Thursday, March 31, 2016

New York Farm Bureau Disappointed New State Budget Includes Wage Hike

The state Legislature has come to an agreement on a new state budget that includes a minimum wage increase.

Here is a statement from New York Farm Bureau:

“As New York State leaders reach an agreement on an increase in the minimum wage, New York Farm Bureau is disappointed in the outcome and remains steadfastly opposed to the wage hike, regardless of the inclusion of any programs in the final state budget that are designed to assist agriculture," said New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.

"Farms, especially those on Long Island, will face extremely serious economic challenges as they will be forced to pay the dramatically higher wage rates mandated by this agreement. In turn, their business costs will skyrocket as their products become less competitive, and fresh locally-grown food products will be more expensive and less available," he said.

"The governor and legislature are playing politics with family farmers and their livelihoods and, as a result, our businesses and rural communities will pay the price,” Norton said.

Get Out There for Maple Weekend

April 2 and 3 is your last chance this year to get out and visit your local maple syrup producer. You can taste some yummy maple products, get a free tour and see maple demonstrations and perhaps, even partake of a great pancake breakfast.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Plant a Window Box During April -- National Garden Month

From the USDA:

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is urging Americans of all ages to "Plant a Window Box for Pollinators" by using a new, free online tool available at the redesigned People's Garden Initiative website at

The new tool allows people to determine which plants will provide pollinator forage based on their zip code. 

Site visitors can then print out the list of plants to take to their local garden store and grown them in a window box. There is also a virtual window box game. Even a space as small as a window box can help pollinators by ensuring they don't have to fly too far to find food. 

The interactive People's Garden website also includes the popular live USDA "bee cam" which broadcasts honeybee activity on the roof of USDA's headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

The new People's Garden website is just in time as Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack designated April as National Garden Month.

"Gardens provide a positive setting for pollinators such as bats, bees, birds, butterflies, beetles, and other animals that contribute substantially to the U.S. economy and play a vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets," Vilsack said in the proclamation.

In addition to the window box tool, the website features an interactive map of the more than 2,100 People's Gardens planted since Vilsack launched the effort at the start of the Obama Administration. 

The new website shares People's Garden success stories and numerous resources, from videos to checklists, on how-to create a garden that benefits the community and incorporates sustainable practices. 

North Country Amish Boy Killed in Farm Accident

Go to for information and a story.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

It's National Spinach Day!!

Spinach growing in a field
Have you ever eaten anything with "florentine" in the name?

If so, then you've eaten spinach and perhaps, didn't even know it.

Today is National Spinach Day, according to the National Day Calendar website, which states "not only are there so many delicious ways that you can enjoy spinach, it is also extremely good for you!"

"An annual plant, spinach is native to central and southwestern Asia. Thought to have originated in ancient Persia, Arab traders carried spinach into India, and then it was introduced into ancient China where it was known as 'Persian vegetable.'"

A bag of spinach
"The earliest available record of the spinach plant was recorded in Chinese, saying the spinach plant was introduced into China via Nepal. In 1533, Queen Catherine de Medici of France, liked spinach so much that she insisted it be served at every meal.  To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as “Florentine”, reflecting Catherine’s birth in Florence.
  • Spinach is:
* Eaten raw or cooked and is available  fresh, frozen or canned. *  One of the best sources of iron. *  A great source of calcium, folic acid, fiber, protein, calcium and vitamins A, C and K. *  Is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants. *  Believed to help improve cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

So to celebrate today, eat a hearty helping of spinach. Or at least sprinkle some on top of your salad.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Peterson Brother Blogs about Misinformation on GMOs

Everyone should read this blog entry about GMOs.

Go to to check it out.

SUNY Cobleskill to Have Dairy Cattle Sale April 2

From SUNY Cobleskill:

SUNY Cobleskill’s 35th Annual Dairy Fashions Sale, the country’s longest-running collegiate dairy cattle club sale, will kick off the College’s Inaugural week Saturday, April 2.

The 35th annual sale comes during SUNY Cobleskill’s Centennial Year, and will be followed by a week of events and activities leading up to the inauguration of Marion A. Terenzio as the college's new president.

The Dairy Fashions Sale, “Where quality cattle are always in style,” is a high-quality cattle consignment sale organized by more than 50 student members of SUNY Cobleskill’s Dairy Cattle Club. 

More than 120 lots, from Holsteins and Jerseys to Shorthorns, will be groomed, prepped and shown off for buyers all around the state and beyond at the hangar at the College’s Equestrian Center.

During the week preceding the sale, students meet consigners and their cattle, house and care for the animals, including hours of washing and expert clipping to bring the animals to “show and sale quality.” 

Says Dairy Cattle Club co-advisor Assistant Professor Kim Tarvis about clipping: “top-line blending like this is a true art.” Students also acclimate the animals to walking in a halter and in the show ring.

The sale will be conducted by auctioneer Dave Rama of The Cattle Exchange. Dr. Lynn Geoffroy, Assistant Professor at SUNY Cobleskill, will provide all pre-sale and day-of-sale veterinary documentation.

The public is invited to a pre-sale viewing of the animals from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 1.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cuomo Wants to Give Farmers A Break from the Minimum Wage Proposal

So does anyone think this is a good idea?

Go to to read the story.

Organic Cheese Plant Working to Meet Demand



Health-conscious consumers sometimes choose to eat organic cheese over the regular variety, and they’re willing to pay more for it because of how it’s made.

