Agriculture

Reporting on agriculture issues and news in central and Northern New York.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Advocates for farm workers are trying a new route to gain the right to form a union and be allowed benefits afforded to other laborers in New York. They are suing the state government. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he agrees with the farmworkers and won’t be defending the law in court.

For decades, migrant farmworkers and their advocates have tried to get a law passed to place the laborers under the protection of the state’s labor laws, giving them the right to form unions, and collectively bargain with their farmer employers for better working conditions.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Planting season is getting underway in central New York. And for farmers it means another year when the changing climate can make or break a growing season. But farmers aren’t sitting still when it comes to dealing with the more severe weather that comes along with a warming climate.

Restrictive new rules could hurt dairy farmers

Mar 31, 2016
Matt Richmond / WSKG News File Photo

Upstate New York's dairy industry could suffer a serious blow if Canada imposes new, restrictive trade rules, says Sen. Charles Schumer and many regional dairy producers.

Schumer met with members of Western New York's O-AT-KA Milk, which exported more than $19 million in ultra-filtered milk and other milk products to Canada last year. The Canadian government is reportedly weighing new rules that would limit the amount of imported milk products used there to make cheese.

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.

Side Hill Farmers Meat & Market's Facebook page.

At tables across the country, Americans will be gathering around to eat turkey and the demand for local, pasture-raised turkeys is growing. The more expensive, small farm birds and the conventional turkeys from large farms both have their benefits and disadvantages.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Veterans who’ve retired or left the Army sometimes have a difficult time transitioning back to their civilian lives. Many have trouble finding satisfying work. Others suffer from depression. In recent years, thousands of veterans have found a purpose in farming. The Cornell Cooperative Extension is introducing soldiers at Fort Drum to careers in agriculture through tours of North Country farms.

The first stop on the tour today is Windswept Farms, just outside Watertown. 

A group follows Delta Keeney past rows of her organically-grown vegetables.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

 

A new dining experience in Syracuse brings local farmers, chefs and consumers together to teach people how to buy and cook local food year-round.

 

Before Alan Gandelman became the owner of Main Street Farms in Homer and Cortland four years ago, he was a high school teacher.

 

Livestock & Poultry Environmental Learning Center / Flickr

One dairy cow produces close to eight tons of manure a year. On big farms, that poses a serious, and regulated, waste disposal problem. In the spring and summer, farmers can spread manure on their fields before planting. But in the winter, all that manure has to be stored somewhere.

Milk Street Dairy in Jefferson County has more than 1,000 dairy cows. The owners are constructing a seven-million gallon lagoon to hold liquid manure. The site is on Ridge Road in the town of Rutland. It overlooks the Black River, and Watertown city officials aren’t happy.

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.

Bruno Raymond / Flickr

So far, this month has been the fourth rainiest June in central New York, measuring at more than seven inches. For farmers that’s been a little bit of a mixed bag.  

The crop that’s suffered the most is strawberries. Baldwinsville farmer Brian Reeves says the berry does not mix well with a lot of rain.

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.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

There are two new hall of famers in Northern New York, but they didn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, they got into the Male Hall of Fame. Those who’ve dedicated their lives to making the perfect pancake breakfast possible are recognized with the highest honor in the industry.

The American Maple Museum in Croghan, NY is home of the only Maple Hall of Fame in the country, but the industry is pushing for maple to go beyond the breakfast table.

It's serious business at The Maple Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony begins with a prayer by Jane Yancey.

David Sommerstein / NCPR

For more than a decade, undocumented Hispanic workers have been indispensable on dairy farms across Upstate New York. The immigrants live largely invisible lives and rarely stray off the farm to avoid detection by federal agents. They are also less likely to report abuses.

Worker Center of Central New York

Farm workers and activists are planning a protest this morning at a dairy farm in Lowville. They want to draw attention to the alleged abuse of a worker at the hands of a farm supervisor.  Rally organizers say many undocumented Hispanic workers face physical abuse, substandard housing and wage theft on dairy farms across the state.

Wine producers question Canadian duty fees

Apr 28, 2015
Dan Klimke / Flickr

Wine sales made to Canadian citizens have upstate New York wine producers worried. They said they are losing business because Canada makes it too expensive for their citizens to buy New York state wines while visiting and then bring it home to Canada.

Canadians are subject to duty in excess of 100 percent on wines sold here. This duty is what wine producers said puts them at a costly disadvantage.

