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Orleans Farm Bureau wins Silver Key Awards at state meeting

Staff Reports Posted 18 December 2016 at 11:23 am

Provided photo: Alan Panek of Albion (left), president of the Orleans County Farm Bureau, and David Bittner of Lyndonville are pictured at the New York Farm Bureau annual meeting in Albany.

Orleans County Farm Bureau was presented with 5 Silver Key Awards at the New York Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting, held Dec. 6-7 in Albany.

The Silver Key Awards are presented to county Farm Bureaus that have exhibited excellence in a variety of categories relating to effectiveness in policy implementation, promoting agriculture amongst the public and in classrooms, leadership development, and membership building.

The awards were presented for excellence in the following categories:

• Agricultural Education & Promotion

• County Financial Management

• Information & Public Relations

• Leadership Development

• Policy Development & Implementation – Local

While at the State Annual Meeting, farmer members also took part in the grassroots process of laying the groundwork for the year ahead. More than 100 delegates from across New York proposed, discussed and voted on resolutions that set NYFB’s public policy agenda for 2017. They also elected a new president of the organization, David Fisher, a dairy farmer from St. Lawrence County.

Orleans County Farm Bureau is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community. The county is part of New York Farm Bureau, the largest agricultural advocacy group in New York State, known to members and the public as “The Voice of New York Agriculture.”

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FFA food drive breaks record with 33,000 pounds

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 December 2016 at 11:48 am


Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Allison Graham, left, Lindsay Mann and other members of the Albion FFA unload a tractor-trailer truck from Panek Farms this morning that was stacked with 33,000 pounds of produce donated from local farmers.

“This is my favorite event in the year,” said Graham, a junior in high school. “We’re helping a lot of families.”

When the truck pulled into the parking lot at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, many agency staff and volunteers, as well as representatives from food pantries, started clapping and cheering for the FFA.


Emilie Barleben (center), president of the FFA, and Rylie Lear, and Garrett Derisley move 50-pound bags of cabbage off the truck.

The 33,000 pounds for the food drive broke last year’s record of 30,656. The FFA has been doing the food drive since 2010, when it collected 3,000 pounds the first year. That jumped to 9,000 pounds in 2011, 17,000 the following year and 19,000 in December 2013. The FFA reached 27,000 pounds in 2014 and then topped 30,000 for the first time last year.

Local farmers topped last year’s effort despite a drought this year that diminished the crop for many local growers.

Barry Flansburg, the FFA Alumni president, wasn’t surprised the farming community stepped up again for the food drive despite a tough year.

“It’s a credit to the ag community and how generous they are,” Flansburg said. “Everybody sets aside food each year for this whether it’s a good year or a bad year.”


Jared Hollinger hands a heavy box to Clara Stilwell as the students worked to unload the truck in the bitter cold. Students sent out letters to local farmers, and then organized the ag shop at the school this week following the citrus sale to make room for all of the food.

The FFA students were at the school at 7 this morning to load the truck.


Annette Finch, emergency services coordinator for Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, thanks the students for their work on the food drive. She is joined by Barry Flansburg, president of the Albion FFA Alumni.

Finch said the food would go to about 200 families in Albion, 160 in Holley and other food pantries around the county.

“You will help a lot of families in Orleans County,” Finch told the FFA students. “You don’t know what it means to the people and to me.”

Finch was emotional in thanking the students and farmers for the food drive.

“Every year she cries,” said Allison Graham, one of the FFA students.


Russ Peters, pastor of the Alabama Full Gospel Church, carries a bag of potatoes. He said the church is working on putting together Christmas baskets for 33 families. The food from the FFA food drive would also help people in the church and community “who find themselves in need this time of year.”


Rev. William Washington, pastor of the Royal Church of God in Christ in Carlton, carries potatoes for the church’s food pantry.


Adam Krenning, FFA advisor, hands a crate of food to a volunteer at Community Action this morning.


The FFA students gather for a group picture with a thank you message for the farmers that donated to the drive.