Those are the kinds of consumers being targeted by Homestead Heritage Cheese, an arm of certified organic dairy farm Homestead Fields on Eiss Road near the hamlet of LaFargeville in Jefferson County. A creamery built on the farm started making cheese curds in October for the business, which is a brainchild of farm owner W. Edward Walldroff and his son-in-law, David Van Pelt II.

During a tour of the creamery at the 130-cow, 700-acre farm, Walldroff said the launch of the cheesemaking business came after years of careful planning. While the facility is now making only cheese curds, he said, production will be expanded next spring to include cheddar and possibly blue cheese.

Production has started on a small scale at the creamery, where a partial batch of cheese curds is made once a week using a 245-gallon vat and other equipment bought from a company in the Netherlands. But Van Pelt said he believes the business will expand rapidly as more retailers decide to buy wholesale batches of cheese curds. He said the farm, which became a certified-organic operation in 2006, is among a handful across the state that make organic cheese.

“We’d like to soon be in New York City and in a couple of artisan cheese stores in Rochester,” said Van Pelt, who completed a course in the summer of 2011 at the University of Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese to become a cheesemaker.

The business already has begun to sell organic cheese curds to retailers in the north country, Walldroff said. Eight-ounce packages of curds - priced in stores from about $6 to $8 - are sold at the Mustard Seed health food store in Watertown, 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese in Clayton and a bookstore at St. Lawrence University in Canton. 

“We want to sell it in college towns where there’s a more health-conscious population,” Walldroff said, adding that his long-term business plan calls for eventually opening a retail store in a community along the St. Lawrence River. “We’d like to be able to do it in the next two to five years, and it would be like a health-food store.”

Walldroff, whose family has operated the farm here for five generations, said the farm has been run for nearly a decade as an organic operation. To receive a national organic certification, milk is made without using any antibiotics or pesticides. Cows are fed only a mixture of grasses and grain grown organically on the farm.

Cheese products made by the farm will complement the organic beef it already sells to area businesses, Walldroff said. The beef comes from the farm’s cull cattle - those not producing enough milk or getting too old.

“It all starts with the barn on the ground and the breeds of cattle that are going to produce milk for the best cheese,” Walldroff said. “We’re producing cheese here that others aren’t going to be able to duplicate, and we’re marrying it to an upscale market as a value-added product.”

Van Pelt is responsible for making cheese curds each Sunday at the creamery, in the same structure as the milking parlor. The process starts at 6:30 a.m. and typically finishes about 9 p.m., he said, after curds are packaged.

The farm bought the cheesemaking equipment in the fall of 2014, thanks to a $12,000 loan from the Development Authority of the North Country’s value-added agriculture loan fund and a $48,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program.

Though the stainless steel vat has room to make larger batches of cheese curds, Van Pelt said, he is now making batches of about 80 to 100 pounds to meet the demand of clients. To start the process, milk is pasteurized by heating it to a temperature of 145 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

He said milk then is cooled to below 100 degrees. Live cheese cultures are added to the milk, which begins to thicken as it’s agitated in the vat. The mixture is stirred slowly until it’s thick enough to cut into slices with a curd knife. 

As part of the process, called “cheddaring,” the semisolid curd is separated from liquid whey that is released from the bottom of the vat. The whey is fed to cattle.

“Cheesemaking suits my personality and detail-oriented career background,” said Van Pelt, an accountant at Carthage Area Hospital for five years before joining the farm about four years ago.

About 150 packages were made from an 87-pound batch of curds, he said. The curds, which are lightly salted, stay fresh for about a week.

Walldroff said he plans to build a concrete “aging facility” at the farm next spring that will be used to age cheeses. He said the aging process can last from six months to two years. 

The climate-controlled facility will be built by Jason Schnauber, a co-owner of the farm who is engaged to marry Walldroff’s daughter, Monica Schnauber, a Clayton native, said his construction experience has come in handy on the farm. He helped build the creamery during the past two years. But he said his daily chores vary widely.

“One day I’m a farmer,” he said, “and the next I’m a veterinarian or a builder. Every day has a different chore.”

Organics On the Rise

Empire Farm & Dairy


While organic farming is growing by leaps and bounds, there is one farm in the Southern Tier that was way ahead of the trend.

Organic potato harvest at the Engelbert Farm
Engelbert Farms in Nichols, Tioga County, began back in the 1860s when the first members of the family came to this country from Germany. The family has been on the same site in Nichols since the early 1900s.

But it was 1981 when current farm owners, Kevin and Lisa Engelbert, began to farm organically. They became certified organic in 1984.

“Before, the farm was very chemically intensive,” said Lisa Engelbert. “Our herd was not well. We came to see the correlation of the extensive chemical use on the land and what was happening with the cows. So in 1981, we went cold turkey. No more chemicals.”

This farm was dubbed the “the first certified organic dairy farm in the country” through a national poll done by ODairy, a message listserv operated by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

Engelbert Farms organic veggies
In that poll, “Kevin responded that we were first certified in 1984 with NOFA-NY. He thinks the survey contacted certifiers, too,” said Lisa Engelbert in an email. “It was determined by that survey. We knew we were the first certified-organic dairy in NYS, but that survey actually showed that we were the first certified organic dairy in the U.S.”

Just what made the Engelberts so ahead of the game?

Lisa Engelbert said she and her husband believe a farm is only as good as its soil. The soil at the farm had been treated for so many years with various chemicals and was not in good shape, she said.

Cows were eating what was grown in this soil and they were having numerous medical problems. She said vet bills were averaging $1,000 a month on the 175-milker herd.

