Friday, June 23, 2017

2 Charged with Trying to Steal Cockfighting Birds

From the NY Attorney General's office:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said two people have been arrested for allegedly breaking into and attempting to steal about 50 chickens from a barn in Poland, Herkimer County.

The chickens had previously been rescued as part of the Attorney General’s “Operation Bloodsport” -- a five-month investigation into an alleged network of cockfighting in the Mohawk Valley that resulted in 41 arrests, and the seizure of gamecocks, heroin, guns and cash.

“It’s cruel, dangerous, and unlawful to torture animals for entertainment – and even more egregious to break in and try to steal those animals after their rescue,” said Schneiderman. “Poultry pilferers who try to fly the coop with our evidence will be brought to justice.”

Juan Jose Lucca Vega, 41, and Wanda Santos, 42, both of Utica, were arrested Tuesday evening and charged with a felony county of burglary and a count of training an animal for animal fighting for amusement. 

Vega and Santos are alleged to have broken into a Herkimer barn Tuesday night, where the Attorney General’s Office and the Herkimer County Humane Society had moved the chickens following their rescue last weekend. 

Prosecutors allege Vega and Santos broke padlocks authorities had installed on the barn doors and attempted to remove about 50 chickens, which were being treated for injuries sustained during cockfighting and are considered evidence in the case. 

Vega and Santos were each arraigned in theNewport Town Court and sent to the Herkimer County Jail. 

Their relationship to the other 41 individuals arrested as part of Operation Bloodsport is under investigation.

As announced earlier this week, in "Operation Bloodsport" state and local law enforcement agents – led by the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the New York State Police – concluded a five-month investigation into a cockfighting network that was operating prohibited cockfights at a landscaping business in Herkimer County. 

The operation drew participants from numerous New York counties including Bronx, Erie, Herkimer, Monroe, New York, Oneida, Onondaga and Queens. 

The investigation resulted in the arrests of 41 individuals on June 17th for allegedly operating an illegal cockfighting operation in the town of Frankfort. Police seized nearly 200 gamecocks that were turned over to the Herkimer County Humane Society. 

A subsequent search of an adjacent barn resulted in the discovery of a game bird breeding and training facility. Police also seized bird-fighting paraphernalia, such as spurs or razors, which are attached to a bird’s talons to increase the carnage of the fight. 

In addition, heroin, several handguns, and over $68,000 in cash were seized. This investigation is part of  Schneiderman's ongoing efforts to combat animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting across New York state through his Animal Protection Initiative.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

More Than $1M Awarded to New Farmers

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office:

More than $1 million has been awarded to 27 new and early-stage farms through the New York State New Farmers Grant Fund. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said since its launch in 2014, the program has provided nearly $2.5 million to 66 farms across the state to expand operations and improve profitability.
"Agriculture remains a major New York industry, and with support from the New Farmers Grant Fund, we will be making investments that will pay dividends for future generations of farmers," said Cuomo.

"The fund continues to provide access to capital to help new and early farms grow, while supporting the expansion of businesses statewide, and with this latest round of awards, New York will help increase production and support this critically important part of our economy for years to come," Cuomo said.
The New Farmers Grant Fund award recipients by region are:
Capital Region
  • Blue Star Farm NY, LLC, Columbia County – $50,000
  • Letterbox Farm, LLC, Columbia County – $31,000
  • MX Morningstar Farm, Columbia County – $30,436

Finger Lakes
  • Buttonwood Grove Winery, Seneca County – $50,000
  • Camman Acres, LLC, Monroe County – $18,021
  • First Light Farm & Creamery, Genesee County – $50,000
  • Hartway Brothers, Orleans County – $42,500
  • Lyman and Chelsey Rudgers, Wyoming County – $50,000

Long Island
  • Sannino's Bella Vita Vineyard, Suffolk County – $19,154

Mid-Hudson Valley
  • Long Season Farm, Ulster County – $32,119
  • Westwind Orchard, LLC, Ulster County – $48,619

Mohawk Valley
  • Autumn Valley Farm, Otsego County – $39,900
  • Collins Farm, LLC, Oneida County – $50,000
  • Dygert Farms Creamery, Montgomery County – $37,500
  • Michael B’s Honey Co., Oneida County – $30,770

North Country
  • Black Rooster Maple, Essex County – $50,000
  • Echo Farm, Essex County – $23,401
  • Reber Rock Farm, Essex County – $35,065