One local wine seller suggested imposing similar duties on Canadian wines brought into the U.S. might bring Canadian officials into discussions to work out more fair trade.

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.

wamc.org

Amid talks to raise the minimum wage in New York, farmers are calling on the lawmakers to keep it where it is.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to increase the minimum wage to $10.50 upstate and $11.50 downstate.

The New York Farm Bureau says the state has some of the highest agricultural labor costs in the country. They say farm workers in New York are paid $12.15 an hour on average.

Dean Norton, a farmer in western New York and president of the state Farm Bureau, says whenever there’s a minimum wage hike, he’s forced to raise his wages, too.

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.

A little help for malt barley farmers

Jan 7, 2015
Cambridge Brewing Co.

New York farmers are diversifying their cash crops by adding malt barley to their fields.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has a plan to jumpstart the state's malt barley farming industry.

Malt barley is a temperamental little plant. It needs to be brought up in very specific conditions in order to yield a quality beer. Adverse weather can destroy entire harvests -- like this past season in places like Idaho where heavy rain took 85 percent of their crop. That's why Schumer is pushing for insurance for New York malt barley farmers.

Culinary program connects farm and kitchen

Jan 5, 2015
Solvejg Wastvedt
WSKG

Tompkins County has New York state’s lowest unemployment rate, at less than four percent. In Ithaca, restaurant jobs have grown by seven percent over the last five years. Now a culinary education program at Tompkins Cortland Community College is training workers for the “farm to table” side of the restaurant industry.

Todd McClane directs the new organic farm at Tompkins Cortland Community College. So far it’s only about three acres, but it’s just one part of the college’s new culinary arts degree program. And McClane has big plans for the farm.

Young farmers head effort to feed those in need

Dec 22, 2014
Veronica Volk / WXXI

Farmers and agriculture industry leaders are coming in from all over the state for the New York Farm Bureau’s 58th State Annual Meeting.

The Bureau kicked off its meeting by announcing they had broken their record for this year’s “Harvest for All,” a national farm donation program. In partnership with the Regional Food Bank Association and FoodLink, New York farmers have collectively donated 9.6 million pounds of produce.

FoodLink's Co-Executive Director Jeanette Batiste-Harrison says this particular program is especially valuable to the community.

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

First time farmers gathered at the Stone Barns Center, a teaching farm in rural Westchester County for the Young Farmers Convention. The 3-day conference provides supportive classes and networking opportunities to new businesses in agriculture.

The Stone Barns Center helps young farmers build the foundation they need to for successful, sustainable farms.

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. 

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

Want to know what crops local farmers are producing? There’s an app for that, or at least there will be one soon.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced federal funding for Greene County food distributor Field Goods, to integrate that technology into their business model.

Donna Williams’ company Field Goods connects many Capital Region and Hudson Valley farms with a larger, diverse consumer base, but it can be tricky.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Spent grain will once again be allowed to be used as livestock feed in New York state. Sen. Chuck Schumer says the by product of the brewing process had been used for centuries by farmers to feed livestock, until the federal government got involved.

"All of a sudden the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, came in and said 'you can’t send this spent grain except under certain conditions.' That hurt our craft brewers, say Empire Brewing and F.X.Matt here in central New York," said Schumer. It hurt our farmers getting this grain. Otherwise they’d have to pay to dispose of it.”

Ag-Extravaganza brings children and farmers together

Sep 27, 2014
Julia Botero

Fourth and fifth graders across Jefferson County jammed the Thompson Park Pavilion in Watertown, N.Y., recently to learn about farming and agriculture. The two-day event called Ag-Extravaganza was hosted by the county's cooperative extension office. 

Students patted sheep, watched an apple press in action, and learned about life on a dairy farm from Jeffersons County's Dairy Princess, Krystle  Burger. They played a game she called "Got Moo?" where students pointed out which things from the grocery store were and were not dairy.

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.

messycupcakes / Flickr

Chobani Greek yogurt will be on more school lunch trays across the country as part of a new school lunch program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today awarded the central New York yogurt powerhouse a contract to expand a pilot program adding Greek-style yogurt to school lunches.

Chobani will now be able to put its yogurt in cafeterias for a month in seven states when the new school year starts up in August. Those states include New York, California and Illinois.

It comes after a successful three month pilot program this past school year in fewer states.

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