“It starts with the soil,” she said. “The chemicals kill all the microorganisms in the soil and the soil can’t take up any of the naturally occurring nutrients.”

It took about a year — to 1982 — before the Engelberts starting seeing benefits from not using chemicals on their more than 2,000 acres.

In addition to pastureland for the herd, they also grow vegetables and raise pigs, chickens and beef.

“Things started to heal,” Engelbert said.

Today, the Engelberts have 2,400 acres of certified-organic land that produces vegetables, pastures the cows and grows crops such as hay, corn, soybeans and wheat. The cows also are not treated with artificial hormones or antibiotics.

While the number of organic dairies continues to soar, it seems there are still a shortage of them to produce enough products to meet consumer demand.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service organic survey, New York had 13 percent of the nation’s certified-organic dairy farms in 2011, producing 8 percent of the country’s organic milk.

But Americans spent more than $5 billion on organic dairy products in 2014, with double-digit annual growth during much of the past decade, according to the USDA. While this demand increases, the supply of organic milk from co-op farmers has stayed fairly flat for the last few years, Travis Forgues, Organic Valley vice president of farmer affairs, recently told a Minnesota newspaper.

“The demand is huge, especially regionally like in the Northeast,” said Liz Bawden, a St. Lawrence County organic dairy farmer. “The highest demand is for organic dairy products and there’s also good demand for organic fluid milk.”

Bawden, who has been milking about 50 cows with her husband in the town of Hammond for about 15 years, said most organic dairies are small operations since the cows have to be in the pasture most of the time.

“Places like us could get bigger, but they still have to fit the organic standards (pasturing all the cows) and be placed along a route where they can pick up the milk,” Bawden said. “We’re good where we are right now.”

Lisa Engelbert agreed. She said it would be difficuilt for an organic dairy to reach the size of some conventional farms, such as those with 1,000 or more cows. Engelbert, who also works for the New York certification agency NOFA-NY, said there are many (she didn’t have an exact number) organic dairy certifications in the pipeline. 

Becoming an organic dairy is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of planning and paperwork that goes into it.

A certified organic farm is one that goes through the certification process with an organization such as NOFA-NY. An exempt organic farm is one that follows National Organic Standards, but is too small to go through the certification process.

At one time, most states had their own standards for what it means to be organic. It made things extremely confusing, especially when it came to farmers from one state trying to sell products in other states.

Then in 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up one uniform organic standard that everyone must follow. Different organizations do the actual certification of farms, but they all use the same USDA uniform organic standard.

Farms in New York are usually certified by NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association-New York). The Engelbert farm was certified by NOFA Vermont because Lisa Engelbert works for NOFA-NY and had to stay away from a possible conflict of interest.

A certified farm can use the USDA Organic seal on its products. An exempt farm can use the term organic, but cannot use the USDA Organic seal.

To have their land certified, farmers must prove they’ve added no fertilizers or chemicals to it for three years. They also have to be sure there is a buffer between the organic land and neighbor’s farmland, so chemicals used there don’t end up on the organic land. And then every year, there is more paperwork to recertify the farm.

According to organic guidelines, an organic dairy herd must get 30 percent of its feed from the pasture. The rest must be organic grain or hay. Lisa Engelbert said her farm’s herd is in the pasture from the end of April to mid-November, depending on the weather.

“Grass and clover — a cow’s natural feed is grass,” she said. “We don’t press them for production. We don’t feed huge amounts. Our production average is 35 to 40 pounds of milk a day.”

They sell their milk to Organic Valley, one of the largest organic dairy product cooperatives in the U.S. with nearly 1,800 farms. You’ve probably seen Organic Valley milk, butter, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, cheese and cream in local grocery stores.

The Bawdens sell their milk to Horizon, a brand within WhiteWave Foods, the company behind Land O’ Lakes and International Delight creamers. They also grow organic hay for their own use and for sale to local farmers.

The Engelberts sell their meat products, cheese and produce at their farm stand and at some stores.

“Pigs are fed certified-organic grains, milk, hay and leftover vegetables from our organic gardens,” according to the Engelbert Farms website. “No animal byproducts are ever fed to our animals.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good Dirt Takes Inspiration from Hudson Valley Farmers

Check out this story at this link.

Will the State Horse Slaughter Bill Make it Out of Committee This Year?

Empire Farm & Dairy


In May 2013, about 30 horses on the  way to a slaughterhouse in Quebec died in a horrific blaze when the transport truck they were in caught fire on Interstate 81 north of Binghamton.

A bill to prevent this from happening again has been introduced in the New York state legislature for a number of consecutive sessions and will be introduced again this spring, said a spokesman with Senate bill sponsor Sen. Kathleen Marchione , R-Saratoga County.

Bos at his new home in Homer. Photo from Mary Minkoff
The bill has been sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.

The bill calls for prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the transport of horses for slaughter for human consumption in New York state.

Right now, horses are not slaughtered for human consumption in New York, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. But there are such slaughterhouses in Quebec, so trailers filled with animals do travel through New York state north on Interstate 81 and the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) from points in the United States.

The bill was sponsored last session by Glick and Marchione. It was sent to the agriculture committees in both the state Assembly and the state Senate but did not move from there.

In fact, the bill has been around since 2007, but never makes it out of the agriculture committees in the Assembly or Senate. To become law, it would have to be approved in committee, go to a vote by the full Legislature and then be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Assemblywoman Glick is very committed to this bill,” said Charles LeDuc, Glick’s legislative analyst. He said the problem deals with wording in the bill.

