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Cooperative Extension, FFA promote ag in the classroom

Provided photos: Molly Kotarski reads “The Grapes Grow Sweet,” this year’s book for Ag Literacy Week. Kotarski is the Ag in the Classroom Educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.

Staff Reports Posted 25 March 2017 at 8:48 am

Missy Call, 4-H Administrative Assistant, helps second graders chart taste preferences. She is also helping with Ag Educator responsibilities for the next three months to support the program.

Second graders in the five Orleans County school districts just participated in Ag Literacy Week from March 20 to 24. The students learned about the NYS grape industry, with a program that included science and math skills.

The Ag Literacy Week program is an annual event focused on introducing a book about an area of NYS agriculture and providing a lesson related to the topic that connects with Common Core. This year’s book, The Grapes Grow Sweet, teaches about the process of growing and harvesting grapes.

New York is the third highest ranked state in grape production.

Over the week each participating classroom received a copy of the book. Students also completed a tasting of white and purple grape juice and made comparisons between each. They graphed the results of this tasting as well as completing a Venn diagram.

When discussing the difference in taste they learned about different varieties of grapes as well as how soil quality and other factors directly impact taste and appearance of the final product.

Cooperative Extension Ag in the Classroom educators Molly Kotarski and Missy Call went to Lyndonville, Holley, and Kendall Schools. In Albion and Medina, members of each school’s FFA program visited second graders.

The Ag in the Classroom team is currently looking for schools, daycares, and other youth organizations who are interested in agricultural programming or activities focused on agriculture. For more information, call the Cooperative Extension Office at 585-798-4265.

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Neighbors, firefighters rescue cow that fell through ice

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 March 2017 at 3:06 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers

SHELBY – A beef farmer’s neighbors and Shelby firefighters rescued a steer that had fallen through the ice today just after noon.

The top photo shows Shelby firefighter John Miller II holding a pet rescue mask on the steer so the animal could get oxygen. The Shelby Volunteer Fire Company has the mask for dogs and cats, but it worked for the steer and helped the animal with its recovery.

The steer is owned by Jack Farrell of Dunlop Road. He was thankful the animal was able to be pulled out of the water. The steer is 7 months old and about 900 pounds. Farrell said the steer was holding its head up and bellowing, good signs it would be OK. The steer hadn’t been able to get on its feet after getting pulled out of the water.

Photos courtesy of Russ Peters

Firefighters put a shelter of hay bales around the animal and the other steer gathered around it.

“It might take a couple hours before it can get back on its feet,” said Jason Watts, a Shelby firefighter.

Russ Peters, pastor of the Alabama Full Gospel Church, was driving on Dunlop Road just after noon when he saw the steer’s head sticking out of a pond. Peters pulled over and called his wife. Another neighbor, Connie Murray, also came over. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 12:11 with the message a cow had fallen through the ice.

Peters, Murray and another neighbor, Justin Gray, found Jack Farrell and they tried to get the steer out. Peters went in the water which was up to his waist. He put a rope around the steer’s neck and they were going to use a tractor to pull the animal out, except the tractor was out of gas. Murray ran to her house and got some gas. While she did that, Peters knocked some of the ice loose, creating a channel for the cow to get out.

Photos by Tom Rivers

The tractor, once it had gas, was used to pull out the steer, which by then was no longer breathing.

Shelby firefighters arrived on the scene and then helped revive the steer, giving it oxygen through a pet rescue mask and thumping on its back to get out fluids.

The steer bellowed and showed signs of life. But he wasn’t ready to get up. Firefighters put a warm blanket on him, and made a shelter with hay bales.

Farrell was optimistic the steer would be OK. He thanked his neighbors and the firefighters.

“It’s a good deal,” he said.

The rescued steer sits on the ground and recovers after its ordeal in the cold pond water. Jack Farrell, owner of the farm, expects the steer will recover and get back on its feet.

Firefighters don’t recommend people go on thin ice to make a rescue.

Peters said he knew the animal meant a lot of Farrell, and the pastor didn’t want to watch it die.

“It is my honor to help,”  Peters wrote in a message to the Orleans Hub. “I thank God for helping me to act despite my fear!”

(Updated at 4:58 p.m.: Shelby firefighters say the steer died at about 4 p.m. The animal may have had hypothermia or fluid in its lungs.)

