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NY has $1.25 million available in grants for new farmers, veterans in agriculture

Posted 20 October 2017 at 2:35 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $1.25 million in funding is available through two grant programs designed to assist farmers across the state. The New Farmers Grant Fund helps new and early-stage farmers, and the New York State Veterans Farmer Grant Fund supports farms owned and operated by military veterans. Both programs are designed to promote growth and development in the state’s agriculture industry.

“Agriculture remains a major sector of our economy and by supporting the development of early-stage farmers, these businesses will continue to provide fresh, local produce for New Yorkers across the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “This grant fund will bolster our agricultural industry by providing both veterans and farmers the support they need to expand, and thrive.”

New Farmers Grant Fund

Now in its fourth round, the $1 million New Farmers Grant Fund will provide grants of up to $50,000 to assist with up to 50 percent of eligible project costs. To qualify, all farm business owners must be within the first ten years of having an ownership interest in any farm business, and the farm must have a minimum of $10,000 in income from sales of products grown or raised on the farm. Eligible project costs include the purchase of machinery, equipment, supplies, and the construction or improvement of agricultural structures.

More than $1 million was awarded to 27 new and early-stage farms across the state in the third round of the New Farmers Grant Fund. Since its launch in 2014, the program has provided nearly $2.5 million to over 65 farms across the state to expand operations and improve profitability.

Veterans Farmer Grant Fund

A new $250,000 grant program, the New York State Veterans Farmer Grant Fund, will also provide grants of up to $50,000 for up to 50 percent of eligible project costs. To qualify, at least 50 percent of the farm business must be owned, operated and controlled by a veteran, as defined in the program guidelines. The farm must also have a minimum of $10,000 in farm income; however, this program is not limited to beginning farmers. Eligible project costs are the same as for the New Farmers Grant Fund.

Empire State Development, in consultation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, administers the grant funds. The applications and guidelines for the New Farmers Grant Fund and the Veterans Farm Grant Fund are available online. The deadline for submission is January 26, 2018.

These grant programs are central to the state’s efforts to grow New York’s agricultural industry through strategic investments in the next generation of farmers. Currently, the average age of New York farmers is approximately 55. At the same time, there is greater interest from women, veterans, new Americans, and others in beginning a career or starting a second career in farming.

This year, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets established a Beginning Farmer Program, including a one-stop shop, to help these groups overcome obstacles to entering the profession and maintaining a successful agricultural operation in New York. Through the program, the Department launched a statewide listening tour to address challenges facing early-stage farmers and to provide information about existing resources available to them. Additional resources for new or prospective farmers are available on the Department’s website, or by contacting the one-stop shop at (718) 722-2668 or

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Governor Cuomo has brought a new focus to advancing agriculture in New York State and because of his commitment, there are so many new opportunities. Innovative initiatives like these grant programs are helping to pave the way for the next generation of farmers, including our veterans whose experience in the military make them uniquely qualified for jobs on the farm. We are proud to help administer this critical funding and support the future of our industry.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “Securing capital is one of the greatest challenges for beginning farmers looking to get their new businesses off the ground. These grants can be the seeds to growing the future of farming, and New York Farm Bureau appreciates the focus on new farmers who have much to offer the agricultural community, including veterans who possess unique skills well suited for farming.”

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Albion FFA puts on Fall Festival for 600 elementary kids

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2017 at 12:17 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Amelia Targa, a kindergartner at Albion, paints a pumpkin today as part of a Fall Festival organized by the Albion FFA. About 600 elementary students have been part of the festival the past two days. Besides a series of activities at the FFA Ag Shop, student were able to walk in a corn maze at the district’s Land Lab.

The pumpkins were donated by Panek Farms. Nesbitt Farms also donated apples and cider pressed by Roberts Farms in Medina.

Garrett Derisley, the FFA president, waits for the next class to stop by the Ag Shop.

Sarah Gregori helps Daniel Dash, a kindergartner in Mrs. Krull’s class, leave a handprint on a poster that will be added to the classroom. Each elementary class that attended the Fall Festival was able to make a poster with hand prints.

