Orleans to add 137 acres to agricultural district

Photos by Tom Rivers: Some crows rest on bales of straw in a field on Culvert Road near Route 31 in Ridgeway. This phot was taking while it was raining on July 17.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2021 at 3:22 pm

ALBION – Orleans County is looking to increase the size of its agricultural district by 137 acres. There is currently about 117,000 acres in the ag district, which represents 47 percent of the county’s land mass.

Each year, property owners have an opportunity to add land to the district. Once every eight years, property owners have a chance to remove land from the district. The next change to take out acreage will be in 2024.

The County Legislature on Wednesday held a public hearing on additions to the ag district. The following parcels have been recommended for inclusion in the district by the Orleans County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board:

  • 36 acres of vacant residential land at 4552 Bennetts Corners Rd., Clarendon
  • 25.88 acres of vacant agricultural land on Main Street in the Town of Murray
  • 20.13 acres of residential and vacant land at Eagle Harbor-West Barre Road in Albion
  • 9.98 acres of field crops at 1614 Petersmith Rd. in Kendall
  • 24.66 acres of a rural residence and acreage at 1614 Petersmith Rd. in Kendall
  • 20.65 acres of residential vacant land at 1051 Wilson Rd. in Carlton

The expanded ag district needs a final vote of approval from the County Legislature, as well as the state Department of Agricultural and Markets.

The bales of straw are spread out in the field by Route 31 in Ridgeway near Culvert Road.

State takes new actions to benefit and protect honeybees

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 July 2021 at 11:15 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

File photo: A bee pollinates a flower in an apple orchard in May 2020 in Knowlesville.

ALBANY – The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced new actions to better protect pollinators and support the health of honeybees across New York State.

Signed by Governor Cuomo on June 26, this modernization of the Agriculture and Markets Law (AML) better reflects today’s bee husbandry practices and creates a Cooperative Honeybee Health Improvement Program to better monitor honeybee health in apiaries in New York.

“New York State is dedicated to maintaining the health of our pollinators, and this amendment to our Agriculture and Markets Law is another great step in the right direction,” said Ag Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “Thanks to the AML updates, we can build upon our Pollinator Protection Plan to continue to modernize our honeybee health programs and ensure the future of agriculture and our environment.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The health of New York’s pollinators is directly tied to the health of our natural resources and agricultural economy. New York State is committed to maintaining healthy pollinator populations and we encourage all New Yorkers to join us in protecting pollinators by reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to these creatures and creating good pollinator habitats in their own backyards, bolstering the ongoing efforts of the State’s Pollinator Protection Plan.”

The update to Article 15 of the AML:

  • provides for the Apiary Industry Advisory Committee and designates the Commissioner of Agriculture as the chairperson of the committee;
  • establishes a cooperative honeybee health improvement program, which includes the registration of apiaries (noting number of colonies, county where located, and contact information for person responsible);
  • provides for an annual inspection of apiaries selling nucleus colonies;
  • requires the Commissioner of Agriculture to provide beekeepers with advance notice of apiary inspections;
  • amends the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) to clarify the farm buildings property tax exemption for the bee industry; and
  • amends AML section 301 (9) to include more bee products in the definition of “gross sales” for the Agricultural Value Assessment program.

Additionally, there is no fee or registration cost for enrollment in the Cooperative Honeybee Health Improvement Program, allowing for broad participation in the new program.

David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President said, “Protection of our pollinators has been a primary focus for the agricultural community in New York, as the bee populations face many challenges including threats from mites, disease, and loss of habitat. New York Farm Bureau commends the Governor for signing this legislation that uses a science-based approach to improve the health of bees and their hives. New York State continues to lead the way in safeguarding what is an essential part of agriculture and our food supply.”

New York’s Pollinator Protection Plan

An interagency taskforce was announced by Governor Cuomo in 2015 to develop a Pollinator Protection Plan to promote the health and recovery of pollinator populations in New York State. The taskforce was led by the Commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Pollinators contribute substantially to the State’s environment and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, strawberries, pumpkins, and squash relies heavily on the presence of pollinators.

“An investment in the health of our state’s pollinators is an investment in the sustainability of New York’s agricultural systems, economy and labor force,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We’re very grateful to our state partners for their continued commitment to innovate and support honeybee health. Their efforts will elevate awareness about our New York State Beekeeper Tech Team programming, as well as draw new funding to our impactful pollinator research endeavors – both of which help sustain our state’s beekeepers, their colonies and the many specialty crops they support.”

