Agriculture

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

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.

David Sommerstein / NCPR File Photo

The battle lines are drawn over a lawsuit that could reshape agriculture in New York state. Civil rights advocates are suing to give farm workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively. The state’s largest farm lobby has signed on in opposition, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not. The case centers on an incident at a dairy farm in Lewis County.

David Sommerstein / North Country Public Radio

The Burrville Cider Mill just outside Watertown embodies everything people love about autumn. They have warm cider donuts, crates full of fresh apples and lots of decorative gourds for sale. If you visit the mill in the mornings you might get the chance to watch apples pressed into cider.

WRVO's Julia Botero and David Sommerstein of North Country Public Radio visited the cider mill on a crisp fall day and filed this audio postcard.

The Burrville Cider Mill is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. this fall. They make cider on weekend mornings and on Tuesday and Thursdays.

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.  

Farm Bureau: Drought worst in generations

Sep 5, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

New York farmers are experiencing the worst drought conditions in generations, and while the industry may suffer a setback, it will persevere.

That's from Dean Norton, the president of the New York Farm Bureau, a lobbying group for agribusiness.

Norton says one immediate concern is for dairy farmers.

He says the dairy industry is going through a price downturn, and as they receive lower prices for their products, dairy farmers are also facing the prospect of a shortage of feed this fall.

Jefferson County pushes for drought aid

Sep 5, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News

Jefferson County hopes to be included in a federal drought disaster declaration in the next week or two. On Tuesday, The U.S. Department of Agriculture listed 15 counties, plus nine contiguous counties, as drought disaster areas.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Dairy farmers at the New York State Fair are trying out a new technology to help them determine when a calf is about to be born.

The big white tent at the end of the midway with a giant cow balloon in front is where fairgoers can watch the miracle of birth.

One cow delivered a healthy calf in front of hundreds of fairgoers. If they looked carefully, they would have noticed a bright green plastic contraption around the cow’s tale. It’s called a “moo-call.”

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.

Blueberries: ripe for the picking

Aug 20, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News

Blueberries are ripe in the North Country right now. Think warm blueberry pies, sweet blueberry pancakes and blueberry buckle. If you'd like to spend a warm summer day outside collecting fresh berries to throw into a homemade summer dessert, it's time to find your nearest farm before the season ends.

Julia Botero stopped at the Tug Hill Vineyards with her friend Jen Degregorio and got to work picking highbush blueberries.

How Plants Heal

Aug 17, 2016

In this episode, Jim talks about how plants heal and repair among the stresses of their environment, and shares what you can do to assist.

Why Didn't My Landscape Plants Flower?

Aug 17, 2016

Despite our best efforts, sometimes trees and shrubs fail to flower. In this episode, Jim talks about some of the possibilities as to why, and what you can do (and plant) to make the most of your landscape.

    

What To Plant For Tough Sites I Don't Have To Mow

Aug 17, 2016

Turf is the cheapest thing to install, and the most expensive to maintain. Jim talks about how he tries to minimize this element in his landscape designs, and what you can do to improve tough areas in your landscape.  

What Can I Do If My Burning Bushes Flame Out?

Aug 17, 2016

In this episode, Jim talks about one of the most overused and over-rated plants: the Compact Burning Bush and some reasons why many are not "burning" as hot as some may like.   

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

Walking among rows of green, picturesque vines, Tom Higgins of Heart & Hands Wine Company in Cayuga County pointed to a densely-packed cluster of pinot noir grapes. That density is typical for pinot noir, but this year, the cluster is even more crowded, which has implications for the last month or so of the growing season.

"When a cluster is nice and compact like this, rains in the latter part of the growing season are the curse of the winegrower," Higgins said. "It’s just not a good time to see rain."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s good news for barley farmers in central New York and other parts of the state. The federal government will begin offering crop insurance for the grain that is an essential ingredient for brewing beer.

At a small brewpub in North Syracuse today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said this new insurance fills an important hole.

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.

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Supporters of farmworker justice chanted “yes we can” at a rally in Syracuse Thursday. They’re encouraging support for the Farmworkers Fair Labor practices Act, a piece of legislation that’s been stalled in the state legislature for 15 years.

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.

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