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Farmers and neighbors connect at dinner, benefit for FFA

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2017 at 2:19 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

LYNDONVILLE – About 200 people attended the annual Farmer to Neighbor Night on Saturday at The White Birch. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was among the speakers. Here she meets Alyssa Root, 15, a member of the Medina FFA. Hochul was joined at the event by her husband, Bill Hochul, the former U.S. attorney.

Hochul told the crowd the governor has been working to promote agriculture and wants to expand FFA programs. His budget proposal includes funding for an additional 100 FFA chapters in the state, Hochul said. Hochul this past week met with some local FFA students in Albany.

Dennis Kirby, manager of the Soil and Water Conservation District in Orleans County, said the group is working with several local farms on conservation initiatives.

Becky Charland, director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, urged the community to attend the upcoming Home and Garden Show on April 8-9 at the 4-H Fairgrounds.

Barry Flansburg served as emcee for the event, which included a silent auction. Garrett Derisley, a member of the Albion FFA, holds one of the items that was up for bid. Proceeds from the auction benefit the FFA program in Orleans County.

Jeremy Neal, an Albion dairy farmer, made this giant version of the Battleship game that was auctioned off. Neal made the pieces out of wood and painted them.

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Extension vegetable specialist/researcher recognized for her work

File photos by Tom Rivers: Christy Hoepting is shown on the muck with growers, discussing research projects on the fertile farmland.

Posted 8 March 2017 at 12:16 pm

Press Release, Cornell University

Christy Hoepting grew up on a small farm north of Toronto, Ontario. Enrolling at the University of Guelph, a top-tier ag school, was a natural fit. And though she focused on onion production while doing applied research for her master’s degree, she never dreamed she’d make a career of it.

But then her advisor told her that a job with Cooperative Extension had opened up in western New York. She suggested that Hoepting apply. The interview, after all, would be a good learning experience.

“What’s Extension?” Hoepting remembers asking. But exceptional preparation and delivery were second nature for Hoepting. She got the job.

Christy Hoepting

Now, for her exemplary work on behalf of farmers, not just in the rich muck-soil region of western New York but statewide and nationally, Hoepting has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University. IPM weaves together a broad range of tactics that minimize the environmental, health and economic risks of pests and pesticides both.

“Christy is a star in Cornell Cooperative Extension,” says Brian Nault, a professor of entomology at Cornell. “She’s a gifted educator and advocate, more passionate and successful in promoting IPM practices than just about anyone I know.”

While onions are Hoepting’s main research focus — they’re a high-value crop for New York, with annual sales upward of $40 million — growers in western New York also welcome her expertise in cabbage, broccoli and garlic.

Few people know onions inside-out as well as Hoepting. That “inside” part is critical. If you’re a farmer, you win when your onions pay their way; in a good year you could make upward of $4,000 per acre. But you lose when one too many onion thrips — tiny pests, hard to find — sneaks between the leaf folds to lay eggs within its tender tissues. Or when pathogens hiding beneath the skin of healthy-looking onions trigger the long road to decline in a crop you’re counting on to get you through the winter.

Which is why Hoepting has conducted hundreds of on-farm research trials in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, cultural practices and crop nutrition, presented at scores of stakeholder and scientific meetings, and published scores of articles and research papers. It’s also why she scouts farm fields relentlessly, tracking every movement of insect and disease pests. And growers from miles around know that when Tuesday morning rolls around, they’ll meet at a corner of the road and Hoepting will recount what she’s seen.

She calls it the “Muck Donut Hour,” and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to start rolling. “I’m constantly tweaking our recommendations based on our research, of course, but also on what I hear from growers at the corner of the road,” Hoepting says.

“Christy does her research on the farm in growers’ fields,” says onion grower Matt Mortellaro. “It makes us confident that her work will apply to our situations. She’s extremely responsive, and she’s always listening.”

“I wish we had a Christy Hoepting in every crop and corner of the state,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM. “She exemplifies the best in IPM, bringing science to the field and the field perspective to the science.”

Christy Hoepting received her award today at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Elba Muck Region Onion School” in Albion. Learn more about IPM at

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Soil & Water honors Neal family for conservation efforts at Albion dairy

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 February 2017 at 11:33 am

Provided photo

The Neal family, owners of Orleans Poverty Hill Farms in Albion, was named 2016 Conservation Farm of the Year by the Soil and Water Conservation District. The farm was honored on Friday during Soil and Water’s annual meeting at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Pictured from left include: Jody and Andrea Neal and their daughters Kasey and Adelyn, Jeremy Neal, Jody’s sons Jayden and Zachary, Lillian and Ed Neal, and James Neal.