Southern Tier
  • Bensvue Farms, LLC, Tompkins County – $46,118
  • Hemlock Ridge Farm, Steuben County – $50,000
  • Nanticoke Gardens, Broome County – $49,510
  • Shannon Brook Farm, Schuyler County – $44,000
  • Homestead Hog Farm, Steuben County – $38,741

Western New York
  • Black Bird Cider Works, Niagara County – $46,245
  • Bliss Dairy Company, Inc., Cattaraugus County – $50,000
  • Nathan & Sarah Nickerson, Chautauqua County – $16,660
  • Niefergold Dairy, LLC, Erie County – $50,000

The New Farmers Grant Fund is administered by Empire State Development, in consultation with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. 

Nearly 60 applications were submitted for program funding this round, with applicants scored based on specific criteria, including demonstrating how the project expands or diversifies agricultural production. 

Grant funds will be used for project costs associated with the construction of farm buildings, and the purchase of equipment and supplies.
The fund provides grants of up to $50,000 to assist with up to 50 percent of eligible project costs, with the remaining 50 percent being matched by the recipient. 

All eligible farm owners must be within the first ten years of ownership and the farm must have a minimum of $10,000 in income from sales of products grown or raised on the farm. This year, the program eliminated the 150 acres or less requirement and accepted farm applicants of all sizes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

State Fair to Host Craft Beer Competition

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office:

The Great New York State Fair will host a professionally judged craft beer competition to further promote New York's growing craft beverage industry. 

The New York State Craft Beer Competition will award medals to the best beers in 20 categories, and the highest scoring beer in all categories will be awarded the Governor's Excelsior Cup. 

Sponsored by the New York State Brewers Association, top professional and amateur judges from around the state will sample submitted beers in an official, private judging session on July 29, 2017.
"After cutting red tape and removing barriers to growth, New York's craft beverage industry is thriving in every corner of this state," Cuomo said. "Building on the success of the Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge, this competition taps professionally trained judges, opens the playing field to New York brewers, and will further promote the world class beverages made right here in the Empire State."
The New York State Craft Beer Competition is open to any craft brewer located in New York state. As many as three gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in each of the 20 categories, which include major styles of beer, such as IPAs and Lagers, as well as niche or emerging styles, such as sour beers or fruit and spice beers. 

Brewers may enter more than one variety of beer and each entry is $45. A complete list of rules, categories and entry instructions can be found at

Bill To Ensure Farm Property Tax Relief Eligibility Passes State Legislature

From Assemblyman Bill Magee's office:

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, announced that legislation he sponsored to ensure more farms are eligible for critical property tax relief has passed both the Assembly and the Senate. 

The legislation allows family members who operate farms held in trust to qualify for the Farmers’ School Tax Credit – a refundable credit for farming businesses that have paid school district property taxes (A.4650).

“It’s important that we help farms transition from one generation to the next,” Magee said. “Those who have been farming for decades have knowledge that has been handed down and is almost impossible to replace. We can help new farmers take the helm and continue their family’s legacy by cutting red tape to ensure they get the tax relief they need and deserve.”

As chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, Magee is a strong advocate for farmers, and fights to ensure that family farms can continue to thrive. He recognizes that trusts have become more common over the past several years as more families use them to transfer their farms to the next generation. 

Currently, there are more than 400 farms in New York State classified as “cooperative, estate or trust, institutional” and a significant number of those are trusts.

However, a technicality in current law allows family members who intend to purchase the land to be eligible for the Farmers’ School Tax Credit, while those who will inherit through a trust are not. Magee’s legislation corrects that oversight and allows new farmers to claim the credit. 

The legislation has passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Martinsburg Farmers Receive Support After Barn Fire

Please go to to check out the story.

European Union Bans Word 'Milk' for Plant-Based Products

An interesting read.

Will the U.S. follow suit?

Go to to see the story.

Byrne Dairy Brings Ag Education to the Zoo

Pictured unveiling the new Byrnsie display are, left to right, Friends of the Zoo President Janet Agostini with Byrne Dairy executives CEO Fred Sadeghi , CFO Paul Hatty, Sales and Marketing Director Kate Byrne, CTO Nick Marsella, General Counsel Jim Gosier , Zoo Director Ted Fox, and Byrne Dairy Attorney Ryan Elliott.

Byrne Dairy has partnered with the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo to sponsor “The Real Milking Cow” exhibit. 