The following donated:

Orleans County Farm Bureau – $1,500 for purchase of hams; Triple G Farms – potatoes; Root Brothers – cabbage; Nesbitt Farms – apples; Kreher’s – 900 dozen eggs; Kludt Brothers – squash; Martin Farms – squash; Calls Farms – potatoes; Jeff Partyka – squash; CY Farms – onions and cabbage; Starowitz; Torrey Farms – potatoes cabbage and onions; Castanzia Bakery – bread; Orchard Dale Fruit Farm – apples; Navarra’s – Bean Crates; Save-A-Lot and Tops – Banana boxes; Paneks – Canned Beans and Corn (use of truck); Town of Oakfield – use of wagon.

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Apple packing was a fine art more than a century ago

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 17 December 2016 at 8:29 am


“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 2, Issue 51

MEDINA – Taken sometime in the 1890s, this image shows a group of men preparing apples for shipment at Watson’s Farm on Route 31 outside of Medina (likely the farm of Dudley Watson).

The man standing on the rights is identified as Milton Johnson, a day laborer from Albion. Barely visible are the hindquarters of a camera-shy dog that is occupied with something behind the crates and barrels of apples. Johnson holds a hatchet in his right hand as he stands adjacent to a barrel header.

Coopers would manufacture wood barrels for shipping apples by way of the Erie Canal or by train. Each barrel was required to have six hoops (the rings which held the staves together); two bilge hoops, two quarter hoops, and two head hoops; the quarter and head hoops are placed closely together. The presence of quarter hoops allows barrels to be stacked more efficiently and prevented them from splitting during shipment.

In the center of the image is a grading table; apples were emptied from bushels and crates onto these tables for sorting based on size. The packers would first face the bottom of the barrel with one or two layers of fine quality apples to provide the illusion that the entire barrel was filled with an outstanding product (this was later remedied by U.S. packing requirement that required all faced apples to be representative of the barrel’s entire contents). The produce was then placed into the barrel by the half-bushel and “racked” by the packer after each load to ensure that the apples distributed evenly throughout the container.

As the barrels reached maximum capacity, the apples often created high spots, as seen in this image. The packers would use a “shaker” or “follower” (the wood ring hung on the barrel to the right of Johnson) to “ring tail” the barrel. This process would evenly distribute the apples, helping to decrease possible damage caused by the pressure of applying the barrel head. A novice packer was never left alone to ring tail a barrel, but an experienced packer was capable of tailing 125-150 barrels each day.

As this year comes to a conclusion, I think it is important to acknowledge a recent accomplishment in the documentation of Orleans County history as it pertains to our agricultural heritage. This past weekend, Holly Canham and her son Andrew released their new book entitled Mom and Pop Farming in Orleans County, NY. Tom Rivers, editor of the Orleans Hub, went as far as to say “this may be the most impressive local history book I’ve ever seen,” and I would concur with that proclamation.

In recent memory, I believe one would be hard-pressed to find a similar substantial work on the history of Orleans County outside of Signor’s Landmarks of Orleans County or Pioneer History of Orleans County by Arad Thomas. I am continually grateful for those who continue to commit such time and effort to ensure that our history, especially those oral histories and recollections, for generations to come.

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Author pleased with response for book on ‘Mom and Pop’ farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2016 at 8:32 am


Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Holly Ricci-Canham, left, holds a copy of “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” The book is open to page 126 which includes a photo of Mercedes Bancroft of Kent.

Bancroft’s daughter, Evelyn (Bancroft) Taylor, drove from Covington, Wyoming County, to get a copy of the book on Sunday.

“Mother could do it all,” Taylor said.

She bought copies of the book for her seven children.

“I want them to read about what my mom did,” Taylor said.


Mercedes Bancroft is among the many “mom and pop” farmers in Orleans County featured in a new book.

Ricci-Canham had a book-signing at Hoag Library and more than 100 people attended the event, which included pies, soup and chance for many in the farming community to catch up after not seeing each other for years.

“It’s very nice that someone took the time to get it down for posterity,” said Tim Kirby, an Albion farmer who attended the book-signing.

Ricci-Canham interviewed more than 150 people and included more than 400 photographs for her nearly 300-page book. She worked on the project for about two years.

Ricci-Canham, founder and president of the Orleans County Genealogical Society, signs a copy of the book on Sunday.

