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Orleans orchards are in bloom

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 May 2018 at 9:54 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County’s fruit trees are in bloom, adding lots of color to the countryside. These photos were taken on Wednesday evening at Watt Farms, near the pond behind their country market on Route 98.

The apple trees have white blossoms.

Peaches and cherries have pink blossoms. I can’t say for sure whether these are cherries, peaches or some other fruit.

New York is the country’s second-leading apple producer behind only Washington state, and Orleans County is among the top counties in NY for producing apples, trailing only Wayne and Ulster counties.

While some fruit-growing areas have festivals during blossom season, the spring bloom doesn’t get much attention in Orleans County, despite the visual and olfactory sensation.

The blossom season can be an anxious time for fruit growers who need bees to be busy pollinating so the fruit can grow.

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GCC will host 120 GLOW students for precision agriculture day

Posted 8 May 2018 at 10:58 am

Press Release, GCC

BATAVIA – Genesee Community College on Thursday will host more than 100 high school students from across the GLOW region.

About 120 students from Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties will be participating in high-tech, agricultural career experience at GCC, hosted by The BEST Center. The third annual Precision Agriculture Day at the Batavia campus features a wide array of presenters from the industry who will share information on the latest technological, science, engineering, and agricultural trends including drones, embryo transfer, precision farming and processing, GPS/GIS, auto steering and robotics.

This emerging technology is anticipated to create new employment opportunities in the future. High schoolers from 13 districts across the four counties have the opportunity to discover more about these potential and exciting career pathways and will be checking out how these technologies are used in their own backyard of Western New York.

The Precision Agriculture Committee, chaired by Nathan L. Rudgers, senior vice president of Business Development at Farm Credit East, was formed in 2015. The committee, comprised of local precision agriculture consultants, agricultural leaders, as well as high school representatives, has been providing guidance and input on the development of programs to address the educational and awareness needs of this growing field.

Advances in technology have resulted in agricultural systems collecting data and using it in multiple operations all controlled through a computer, tablet or smart phone. This technology has created education and training opportunities, but there is a lack of skilled workers. Enter The BEST Center, which is working to provide multiple educational opportunities in this growing arena.

The BEST Center provides businesses and organizations with customized training solutions ranging from supervisory skills to technical training. The Center also offers numerous professional and personal development courses for individuals, including classroom and on-line opportunities.

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Plow Days draws antique tractor collectors to farm in Elba

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Chuck Esten of Albion and his grandsons Benjamin, 3, and Joshua, 16, sit on one of their antique tractors during the annual Plow Days which the Esten family started in Elba 17 years ago.

Posted 7 May 2018 at 1:08 pm

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent

ELBA – What started as a tribute to their late father has grown into a major annual event, not only for the Esten family, but for many local antique tractor collectors, said Chuck Esten of Albion.

After their father died, they wanted to do something as a tribute, and Chuck’s brother Louis Esten of Elba came up with the idea of having a plow day with old time tractors, in which the entire family was interested.

“Louis and his son Nick have done a great job with it,” Chuck said Sunday at the 18th annual event, as he and his grandsons, Benjamin, 3, and Joshua, 16, showed off one of their antique tractors, a 1939 Farmall F.

Nearly a dozen and a half Farmall and International tractors are lined up on the lawn of John Torrey on Route 98 in Elba, where antique tractor collectors from around the area participated in Plow Days Saturday and Sunday.

About 60 vintage tractors from throughout the area, including Orleans, Genesee and Niagara counties, plowed 75 acres of ground on the John Torrey Farm on Route 98. Torrey has been a big supporter of the event ever since it started, allowing for the use of his barn and fields.

The Estens own a number of antique tractors, mostly Farmalls.

Chuck bought a Farmall Cub which he gave to Joshua on his 5th birthday. Joshua said he thought that was a great birthday present. Chuck just purchased a Farmall A, which he is restoring for Benjamin.

The Estens think it’s important to remind people of how things were done in the old days.

And, they enjoy the fellowship and opportunity to talk with fellow antique tractor collectors.

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Agri-Business students tour Intergrow, other local agriculture businesses

Posted 7 May 2018 at 8:04 am

Program gives students exposure to GLOW’s leading industry

Provided photo: Students in the Agri-Business Academy toured Intergrow Greenhouses in Albion last month.

Press Release, Genesee Community College

ALBION – Commonly referred to as the GLOW region, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties have celebrated agriculture as its number one industry driving the local economy for the past two centuries.

As the demands of that industry continue to change, today’s agricultural businesses need dependable, hard-working professionals with college degrees, technology and management experience, as well as business and communication skills.