Dan Winter, President of the Empire State Honey Producers Association and Vice President of the American Beekeeping Association said, “The Empire State Honey Producers Association is very pleased with the passing of the new honeybee registration bill, a long-overdue update to New York State law. The new law will give Ag and Markets accurate information and an up-to-date census of beehives in New York State. With this accurate census information, universities can apply for grant money previously unavailable for local NY research. Pollinator protection just got a great boost here in NY.”

Farmworkers praised for commitment to English classes during pandemic

Photos by Tom Rivers: Anai Garcia is presented a certificate of achievement from Dr. Linda Redfield Shakoor, director of the World Life Institute Education Center in Waterport. Garcia was among 40 students who took English classes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Monica Beck, center in back, is one of the teachers in the program.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2021 at 11:45 am

Alberto Hernandez, a native of Ecuador, walks up to receive his certificate during the recognition program on Tuesday evening.

WATERPORT – In March 2020, the World Life Institute had to cease in-person classes for about 40 farmworkers who were studying English. Some were also preparing for the test to become naturalized American citizens.

The WLI did what many local schools did. They distributed laptops to students and conducted classes as groups and one-on-one through Zoom video conferencing and the telephone.

On Tuesday, the WLI held a recognition program for the students, praising their commitment to keep up with course work despite the stress and sometime technological challenges.

“The amount of learning you did in the past 15 months is unbelievable,” Deborah Wilson, one of the program teachers, told the students.

Internet access was an issue for some students so WLI created packets for those students with two weeks of work.

Wilson said the Zoom option actually worked better for some students, who didn’t need to find transportation to the WLI education center on Stillwater Road or arrange for childcare.

WLI returned to in-person lessons in January and February. Wilson said she is hopeful the Zoom option will remain into the future as well.

“Sometimes we buck the trend,” she said. “Distance learning didn’t work at many schools. But here it worked better for many of our students.”

Some of the students used Skype for English lessons while they were on break in an apple orchard, Wilson said.

“There were some silver linings in this,” she said about the changes necessitated by the pandemic. “There are a lot of different ways to present material.”

The program is one of 16 adult education and literacy programs through the Orleans-Niagara BOCES.

Some of the students who were recognized on Tuesday gather for a group photo. The program draws students from Waterport, Albion, Barker, Oakfield, Batavia and Elba.

Dr. Clark Godshall, BOCES superintendent, attended the graduation and commended the students for their commitment to their education and for being role models for their children.

“This program is successful due to the quality staff with their consistency and dedication,” Godshall said.

He also praised the students’ families and friends for supporting the students in improving their English, especially after long days of working at their jobs.

Susan Diemert, a BOCES literacy specialist, presents a certification of appreciation to Godshall for his support of the program. BOCES recently paid for air conditioning for the WLI education center.

Malvy Rivera, right, is one of the program’s teachers.

Other teachers include Dr. Linda Redfield Shakoor, Monica Beck, Harris Lieberman, Gejlana Carter and Deborah Wilson.

The program was held under this tent on Tuesday in case it rained and to provide some refuge from the intense heat.

Kendall family grows hops, an uncommon crop in Orleans County

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 29 June 2021 at 10:15 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: John Woodams stands among his rows of hops bines, which will be ready to harvest in September.

KENDALL – John and Kim Woodams are not only one of the most unusual business owners to graduate from the Microenterprise Assistance Program, but they are one of the few in the area to operate a hops farm.

John Woodams of Kendall, who works full time as a spindle grinder for Gleason Works in Rochester, started raising hops on the family farm five years ago. The farm was started by his grandfather, who bought it during the Depression for $100. The transaction was completed on the courthouse steps in Albion, John said.

Photo courtesy of the Woodams family: The Woodams family from Kendall is shown in their hops field. From left is Elizabeth, John, Eric, Kim and Ethan.

The farm was then handed down to his father, Richard, who started growing Christmas trees in 1987. John took it over and kept the Christmas tree business, but decided to add hops when he heard about them, quite by accident.

One year a customer who came to get a Christmas tree mentioned that his brother was a taster for Coors beer, and the conversation turned to raising hops. Hops used to be a big crop in the area during the 1800s and early 1900s, John said. But they got a disease, and there weren’t the chemicals then to treat them, so the hops all died out.

Woodams explained hops is the base for beer – a bittering agent which is added to malt to offset its sweetness.

There are different varieties and tastes of hops, Woodams said. He talked to a supplier in Michigan, who helped get him started raising hops. With help from his wife Kim, sons Ethan and Eric and daughter Elizabeth, the family planted 10 acres of hops, or 5,000 “bines” as they are called. Each one had to be tied on a 21-foot string. The strings are then tied onto a trellis which stretches across the entire 10 acres.