Ricci-Canham and her husband, Bud, pose in the cut-out of a farmer and his wife. The Brown family in Waterport loaned the cut-out for Sunday’s book event at the library.

Ricci-Canham and her husband, Bud, pose in the cut-out of a farmer and his wife. The Brown family in Waterport loaned the cut-out for Sunday’s book event at the library.

Canham said Sunday’s reception was full of non-stop talk among many of the farm families featured in the book. She was thrilled the book brought many of the families together.

“It did my heart good,” she said about seeing so many people on Sunday. “It has been very gratifying.”

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New book pays tribute to ‘Mom and Pop’ farms in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2016 at 10:08 am

Holly Ricci-Canham’s nearly 300-page effort includes 150 interviews, 400 photos

Photo by Tom Rivers: Holly Ricci-Canham holds a copy of “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” She will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Holly Ricci-Canham holds a copy of “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” She will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion.

ALBION – Holly Ricci-Canham has a new book out that is a tribute to the “mom and pop” farms that were once commonplace in Orleans County.

The farms were part of a close-knit community with neighborhood schools and churches.

Ricci-Canham grew up on a “mom and pop” farm in Kenyonville run by her parents, Pete and “Mike” Ricci. They would relocate the fruit and vegetable farm to West Avenue in Albion. Her upbringing on the farm made her want to tell the stories of local farms.

“You see the gigantic farming tractors now, which is so different from the farming I grew up with,” she said.

Ricci-Canham, 63, interviewed more than 150 people and included more than 400 photographs for her nearly 300-page book, “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.”

The book covers farm operations throughout county with sections about muck farmers, dairies, fruit and vegetable farms, canning companies, migrant labor camps, “ladies accounts,” technology changes as well as country schools, “kids play” and fairs and celebrations.

Many people she interviewed had strong memories of attending one-room schoolhouses and learning to drive – sometimes at age 5. They shared some hard times on the farm, and how neighbors often pitched in to help them get through it.

“Farm people are a deep, kind, loving people,” Ricci-Canham said. “They have an unconditional love of helping each other.”

Ricci-Canham’s son Andrew, vice president of student success for McLellan Community College in Waco, Texas, served as editor of the book.

John Long, a long-time farmer on Zig Zag Road in Albion, also helped edit the book and connected Ricci-Canham to many of the farm families. (Long and his wife Loretta are pictured on the front of the book with their sons, Jeff and Doug, in a photo from 1969.)

Ricci-Canham has the book in chapters, including one on dairy farmers. Rudy Kludt was among those interviewed for the section on dairy: “My Mother did a lot of work on the farm,” he says in the book. “She could milk a cow faster than anybody could milk a cow! She did all of the milking – Dad was out on the farm … we made butter. She sold eggs for groceries – sometimes traded for groceries. Today you can’t do anything like that.”

Rudy Kludt would also recall when the farm acquired its first combine in 1936. His father didn’t like the Allis Chalmers and switched to an International two years later.


This quote from Rudy Kludt is on the back cover of the book.

The book shares memories from farmers of labor-saving equipment, from tree shakers to self-propelled harvesters.

Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, wrote the forward of the book, and praised Ricci-Canham for an “invaluable” book of local history.

“These are first-hand accounts relating to a lifestyle which has all but vanished,” Lattin writes.

Fifty years ago, few farms topped more than 100 acres. Now many farms in Orleans County work thousands of acres.

“In this book, farmers tell the history of farming in their own words,” Matthew Ballard, current county historian, writes in a forward. “Little is left for interpretation by the author, providing an informative and precise examination of our agricultural heritage.”

Ricci-Canham delayed the publication of the book by several months so she could include a chapter about labor camps. She interviewed people who lived at the former Coloney Camp in Carlton. (Any from the camp attended a popular night club, The Brick Wall, where a young Chubby Checker performed. The Brick Wall is where the current Olde Dogge Inn is located.)

The camp also didn’t have running water for the residents and was often rodent infested.

Howard Ward, a vice president at Rochester Institute of Technology, grew up in the camp. He would earn a doctorate in education. He said there was a strong community at the camp, with people helping each other.