Dalton Wilkins talks about corn with this class. Dalton said a typical ear of corn has about 800 kernels. Corn is a popular food for just about every type of livestock, he said.

Fjolla Bela, a member of the FFA, carries in mini pumpkins to be painted by the elementary students.

Alaina Fleming demonstrates how to use an apple press for these students.

FFA members Ben Restivo, center, and Nick Sacco, right, take questions about a combine.

Taylor Walczak gets plates of paint ready at the pumpkin-painting station.

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Collins says federal program for farmworkers needs improvement

Posted 26 September 2017 at 12:52 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Workers harvest cabbage on Route 98 in Gaines last month.

Congressman wants program streamlined, expanded to include dairy farms

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) met with United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today to discuss expanding the H-2A Agricultural Visa program. This program allows agriculture employers to hire workers on a temporary basis to fill seasonal jobs.

Under the current program, America’s agricultural employers that require year-round workers are met with challenges as it relates to finding a legal, experienced workforce. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. Both crop and livestock farmers depend on affordable labor, yet an oversight in the H-2A program has put the latter at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining workers.

“I’ve talked with hard-working farmers across Western New York who are struggling because they are unable to retain year-round workers,” said Collins. “Our dairy farmers especially are burdened with an H-2A program that does not allow them to hire the individuals they need to milk cows, feed livestock, and maintain the herd.”

The agriculture industry is vital to the Western New York economy. Collins’ Congressional District includes almost 5,000 farms which produce more than $1 billion of products sold each year.

Collins said one area of the H-2A program that needs improvement includes changing eligibility to include year-round agricultural operations such as dairy, nursery, and fresh cut operations. The meeting with Secretary Acosta was based on the fact that the Department of Labor (USDOL) has the ability to make rule changes that would immediately amend program guidelines.

“I urged Secretary Acosta to take action on this issue now. Western New York’s and America’s farmers can’t continue to be burdened by these ineffective rules and regulations while waiting for Congress to act,” Collins added.

Collins was joined by Members of Congress from across the United States who also discussed streamlining the H-2A application process. Recommendations presented would reduce redundancies and improve operating efficiencies.

“I am committed to working with President Trump, Secretary Acosta and my colleagues in Congress to make the necessary reforms that are good for our agriculture industry, and in turn, good for our economy.”

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Suburban school kids happy to visit farm

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2017 at 10:56 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – First-graders from Clarence ride the Watt’s Orchard Express on Thursday as part of a tour and visit to Watt Farms Country Market on Route 98.

The Clarence students were the first school group to visit the farm this school year. Watt Farms usually hosts 15 to 20 school tours each year. The farm is located at 3121 Oak Orchard Rd.

Cindy Munich, one of the first grade teachers, has been bringing her students to Watt’s for the past seven to eight years.

“They really love it,” she said about the first-graders. “They love to go to the apple orchard and see all of the peaches growing.”

Karen Watt talks about the critical role of bees in pollinating the flowers for the apples and other fruit.

“The boy bees do nothing,” Watt told the kids. “The girl bees do all of the work.”

The farm also demonstrates how to make cider, before the kids head out on the train to pick apples.

The Orchard Express returns after taking kids out to pick apples and see the orchard.

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GCC will host one of 6 ‘Beginning Farmer’ meetings in NY

Staff Reports Posted 8 August 2017 at 8:12 am

BATAVIA – Genesee Community College will host an event on Aug.30 for a beginning farmer initiative through the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Conable Technology Building, Room T121, One College Road, Batavia.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball is starting a statewide listening tour to support early-stage and prospective farmers.

Joined by state and industry partners, the Department of Agriculture and Markets will host six town hall-style meetings across the State to address challenges and concerns facing beginning farmers and to provide information about existing resources available to them.

Seneca Falls is hosting the first event on Aug. 9 at Empire Farm Days. (Click here to see the schedule.)

These sessions build on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State initiative to establish a beginning farmer program, which includes a one-stop shop for new or future farmers to learn about various government and non-profit programs designed to benefit them.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening in New York agriculture, but for farmers just starting out, it can seem overwhelming. We want them to know their success is our priority,” Commissioner Ball said. “We are here to help them navigate the process and understand the resources at their fingertips. This listening tour is also an opportunity for us to gain valuable feedback directly from the industry on how the State can better support current and future farmers.”