“She cares deeply about this issue and will continue to work with the chair of the committee,” LeDuc said. “It all comes down to the wording in the bill.”

“Sen. Marchione believes that New York’s horses are majestic, beautiful animals that deserve protection from inhumane treatment and slaughter,” said Joshua Fitzpatrick, speaking for Marchione. “This bipartisan legislation continues to work its way through the legislative process.”

Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, Madison County, chair of the Assembly agriculture committee, said he didn’t hear much from constituents concerning the bill when it was first introduced. It was amended last year to beef up the enforcement part of the bill and was reintroduced this year, and will be discussed by the committee this session.

Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, Saratoga County, has been a co-sponsor of the bill each time it has been introduced and continues to back it.

Tedisco called the slaughter of horses animal abuse and said it is a bridge crime to more heinous actions, such as the assault or killing of people. He also called horses noble “creatures of God” that “built this nation, built the Erie Canal and worked the farms” that made the U.S. and New York grow into what they are today.

Bos before being rehabilitated at Sunshine Horses
Bos is one of those “noble creatures” of which Tedisco speaks, says Mary Minkoff, vice president of Sunshine Horses, a rescue organization outside of Central Square, Oswego County.

Minkoff found Bos — a 15-year-old Standardbred — at a kill pen in Pennsylvania in 2013. He had been a champion harness race horse, bringing in about $200,000 in winnings for his owner.

But when he couldn’t race anymore, he was sold to some Amish farmers. He pulled carriages.
“This is a hard life for these horses,” Minkoff said.

She said Bos was worked quite hard and then auctioned off again when he couldn’t pull his load.
He ended up in the kill pen, where he was rescued by Minkoff.

“He came to us in April 2013 and he was quite ill,” Minkoff said. “He had a respiratory illness and had to be in quarantine.”

Today, Bos is thriving. He was nursed back to health and lived for a while with other horses at Sunshine Horses stables, enjoying the outdoors, the camaraderie  of other equine and, life in general. He’s inquisitive and is always the first to come check out a new person at the fence.

“He’s a funny boy,” Minkoff said.

He has recently been adopted by the Laughlin family in Homer, Cortland County.
Minkoff thinks the state’s slaughter bill is a good idea, although she said “enforcing it is probably going to be a problem.” She thinks more could be done if a federal bill was passed.

There is a federal bill called the Safeguard American Food Exports, or SAFE, which is in committee in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The bill states it would “prevent human health threats posed by the consumption of equines raised in the United States.”

“We have to stop the transport of horses over borders,” Minkoff said. “People need to be educated about horse slaughter. About 100,000 horses are slaughtered each year over the border.”

The federal bill keys in on the health problems that can arise from eating horse meat and prohibits the “sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.”

New York Assemblyman Tedisco also is concerned about horse meat from other countries (possibly those slaughtered in Canada) making it into U.S. food.

“It is dangerous to people’s health,” he said. “There are a lot of drugs (used in horses) that can cause harm to people or even kill a baby in a woman’s womb.”

Some of the drugs listed in the federal bill are phenylbutazone, acepromazine, boldenone undecylenate, omeprazole, ketoprofen, xylazine, hyaluronic acid, nitrofurazone, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, clenbuterol, tolazoline, and ponazuril, all of which are prohibited in meat used for human consumption.

Jack Knowlton is operating manager at Sackatoga Stable in Saratoga Springs and was the race manager for 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide. Funny Cide was the first gelding to win the Derby in nearly 75 years and the first New York-bred horse to win the Run for the Roses.

Knowlton has long been an advocate against equine abuse and slaughter and even has been honored for his work by various horse groups. He agrees the state bill would be difficult to enforce. But the bill should be pressed through, he said.

“I think the fact is at least getting a state bill passed is important — let’s get the state of New York on record,” he said. “We should say ‘this is not lawful. We do not want this in our state.’ ”

There used to be horse slaughter plants in the United States, but the last one closed in 2007 in Illinois. Since then, some states have tried to open plants again, but have not been successful, Knowlton said.

Knowlton discussed the fire on Interstate 81 that killed the horses en route to Quebec.

“Without an outlet in the United States, they have to take them elsewhere,” Knowlton said. “We don’t want to be the gateway for horses going to Quebec. It would be my thought that we could get them at the border — find out where the horses in the trailers are going and why.”

Some people believe the reason the bill doesn’t go anywhere in New York is because of lobbying by New York Farm Bureau. A Farm Bureau official said the state’s largest agriculture organization opposes the horse slaughter bill.

“This is an issue of compassion for anyone concerned about the overpopulation of unwanted horses in New York state and across the country,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm bureau public policy director. “It is important to have a properly regulated alternative to deal with unwanted livestock, as opposed to neglect or the animals being turned loose.”

Farm Bureau also believes horses are livestock and not pets and therefore should be treated differently than dogs or cats.

State Sens. Patricia Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, chair of the Senate agriculture committee, and Marchione, R-Halfmoon, Saratoga County, would not comment on why the bill hasn’t moved out of the Senate agriculture committee for many years.

Assemblyman Magee, chair of the Assembly agriculture committee, said nothing about the Farm Bureau holding the bill up and instead, mentioned the amendment made to the bill last session, adding the bill should be taken up by the committee this session.

Minkoff said Farm Bureau should not worry about  maintaining slaughter as an option for disposing of unwanted horses.

“There are many other ways to deal with the horse population than slaughter,” she said. She said Sunshine Horses is trying to seek its sanctuary certification so it can take in and care for more unwanted horses.

