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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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OC Cuisine blog connects community through recipes and food

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 December 2016 at 7:06 pm

Cherise Oakley shares family recipes around the county, including ‘Lorraine’s Roadkill Cabbage Casserole’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Cherise Oakley made this dish, Hardenbrook family ham loaf, with Kathy (Hardenbrook) Scroger and Mary Ellen (Hardenbrook) Seaman. It is one of 17 family recipes highlighted so far in Oakley’s blog, “Orleans County Cuisine.”

Photos by Tom Rivers: Cherise Oakley made this dish, Hardenbrook family ham loaf, with Kathy (Hardenbrook) Scroger and Mary Ellen (Hardenbrook) Seaman. It is one of 17 family recipes highlighted so far in Oakley’s blog, “Orleans County Cuisine.”

KENDALL – Cherise Oakley wants to help build a stronger community in Orleans County, and she thinks family recipes are a leading ingredient to enriching relationships.

Oakley started a blog, Orleans County Cuisine, in September and is up to 17 features on cherished family recipes including the Hardenbrook ham loaf, the Cooper family’s collard greens and smoked turkey butt, and the Grabowski’s pierogis.

Oakley met with Kathy Scroger and Mary Ellen Seaman last month to make the ham loaf. They used the kitchen at the Morton Baptist Church.

Oakley shares the recipe on her blog, with some cooking tips and background on the dish. She does it for the 17 entries so far.

“There is nothing better to bring people together than food,” said Oakley, 42, of Kendall.

Many of the recipes have been closely guarded by families for generations. But Oakley is finding families want to share them – with the community.

Mary Ellen Seaman and Kathy Scroger work together on making the Hardenbrook family ham loaf at the Morton Baptist Church.

Mary Ellen Seaman, left, and Kathy Scroger work together on making the Hardenbrook family ham loaf at the Morton Baptist Church.

The Hardenbrook ham loaf has been a Christmas breakfast tradition for that family for more than 70 years.

Mary Ellen (Hardenbrook) Seaman and Kathy (Hardenbrook) Scroger shared the dish with Oakley and her readers. Click here to see it.

Scroger and Seaman are cousins. (Oakley also is related to them.) The cousins also usually make the ham loaf around Thanksgiving and deliver the meals to the VA in Batavia.

“I want to share some of the stories and some of the history,” Oakley said about the recipes. “We learn about life in Orleans County and some of the folklore.”

She is developing deeper relationships already with the families willing to share their treasured recipes.

The ham loaf has been a Hardenbrook Christmas tradition for more than 70 years.

The ham loaf has been a Hardenbrook Christmas tradition for more than 70 years.

Oakley, the daughter of Charlie Nesbitt and the late Dema (Sam) C. Daley, had a family connection to the Hardenbrooks. Now she has a shared experience in the kitchen, making the ham loaf with Scroger and Seaman. Oakley also had the ladies write out the recipe in their own hand-writing.

Oakley wants to highlight local foods and use local ingredients as much as possible. She highlights Bannister Beef (Exselsior Farms) in Kent, B & C Christ Farms in Kent where she is a member of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and Miller’s Bulk Food & Bakery in Medina, where she buys many spices and Polish sausage. (For the Hardenbrook ham loaf, she bought the ground ham and pork from the Alabama Holley Farm Market.

“This has helped me to eat more sustainably and fresher,” Oakley said about the blog and the push for local ingredients.

Provided photo: Vickie (Cooper) Elsenheimer showed Cherise Oakley how to make collard greens with smoked turkey butt.

Provided photo: Vickie (Cooper) Elsenheimer showed Cherise Oakley how to make collard greens with smoked turkey butt.

One of her entries has a whimsical title, “Lorraine’s Roadkill Cabbage Casserole.”

Her mother-in-law, Lorraine Oakley, is well known among friends and family for retrieving cabbage that falls from trucks that hits bumps on the road around Orleans County.

Lorraine will create cabbage casseroles with Polish sausage, ground beef, chopped cabbage, one diced red pepper,  one diced yellow onion and other ingredients. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Oakley works at the College at Brockport as a secretary in the English department. She is also a graduate student studying creative writing. Her blog started  as part of an independent study on professional blogging.

The blog is a chance to hone her writing skills, and learn more about her family and the agricultural bounty in Orleans County.

“This blog is a rediscovery of my extended farming family throughout the county, the land, and above all, the food that keeps us all together,” she writes on her blog.

“Join me as I investigate all that Orleans County has to offer. Let’s explore it all, from the quaint roadside stands where you drop your quarters in the box for fresh sweet corn, to the well-established farm markets where you pick up homemade jams, my favorite sweet heat pickles and beautiful produce.”

Anyone with a family recipe to share and contact Oakley through her blog.

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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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