farming

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.

Farmers hit hard by drought

Aug 8, 2016
Gabe Altieri / WSKG News

A severe drought continues to affect most of New York, and it's especially taking a toll on farmers in Tompkins County. Producers in the area say they've received about six less inches rain than an average season thus far.

Recent rainfall hasn't done much to help either. In fact, farmers say, at this point the season is pretty much a wash. "You tell people 'it's dry, it's dry' and then they say 'oh, it rained.' No, it didn't rain for two months. So [the season] is pretty much shot," said Chandler Benson, an organic dairy farmer in Lansing. 

Farmers helping to limit algae in Great Lakes

Jul 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

Summers along the Great Lakes include fishing, boating -- and dangerous algae blooms that can shut down beaches. These blooms are caused by excess phosphorous, a lot of which comes from farms. Now some of the region's farmers are testing agricultural practices that could reduce harmful runoff.

Duane Stateler and his son Anthony run Stateler Family Farms, one of a handful of demonstrations farms across the country. Over the next five years, three farms in Northwest Ohio will test different practices to find out what reduces phosphorus runoff.

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.

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.

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.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Manure lagoons help farmers manage their manure, but one planned lagoon in Tompkins County caused a neighbor to look for a way to fight it.

Heather Gowe is not sure where exactly the proposed manure storage lagoon will be built. It will be somewhere in a small stand of trees, up a hill from the intersection where she lives.
 
Beck Farms is a dairy producer who will build the lagoon. It has about 2,000 cows in Freeville in Tompkins County. It wants to store 3.2 million gallons of manure on this hill, and build a pipeline to transport the manure.

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.

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.

New York's mesonet: economic implications

Jan 9, 2015
Howard Owen

Scientists at the University at Albany are developing a state-wide weather detection system called the mesonet. The network of 125 weather stations will record weather variables like temperature, wind speed, and precipitation. A study by the American Meteorological Society shows New York’s economy suffers the most from inclement weather and environmental variability. Concluding this series, we speak with a farmer whose livelihood depends on the weather.

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.

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.

publicenergy / Flickr

For farmers in upstate New York, going organic isn’t easy. But one farmer who’s made the switch is happy that the new Farm Bill will make it easier to transition from traditional to organic farming in the future.

Ben Simons has been a dairy farmer in Remsen for two decades. Two years ago, he decided to convert his operation over to an organic dairy.

"Because I did not want to expand my dairy anymore," Simons says. "It was very difficult to stay a small family farm and compete with conventional milk.”

News Briefs: Thursday, Jan. 30

Jan 30, 2014

Plans for a casino siting board are delayed; National Grid receives a credit to save customers some cash; New York shows positive workplace safety signs; and $1.24 million is sent toward state farms. Catch up on the news of the day with WRVO news briefs.

Siting board appointment likely behind schedule

Chances are becoming slim that a casino siting board will be appointed by the end of January as called for by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Proposed FDA rules for produce farms to be changed

Jan 1, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration is, for the first time, proposing new food safety rules for produce farmers across the country. The FDA asked for comments on the rules this year and thousands of upstate farmers responded. Many of them criticized the rules, saying they could spoil their livelihood. So the FDA announced last week they would re-draft some of the contentious rules.

Richard Ball runs Scoharie Farms on Route 30 outside of Albany. He walks over to a metal gate closing in one of his fields and yanks up the hood on his coat, blocking the wind.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News File Photo

Rep. Richard Hanna is urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to delay its new random inspection program for dairy farms. He and six other upstate members of Congress, including Dan Maffei, Bill Owens and Tom Reed, signed a letter to the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA asking for consideration.

Matt Martin / WSKG

Every year Christmas tree farmers lose a portion of their crop to a fungus that attacks the root of the tree.  One tree farm in the Southern Tier has started planting a species that seems to be more resistant to the disease.

Kate O'Connell/Innovation Trail

The U.S. frozen food market is on the rise, with expectations it will become a $70 billion industry within the next two years.

Last year, upstate New York got in on the action when France-based company Bonduelle acquired three facilities to expand their production of canned and frozen vegetables. They took over the floundering Allen's plants in March 2012, with the intention of repairing and developing the facilities.

Local growers are now set to benefit from the company’s expansion and investment plans.

Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

Farmers in the Champlain Valley often use tile drains in their fields. They help the region’s clay soil drain faster and produce higher crop yields. But for years, Lake Champlain has had high levels of phosphorus pollution, which can result in toxic blue-green algae blooms, and farm runoff is one of the primary contributors.

Now scientists are trying to figure out whether there’s a link between tile drainage and phosphorus pollution.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A new exhibit at the New York State Fair in Syracuse this year shows cows giving birth; and you just never know when you might be able to see a maternal miracle.

When the ribbon on the new Dairy Cow Birthing Center was cut, visitors were milling about, enjoying some dairy related snacks. Reporters were interviewing the experts who would explain why fairgoers should want to see the birth of a calf, when there was an interruption.

"We have a calf coming. Didn't mean to interrupt, but nature calls."

Matt Lavin/flickr

An infestation of True Armyworms was identified last week in a hay field in central St. Lawrence County, prompting growers to take an extra look at their grass and corn fields.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer in 2012 was 57. Forty percent of all farmers right now are over the age of 55. But in an era of increasing age among the men and women who grow our food, there are some younger people bucking the trend. Some of these new farmers are sending down roots in Madison County.

The cadre of 20 and 30-somethings running Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia are as likely to have a smartphone in their pocket as a pitchfork in their hands.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Brian Reeves is plucking dead leaves off of pepper plants on his farm in Baldwinsville.

"If it keeps up, they will lose more and more leaves and you come back here in two weeks and it's like a stem with no leaves," he says. "It's just gone."

Low-lying spots in his fields are wetter than they should be with large puddles collecting in some areas. Crops trying to grow in those areas are showing signs of too much moisture - like dead leaves and disease.

It's a result of the wetter-than-average summer so far in upstate New York.

Sarah Harris/Innovation Trail

St. Lawrence County may be losing population, but there's one group that keeps growing: Old Order Amish. They've moved to northern New York because of cheap, available farmland. But in order to maintain their lifestyle, the Amish need a market for the milk the produce. So they've turned to an unlikely partner: dairy co-op Agri-Mark. 

Drive down some roads in the county, and it’s like stepping back in time. Traffic comes from buggies, not cars. Children in dark clothes and straw hats and bonnets play in neatly kept farm yards.

To the farmers market you go

May 26, 2013
Joe Beasley / Flickr

According to Ben Vitale, the secret to successfully shopping at a farmers market comes down to one simple statement: “Know your farmer, know your food.”

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Ben Vitale.

Farmers' property taxes rise as land values increase

May 23, 2013
Joanna Richards

Agriculture is one of the most dynamic and innovative economic sectors in New York state. All this week, the Innovation Trail team is reporting on some of the current challenges and opportunities facing upstate farmers.

One of those challenges is property taxes. Agriculture is a land-intensive industry, so rising property taxes can mean much higher costs for farmers. And taxes have been rising, thanks mostly to increases in the production value of farmland.

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