The specially built Holstein cow is designed to educate zoo-goers on the art of milking a cow. Byrne Dairy has decided to name the exhibit “Byrnsie” after the beloved cow that is prominently featured on many of the company’s products.

Byrnsie recently was installed in front of the zoo’s Contact Barn where she has become a major attraction among zoo visitors who enjoy petting and milking her. 

Byrnsie comes equipped with an internal pump system, which ensures a constant flow of water to her udder so zoo-goers can learn how to extract milk from a cow using nothing but their hands.

Kids try out 'milking' Byrnsie
“Byrnsie represents a sizeable sponsorship on the part of Byrne Dairy, and she is a wonderful addition to our Contact Barn, where zoo visitors learn about farm animals up close,” said Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo President Janet Agostini. “The folks at Byrne Dairy responded immediately when we asked them to partner with us on this new exhibit.”

“Many of the children who come to the zoo have never even seen a cow, much less experienced milking one,” said Zoo Director Ted Fox. “This is a great educational tool that teaches kids where their milk comes from in an interactive way. We are grateful to Byrne Dairy for partnering with us and sponsoring Byrnsie.”

Byrnsie is part of a five-year partnership between the Friends of the Zoo and Byrne Dairy, which will include a series of educational events hosted by Byrne Dairy at the exhibit. 

The first event will celebrate National Dairy Month on Saturday, June 24. 

Byrne Dairy representatives will be on hand to offer free samples of ice cream and quiz the public on dairy trivia from noon to 2 p.m. Future “Dairy Day” events will celebrate other significant yet often overlooked dairy holidays.

Byrne Dairy CEO Fred Sadeghi said the company views Byrnsie as well as the Dairy Day events as a fun way to educate the public about the importance of dairy farming and food manufacturing in modern society.

“We want to offer zoo-goers an educational perspective about life on the farm, current dairy farming practices, and how the milk that comes from a cow eventually makes its way into a lot of delicious and nutritious dairy products,” Sadeghi said.

“Fewer Americans than ever are engaged in farming and agriculture, yet many remain interested in where their food comes from,” he added. “Byrne Dairy views this exhibit as a fantastic opportunity to connect the dots for many zoo-goers and provide them with a deeper appreciation of the purpose and role of dairy cows in the U.S.”

NOFA-NY To Hole On-Farm Field Day in Richland


The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York is offering an on-farm field day called “Diversifying your Agricultural Offering: Adding Meat to your Veggies” from 3 to 6 p.m. June 20 at Grindstone Farm, County Route 28, outside Pulaski.

Dick and Lucas de Graff will discuss the challenges and successes of adding livestock to their established vegetable operation. Visitors can learn how Grindstone Farms’ diversified offerings have opened up new market doors.

Grindstone Farm, which grows 120 types of fruits and vegetables, has provided Central New York with healthy organic products for over 25 years.

Grindstone Farm is a supporter of NOFA-NY’s On Farm Skills Guide as a tool for training interns. 

NOFA-NY staff will provide a brief overview on how this tool can assist farmers in their training programs.
This event is produced by NOFA-NY with support from the New York Farm Viability Institute.

Pre-registration is encouraged. Cost is $15 per person or $25 for two or more people from the same farm. Visit to register and for more information.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Senate OKs Measure to Boost State's Food Purchases from Local Sources

From State Sen. Patty Ritchie's office:

A bipartisan measure that seeks to boost the state’s economy and local farming by requiring state agencies to purchase 20 percent of its food supplies from New York-based sources has been approved by the state Senate. 

Known as the “Buy from the Backyard Act” (S.3918), the measure would expand an existing program that promotes local agriculture in state offices, colleges, hospitals and prisons. It was sponsored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie.

“As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I know it is essential to get more people to eat local not only for health reasons, but also to support the tens of thousands of hardworking farmers across New York State,” said Ritchie. “The state government’s purchasing power is a great way to make a difference in helping grow New York’s leading industry.”

New York-produced milk, vegetables and other local products are now available in state lunchrooms thanks to an effort to increase the amount of local farm goods sold in state office buildings, which serve more than 40,000 workers and guests each day.

