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With fruit trees in bloom, bees go to work

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2017 at 10:43 am

Photo courtesy of Brett Kast

ALBION – The apple orchards and other fruit trees are starting to bloom. Local fruit growers have many hives of bees in their orchards, hoping bees will be busy pollinating in the coming days.

Brett Kast, an Albion fruit grower, would like the weather to warm up and the rain to hold off so bees can be active pollinators.

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With more rain in forecast, muck farmers worry about their crop

Photos by Tom Rivers: A field in the muck along Transit Road is flooded after the big rain on Monday. Farmers have been pumping water since a severe thunderstorm on Monday.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2017 at 9:13 am

Mucklands are at saturation point after deluge

Joe Bezon stands in one of his fields in Clarendon on Tuesday evening. Bezon said the water has gone down significantly since the storm on Monday. He worries about the forecast that calls for one to two inches more of rain from Thursday to Friday.

CLARENDON – Joe Bezon, a third-generation muck farmer, had just headed home after a hard day’s work on Monday afternoon when it started raining. A sprinkle soon turned into a deluge.

Bezon’s home in Byron was pounded by the rain. He drove to the muck and saw water, everywhere. Bezon was about 75 percent done planting onions for the season. Now there was standing water in the fields.

Bezon said about an inch of rain fell at his house, and 2 inches in the muck.

Bezon and the muck farmers were able to pump lots of the water off the muck on Tuesday, leaving them optimistic the plants and seeds would survive. But he is nervous about the forecast for Thursday, which says another inch to 2 inches is headed our way.

“The water has gone down a lot,” he said Tuesday evening on the muck. “It all depends on Thursday and the through the weekend. It’s wait and see what happens next. It looks like another 10 days of poor weather.”

Another big rain and farmers will struggle to get rid of the water. Bezon said the ground is saturated and the drainage ditches at near capacity.

The drainage ditches are getting full in the muck.

Bezon’s grandfather was one of the original muckers in the 1920s. Bezon, 60, said there has been years when the entire crop was lost due to the weather.

Last year there was little rain after May, but Bezon and other farmers on the muck made up for it by irrigating. Bezon said he had one of his best crops ever last year.

But too much rain is hard to deal with. Even if some of the water is pumped into ditches, Bezon said farmers can’t get back in the field for perhaps a week or more to spray for weeds because their equipment would get stuck.

Sandy Bezon took this photo on Monday evening after a big rainstorm on the muck. A lot of the water has since been pumped out of the fields.

Bezon farms 110 acres in the muck and was 75 percent done with planting at about $2,500 per acre. There is a chance the seeds and plants may not survive the flooding. Bezon said planting again, at $2,500 per acre, means extra work with likely no profit.

Triple G Farms is about 85 percent of way done with planting onions on about 200 acres. Co-owner Guy Smith said the farm has little standing water in its fields, but he is concerned about the forecasted rain.

“Right now we’re pretty good,” he said. “But it will be hard if we get more rain.”

One rain gauge on the muck showed 1.25 inches of rain on Monday, May 1. That followed 6 inches in April. That is far more than usual on the muck.

In April 2016, rain totaled 1.4 inches. Previous April rain amounts include: 3.2 inches in 2015; 5 inches in 2014; 4.2 inches in 2013; and 1.8 inches in 2012, according to the Cornell Vegetable Program.

Bezon said the rainfall so far this year is a start contrast from 2016.

“Last year we prayed for rain,” he said. “Now we have all the pumps running. The ground is saturated.”

Muck farmers set May 10 as a goal to have their crop planted. The corn and soybean farmers set June 10 as a deadline. After those days, the yields tend to diminish 1 to 2 percent each day the crop is planted after the target dates.

The big rains and wet fields could keep farmers from planting for a week or more, even if the rain stopped.

“We still have time because farmers have bigger equipment these days and can cover a lot of ground,” said Larry Meyer, the Farm Service Agency director in Orleans County. “These guys are amazing and can get a tremendous amount of work done. They work around the clock.”