“I never minded farm work,” he told Ricci-Canham in the book. “I picked cherries, all kinds of fruits. I didn’t like picking cucumbers. The fields were 5 miles by 5 miles and the plants were prickly. They used DDT back then and your hands would be green! I say it was because of cukes that I went to college!”

The book includes many pictures of “farm kids,” including this one of Holly Ricci as a girl on a pedal tractor.

The book includes many pictures of “farm kids,” including this one of Holly Ricci as a girl on a pedal tractor.

For the sections on fairs, celebrations & entertainment, Ricci-Canham writes about the world largest apple pie created in 1929 by Charlie Howard (before he started a Santa Claus School). In 1977, the 4-H Fair set a new record for the world’s largest apple pie. In 1931, the fair was the site of the world’s largest cake, which stood 14 feet high.

In 1859, tragedy struck during a celebration in Albion. Hundreds of people gathered to watch a tight-rope walker cross the canal. The Main Street bridge collapsed, killing 14 people.

The book includes a section on the canning factories. Ricci-Canham remembers growing up with the scent of ketchup at Hunts in Albion and the chicken soup at Liptons.

“The area smelled so good back then,” she said.

Canham will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion. She had about 450 printed, but already is working on a second printing for January.

Ricci-Canham is a founder of Orleans County Genealogical Society. She co-wrote “Carlton and Point Breeze” with Avis Townsend in 2006, a book that is a photographic history of the community. Ricci-Canham also wrote “Legendary Locals of Orleans County” in 2012, highlighting prominent residents who excelled in civic affairs, business, agriculture, sports, politics and the arts.

The book on the farm families proved to be “the most humbling and most fulfilling experience of my life, short of having children,” Ricci-Canham writes in the conclusion.

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NY Farm Bureau elects new president

Staff Reports Posted 9 December 2016 at 9:16 am

Dean Norton of Elba led the organization the past 8 years

ALBANY — During the New York Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting in Albany this week, voting delegates elected David Fisher, a dairy farmer from St. Lawrence County, as the new president of the organization.

David Fisher

David Fisher

Fisher will replace Dean Norton, a dairy farmer from Elba. Norton led the organization the past eight years. He was seeking another two-year term as the organization’s leader.

Norton posted a Facebook message, thanking the many friends he has made in the past 8 years as Farm Bureau president. He also thanked his wife Melanie, an Albion native, for her support.

“They say for every door that closes another opens. I will be looking for that door,” Norton said. “It has been a wonderful journey and one that we are both grateful to have taken.”

Fisher and his family have operated Mapleview Dairy in Madrid for four generations. He has served on the New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors for the past five years and previously was president of St. Lawrence County Farm Bureau. A graduate of Cornell University, Fisher earned a degree in Animal Science.

“I am humbled that the farmer members of New York Farm Bureau have placed their confidence in me to lead this great organization,” Fisher said. “My family has a long history with Farm Bureau, and I am excited to work on behalf of our diverse membership to increase the value and visibility of New York agriculture. I would also like to thank Dean Norton for his service and commitment to New York Farm Bureau.”

Vice President Eric Ooms, a dairy farmer from Columbia County, was re-elected to his position.

In addition, representatives to the State Board of Directors were elected, too. This concluded the annual two-day long meeting where resolutions were discussed and voted on to set NYFB’s 2017 public policy agenda.

Pat McCormick, a dairy farmer from Wyoming County, was re-elected as director of District 2, which includes Orleans County.

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Farmers’ Market in Medina will go into winter

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 November 2016 at 2:13 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Ken and Rose Baker from Baker Farms in Medina, right, are pictured on Saturday with Kari Kasmier, a  beekeeper who sells honey.

The Canal Village Farmers’ Market expected to call it a season at the end of October. But many vendors still have vegetables, beef, honey and other products from the farm.

So the farmers’ market is staying open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. for the foreseeable future. That’s good news for the vendors who appreciate the extended season.

“This is the only one that I know of that is staying open in the winter,” said vendor Jo Marie Human of Human Farms and Greenhouses in Appleton.

She was selling wreaths, potatoes, winter squash, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and other vegetables n Saturday.

“We’ll keep coming until it freezes,” she said.


Jo Marie Human has wreaths and vegetables for sale at the farmers’ market.

