Agriculture

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Being the only producer of wine flour on the east coast may be lonely, but one Finger Lakes entrepreneur has created a growing business.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Construction will begin soon on Syracuse’s Near West Side to create OnTECH, a charter school targeted towards helping refugees and at-risk students get their high school diplomas.

OnTECH founder Ellen Eagen describes the mission of the school as “dovetailing this child who’s on the cusp of falling off of the educational pipeline with an employable skill set and with this idea of reengaging them with their curiosity in education.”

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Republican senators have proposed a state budget for this year that includes $3 million towards helping upstate farmers recover from last summer’s drought, the worst the state has seen in decades. In some cases, the dry summer weather resulted in the loss of entire crops. The federal government designated more than 20 counties national disaster areas due to the severity of the drought.

Cuomo vetoes farm to food bank bill

Nov 30, 2016
msr / Flickr

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have given farmers a tax credit for giving food to food banks. 

In the past few days, many healthy food advocates, farmers and lawmakers had been urging the governor to sign the bill into law. Under it, farmers would have gotten a tax credit worth 25 percent of the value of the food they donate to food banks.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

This year's drought has left wells dry across the region. After some rain, farmers are wondering when their groundwater will be replenished. 

The good news is groundwater levels are higher than they've been in months, Cornell University hydrologist Todd Walter told farmers and agriculture leaders in Watertown Wednesday.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Most of northern and central New York is still experiencing a drought, despite some rain this weekend. Groundwater reserves are depleted in wells across the region. Farmers are trucking in water for their livestock, people are digging new wells for their homes and towns are trying to find ways to conserve this now limited resource.

Julia Botero

A large part of New York state is still in severe to extreme drought. The USDA will now cover the cost of new pipelines and wells for farmers in Jefferson and Lewis Counties to reach more water. But farms in other parts of the state, like the Finger Lakes, are getting more attention.  

Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority

Each year, ports on the Great Lakes dredge tons of material to keep shipping lanes open. But disposing of the spoils is a big problem. The Port of Toledo has a creative approach: farming.

The Port of Toledo dredges more sediment than any port on the Great Lakes – up to a million cubic yards every year.  The idea of reusing sediment as soil for agriculture is new for the Great Lakes region and ideal for Lake Erie’s western basin.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Scientists with the Cornell Cooperative Extension are experimenting with a late-summer oat crop.  They say it may help farmers during a drought like the one parts of New York state are experiencing now. The oats could give farmers one last chance to stock up on feed for their livestock.

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Agriculture is an essential part of the North Country's economy. St. Lawrence and Jefferson County are among the top ten farming counties in the state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Watertown yesterday to speak with farmers about  new federal policies that could help them prosper. Many of the farmers who attended were most concerned about GMO labeling and improving international trade.

Drought is drying up hay crop

Jul 14, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Jefferson, Lewis and parts of St. Lawrence Counties are in the early stages of a drought. Areas of central and western New York are experiencing much worse conditions. Mike Hunter with the Cornell Cooperative Extension says the corn crop is fine, for now. But hay has taken a hit so far this summer.

Mike Hunter spoke to WRVO by cell phone from the middle of a corn field in Ellisburg, in southern Jefferson County, the driest place in the county right now. 

"You could kick the dust in the cornfields right now and the dust would fly in between the corn rows."

Sarah Ficken / New Moon Farms

The average age of the American farmer is continually rising; it's 55 in New York state. In response, many states are crafting legislation aimed at encouraging a new generation to take the reins, like Chris and Sarah Ficken, owners of the New Moon Farms in Munnsville, New York.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Ben Peyton lives on Fuller Road in Adams. His home is surrounded on both sides by wide green corn fields. Those corn fields are owned by a dairy farmer, Mike Hill. He runs Hillcrest farms. Peyton points across the road from this driveway.

“The manure pit will be located just on the eastern side of that,” Peyton said.

Peyton and his neighbors want Hill to pick another site. The proposed pit will sit above the Tug Hill aquifer.

Coyote Moon

 

Coyote Moon Vineyards, in the Thousand Islands, has won New York Winery of the Year. The family-owned business from Clayton has earned hundreds of awards in the eight years it’s been making wine.

Coyote Moon is the winery that first brought canned wine to the North Country. Owner Tony Randazzo said the decision to can their wine illustrates the family's mission behind their company. They aim to be creative and unpretentious.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While most central and northern New York crops are being planted right now, there’s one that’s being harvested. SUNY ESF researchers are harvesting willow, as part of a project that continues to find the best way to use the woody plant as an alternative energy source.

When most people hear the word willow, an image of a weeping willow tree comes to mind. But that’s not what SUNY ESF researchers are working on in the Willow Project, a program that’s developing a biomass energy source.

Sarah Harris / North Country Public Radio

A farm initiative lead by state Sen. Patty Ritchie plans to restore $12 million to research programs slated to be cut under Cuomo's  budget plan.

Ritchie chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. She says food safety and research programs ultimately help farmers grow their bottom line. For example, in the past year, Cornell University scientists have researched ways to fight bird flu and stop the die-off of honeybees and more.