Soil and Water provided this write-up on the farm:

Franklyn Neal purchased the farm in 1956 which consisted of 90 acres of land and 16 cows. In January 1966, Franklyn’s son Ed joined the operation and purchased a home which added 75 acres of land and the farm expanded to 55 cows.

James entered the operation in 1989, expanding to 85 cows and adding 120 acres to the farm. Jody came home in 1999 after graduating from Cornell and expanding the farm’s cow numbers from 120 to today’s 560.

In 2000 Jeremy joined the family farm after graduating from Alfred. Over the years Poverty Hill Farms has accumulated up to 1,000 acres of tillable land.

An ad by Upstate Farms about five years ago featured Jody Neal sitting in a pickup truck with his daughter, Kasey.

The Neal family plays an important part in Orleans County participating in 4-H programs, Farm Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension. James has also served on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board for 11 years as the Farm Bureau Representative.

Orleans Poverty Hill Farms has a long tradition of working with Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension and area crop consultants to continue their stewardship of the land.

The farm has participated in the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program and worked with Soil & Water and NRCS to adopt new and innovative farming practices that protect and improve their care of the land, as well as improve their bottom line profit. The farm is always in compliance with the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) regulations and are judicious in their desire to conserve and maintain the land and environment.

Poverty Hill Farms uses farming practices to: 1) minimize soil erosion with installation of drainage tile, planting of cover crops, and cross-slope planting; 2) optimize soil health with scheduled soil testing as part of their nutrient management and residue management plans; and 3) reduce non-point source pollution by installing a manure and agricultural waste treatment system, a waste storage and transfer system, and a silage leachate control and treatment system. In addition, they have added buffer strips along streams and ditches and installed grassed waterways where feasible.

The farm participated with the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from 2006-2013. The farm also participated in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from 2002-2009 working on Residue Management, Nutrient Management, Pesticide Management and Filter Strips.

These practices, along with others that are planned, demonstrate the farm’s excellent stewardship of the land and desire to protect our natural resources.

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Soil & Water, DEC talk benefits of tree planting

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 6 February 2017 at 10:37 am

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation hosted a Tree Planting Workshop ON Saturday morning in the Trolley Building on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Jena Buckwell (pictured) of the Soil and Water Conservation District spoke on increasing biodiversity with native plants and making trees and shrubs work for you with conservation-focused planting.

Gary Koplun, DEC Region 8 Forester, presented on tree planting basics including soil sampling, location selection, tree planting and care.

The Tree Planting Workshop held Saturday morning in the Trolley Building on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds was well attended.

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State approves $89K for Orleans 4-H Fair

Posted 30 January 2017 at 4:54 pm

$5 million to be shared among all county fairs in NY

File photo by Tom Rivers: Emma Ambrose of Medina and other riders in the hunter hack event wait for their turns to compete at the fair in July 2015 at the Carlos Marcello Arena.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $5 million is being awarded to county and youth fairs across the state through the Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program.

Fifty-six local fairs, including the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, can receive more than $89,000 to offset the cost of improvement and renovation projects, including new construction.

This is the first time in nearly a decade that the state’s more than four dozen local fairs will receive critical infrastructure improvement funds.

“These fairs are a part of New York’s rich tradition and help showcase the pride and heritage of communities in every corner of this great state,” Governor Cuomo said. “These investments will help these fairs attract more visitors, raise the profile of local vendors and businesses, and help spur economic growth across New York.”

The $5 million has been divided equally among the State’s local fairs. Each fair will be eligible for an award of $89,285. To receive the funding, fairs must submit the scope of work and estimated budget for proposed projects.

Projects must be submitted to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which is administering the program. The funding can be used to build, repair, replace, acquire, or install fairground buildings, facilities or equipment that are used to house or promote agriculture. The Department will contact local fairs with instructions on how to submit projects for proposals in the coming weeks.

Once projects are approved by the Department, a contract will be developed and completed through the New York State Grants Gateway. Projects must be finished and the awarded funds must be spent by March 31, 2021. Any money remaining after that date will be divided equally among the awardees who can then submit plans for additional projects.

“For years, many of the State’s local fairs struggled to make the necessary improvements to stay up-to-date and attractive to visitors,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “This funding will help mitigate those challenges and provide better opportunities to spotlight the State’s diverse and exceptional agricultural community. I thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for being great partners and recognizing the value of this grant program. I look forward to seeing how it enhances the local fairs across the State.”

