch of veterinarians came in. They reached inside the cow’s birth canal to see if they could grab the calf and pull it out. That effort failed.

Palladino, nervous for his cow, told the packed house what was going on. People asked questions and Palladino and others tried to answer as best they could.

“My main concern was for the cow,” Palladino said.

Eventually, it became obvious to the veterinarians that a Caesarian section would have to be performed on the cow. Jessica Ziehm, executive director of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition which runs the birthing center, said this definitely was not planned, but it shows what real life is like on a farm.

The C-section was performed. Spectators were warned in advance that they might want to leave if they couldn’t stomach what was being done. I was sitting right in back of the cow and I have to say, the entire operation was shielded pretty well from view so those watching really couldn’t see anything objectionable.
"I was a nervous wreck," Palladino said. "It's bad enough your cow is going through this but in front of 600 to 700 people?"

There weren’t twins. Only one calf that was stillborn.

“Awwwwww,” the audience said in unison when it heard the outcome.

The cow’s incision was sewn up. The audience was told they would keep an eye on her to be sure she was healing well.

Palladino said at that time she would be able to have more calves and remain a productive member of the Walnut Ridge dairy herd.

But, it was not to be. When checking up on the cow in July, I was told she had been sold to slaughter.

A heart-wrenching decision, to be sure. Palladino said the cow never made much milk after the stillborn birth. 

A farmer has to weigh the costs when considering his herd -- does he want to use a lot of feed to keep a cow going if that cow doesn’t produce milk the farmer can sell?

Ziehm said dairy farms are businesses and “at the end of the day they must make decisions that allow them to keep feed in front of the cows, the lights on and bills paid.”

“She did not come into milk or produce enough milk after she calved to justify keeping her in the herd,” Ziehm said. “This is always a difficult decision for a dairy farmer as they have thousands of dollars invested in raising her, as well as the cost of the surgery. So this is not only a tough call emotionally as this is an animal that was raised and cared for from birth on the farm, it’s a significant financial loss as well.”

Palladino said the decision was rough, but one that had to be made.

"Ninety percent of cows that have had C-sections are bred back," Palladino said. "She healed fine, but she didn't come into milk well. This doesn't normally happen."

So in late February or early March -- Palladino couldn't remember exactly -- the cow was sold.

Yes, the Dairy Cow Birthing Center and all dairy farms are real life, folks.

How Many Ag Idioms Are in Your Daily Speech?

A cool story I wanted to share with you.

See it at


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Farm Credit East Launches Program to Honor Ag Leaders

Go to to see the story.

New York Soil and Water Conservation Committee To Meet Aug. 25 in Albany

In compliance with the Open Meetings Law, the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee gives notice that it will conduct a State Committee Meeting at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the  Department of Agriculture and Markets, Pride of New York Room, 10B Airline Drive, Albany.
A recorded audiocast of the meeting will be made available on the Internet at

Summit on Retired Racehorses Set for Sept. 1 in Saratoga Springs

From The Horse, a magazine about equine health:

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) will host a day-long summit focused on retired racehorses — both thoroughbred and standardbred — Sept. 1 at the Fasig-Tipton Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs.

This event is designed to focus attention on the issue of racehorse retirement and publicize the current status of New York and national initiatives, including those ongoing and those developed since the New York Task Force on Retired Racehorses issued recommendations in late 2011. The summit, which will begin at 10 a.m., is free and open to the public.
“It’s our duty to make sure they have access to safe havens once their days on the track are complete," said Sackatoga Stable’s Jackson W. Knowlton, a prominent owner and former task force member who has been instrumental in putting the summit together. 

"Everyone — breeders, trainers, owners, track management, and more — have an obligation to work together and address this issue. The Retired Racehorse Summit will showcase some exciting new endeavors being undertaken by the commission and the industry to bring about real positive change for our horses,” he said.