In addition to holding these listening sessions, the Department also serves as a one-stop shop for new farmers and those interested in farming as a second career. This new resource provides support to farmers in starting, diversifying, or expanding an agricultural operation.

The one-stop shop offers individual assistance to early-stage and potential farmers on job training, land ownership, farm financing, compliance, marketing and other areas critical to starting a farm operation.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Agriculture is a crucial component of New York State’s economy and providing early-stage farmers with State funding and resources helps promote job creation and industry sustainability.”

The average age of New York State farmers today is approximately 55, increasing the likelihood that many of them will be opting to retire or scaling back their operations. At the same time, there is a growing interest from women, veterans, new Americans, and others in beginning a career or starting a second career in farming.

At the direction of Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets has established a Beginning Farmer Program, including a one-stop shop, to help these groups overcome obstacles to entering the profession and launch a successful agricultural operation in New York.

The program focuses on four priority areas: access to land; capital and financing; business and technical assistance; mentorship, training and apprenticeship opportunities.

Additional resources for beginning farmers are available on the Department’s website (click here), or by contacting the one-stop shop at (718) 722-2668 or

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Collins backs bill that would create tax exemption for first $5K earned from 4-H projects

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lisa Beam shows a pig during the market auction last Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fair.

Posted 4 August 2017 at 1:00 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

Legislation is currently being debated in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that would lower the tax burden for students involved in 4-H programs and provide them with an opportunity to invest their earnings in future projects, college funds, or savings accounts.

Congressman Chris Collins released the following statement, in which he highlighted his support for the bipartisan legislation titled the Student Agriculture Protection Act of 2017.

“4-H programs offer constructive ways for students to expand their knowledge of agriculture and animal sciences,” said Congressman Collins. “With agriculture being the largest industry in New York’s 27th Congressional District, those who participate in local 4-H programs will soon be amongst the primary contributors to Western New York’s economy. For this reason alone, it’s critically important that incentives are set in place that will drive up participation and spread awareness of 4-H programs.”

If signed into law, the Student Agriculture Protection Act of 2017 would create a tax exemption for the first $5,000 of revenue earned by students 18 years or younger from either the sale of livestock or agriculture projects completed through 4-H or Future Farmers of America (FAA) programs. In effect, it will eliminate the tax-filing burden for eligible students and allow them to invest their earnings in future projects or college funds.

“Plain and simple, the Student Agriculture Protection Act is an investment in the next generation of American farmers,” Collins said. “This bill will have a direct and positive impact on New York’s 27th Congressional District and will ensure the U.S. remains the world leader in agriculture. As a proud cosponsor, I will continue my advocacy in support of this legislation to ensure it is put up for a vote on the House Floor.”

For more information on H.R. 1626, the Student Agriculture Protection Act of 2017, click here.

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Farrow has been leader in apple industry, sharing successes with peers

Posted 3 August 2017 at 4:34 pm

Rod Farrow is on the cover of this month’s issue of American Fruit Grower.

Press Release, American Fruit Grower magazine

WATERPORT – Rod Farrow, co-owner of Fish Creek Orchards in Waterport, NY, has been named the 2017 Apple Grower of the YearSM by American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines, published by Meister Media Worldwide.

(Editor’s Note: Farrow is the owner of Lamont Fruit Farm, which is changing its name to Fish Creek Orchards.)

Farrow will receive his award during the USApple Outlook and Marketing Conference, August 24, in Chicago, IL.

The Apple Grower of the Year award program, sponsored by Valent U.S.A., honors apple growers who have gone beyond the confines of the orchard and have, through their involvement and leadership, made a real impact on the apple industry.

Farrow was honored for developing a creative succession plan so the farm will continue to flourish, leading volunteer grower organizations, and hosting numerous trials to boost the knowledge level for all growers in the apple industry.