“They should be able to go to a sanctuary and live out their lives with dignity,” she said. “There is no reason why they have to go to slaughter.” 

Many news outlets, including ESPN and the New York Times, reported that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand apparently died in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002, where his meat was used either in pet food or steaks for human consumption. His story often comes up during discussion of New York’s anti-slaughter bill.

There have been a number of protests outside the horse slaughter plant in Massueville, Quebec and a bill was introduced in Canada’s Parliament in 2010 to stop horse slaughter in that country. But it did not become law.

The New York Times in 2009 published commentaries both pro and con horse slaughtering. Those in favor of slaughter said there has to be an option for horse owners who need to rid themselves of expensive, old or infirmed horses. Those against horse slaughter believe there should be a more humane end for these beasts.

“These horses have been good companions and show horses for years,” said Minkoff, who called the slaughter process barbaric. “They deserve a lot better.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There's Still Time to Fill Out Your Certified Organic Survey

The 2015 Certified Organic Survey is underway and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is reminding farmers and ranchers that it’s not too late to respond. 

In early February, survey questionnaires were mailed nationwide to all known organic farms. Later this month, NASS will begin conducting telephone follow up with producers who have not yet responded. 

Some farmers may also be selected for in person interviews to assist with data collection.

“Your participation is strongly encouraged,” said NASS’ Northeastern Regional Director King Whetstone. “The 2015 Certified Organic Survey will provide vital data to assist farmers, suppliers, policymakers, as well as those in the private sector in planning the production and marketing of new programs and products to help sustain industry growth. 

For example, USDA’s Risk Management Agency will use the information to evaluate crop insurance coverage to help provide adequate pricing for organic producers.”

The survey asks farmers to provide information on acreage, production, and sales for a variety of certified organic crop and livestock commodities. NASS is also gathering information about certified organic farmers’ marketing practices and transitional data. The agency urges all participants to respond. 

Producers can return their forms by mail or complete the survey online at

15 Press Conferences Held Monday to Oppose Minimum Wage Increase

From New York Farm Bureau:

Family farmers and small business owners joined together Monday March 21 at farms and businesses across New York to ask state lawmakers to oppose the proposed $15 minimum wage increase. 

The April first budget deadline is just days away, and the coalition remains united in its efforts to defeat what would be a devastating blow to local employers. Farm Bureau’s state and county leadership spearheaded the effort asking local business groups and chambers of commerce to join in and voice their concerns.
In all, 15 press conferences took place from Long Island to the North Country to Western New York. It is part of a final push by New York Farm Bureau to make the compelling point to lawmakers that there are serious consequences, from job loss to higher consumer prices, should New York pass a $15 minimum wage. 

In addition, the organization has issued a call-to-action for members to contact their representatives in Albany and has also collected hundreds of postcards that will be delivered to legislative offices in Albany.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New York Spring Dairy Carousel Set for April 8 to 11 at State Fairgrounds

From Empire Farm & Dairy magazine:

Empire Farm & Dairy


The New York Spring Dairy Carousel is scheduled for April 8 to 11 at the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes, just west of Syracuse.

Entries for the shows must be postmarked by March 10 to avoid late fees. Every owner/exhibitor must have a signed entry form on file.

Holsteins grazing in New York.
Forms not signed by the owner will be returned for signature. Forms entered online will constitute a signature.

New York Spring Dairy Carousel is recognized as the most prestigious and largest spring dairy event in North America. All seven major dairy breeds are represented in eight shows, five sales and several junior activities.

In 2015, more than 1,000 animals from 20 states and Canada attended the show and sale and several thousand people attended the four-day event.

The event is open to the public and admission and parking are free. Food is available. Exhibitors and staff are happy to answer questions about cattle and the dairy industry during the show.

Here is a schedule of shows and sales:
8 a.m. April 7, barns open and cattle may move in
7 p.m. April 7, all cattle must be in place.
8 a.m. April 8, Holstein USA National Judging Conference
Noon April 8, junior showmanship.
2:30 p.m. April 8, Richard Keene Memorial Judging Contest, juniors welcome
6 p.m. April 8, protein breeds sale (Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn).
9 a.m. April 9, New York Junior Holstein Show, (resident New York juniors).
1 p.m. April 9, Ayrshire show
1 p.m. April 9, Guernsey show.
4 p.m. April 9, New York Spring Holstein Sale.
6 p.m. April 10, protein breeds sale.
8 a.m. April 10, Red & White show.
9 a.m. April 10, Milking Shorthorn show.
12:30 p.m. April 10, Jersey show and Brown Swiss show.
8 a.m. April 11, International Spring Holstein Show.

Entry forms for the Spring Carousel are available in the February issue of New York Holstein News and at

Also, in conjunction with the Spring Carousel, Holstein Association USA is planning a 2016 Judges Conference from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 8 in the Coliseum at the fairgrounds.

The conference will include judging classes as well as classroom time and lunch. Participants will judge six high-quality Holstein classes, one of which they will be assigned to provide reasons for their judging.

A panel of officials will give attendees who meet the minimum requirements a “satisfactory” rating. Those planning to apply for the Holstein Association USA judges lists in the future must first attend and receive a satisfactory rating at a Holstein Association USA judges conference before submitting an application.

Individuals on the judges list must have attended and received a satisfactory rating at a Holstein Association USA judges conference within a five-year period.

Attendees at the judges conference must be at least 22 years of age by day of the conference. The fee to attend is $50 for pre-registrants (closing two weeks before the conference) and $100 for late registrants.