Knowlton will kick off the event by reviewing the task force’s key recommendations and discussing the status of ongoing research indicating where horses go after they leave the track. He will also discuss the social responsibility component of the issue.
Tentative panels and participants include:
The history and current status of retirement initiatives and programs by New York thoroughbred horsemen
  • Moderated by Eric Wing, Daily Racing Form
  • Richard A. Violette, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc.
  • Additional Participants TBA
National leaders in Thoroughbred retirement
  • Stacie Clark Rogers, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance
  • Diana Pikulski, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
  • Additional Participants and Moderator TBA
Accredited organizations: Current status and future challenges in providing aftercare to New York-based horses
  • Moderated by Jack Wolf, Starlight Racing
  • Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue
  • Equine Advocates, Inc.
  • Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, Inc.
  • New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program
  • Old Friends
  • ReRun
How does the standardbred industry address retirement?
  • Moderated by M. Kelly Young, New York Farm Bureau
  • Ellen Harvey, U.S. Trotting Association
  • Katherine Starr, Sunshine Horses
  • Judith Bokman, Standardbred Retirement Foundation
  • Additional Participants TBA
Approaches to aftercare at the track level
  • Moderated by NYSGC commissioner Peter Moschetti
  • Sam Elliott, PARX Racing
  • Mike Rogers, Stronach Group
  • Mike Ziegler, Churchill Downs
  • Additional participants TBA

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New York Fruit Growers Part of USDA Survey on Chemical Use

From the USDA:

Fruit growers in 11 states, including New York, are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service biennial Fruit Chemical Use Survey.

The survey will collect information on pesticides and fertilizers used, acres treated and rates applied to more than 20 fruit crops. Beginning this year, NASS is partnering with USDA’s Economic Research Service to ask a set of questions about growers’ microbial food safety practices. 

These data will help measure the impact of the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act, which focuses on preventing foodborne illness by reducing microbial contamination of food products, including produce.

The Fruit Chemical Use Survey will provide much needed information about current crop production practices used in the United States. The results of this survey,which will be published in July 2016, will paint a detailed picture of pesticide use and other pest management practices used by fruit growers across the nation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Vote for Your Favorite Farmers' Market

Vote for your favorite farmers' market by going to

Which High Tunnel Crop Brings in the Most Money?

From the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program:

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has released the results of a project evaluating the economic potential of the non-traditional tunnel crops.

Tomatoes are the more popular crop grown in the high tunnel structures that allow farmers to plant earlier in the year and harvest later into the fall. 

To help growers diversify their crop rotation to improve production, income and soil health, the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program funded trials of crops less commonly grown in high tunnels. The trials were planted at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro, NY.

If growers can successfully use high tunnels to grow crops more commonly planted in fields they have the potential to produce food crops that appeal to a broader market audience. Diversifying the types of crops grown also helps increase disease and pest protection in the tunnel environment, explains project leader Amy Ivy, a Regional Vegetable and Berry Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The project also included a survey of fresh market prices for the non-traditional crops. The gross value per square foot planted of the crops was estimated at:
.. Cucumbers, using two types of trellising practices: $5.63-$7.08.
.. Ginger, with a unit price of $16.00 per pound: $5.79
.. Basil, with two plantings: $4.52
.. Green beans, with two plantings: $4.32
.. Zucchini, with two plantings: $2.24.

For comparison, the average gross value of tomatoes is $7.50.

While it is clear that tomatoes are still the best gross value choice for a summer crop for growers with high tunnels in the Northern NY climate, growers can add the data from this project into the factors they consider for evaluating options for diversifying their crops and rotation, says Cornell Willsboro Research Farm Manager Michael Davis.

For example, ginger may not return as much per square foot as tomatoes, but it has a much lower labor requirement, and it does not share the same diseases as tomatoes. 

Green beans may not be feasible as a primary tunnel crop, but because they have such a short season they can be useful for filling a gap between other crops, and basil is an excellent economic option for high tunnels, points out Cornell University NYS Vegetable Extension Specialist Judson Reid.

Final harvest date for the cucumbers, basil, green beans and zucchini was Oct. 16; for the ginger Nov. 21.