Farrow is well-known in the industry for encouraging fellow growers to adopt modern, high-density, intensively farmed orchards. He is currently president of the prestigious International Fruit Tree Association and has hosted countless Cornell University research trials.

Mark Mason, Tree Fruit Crop Manager at Valent U.S.A. — the award sponsor — says he finds Farrow to be an inspiration.

“The Apple Grower of the Year celebrates the tenacious spirit of the American apple industry today and tomorrow,” Mason says. “Growers face a host of challenges every day. It’s growers like Rod Farrow who face these challenges head-on, look for proactive solutions and inspire the rest of us to do the same.”

Farrow is a first-generation apple grower, and the first honoree to be born outside the U.S. Growing up in England, he decided on a career in fruit growing, and did internships in France, Japan, and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S. In this country, he was fortunate to live and work with the family of George Lamont.

Photo courtesy of American Fruit Grower: Rod Farrow has his apple trees in high-density plantings.

Besides being a big believer in sharing horticultural knowledge freely across the globe, Lamont was the 1997 Apple Grower of the Year. That makes Lamont Fruit Farm, now called Fish Creek Orchards, the only farm to be operated by two honorees — exactly two decades apart.

Lamont’s own children were not interested in following in their father’s footsteps, so he and his brother worked with Farrow to develop a plan so the ambitious Brit could eventually succeed them. It worked so well that two decades later, when Farrow’s own children said they weren’t interested in farming, Farrow developed a similar strategy. Two young go-getters who initially worked for him, Jason Woodworth and Jose Iniguez — the latter having started as a picker — are now his partners.

“It’s a great honor to be the Grower of the Year and receive such a prestigious award. It’s also very humbling to see yourself on a list of previous winners that includes the likes of Grady Auvil and Bill Zirkle,” Farrow says. “Individuals usually receive the award but teams earn it. I am very proud of the amazing team we have put together on the farm over the last 15 years, from my wife Karyn to partners Jose and Jason all the way through to our full-time and H-2A employees. Everyone on the farm contributes to the vision we have and they are the reason for our past, present, and hopefully future success.”

“Most apple growers were born to it, but Rod wasn’t. He chose growing apples as his career, and that passion shows in everything he does,” Jim Bair, President & CEO, USApple, says. “Because he had influential mentors along the way, he pays it forward by sharing every bit of technical knowledge he’s learned. The apple industry is richer for his generosity.”

A member of the award selection committee, David Eddy, Editor of American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower, notes Farrow received by far the most nominations of any grower in the country.

“It is with great pleasure we honor Rod Farrow, a fine horticulturist and industry leader, as Apple Grower of the Year,” he says. “He — as did his mentor, George Lamont — has shown fellow growers how they can give a helping hand to the next generation, helping ensure their farms will continue to succeed for decades to come.”

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Rod Farrow of Waterport named apple grower of the year by national magazine

Photo by Tom Rivers: Rod Farrow is pictured in a fruit orchard in this file photo.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 August 2017 at 8:45 am

WATERPORT – An Orleans County fruit grower has been named “Apple Grower of the Year” by American Fruit Grower, a national agricultural magazine run by Growing Produce.

Farrow is the owner of Lamont Fruit Farm. He has been an industry leader in growing high-value fruit through high-density orchards.

Farrow, a native of England, worked with George Lamont for many years before Farrow became the farm’s owner and expanded the operation.

Farrow has begun transitioning ownership of the farm to Jason Woodworth and Jose Iniguez.

Farrow was praised in the apple industry for management of the farm and its long-term future, and for his leadership in the industry with different co-ops including The Next Big Thing, which grows the SweeTango apple variety.

Farrow will be formally presented with the award at the annual USApple Association Apple Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference in Chicago, Aug. 24-25.

To see the article in American Fruit Grower about Farrow, click here.

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Exhibit on farmworkers ‘needs to be seen’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 July 2017 at 10:20 am

ALBION – This photo shows workers at a dairy farm in northern New York. It’s part of a photo exhibit by Lisa Catalfamo-Fiores from Kingsbury, near Glens Falls. She took a series of photos over two years that show farmworkers. She also travelled to Mexico to show the photographs to the workers’ families.