Register for the conference online with a credit card at this link:

Anyone with questions about the judging conference should email Jodi Hoynoski at

Saturday, March 19, 2016

It's National Poultry Day!

A bird on display at the New York State Fair.
Today is the day to salute your birds.

It's National Poultry Day. The National Calendar Day website states:

"Eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast, an open faced turkey avocado sandwich for lunch and then perhaps a good, ol’ fashioned fried chicken dinner to finish off the day as March 19th celebrates National Poultry Day."

Poultry refers to domestic birds raised for meat and eggs. This includes chicken, turkey, ducks, geese, quail and pheasant. Poultry are farmed in great numbers with chickens being the most numerous.

It is believed chickens were introduced to American soil by the European explorers in the 16th century. Chicken consumption in the United States increased during World War II due to a shortage of beef and pork."

Friday, March 18, 2016

First Maple Weekend Begins Tomorrow

The first Maple Weekend is Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20.

Get out to your local maple producer and take a tour, sample a product, buy some products and perhaps, eat some pancakes.

If you miss it this weekend, another Maple Weekend is set for April 2 and 3.

Western New York EquiFest Coming To Western New York This Weekend

Here's an event coming up this weekend for all you equine enthusiasts.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Couple's Plan for Farm Brewery Works Out Bee-eautifully

Empire Farm & Dairy


Emily and Evan Watson embraced the farm brewery concept at just the right time.

They bought a 1-acre farm in Fishkill nearly three years ago with the idea of growing virtually everything they would need to create and market their own brands of beer. Last year, they moved to a 25-acre farm in Poughkeepsie to expand their growing business.

New York state has for several years offered farm brewery licenses. The program requires that a certain percentage of items used to create beer must come from farms in the state, an aspect that benefits the agricultural industry. And brewers take advantage of financial incentives, which boosts their business prospects.

The Watsons’ Plan A for making a living was based on Evan’s successful music career, which he launched from New York City. But the frequent traveling got in the way of other dreams they had, like starting a family.

So they adopted a Plan B, operating a farm brewery. And since they cultivate their yeast from their honeycomb, they’ve come to call their new lifestyle their Plan Bee.

As in Plan Bee Farm Brewery, They grow many of their own ingredients and import the rest from local farms. Several beer-related publications have written about their successful business.

During an interview with Empire Farm & Dairy, Emily Watson spoke about her farming background, how she and her husband found themselves in a growing niche industry and what they’re doing to move their enterprise forward. Some of her responses have been edited for brevity.

Q What is your background in farming?
A I’m originally from Ohio, and my father is a farmer. So I grew up in a farming community. Evan grew up in Indiana but not on a farm.

Q What is the history of your farm brewery?
A Plan Bee Farm Brewery started in Fishkill in 2013. We had a 1-acre farm there, and we had a one-barrel brew house system. In May 2015, we closed on a 25-acre farm in Poughkeepsie, and we moved into a 10-barrel brewhouse. 

On our 25-acre farm, we have more than 100 wild apple trees, which we do harvest for making a cider/ale blend out of the fruits that we’ve gotten off of the farm. But our plan this spring is to plant hops, herbs and flowers, different additives that we put into the beer to increase the amount of types of fruit trees that we have. We also hope to start our own grain production here eventually.

Q How did you decide to become farm brewers?
A I was working for a nonprofit, Riverkeeper. I was going up and down the Hudson Valley, working closely with the community and talking about the environment. I really fell in love with the Hudson Valley and said I really want to stay here, and I wanted to do something closely tied to the environment.

I have a degree in geology, and I really enjoy working outdoors. My husband, working at (beer brewery) Captain Lawrence, said he really enjoys brewing beer. My husband and I were home brewers, and he said maybe we can marry these two ideas. And between my background and his background, we’d be able to come up with a decent plan on how to make that economically feasible.

Mint Milk Just Right for St. Patrick's Day

Byrne Dairy Green Mint Milk
If you want something to wash down that corned beef and cabbage today, why not try some of Byrne Dairy's Green Mint Milk?

It's available at a number of local grocery stores and Byrne Dairy stores. Hits the spot for St. Patrick's Day.

Eat Some New York Cabbage on St. Patrick's Day

Well, today is St. Patrick's Day.

And the famed Irish meal for this date is corned beef and cabbage.

Did you all know that New York state is a huge cabbage state. New York ranks number 2 in all the United States for growing cabbage for the fresh market and has been in the top 3 states for production for the last 10 years.

Cabbage is very nutritious and has hardly any calories. According to, a cup of chopped cabbage has 22 calories, no fat, 15 mg of Omega-6 fatty acids, 54 percent of the daily amount needed of vitamin C, 85 percent of the daily amount needed of vitamin K, 10 percent folate, 6 percent vitamin B6, 4 percent calcium, 2 percent vitamin A, 2 percent protein and 7 percent manganese.

According to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, cabbage is grown everywhere in the state, but the biggest areas or cabbage production is Western New York and the Finger Lakes region.

"Traditionally planted in April, it can be harvested from mid-June through mid-November. More than 30 varieties of cabbage are grown in the state, ranging from small ones weighing a couple of pounds to behemoths close to 20.  Cabbage comes in green, red and even purple colors," according to the website.

Most of the New York cabbage goes for cole slaw, but the Department of Ag and Markets says New York cabbage is also used in egg rolls, bagged salad mixes, and sauerkraut. "Two sauerkraut producers call New York home, taking advantage of the state’s abundant cabbage crop: Seneca Foods Corporation in Geneva and Great Lakes Kraut Company in Shortsville."