As Feds rethink saturated fats, dairy farmers could get a big boost

Dec 29, 2015
Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

 

For years, the government has warned that saturated fat found in whole milk leads to increased risk for heart disease. But now, it’s taking a second look at the research, saying saturated fats might not be so bad for you.

New federal dietary guidelines could be a big boost for dairy farmers.

David Schon used to be a dairy farmer in Cortland County. He says a federal stamp of approval on whole milk could mean more money for dairy farmers.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Central New York will receive $500 million over the next five years as one of the big winners of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The central New York proposal includes projects affecting a wide range of industries.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Regional Economic Development council is bullish that its proposal for the New York State Upstate Revitalization Initiative will be a winner.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Agriculture Council wants you to buy local produce. A campaign has kicked off this June to encourage more people to spend food dollars on items grown in Onondaga County.

Brian Reeves, of Reeves Farm in Baldwinsville, says getting people to buy local is in part a matter of getting the word out.

“Sometimes I think it’s a lack of information.  If a consumer knew more often that it was local or fresher they would prefer it,” Reeves says.

$20 million slaughterhouse proposed for Watertown

Jun 26, 2015
Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

When Steven Winkler’s hogs are full grown and ready for slaughter, he loads them into his truck on his farm in Rodman and drives 70 miles to a processing plant in Rome. From there, his pork is shipped to stores in Syracuse. 

“I’m very loyal to the customers and the processes I utilize down there. They do a great job.  But this is my home,” Winkler said.

Winkler wants to sell his meat close to home and he wouldn't mind a shorter trip to place that can make that happen.

Stefanik campaign

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) was in Lewis County Wednesday to hear concerns from residents in Lowville. The biggest issue on the minds of people there was the price of milk.  

Coffee and boxes of donuts were passed around the Lewis County Municipal Building for an event Stefanik calls “Coffee with  your Congresswoman."

Steve Craiger is a retired airman. While sipping on a cup of coffee with cream, he said he came to ask the Congresswoman what she plans to do to help farmers who are struggling with the drop in milk prices.

Wind company to make changes to save endangered bat

May 4, 2015
David Sommerstein / NCPR

Wind farms have been popping up in rural areas of Northern New York. Wind energy  doesn't burn fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases.  But while wind farms  may be a positive step for the environment in one way, they also can kill birds and bats.  Now, the company behind a wind farm in Copenhagen is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how to prevent deaths of these winged creatures before they occur.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News File Photo

Dairy farmers may be able to spread out their insurance payments under a plan proposed to the federal agriculture agency.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is backing the proposal to let dairy cooperatives front individual farmer’s payments and then allow farmers to slowly pay the co-ops back. Right now, farmers pay for a quarter of their U.S.D.A. insurance in February and the rest in June. The change would help farmers deal with dropping milk prices, Schumer says.

Linda Garett / Fort Drum ACUB Program

Fort Drum has grown tremendously over the last decade. There are more soldiers working – and training – on its grounds. Fort Drum planners have been concerned new development just outside the base may come into conflict with that training mission. The base is paying property owners to keep their land undeveloped. A family dairy farm in Rutland, just south of Fort Drum, has struck the largest deal yet.

pickled newt / via Flickr

Late one night in 2011, Amber Canavan snuck onto a Foie Gras farm in the southern Catskills. Video camera in hand, she recorded what she saw and provided it to the Animal Protection and Rescue League, which published some of it in a video.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

The quality of roads and bridges in upstate New York is a concern for the state’s largest farming organization.

If a bridge isn’t sturdy enough to support a heavy tractor or dairy tanker, say Farm Bureau policy director Jeff Williams, it creates a major hassle for farm hands, such as added time and detours onto more traveled routes "which isn’t particularly safe on the highway, and it leads to more diesel fuel costs and the like," he said.

Raising awareness of North Country human trafficking

Jan 19, 2015
Julia Botero

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced new efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking in New York. It's an underground crime that traps men, women and children against their will. Many are forced to work hard labor without pay, or become prostitutes.  Last week, state experts on human trafficking spoke at a taping of a discussion on the topic at the WPBS studios in Watertown.  

fishhawk / Flickr

New York’s dairy industry likely won’t see more of the good times next year farmers experienced in 2014, largely because dairy prices and profits are expected to level off.

Andy Novakovic, a professor of agriculture economics at Cornell University, says dairy markets in New York are already starting to decline to be in balance with the rest of the world, "but we have quite a bit of altitude to lose before we get to where the rest of the world is," he said. 

This was a great year for the dairy industry, he said. 

Branch by branch, artist grafts a Tree of 40 Fruit

Aug 13, 2014
Sam Van Aken / courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art

Imagine dozens of different kinds of fruit all hanging from a single tree. It's the dream of a Syracuse artist, who is building such a tree, branch by branch.

Grafting fruit trees is a practice almost as old as fruit trees themselves. Mending branches from two different varieties of fruit is how we get hybrid fruit varieties.

Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken is taking the art of graft to another level.

In a make-shift tree nursery behind the school’s art building, Van Aken has been slowly grafting together what he's calling the Tree of 40 Fruit.

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