But Meyer said they can’t plant the crop in waterlogged fields.

“The main thing with agriculture and rain is when is it going to stop?” Meyer said.

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State budget includes tax credit for farmers who donate food

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion FFA students are pictured on Dec. 17 with a thank you message for the farmers that donated to the drive. Local farmers donated 33,000 pounds of produce. The FFA started the food drive in 2010, and collected more than 160,000 pounds of produce that are given to Community Action and local food pantries.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 April 2017 at 7:37 am

New York Farm Bureau said the state budget provides strong support for agricultural program and includes “Farm to Food Bank” tax credit for farmers who donate produce.

David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president, issued this statement about the state budget:

“New York Farm Bureau is pleased that the final New York State budget addresses several of our farmers’ priority issues for the legislative session. This includes funding for numerous programs that support research, promotion and economic development of our diverse agricultural community in New York. However, the impacts of the state budget will be felt far off the farm as well.

“For starters, $50 million earmarked for nutrient management under the Governor’s new water infrastructure plan will build on the agricultural community’s strong record of environmental stewardship. It will assist dairy farms through cost sharing to invest in manure storage. The result is more flexibility on farms to manage the organic matter, which helps protect water quality for all New Yorkers.

“In addition, we are excited that the Farm to Food Bank Bill will finally receive funding. The small tax credit for donated food will offset a portion of the costs to pick, package and deliver the fresh produce to regional food banks and pantries. In turn, more New Yorkers in need will have access to locally grown food.

“Farming is important to New York State and that sentiment is reflected in the final New York State budget. At a time when farm income is down due to low commodity prices, the investments in agriculture are especially needed. New York Farm Bureau would like to thank Senate Patty Ritchie for her diligent work in securing funding that will benefit family farms across New York. In addition, Assembly Agriculture Chair Bill Magee continues to be a great advocate as well for agriculture. Finally, we appreciate the support of Governor Cuomo and the leaders in the Senate and Assembly for making agriculture a priority during budget negotiations.”

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Albion FFA brings animals to school for Mini-Farm Day

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 April 2017 at 8:46 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Abby Pappalardo, a freshman at Albion, introduces elementary students to her bunny named Sable. The rabbit was one of the stops on Mini-Farm Day, which included a chance to meet farm animals and see tractors.

The Albion FFA runs the annual event. About 600 elementary students stopped by to see the animals and farm equipment.

Kendall Eibl, a senior, shows students a boar goat named Rob.

Geddy Morgan, a senior, holds a domesticated duck.

Olivia Krenning, a sixth grader, introduced students to her pigs, Red Velvet and Poka. Olivia’s father, Adam, is the FFA advisor and an agriculture teacher at Albion.

One of the stops included a dairy cow and black angus beef cow. Harrison Brown, a junior, discussed the animals with students. The dairy cow is named Bugsy and the angus is Sugar Pie.

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Kendall farmer recognized as NY corn champ

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2017 at 11:58 am

Press Release, National Corn Growers Association

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – As the American farmer strives to meet the growing demand for corn required to satisfy increasing world demand, one area grower has been honored for their efforts through the 2016 National Corn Yield Contest.

The national contest, sponsored annually by the National Corn Growers Association, recognizes farmers from across the country for their exceptional efforts.

Matt Kludt

Matt Kludt of Kendall placed 1st in the state in the C: A No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated Class with a yield of 298.5 bushels per acre. The hybrid used in the winning field was Pioneer P0843AM.

Kludt was one of 400 state winners nationwide. The 2016 contest participation included 7,979 entries from 46 states. Of the state winners, 18 growers – three from each of six classes – were named national winners, representing nine states.

The average yield among national winners was 374.7 bushels per acre – greater than the projected 2016 U.S. average of 175.3 bushels per acre. Five of the national winners recorded yields of 400 bushels or more per acre.