Fresh cabbage always can be found in area grocery stores and at farmers' markets in the summer and fall. "New York cabbage can be stored for many months and it’s likely the cabbage eaten with corned beef in March was grown right here."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

State Senate Budget Includes More for Agriculture

A story on the sate Senate's budget plan, which includes more for agriculture and infrastructure.

Go to to see the story from the Watertown Daily Times.

New Yorkers Honored by Farm Credit

Farm Credit is honoring 100 ag people as part of its 100th anniversary this year.

The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives Honorees include leaders and visionaries from across the country. Selected by a distinguished panel of industry representatives, the honorees are creating the future of agriculture and rural America through their dedication and innovation.

There are a number of honorees from New York state. They are:

Chris Fesko, town of Spafford in Onondaga County. Go to to see the writeup about her. She also was in the top 10 of this list.

Jessica Ziehm, Buskirk, Washington County. Go to to read about her and her work.

Nancy Robbins, Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County. Go to to learn about her.

Dale-Ila Riggs, Stephentown, Rensselaer County. Go to  to read about her accomplishments.

Jim Hyland, New Paltz, Ulster County. Go to  to find out about his work.

Levi Cahan, Whitehall, Washington County. Go to to learn about his work.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Remember This on National Agriculture Day

This is one of my most favorite quotes about agriculture.

Peterson Brothers Visit Syracuse

Want to read something about the recent visit to Syracuse by those farm parody guys, the Peterson Brothers?

Go to to check out a blog and a Q and A with the brothers. 

Does Maple Syrup Cure Alzheimer's??

Here's another good reason to get out to Maple Weekend this Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20.

Go to to see the story.  

Maple Weekend continues April 2 and 3. Be sure to get out to your local maple producer and take a tour, see a demonstration of how to make maple syrup and, if you're lucky, partake of a pancake breakfast.

Go to for more information or to find a maple producer near you.

NY Begins Farmers' Market Manager Certification Program

The state is beginning a program to train farmers' markets managers.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets and The Farmers’ Market Federation of NY in Syracuse, in partnership with SUNY Cobleskill and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, announced Monday the Farmers’ Market Managers Professional Certification Course.

The FMM PRO program is poised to grow and professionalize New York’s increasing number of farmers’ markets and create New York state’s first market manager certification designation, which is recognized through the SUNY system.  

FMM PRO also is geared toward opening new markets and increasing opportunities for New York state agriculture producers.

A growing demand from consumers for fresh, healthy local foods has brought an increase in the number of farmers’ markets across the state.  New York state is home to 646 farmers’ markets, up nearly 35 percent from just five years ago.
The FMM PRO program provides an online curriculum to ensure the quality and performance of farmers’ markets across the state. The 22 unique training modules will help market managers better organize, administer and promote their markets.

The FMM PRO course curriculum includes all aspects of maintaining and growing a successful farmers’ market and is broken down into three modules:
1.     Nuts and Bolts of Managing Markets
2.     Reaching Out to the Market Community
3.     Building Market Systems
Program participants who complete the full curriculum will receive a certificate and earn the title of Certified Market Manager. As a FMM PRO Certified Market Manager, graduates of the program will:
**   Be fully knowledgeable in today’s best practices for managing farmers’ markets
**   Learn tactics to expand and optimize their farmers’ market
**  Be equipped to build successful relationships with farmers and shoppers
**  Be able to use their certification to leverage funding and support for their market
The cost of the SUNY Farmers’ Market Managers Professional Certification is $200 for 12 months of access to the online curriculum.  Discounts are available for multiple registrations for market organizations.  

Participants need to complete all 22 sessions within this time frame, including a quiz and homework assignment from each section in order to receive certification. 

In addition, they will need to earn two continuing education credits bi-annually by attending special sessions at the Federation’s annual Farmers’ Market Managers Conference and/or specified manager training webinars in order to maintain their certification.  

The program is also available to out-of-state participants. 
Registration for the course is ongoing, enabling participants to register and complete the full curriculum at their convenience. To register, a participant will need to complete an online application and submit payment online. Once your payment is received, participants will be emailed a code to access the online course. 

To register for FMM Pro: Farmers’ Market Managers Certification Program, go to

Today is National Agriculture Day!

Today is National Agriculture Day.

National Ag Day is celebrated annually. This day is a day for all to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture across the United States.  

American agriculture plays a very critical economic and food security role in our country.

You will find additional information at

Monday, March 14, 2016

Money Available for Farmland Protection Grants

A total of $26 million is now available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York state protect valuable and at-risk farmland. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program which supports conservation easement projects.
The Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program is part of the New York state Environmental Protection Fund, which has a funding level of $300 million in the proposed 2016 state budget. 

The proposal also increases funding for farmland protection by $5 million. This increase builds on last year's historic investment in farmland protection, including the $20 million Hudson Valley Agricultural Enhancement Program, the first-ever regionally targeted farmland preservation grant program.
Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts are eligible to apply for individual grants through the program's Round 14 Request for Proposals to protect viable agricultural land from being converted to non-agricultural use. 

The application is available at
This funding opportunity continues the state's renewed commitment to provide financial assistance for farmland protection on a two-year cycle. In addition, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets has taken further actions to streamline the application and grant disbursement process. 

Required forms needed to complete a project have been further reduced and clarified. Applicants are now allowed to submit up to six proposals per qualifying entity, and the $29,000-per-acre limitation on the state's contribution toward these projects has been removed, which eliminates a potential deterrent for some applicants.