The Agri-Business Academy offered through a partnership between Genesee Community College and the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership is a one-year program designed to expose high school seniors to the many career options available in today’s agri-business industry. The academic year is comprised of classroom learning, critical on-site internships, job-shadowing and as the photo of the tour of Intergrow Greenhouses indicates – many dynamic site visits to local agri-businesses that are often seeking for talented employees.

“The Agri-Business Academy is a significant jump start to numerous career options in our region and beyond,” said Deborah Dunlevy, ACE Programs Career Pathways project director. “Perhaps the most rewarding learning comes from the internships, job shadowing and site visits. Being immersed in the field gives them the experiences that will put them at the top of the job candidate list.”

Agri-Business Academy students earn 15 college credits applicable to a wide variety of college degrees and careers through its unique combination of business and community involvement, work-based experience, and a foundation in agri-business learning.

Agri-Business Academy students receive a substantial college tuition discount and pay only $55 per credit hour, which is roughly one-third of GCC’s regular tuition rate for the same courses. Also, as a GCC enrolled student, these individuals have GCC IDs with access to the college’s facilities including computer labs, athletic facilities, library resources and databases, as well as a GCC email account to communicate with professors and fellow students.

During the academic year, Agri-Business Academy students take five college courses for a total of 15 college credits; Western NY Agriculture (AGR101), Career and Educational Planning (CEP101), Public Speaking (SPE108), Principles of Biology (BIO101) and Principles of Business (BUS101). These courses provide a foundation for a number of two and four-year degree programs and many professional careers ranging from Agricultural Journalism and Bioengineering to Energy Technology and Farm Management, Food Science, Supply Chain Management and so many more. Additional information is available by clicking here.

Agri-Business Academy eligibility requires high school seniors to have maintained an 80 percent or higher overall grade average for the first three years of high school, demonstrated exemplary attendance and a proficiency in reading and writing. They must also possess the responsibility to work independently and with a team.

Interested students should contact ACE Programs Career Pathways Project Director Deborah Dunlevy at (585) 343- 0055 ext. 6316 or via email at before the end of the school year or Agri-Business Academy and GCC Adjunct Instructor Kerri Richardson at (585) 344-7783 or via email at Applications are free and are being accepted now.

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Animal Appreciation Day is a big hit for Medina FFA

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 April 2018 at 5:00 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Evie Schultz, a Medina FFA member, holds a bantam chick that was quite popular during today’s Animal Appreciation Day in the high school. The Medina FFA puts on the event each year. It was scheduled for last week, but the temperatures were only in the 30s so it was pushed back until today.

More than 1,000 students, from the youngest elementary kids to seniors in high school, stopped by the FFA to see animals as small as a mouse to as big as a Morgan horse.

Ryenn Oliver, a junior, feeds a llama an apple from her teeth. The llama is owned by the FFA and Ryenn has developed a close bond with it.

Makayla Heideman, a freshman, brought her hedgehog, Sonic, to the Animal Appreciation Day. The hedgehog is about 2 months old. This was the first time a hedgehog was part of the Medina FFA animal showcase.

Cora Payne, a junior, shared her Morgan horse, Zoey, with students today.

Camryn Eick, a seventh grader, introduced students to her family’s tortoise, Frankie Lynn. Camryn’s father, Todd, is the FFA advisor and agriculture teacher.

Marguerite Brakenbury tended to a calf that was on loan from Charlie Hartway’s organic dairy farm in Medina.

A mouse made its debut today for Animal Appreciation Day. Jacob Bensley, a senior, brought in the family’s pet mouse named Alonzo.

“We have a lot of big animals here,” he said. “I wanted to bring in a small animal just to switch it up.”

Oliver Wilson, a seventh grader, brought in a Muscovy duck, another new creature to Animal Appreciation Day. The duck stayed still while being petted by the students.

“They like him a lot,” Oliver said about the duck. “He’s kind of exotic. He’s really calm and not freaking out in the cage.”

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Medina Lions Club hears about Hub editor’s farm work experiences

Staff Reports Posted 9 April 2018 at 11:12 am

Photos courtesy of Dean Bellack: Tom Rivers, the Orleans Hub editor, last week was the keynote speaker at the Medina Lions Club. He discussed his experiences working at local farms in 2008, news articles that are the basis of the book, Farm Hands: Hard Work and Hard Lessons from Western New York Fields.

MEDINA – Tom Rivers, the Orleans Hub editor, was the featured speaker last week at the Medina Lions Club’s meeting at the Junior Wilson Sportsmen’s Club. He discussed his experiences back in 2008 when he worked at about a dozen local farms as part of a series on farm labor for The Daily News in Batavia.