“DREAM of America: Separation & Sacrifice in the Lives of North Country Latino Immigrants” is on display at The Salih Gallery in Albion until Aug. 19. The gallery at 24 East Bank St. is open Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It needs to be seen, especially in Orleans County because we have a significant population of migrant workers,” Idris Salih, gallery owner, said during an opening reception. “It’s a compelling exhibit. It has an emotional pull to it. It is intimate.”

Photo by Tom Rivers: Maria Gomes Neilans is shown with some of the pottery she created through the “Voices from the Earth” program, which will be displayed in a gallery in Albion through Aug. 19. She is shown with Deborah Wilson, who leads a pottery at the World Life Institute in Waterport. Farmworkers make the pottery, which is entirely handmade from earthenware clay. Most are glazed in an array of lively colors. They range from baking dishes and platters to fanciful garden fountains and jars with tropical vines and lizards.

Catalfamo-Fiores lives on a small farm in Kingsbury with her husband Omar, 20 milking goats, 250 chickens, and 4 dogs. A school social worker for the past 18 years, she is also an advocate and volunteer with her local Hispanic community.

Her photos represent separated family members of Latino workers in the North Country.

“Consistently, the message conveyed while visiting families was one of sadness and frustration,” Catalfamo-Fiores writes in a message as part of the exhibit. “However, in each home visited I was welcomed warmly and shown gracious hospitality. Parents spoke of longing to physically embrace children and in some cases, grandchildren they have never met. Children of workers eagerly listened for any details of their parents’ lives here in New York. Wives spoke of the challenges of raising children alone and the struggle of daily life so far from their spouses. Most poignant, I arrived as a stranger and after these emotional visits, left with a feeling of authentic connection and appreciation.”

A worker named Chuy is an assistant herdsman at a dairy farm in northern New York.

Chuy started working at a dairy farm in Northern NY in 2004 when he was 17. He is now the assistant herdsman at dairy farm. He financially supports his wife and daughter locally, and his parents and younger brothers in Mexico.

“I miss the hugs…” Chuy, with tears in his eyes, told the photographer.

Catalfamo-Fiores showed Chuy’s mother a picture of her son working at a dairy farm.

“This is the first picture I’ve seen of him in six years,” Chuy’s mother said. “His youngest brother was 1 year old when he left for the U.S. I’m longing to see and hug my son.”

The photo exhibit will be on the move, going on tour around the state. GO-Art! is the first arts council to display it after its debut last year in Glens Falls.

Gregory Hallock, GO-Art! executive director, pushed to have the exhibit displayed locally.

“There is so much negative press about immigration,” Hallock said. “This is a chance to see another side. I want people to have some empathy.”

This family in Mexico holds photos of loved ones that working at farms in northern NY.

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Orleans woman participated in National Angus Show

Staff Reports Posted 26 July 2017 at 2:56 pm

Photo by Pearls Pics on behalf of the American Angus Association: Jayne Bannister of Kent represented New York at the 2017 National Junior Angus Showmanship Contest, held in conjunction with the National Junior Angus Show on July 9-15 in Des Moines, Iowa. Forty-five youth from across the country competed for top honors in the 51th annual event.

Jayne Bannister of Kent was one of 45 college students from across the country who participated in the 2017 National Junior Angus Showmanship Contest.

The show was held in conjunction with the National Junior Angus Show on July 9-15 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Jayne studies Animal Science and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University. She represented New York at the national show.

National Junior Angus Association members have one opportunity in their junior career to represent their state in the National Junior Angus showmanship contest. This year at the National Junior Angus Show hosted in Des Moines, Iowa.

During the 2017 National Junior Angus Show, 45 junior members competed for the title of champion showman. Claudia Hissong of Greencastle, Pa., claimed the honor of top showman.

Three judges evaluated the juniors on their skills while handling an animal, their ability to follow instructions, and evidence of courtesy and sportsmanship in the showring.

The 2017 NJAS in Des Moines, Iowa, was a record breaker for the Angus breed. More than 1,260 head of Angus cattle were shown — the largest number since the last record was set 10 years ago.

Visit for complete show results.

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