The bill was sent to the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Stewart's Shops Join New York State Grown & Certified Program

From New York State:

The New York State Grown & Certified program is expanding to include the New York dairy industry. 
The state is partnering with Stewart’s Shops to launch the promotional program that distinguishes agricultural products that are local and made by producers who meet safe food handling best practices and demonstrate environmental stewardship. 
Beginning next month, consumers will be able to find the NYS Certified label on Stewart’s dairy products in more than 300 stores across the state. Stewart’s egg supplier, Thomas Poultry Farm from Schuylerville, is also participating in the program.

"The Grown & Certified program connects consumers with high-quality, farm-fresh New York products, while supporting our hard-working farms, businesses and local economies across the state," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 
"By partnering with Stewart’s Shops, we will expand this program to promote and provide a boost to some of New York’s best producers and support the dairy industry's continued growth and success," Cuomo said.

Starting in July, Stewart’s will launch new packaging for their half-gallon milk containers, which will prominently feature the New York State Certified label and a description of the program. 
Signage in-store and at the gas pump, as well as a promotional video, are already in stores, helping to educate consumers about the Certified program and what it means to them.  Many varieties of Stewart's milk, half and half, heavy cream, and ice cream will all carry the Certified seal.

Stewart’s Shops, a longstanding and well-respected dairy processor, adheres to the New York State Grown & Certified food safety and environmental management plan requirements.  
The company has stores in the Capital Region, North Country, Hudson Valley and Central New York regions. They proudly source all of their milk from local farms in Saratoga, Rensselaer and Washington counties.

In addition to Stewart’s dairy products, its eggs will feature the NYS Grown & Certified seal, highlighting Thomas Poultry Farm. The farm adheres to environmentally responsible practices and exceeds federal egg safety standards.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Strawberries Are Being Picked (Not U-Pick) at Abbotts Farms

From Abbotts Farms in Lysander:

The strawberries are in!!

First of the season!

We are FINALLY picking the first strawberries of the season. They will be for sale in the farm store, and at the regional market tomorrow Saturday.

We will pick EVERY ripe berry we have today and it's my good guess we won't get over 10 flats. The average u-picker will get about one flat worth of strawberries. So if we opened u-pick today 10 people would leave very happy, and everyone else would have to go home empty handed.

We are still waiting to start u pick. I am guessing we will have berries enough to let y'all pick by mid next week. Keep checking in for more info.

New York State Fair Obtains Sponsors for Fair's Butter Sculpture, Milk Bar

From the New York State Fair:

Two companies with significant ties to New York state agriculture will sponsor the signature attractions at the Great New York State Fair’s Dairy Products Building.  

Tully’s Good Times restaurants will sponsor the milk sold at the fair’s famous Milk Bar, while Wegmans Food Markets will sponsor the American Dairy Association’s Butter Sculpture, Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner announced June 9.

This year, the Tully’s logo will appear on each of the seven-ounce cups of perfectly chilled white or chocolate milk sold at the Milk Bar. Last year, 398,059 cups of milk were sold at 25 cents a cup, representing a complete sellout of the milk available.  

All of the milk and buttermilk products sold at Tully’s come from Central New York dairy processor Byrne Dairy. Byrne Dairy also supplies the milk for the Milk Bar.  

In addition to dairy, Tully’s buys produce from local farms in-season. The long-time Fair vendor operates restaurants across Upstate NY under the Tully’s, CopperTop Tavern and Good Buddy’s Pub brands.

The Butter Sculpture is created and operated by Syracuse-based American Dairy Association North East, which represents all dairy farmers in New York state. The butter used to make the iconic sculpture comes from New York sources. 

It was a first stop for many of the fair’s more than 1 million visitors in 2016 and veteran fairgoers eagerly await its unveiling the day before the fair opens each year. This year’s sponsor of the Butter Sculpture, Rochester-based Wegmans, is a leader in the grocery industry in selling and using locally grown and made products and is annually rated among the nation’s very best employers.  

"These new partnerships are an exciting addition to this year's fair and to the Milk Bar, which is a long-standing tradition for fairgoers," said Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball. "We are pleased to continue our mission of promoting the very best of New York agriculture and shining the spotlight on our dairy industry at Great New York State Fair."

“We are proud to bring these first-ever sponsorships into the Dairy Products Building as they will support our long-term plan to reenergize this vital piece of the fair," said Waffner. 

"We thank them for their investment and want fairgoers and dairy farmers to know that our goal going forward, as stewards of New York agriculture, is to find new ways to link more New Yorkers to our great dairy products as we have done with other New York products at the fair,”  Waffner said.