More than 50 county and youth fairs operate from July through early October, with the Long Island Fair closing out the season.  Local fairs provide visitors with family- friendly fun, great music and delicious food. They also offer a unique opportunity to learn about local agriculture, including where our food comes from, how it is grown, harvested and marketed to the public.

President of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs Gary Newkirk said, “Our local county fairs have been tradition for generations of families.  Mom and dad bring their kids to enjoy the fair as their mom and dad brought them years before.  Most of the fairs in New York have been around for over 100 years, several over 175 years.   Unfortunately, with that comes aged infrastructure.  This money will be like a breath of fresh air to allow our fairs to keep up this great tradition, continue to provide great entertainment, build family memories, and provide an economic impact to local communities.”

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Collins backs legislation to help farms with guest workers

Posted 11 January 2017 at 5:59 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) have introduced the Family Farm Relief Act of 2017, legislation to move the H-2A Agricultural Visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.

“The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York’s agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this common-sense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program.”

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.

The current H-2A visa program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across our nation.  The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy.  This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round.  This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating an H-2A category for these workers.

Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A Visa application process.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This commonsense legislation simply puts the H-2A agricultural visa program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms.”

“Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees.  We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on the The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York’s diverse agricultural community,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.

Click here for bill text.

Tops is first grocery store to promote NY ‘Grown & Certified’

Staff Reports Posted 6 January 2017 at 8:01 am


Tops Friendly Markets is the first grocery store that will promote the New York State Grown & Certified program to highlight farms that qualify under the Grown & Certified seal.

Tops will feature and market product grown by New York farmers who adhere to the program’s requirements, including verification of safe food handling practices and participation in environmental sustainability programs.

Product sold under the State’s NYS Grown & Certified seal will be available at more than 80 Tops stores in the Western New York and the Finger Lakes regions. As NY continues to roll out the retail component of the program, product will be available at additional retailers.

“New York is supporting locally-grown products and promoting healthy lifestyles by connecting farm-fresh food with consumers across the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “Under the NYS Grown & Certified program, Tops Friendly Markets will bring certified foods to local communities, support our hard-working farms, and provide nutritional food options to New Yorkers statewide.”

A NYS Grown & Certified pilot display was unveiled at a Tops store in Erie County that features produce, including herbs, cabbage, and acorn and butternut squash from farms in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions. Consumers will also find fruits and other vegetables branded under the NYS Grown & Certified seal at participating Tops stores. A total of 145 Tops stores across the State will begin promoting NYS Grown & Certified products in the coming weeks. The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets is also working with other retailers to market NYS Grown & Certified products.

To highlight the New York producers who meet program requirements, NYS Grown & Certified is supported by a multi-pronged marketing campaign, including on-product labels, promotional materials, website, and social media channels.

The initiative was the focus of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ exhibit at the New York Produce Show in New York City in December, and the Department will continue to promote the program at upcoming industry events such as the New York State Agricultural Society annual forum and the Empire State Producers Expo.

“Partnering with local growers is something that Tops takes great pride in and the New York State Grown & Certified Program embraces this valuable relationship,” said John Persons, president and chief operating officer of Tops Friendly Markets. “This initiative allows us to continue to offer our customers the very best produce that our state has to offer and we’re proud to stand behind this program and the farmers that harvest these bountiful crops.”

For more information on NYS Grown & Certified, please visit

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Kludt again tops NY in corn yields

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 December 2016 at 10:10 pm
Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Aug. 3 shows a field of corn while the sun is setting in Gaines.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Aug. 3 shows a field of corn while the sun is setting in Gaines.

KENDALL – Matt Kludt from the Kludt Brothers Farm in Kendall is a repeat champion in New York’s annual corn yield contest.

Kludt recorded a yield of 298.5 acres in the No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated Class. The winning entry was grown with Pioneer seeds, P0843AM, the National Corn Growers Association announced today.

Kludt also won the title last year with 319.74 bushels per acre. Kludt also had the second biggest yield in 2016 at 264.55 bushels.

“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition; it generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry,” said Brent Hostetler, chair of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team. “The techniques first developed by contest winners grow into far-reaching advances, helping farmers across the country excel in a variety of situations.  Our contest emphasizes innovation both from growers and technology providers, thus enabling us to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

Kludt and other state and national winners will be invited to the 2017 Commodities Classic in San Antonio. For more on the contest, click here.

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