Rivers worked at The Daily News for 16 years before leaving in March 2013 to help start the Orleans Hub. He covered agriculture, Orleans County and other local issues for The Daily News.

Farmers have long struggled to have a stable workforce. The issue became more dire with immigration raids not long after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Many farmers have had workers removed by immigration authorities, often during the peak of harvest season.

Rivers wanted to find out why so few local people would do the field work and other farm jobs. He planted onions, milked cows, and harvested cucumbers, cabbage, pumpkins, apples and other crops to give a glimpse into what the work is like. He found it to physically exhausting, with pressure on the farmers and their workers to pick produce that is near perfection in order to be sold at Wegmans and other grocery stores.

Farmers have been pushing for about two decades for action at the federal level so more farm workers can be in the country legally.

The workers are vital to agriculture, rural New York’s leading industry, Rivers said. Orleans County and other rural counties also are facing steep population declines. If the federal government overhauled its immigration policies, allowing more long-term farmworkers to stay in the country legally, those workers could help reverse the population decline.

The workers also are skilled and have ambition. They might buy and rehab many of the vacant houses in the county, and could open businesses, Rivers told the Lions Club.

Rivers won several state and national awards for the series on farmworkers. The articles in The Daily News were compiled and expanded into a book, Farm Hands: Hard work and hard lessons from Western New York fields.

To see a review of the book, click here.

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State grant will help Extension get new digital sign to promote events

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2018 at 11:30 am

File photo: This photo from July 2013 shows Extension Director Robert Batt, who was then the president of the Fair Board, and Kerri Richardson, who was then community educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, gearing up for 4-H Fair in Knowlesville. The Extension will soon get a new digital sign allowing the organization to list more events.

KNOWLESVILLE – The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County has been awarded a $4,535.75  to purchase and install a multicolor LED sign on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. The new sign will allow the Extension to better promote agriculture education and events.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced the funding on Friday. It was part of nearly $600,000 for research, promotion, and development projects to strengthen New York State’s diverse agricultural industry and spur economic growth across the state.

The funding for the Extension was approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority.

Other grants approved by the GVRMA include $300,000 to the New York State Agricultural Experimental Station in Geneva with $260,000 going to malting barley research in New York State and $40,000 dedicated to enhance the location of the Institute for Food Safety.

The Board also awarded $200,000 to the New York Wine & Grape Foundation to support its successful NY Drinks NY program, a promotional effort showcasing New York’s wine and grape industries.

In addition, the GVRMA Board awarded the following projects that will boost the promotion and marketing of New York’s agricultural industry:

• NYS Wine & Culinary Center – $15,000 for the promotion of its annual craft beer festival, a public awareness campaign to promote beer production and hops growers.

• Finger Lakes Wine Alliance – $15,000 for the promotion of NYS Rieslings in the Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany markets.

• Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County – $15,000 to support Monroe County farmers in their efforts to create and promote agritourism on their farms.

• Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County – $4,535.75 to purchase and install a multicolor LED sign on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

• Irondequoit Farmers’ Market – $5,736.12 to develop a “Nutritional Fact Book” and promotional materials that will promote the value of fresh fruits, vegetables and plants available at the market.

• Bishop Kearney High School – $15,000 to build a vegetable garden greenhouse where students will learn the importance of sustainable agriculture and develop a deeper understanding of the food that they consume.

• City of Geneva – $11,842 to purchase an open burners range and two dry storage cages, which will be used in the City of Geneva’s KitGen, a shared culinary incubator production space for tenants.

• Homesteads for Hope – $15,000 for a construction and cost feasibility study for an Agri-Enterprise Center, which would be used as a general store, farm café, community classroom and rentable event space on Homesteads for Hope’s 55-acre farm property for young adults with autism.

“These investments in research, promotion, and business development are critical to sustaining and growing a wide range of projects that benefit the agricultural community,” Commissioner Ball said. “I thank GVRMA for their  partnership, which has allowed for resources to be targeted to assisting the industry across the Genesee Valley and New York State.”

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600 elementary kids happy to connect with animals at Mini-Farm

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2018 at 2:48 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – An elementary student gets a close look at chick that recently hatched in the Albion ag shop.

There were many of the chicks, just a few days old, featured at Mini-Farm Day today at Albion Central School.

FFA members introduced elementary students to a variety of animals and farm equipment.

Abbie Pappalardo, a sophomore at Albion, introduces elementary students to a Holland lop-eared rabbit as part of Mini-Farm Day. Abbie was joined by Kendall Derisley, left.

Myra Rosario and Paige Derisley show off a goat named Gus.