“This harvest, the world witnessed the incredible bounty U.S. corn farmers can provide to meet the growing need for food, fuel and fiber both in our nation and around the world,” said NCGA President Wesley Spurlock, a corn grower from Stratford, Texas.

“Our contest participants demonstrated that America’s farmers continue to strive for excellence while adopting state-of-the-art tools which help them meet those goals,” Spurlock continued. “The top yield in this year’s contest – a tremendous 521.3968 bushels per acre achieved by Randy Dowdy of Valdosta, GA – is a testament to these efforts.”

Farmers are encouraged through the contest to utilize new, efficient production techniques. Agronomic data gleaned from the contest reveal the following:

• Average planting population for the national winners was 39,111 seeds per acre, compared to 34,110 for all entrants.

• National winners applied an average of 311.06 pounds of nitrogen, 84.61 pounds of phosphorus and 180.83 pounds of potassium per acre.

• Average commercial nitrogen use per bushel of yield was 0.83 pounds for the national winners and 0.83 pounds for all entrants.

• 33.33 percent of the national winners applied trace minerals, compared to 37.04 percent of all entrants.

• Use of manure as a fertilizer was consistent. 33.33 percent of national winners applied manure, compared to 14.91 percent of all entrants.

The winners were recognized March 3th at the 2017 Commodity Classic, the premier convention and trade show of the U.S. corn, soybean, sorghum, wheat and equipment industries, held this year in San Antonio, TX.

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Wine Trail will push to have 150 new signs out this year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 March 2017 at 7:48 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: The current road signs for the Niagara Wine Trail don’t stretch into Orleans or Monroe counties. This photo shows the sign of Route 104 near the Orleans/Niagara countyline.

More than three years after the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the Niagara Wine Trail through Orleans County and into Rochester, road signs will be erected to note the trail extends east of Niagara County.

The state set aside money for the signs in 2011. But securing permits from the state Department of Transportation has taken some time. The Niagara Wine Trail has been working across three counties, and with two different DOT zones.

“There are a lot of new locations and some replacements,” said Cate Banks, executive director for the Niagara Wine Trail.

She expects 150 new signs will in place this year. She said State Sen. Rob Ortt’s office has been helpful working through the approval process with the the DOT.

The new signs will highlight the expanded Wine Trail. The Governor in October 2013 approved the extended trail. The new boundaries include:

• Route 104 between the Ferry Avenue/Route 62 intersection in Niagara Falls and Route 390 in Monroe County. That will be known as “Niagara Wine Trail Ridge.”

• The complement to the Ridge route is the “Niagara Wine Trail Lake,” which follows Route 269 north from its intersection with Route 104 at the Niagara-Orleans County Line to Route 18. It then runs west to Route 425, then south to Route 62 and along that route until its intersection with I-290 in Amherst.

The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday read a proclamation declaring April as “Wine Month” in Orleans County. Cate Banks, executive director of the Niagara Wine Trail, and Bryan DeGraw, owner of 810 Meadworks in Medina and vice president of the Wine Trail, are pictured with Ken DeRoller, a county legislator.

There are 21 wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail, with 15 in Niagara, four in Orleans and two in Monroe.

The four in Orleans include:

• 810 Meadworks, 113 West Center St., Medina

• Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, 10609 Ridge Rd., Medina

• Schwenk Wine Cellars, 1456 Bills Rd., Kent

• Salamaca Estate Winery, 2660 Hindsburg Rd., Albion.

The Orleans County Legislature last week issued a proclamation, declaring April as “Wine Month” in the county.

The proclamation states New York is the country’s third largest grade and wine producer with 1,631 family-owned vineyards that generate 25,000 jobs. More than 5 million people visit those vineyards and wineries annually, according to the proclamation.

“The Legislature recognizes that our wine and craft beverage industry helps to showcase the county’s agriculture, beauty, promote numerous quality of life activities, and bolster tourism and the local economy,” the proclamation states.

For more information on the Niagara Wine Trail, click here.

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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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