Ivy notes the trial results have encouraged growers to consider training cucumbers to grow on a single vertical line in the high tunnel which used less labor and produced a 20 percent higher yield compared with the traditional raised mesh trellising.

Trials underway in 2015 include evaluating opportunities to increase ginger and basil crop yields and exploring summer lettuce production in tunnels.

The complete Advancing Season Extension with Non-Traditional High Tunnel Crops report is in the Local Foods section of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at           

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research and technical assistance program serving Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. 

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and is administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Investors Bet Big on NY Thoroughbreds

Go to this Albany Business Journal site to read the story.

Loans Available to Build Broadband in Rural Areas

From the USDA:

Loans are now available to build broadband in rural areas.

Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced these loans, along with changes to the program required by the 2014 Farm Bill. 

"USDA is committed to providing broadband to rural areas," Vilsack said. "Broadband is as vital as electricity was 80 years ago. Since 2009, USDA investments have delivered broadband service to 1.5 million households, businesses, schools, libraries and community facilities. But our work is not done."

In a rule published on page 45397 of the July 30 Federal Register, (  USDA is establishing two funding cycles to review and prioritize applications for the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program. 

USDA also is setting a minimum level of acceptable broadband service at 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream. USDA urges applicants to design systems that allow for 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream to meet future needs. USDA is accepting comments on these changes through September 28.

To be eligible for funding, an applicant must serve an area where at least 15 percent of the households are unserved. Applications with the most unserved households will be processed first.

The maximum loan amount under today's announcement is $20 million. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 30.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cayuga County Farm Bureau Aids Community

Go to to see what Farm Bureau has done in Cayuga County.

Helping Farming Thrive in the Hudson Valley

Check out this story from

Consignment Auction Aug. 29 in Mannsville

Empire Livestock and Jefferson County Farm Bureau will hold a Public Consignment Auction beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 at 16092 County Route 90, Mannsville.

The groups are seeking sale items in good condition. There will be special sale terms for Farm Bureau members and no buyer’s premium for anyone.

If you have something lying around taking up space and would like to turn it into cash, this is a great opportunity. Almost all consignments are welcome — tractors, light industrial, implements, lawn and garden and other miscellaneous items.

Proceeds from the auction will be used to enhance current scholarship awards, promotional, educational and young farmer activities throughout Jefferson County.

To consign items, call Ken Hughes at 436-2215 or Jack Bero at 322-3500 .

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Geneva Winery Wins Governor's Cup

Winners of the 2015 Governor’s Cup wine competition have been announced.

At an award ceremony today in Canandaigua, Ontario County, Lt. Gov..Kathy Hochul presented the 2015 Governor’s Cup to Ventosa Vineyards from Geneva for its 2011 Lemberger, Estate Grown. 

This ceremony followed the state’s first-ever Taste NY Culinary Tour, which provided more than a dozen of the region’s leading chefs and restaurateurs with a first-hand look at the quality and diversity of New York agriculture in the region.
The Governor’s Cup award is a large silver chalice, recognizing the Best of Show or top prize from 910 entries in the annual New York Wine & Food Classic competition, organized by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. 

In addition, Paumanok Vineyards from Long Island’s North Fork won the Winery of the Year award.
This year's competition included 858 wines, 20 hard ciders and 32 spirits from across the state. The awards were based on blind tastings by 22 expert judges, four from California, 10 from New York, seven from other states and one from France. 

Judges included prominent wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers and wine educators. Judging panels determined the initial awards, with top-scoring wines evaluated by all 22 judges for the Best of Category and Governor's Cup awards.
The Governor also announced the following winners from the 2015 New York Wine & Food Classic competition:
The "Best of Category" awards, all eligible for the Governor's Cup, were:
· Best Sparkling Wine – Goose Watch Winery Pinot Noir Brut Rosé · Best White Wine – Paumanok Vineyards 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling · Best Rosé/Blush Wine – Lime Berry Winery Bunny Bunny Blush · Best Red Wine – Ventosa Vineyards 2011 Lemberger, Estate Grown · Best Dessert Wine – Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 Riesling Ice Wine