Nick Sacco and Bryce Pritchard discuss a sprayer and its long booms to a group of fifth graders. Panek Farms brought the sprayer and two tractors for the Mini-Farm Day. Poverty Hill Farms, a dairy in Albion, also brought a chopper for the display.

Meganne Moore walks Oops, her miniature horse, before returning to the ag shop where Oops was popular with the elementary students.

Medina FFA will host its farm day on April 19.

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Ag Literacy teaches second-graders about food, farming

Staff Reports Posted 23 March 2018 at 4:41 pm

Provided photos from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

This week has been Agricultural Literacy Week across New York State and 2nd graders around Orleans County have been reading “Before We Eat, From Farm To Table” by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian, to learn more about agriculture and the food system in New York State.

Molly Kotarski, the Orleans County Ag in the Classroom Educator, visited second graders in Lyndonville today. She brought along items which allowed the students to “dress up” as different workers and parts of the local food system – including the cows which provide milk for the making of yogurt.

Other workers include farmers/growers, truck drivers (including a milk truck driver), processing plant worker, grocery store worker. Students discussed what careers are available within the local food system.

The book teaches students how fruit and vegetable crops as well as dairy products are grown, stored, processed and sold to consumers.

Kotarski is shown on Wednesday when she visited Kendall students. Kristina Gabalski, the 4-H program coordinator for the Cooperative Extension, read to Holley students on Tuesday. The Extension provided books and lesson plans to the Albion and Medina FFA for those chapters to reach out to second-graders in their schools.

According to New York Agriculture in the Classroom, understanding not only how food grows, but the systems in place to safely move that food to our plates is powerful. Through building student awareness and understanding of local food systems, we are empowering them to choose a career that will directly impact their local economies and health of their communities.

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Albion FFA joins Farm Bureau members in Albany to meet with state legislators

Posted 19 March 2018 at 5:25 pm

Provided photo: Albion FFA students joined Farm Bureau members from Genesee and Erie counties at meeting with State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer at Lobby Days. Pictured, from left, front row: Bailey Nesbitt, Haley Black, Alex Rustay and Karli Henchen. Pictured in back row: Christian Yunker (Genesee CFB), Adam Krenning (Albion FFA Advisor), Justin Robinson (Albion FFA), Natasha Sutherland (Genesee CFB), Senator Ranzenhofer, James Kingston (Genesee CFB), Hal Kreher and Daren Phillips (both from Erie CFB).

Press Release, Orleans County Farm Bureau

ALBANY – Representatives from the Orleans County Farm Bureau spent two days in Albany visiting with lawmakers on March 5-6 to highlight the organization’s state public policy priorities for the year.

The Orleans County farm Bureau also sponsored five students from the Albion FFA to attend. They kicked things off with the popular Taste of New York Reception for state lawmakers, commissioners and staff. Following the evening event, members participated in the annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 6, where they met with both their local state senators and Assembly members as well as New York City lawmakers that the Orleans County Farm Bureau adopted.

Orleans County Farm Bureau advocated for a number of priorities this year. The organization supports doubling of the minimum wage tax credit from $30 million to $60 million. The minimum wage tax credit, while only covering a fraction of the mandated increased labor costs, would be especially important in light of the down farm economy.

Farmers also advocated for important budget funding for a myriad of agricultural research, promotion and marketing programs. They also asked for funding to support Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences capital and faculty seed funds to maintain facilities and keep and attract much needed faculty and research. Farm Bureau also supports increasing the state’s lunch reimbursement rate for school districts that purchase 30 percent of New York grown, produced and processed food. In addition, Farm Bureau is supporting the Environmental Protection Fund program that provide cost sharing for critical water quality and farmland protection projects.

Finally, New York Farm Bureau’s priorities include allowing for the registration of UTV’s for legal travel on roads from farm to field, opposing unworkable farm labor mandates and supporting the removal of an acreage requirement for farms in the agricultural assessment program as long as they meet income eligibility requirements.

These priorities are based on member-approved public policies that originate every year at the county Farm Bureau level and are passed by the full delegate body at New York Farm Bureau’s State Annual Meeting in December.

In addition to advocating for priorities with lawmakers, Orleans County Farm Bureau members also participated in a special panel discussion with the Commissioners from the Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Labor as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Chief of Staff. Members were able to ask questions about a number of issues facing the state’s family farms.

Orleans County Farm Bureau members took time away from their farms to travel to the State Capitol to visit with their lawmakers about many important issues facing agriculture. It is imperative for famers to share their stories with every level of government. The better our representatives understand the impact of their decisions on agriculture, the better it will be for local farmers and our rural communities.

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