The farmers’ market is at the old Bank of America drive-thru and parking lot, across from the Post Office on West Center Street. SK Herefords is selling beef products inside the former bank building.

Dawn Keppler of SK said the farm will be at the market every Saturday during the winter except for the month of January.

The market had at least five vendors each Saturday in November. This Saturday will include one new one: Nice Farms from Knowlesville.

Ken Baker of Medina is happy the market is staying open.

“We want to keep up our customer base,” said Baker, who had bacon, eggs, garlic, garlic powder and other products for sale on Saturday.

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Cost of Thanksgiving meal decreases in 2016

Posted 24 November 2016 at 7:12 am
File photo by Tom Rivers: These turkeys were part of the 2014 meat auction at the 4-H Fair in Knowlesville. The cost of a turkey has dropped a little compared to Thanksgiving a year ago.

File photo by Tom Rivers: These turkeys were part of the 2014 meat auction at the 4-H Fair in Knowlesville. The cost of a turkey has dropped a little compared to Thanksgiving a year ago.

Press Release, American Farm Bureau

WASHINGTON, D.C – The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 31st annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.87, a 24-cent decrease from last year’s average of $50.11.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.74 this year. That’s roughly $1.42 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 30 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2015.

“Consumers will pay less than $5 per person for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year,” AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. “We have seen farm prices for many foods – including turkeys – fall from the higher levels of recent years. This translates into lower retail prices for a number of items as we prepare for Thanksgiving and confirms that U.S. consumers benefit from an abundant, high-quality and affordable food supply.”

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, milk and a veggie tray comprised of celery and carrots. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.13; a gallon of milk, $3.17; a one-pound veggie tray of celery and carrots, $0.73; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.81.

“Due to a significant expansion in global milk production, prices fell to the lowest levels since 2009, leading to lower retail milk and dairy product prices. Additionally, this year’s pumpkin prices are slightly lower following the production decline and higher prices seen in 2015,” Newton said.

Items that increased modestly in price were a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, $2.46; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.59; one pound of green peas, $1.58; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.39; a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.00; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; and a three-pound bag of fresh sweet potatoes, $3.60.

The average price is down slightly from last year to $49.87. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner fell to $20.66 – the lowest level since 2010.

A total of 148 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 40 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons.

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Dobbins pushing $5 million expansion in Lyndonville

File photo by Tom Rivers: Ward Dobbins is pictured inside H.H. Dobbins in this photo from September. Dobbins is working on a 10,300-square-foot expansion to accommodate a larger packing line.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 November 2016 at 8:21 am

LYNDONVILLE – A business that packs about 1 million bushels of apple each year is moving ahead with a $5 million expansion that will include a new packing line with the latest technology.

H.H. Dobbins (Empire Fruit LLC) will put a 10,300-square-foot addition on its complex at 129 West Ave. The added space will accommodate a new state-of-art packing line that can detect internal and external blemishes on fruit.

Right now, Dobbins has workers on the packing lines that sort fruit that doesn’t quite look perfect. The new packing line will have a defect sorter that quickly scans for exterior imperfections in fruit. Another big advantage to the technology will be seeing problems inside the fruit, such as water coring, that aren’t detectable to the human eye, Ward Dobbins, the company owner and chief executive officer, said in an interview in September. (Orleans Hub featured him in article in September because he was honored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.)

Dobbins said the new line won’t displace workers. They will instead be packing boxes and bags of fruit. The new line will increase the volume from 140 bushels packed per hour to 900 bushels, Dobbins said.

The expansion project is estimated to cost $5 million for the new equipment, machinery, fixtures and furnishings, as well as construction of the new space.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency has approved a sales tax abatement that will save H.H. Dobbins $220,864 in sales tax. That is an exemption on the 8 percent tax on an estimated $2,760,800 in taxable purchases of equipment and materials. The EDA board of directors approved the incentive on Nov. 10.

That is the only tax break Dobbins will receive from the EDA for the project. The company isn’t pursuing a property tax discount with the project.

This is the second recent significant expansion and investment by Dobbins. The business last year opened a new 26,240-square-foot controlled atmosphere storage building on Millers Road, about 2 miles from the main packing house on West Avenue.