The "Best of Class" awards, which are given to Double Gold or Gold medal wines in classes of at least 10 wines, were:
· Best Oaked Chardonnay – McCall Wines 2013 Chardonnay Reserve
· Best Unoaked Chardonnay – Glenora Wine Cellars 2014 Chardonnay
· Best Gewürztraminer – Mazza Chautauqua Cellars 2014 Gewürztraminer · Best Dry Riesling – Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Dry Riesling
· Best Medium Dry Riesling – Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Riesling, Semi-Dry  
· Best Medium Sweet Riesling – Paumanok Vineyards 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling
· Best Sweet Riesling – Glenora Wine Cellars 2014 Riesling  
· Best Overall Riesling – Paumanok Vineyards 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling
· Best Sauvignon Blanc – Martha Clara Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Reserve
· Best Pinot Gris – Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Pinot Gris · Best Other Vinifera White Varietal – Inspire Moore Winery 2014 Rhythm  
· Best Vinifera White Blend – Casa Larga Vineyard 2014 Chard-Riesling  
· Best Traminette – Goose Watch Winery 2014 Traminette  
· Best Hybrid White Blend – Tug Hill Vineyards 43° Lat White
· Best Niagara – Americana Vineyards Crystal Lake
· Best Vinifera Rosé – Kontokosta Winery 2014 Rosé
· Best Cabernet Sauvignon – Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve  
· Best Merlot – Harbes Vineyard 2013 Hallock Lane Merlot
 · Best Pinot Noir – Martha Clara Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Estate Reserve  
· Best Cabernet Franc – Idol Ridge Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc
· Best Lemberger – Ventosa Vineyards 2011 Lemberger, Estate Grown  
· Best Other Red Vinifera Varietal – Standing Stone Vineyards 2013 Saperavi
· Best Vinifera Red Blend – Fox Run Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger
· Best Hybrid Red Blend – Raymor Estate Cellars Sunset Red
· Best Fruit – Baldwin Vineyards Strawberry Wine
· Best Cider – Kaneb Orchards St. Lawrence Cider  
· Best Spirit – Black Button Distilling Citrus Forward Gin
· Best Late Harvest – Swedish Hill Winery 2014 Late Harvest Vignoles
· Best Ice Wine – Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 Riesling Ice Wine  
· Best Vinifera Sparkling White – Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

First-Ever Taste NY Culinary Tour
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets led the tour, visiting four farms and processors across Yates and Ontario counties.-- Wegman’s Organic Farm (vegetable farm), Hemdale Farms (dairy farm), Climbing Bines (hops farm) and Birkett Mills (buckwheat).
The tour, which was the first of three to be held across the state, kicked off at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua and participants visited four farms and processors. 

At Wegman’s Organic Farm, restaurateurs toured the 5-acre organic vegetable farm that grows about 25 different vegetables and herbs, including cherry tomatoes, leeks, beets, squash, dandelion greens, eggplant, cilantro, basil and parsley, for its restaurant and several Wegmans stores. 

The farm strives to grow the best-tasting varieties and extend growing seasons, making local farms more economically sustainable. 

The group also toured Hemdale Farm, which opened its milking parlor more than half a century ago and today has grown to an 11,000 cow, 21st century dairy operation. The farm uses 19 automatic, robot milking systems and produces 80,000 pounds, or more than 9,000 gallons, of milk daily.
The tour moved to Penn Yan and visited Climbing Bines Hop Farm, a 1.5-acre site that consists of seven cultivars and nearly 1,500 hills.The farm is dedicated to growing premium New York state grown hops for the local brewing industry and beyond. 

At the final stop, participants visited The Birkett Mills, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of buckwheat products. The mill has over 200 years of buckwheat, soft white wheat, and custom grain milling experience. Throughout the year, finished products are shipped across the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

Two additional Culinary Tours are planned for the coming weeks. A tour will be held on Long Island later this month and in the Hudson Valley in October.