The department's previous streamlining measures have resulted in significant reductions in the overall time needed to complete projects. Three projects awarded in October 2014 were completed in less than one year. The process in previous rounds has averaged nearly four years.

Happy Pi Day

It's Pi Day.

No, we're not celebrating those great pies made with local fruits or wonderful cream.

It's 3.14. That pi.

Pamelia Couple Donate Control of Sheep Farm to Land Trust

A Pamelia couple have protected their sheep farm land by going through the Ontario Bays Initiative, a land trust based in Chaumont.

Go to this Watertown Daily Times site to see the story.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Morrisville State College Adds a Former World Champion to its Stallion Roster

News from Morrisville State College:

Morrisville State College has added former World Champion Third Straight p, 3, 1:53.3s, 3, 1:50.1f ($321,662) to its stallion roster.

Third Straight, photo by John Kiskiel, Public Relations intern  
Third Straight is in the top 10 in Leading Sires Average Earnings per foal for 2015; among two-year olds, he is sixth and three-year-olds he is 10th.

As a two-year-old, Third Straight held his own against the likes of Mach Three and western Shooter, finishing second in the Breeders Crown elimination (fifth in final),  Blueras and third in Champlain and the Governor's Club elimination and final.

At three, he was a PaSS winner, was second in Adios elimination and finished third in Meadowland Pace. He is a multiple stakes winner as an aged performer.

He has sired Itrustyou, Dark Alley Sally and Straight Dancer. Third Straight's dam is the $296,000 winner Terrie Letsgo.

The 2016 fee for Third Straight is $1,000. All foals are NYSS and Breeders Crown eligible.

For more information, call Mary Taylor or Erin Shantal at or call 684-6355.

“Third Straight is a phenomenal horse and he is a great teaching point for our students,” said Shantal, Morrisville State College equine breeding manager.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Onondaga County Farm Bureau Wants Phone Calls Made to State Legislators about Minimum Wage Proposal

From Onondaga County Farm Bureau:

On Monday, March 14, Farm Bureau is urging everyone to call their legislators in Albany and let them know that increasing the minimum wage to $15 is bad for New York. 

We are asking everyone, whether in agriculture or not, to take a good hard look at what this increase will do to our local businesses and the people already making more than minimum wage and make those calls to Albany on Monday. 

We need to overwhelm the phone system in our state’s capital. 

Here are some facts to help you understand why this act is so bad for New York:

• Farm and Small Business labor costs will immediately go up 67 percent%.

• Agricultural businesses do not set their prices they are nationally or globally market driven and we cannot offset our higher costs by increasing price

• Pennsylvania ($7.25) and neighboring States (all less than $10) will have a significant cost advantage over NY production.

• Our 36,000 farms are labor intensive and will be forced out of business or to spend on automation to replace our 200,000 employees. The automation is mostly foreign produced.

• Many farms and small businesses already pay experienced workers more than $15 hour but Farms also employ a large number of young inexperienced workers who are our State's future. Farms and other small businesses cannot afford to pay non-experienced workers $15/hr while training these workers with new skills. These people will lose many opportunities.

• New York State is the 3rd largest Dairy state in the nation and top 5 in many other commodities. Agriculture is one of the few thriving industries in New York State and will be decimated by this drastic change in costs.

• This is not a Wall Street versus Main Street issue. Wall St. does not pay workers minimum wage, small labor intensive businesses do. This act will not impact the wealthy, it will only hurt small businesses, farms and especially those businesses close to state borders.

Please make that call on Monday!!

Agri-Mark to Invest About $30M in Franklin County Cheese Facility

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office:

Dairy cooperative Agri-Mark will invest nearly $30 million to expand its cheese manufacturing facility in Franklin County and retain 106 jobs in the North Country.

The expansion will enable Agri-Mark to continue to thrive and support future generations of New York dairy farmers.

"Agri-Mark's investment to expand and modernize its Chateaugay facility is a win-win for the Upstate economic," said Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development president, chief executive officer and commissioner.

The expansion and restoration of Agri-Mark's Chateaugay facility involves rebuilding the current 110,641-square-foot manufacturing facility, reengineering the layout of the facility adn purchasing new machinery and other equipment.

Empire State Development will support the dairy co-op with up to $6 million, including $4 million in Economic Transformation Program money to retain 106 full-time jobs and modernize the Chateaugay operations.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cortland County Horses Confirmed with Equine Infectious Anemia

This is from the New York Horse Council:

On March 4, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Animal Industry confirmed Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) in five horses on a Cortland County farm. 

Ten draft and buggy horses reside on the farm. All horses have been quarantined and an investigation is ongoing. The Division of Animal Industry will continue updates as needed. 

The following key points pertain to New York’s law for equine infectious anemia.

** All horses must have a negative EIA test in the 12 months preceding a change in ownership. 
** All horses being imported into New York for purposes other than movement to slaughter must accompanied by a CVI and a negative EIA test in the preceding 12 months.
** All horses transported on a public road in New York must have had a negative EIA test in the current or previous calendar year.

Wisconsin Cheese Wins World Championship

Well, it's not a New York cheese, but at least now a U.S. cheese has won the world cheese championship.

Go to to check out the story.

Other U.S. cheeses to make the top 16 in the judging were:
  • Cellars of Jasper Hill in Vermont with a Winnimere, a smear ripened soft cheese.
  • Central Coast Creamery in California with a Ewenique, a soft & semi-soft sheep's milk cheese.
  • Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville with an Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a hard cheese.