That $3.4 million project boosted Dobbins’ on-site storage by 300,000 bushels of apples. The CA also acts to put apples “to sleep,” allowing them to be stored for many months, sometimes up to a year.

H.H. Dobbins was started in 1905 and under the leadership of the fourth-generation owner, Ward Dobbins.

Dobbins is working to have the new packing line in production by next harvest season, EDA officials said.

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NY has $1.5 million available for farms to join ‘New York State Grown & Certified’ program

Posted 15 November 2016 at 7:20 am
Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer works a field by an orchard on Route 31 in Ridgeway in May.

Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer works a field by an orchard on Route 31 in Ridgeway in May.

Press Release, Gov. Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $1.5 million is available to help New York fruit and vegetable farmers join the New York State Grown & Certified program.

The $1.5 million comes from the Environmental Protection Fund to help farms implement an Agricultural Environmental Management plan, and a reimbursement of up to $1,000 is available for growers who participate in a third party audit of safe food handling practices.

Farmers must participate in programs supporting good agricultural practices and environmental management to be eligible for New York State Grown & Certified, and this funding will help more farms join the certification program.

“New York farms produce world-renowned, high-quality food, and the New York State Grown & Certified program strengthens the link between producers and consumers and promotes environmentally sustainable and safe practices,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will help more farmers certify their products to these higher standards and access the many opportunities offered by New York State Grown & Certified.”

Launched in August, the New York State Grown & Certified program assures consumers that the food they are buying is local and produced to a higher standard by requiring participating producers to adopt good agricultural practices and enroll in an environmental management program.

Reimbursement for Good Agricultural Practices Audits

Administered through the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Good Agricultural Practices program verifies that safe food handling practices are being used on farms, from growing and harvesting to packaging and handling. The Good Agricultural Practices program certifies the fresh fruit and vegetable farms that have implemented the necessary steps in their operations to minimize the possibility of product contamination and food-borne illness in accordance with USDA regulations.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, is providing up to $1,000 to reimburse farms for Good Agricultural Practices audits. The Department has conducted 234 audits in 2016 so far, already exceeding last year’s total number of audits.

Cornell University is a key partner in training and education for farmers as part of the program. The university holds online courses and in-person training throughout the year to help producers learn about the program and write their own safe food handling farm plan prior to the third-party audit.

Funding for Agricultural Environmental Management Plans

The Governor on Monday also announced $1.5 million is available for the implementation of an Agricultural Environmental Management plan to assist fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop growers in producing their products in an environmentally responsible manner.

Funding for the implementation of the Agricultural Environmental Management plan is provided through the Environmental Protection Fund. Assisting specialty crop farms to produce foods with the highest environmental standards will protect and improve New York’s natural resources, including water and soil quality.

New York’s County Soil and Water Conservation Districts are eligible to apply for the program on behalf of farmers. Maximum award amounts for projects are $50,000. Applications are due January 20, 2017.

Benefits for Growers, Buyers and Consumers

For growers, participation in Agricultural Environmental Management and Good Agricultural Practices certification allows for greater access to programs, especially New York State Grown & Certified, which includes a major marketing campaign to promote New York producers who meet the program standards. This includes on-product labels and promotional materials, such as a website, video and sales materials, to encourage program participation among producers and to educate retail, wholesale and institutional buyers on the value of the program. Consumer advertising and retail promotion will begin this fall.

The Good Agricultural Practices certification also provides producers access to the Farm to School procurement pilot program, which requires growers selling to school districts to be certified. The program also helps farms prepare for potential regulation from the Food Safety Modernization Act.

In addition, the Good Agricultural Practices program is significant for buyers. By purchasing products from a farm that is certified, there is a reduction in the potential for future food safety recalls, which can be costly to buyers and also impact consumer confidence and loyalty. Many consumers are looking for reassurance that the items they purchase in the supermarket have been properly handled on the farm.

Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, “New York’s farmers value the quality and safety that goes into everything they produce. This includes taking part in AEM and GAP programs that work with farmers to be good stewards of the environment and have additional safe food handling protocols in place. The additional steps the state is taking to increase access to these valuable programs will not only benefit farmers but consumers as well who are looking to New York’s family farms for fresh, local food.”

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