Raising hops is very labor intensive, John said. Besides planting each bine individually and then tying it to the string, they have to be sprayed and the ground treated to maintain its rich soil.

“There a lot of manual labor,” Kim said. “In the spring, we have to ‘train’  the bines to climb the string, or ‘coir’ as it is called.”

Besides helping in the field, driving tractor and twisting the vines, Kim is bookkeeper for their operation.

Hops produce a green pine cone, which is picked off the bines by a harvester, usually in September. Each bine is fed into the harvester, which strips off the cones. The cones go into apple crates and are put in a storage barn where dryers dry them down by 90 percent to 10 percent.

The bines produce a small harvest the first and second years, John said. It is generally not until the fourth year they produce a full harvest. He said each plant grows 20 pounds of hops.

John said he heard about the Microenterprise Assistance Program from Jim Whipple, who is now retired as chief executive officer of the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

“I was looking to put a business plan together and he suggested we talk to Diane Blanchard,” John said. “The class provided a lot of information on how to set up a business plan, project cash flow and determine profit and loss.”

He also praised Jon Costello, who is a mentor to the Microenterprise classes.

“He was a real asset to us,” John said.

Rows of hops are tied on string which is strung from 21-foot wires in their hops field.

Albion farm directs $2,500 grant to 4-H robotics program

Posted 15 June 2021 at 7:32 am

Press Release, Bayer

KNOWLESVILLE – Jody Neal, an Albion dairy farmer, recently directed a $2,500 Bayer Fund America’s Farmers Grow Communities donation to Orleans County 4-H Robotics Program Building Fund. Neal is a mentor and coach for the robotics team, which includes his sons, Jayden and Zachary.

Since 2010, the America’s Farmers programs have awarded more than $59 million to community nonprofits, aspiring ag students and public schools across rural America. Farmers are leaders in their communities, which is why America’s Farmers programs rely on them to help identify the most worthy causes.

Dedicated to making a difference in rural farming communities, the Grow Communities program asks farmers across the country to participate by nominating nonprofit organizations with resources to strengthen their local communities.

Last August, farmers entered for the chance to direct a $2,500 Grow Communities donation to a local eligible nonprofit of their choice. Farmers have directed donations to food banks, emergency response organizations, schools, youth agriculture programs and many others that reflect the spirit and support the vibrancy of rural America.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone, including those in rural regions, and farmers play a critical role in helping communities overcome challenges, like the ones we’re currently facing,” said Al Mitchell, Bayer Fund president. “Bayer Fund is proud to work side-by-side with farmers to identify local eligible nonprofit organizations that are able to provide their residents with solutions that leave a lasting impact.”

Farmers market opens in downtown Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 June 2021 at 12:26 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Today is the debut of a farmers market in downtown Albion. The top photo shows Katie Mann, right, and Amanda Mrzywka of Navarra’s Farm Market & Greenhouses, one of 10 vendors at the market today.

About a dozen vendors have signed up to be at the market. They won’t all be there each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Albion Merchants Association organized the market which is in the municipal lot on Main Street, just north of the First Presbyterian Church of Albion.

There used to be a farmers market in Albion and it was in the parking lot at Save-A-Lot. That market was in operation for 10 years before closing in 2014.

Mrzywka likes the site in the downtown much better mainly because there is protection from the wind. Vendors used to see their canopies blown over at the other location.

Navarra’s will be selling vegetables, flowers and home-made soaps. They accept the senior citizen, SNAP and WIC benefit cards and coupons.

Jill Newman, owner of New House Breads in Lyndonville, is one of the vendors in Albion. She also is a vendor at Medina’s public market and plans to be at Lyndonville’s when it starts next month.

She makes and sells dairy- and egg-free breads, and some gluten-free breads, as well as boules, pizza crusts, pretzels, scones and shortcakes.

J.R. James, owner of Blue Groove Coffee in Albion, is among the vendors. He goes to other farmers markets and special events.

He is happy to see the market on Main Street in Albion. He was on site today at 7 in the morning, setting up.

“This will be good for Albion,” he said. “It will help Albion grow and bring people downtown.”

Other vendors at the market today include Dubby’s Wood Fired Pizza, Stymus Farms, Circle B Winery, Saeva Farm, Red Check Rustic, Bee Together Woodworking & Crafts, and Amy Sherman’s Soy Candles.

Landowners this month have option to enroll in County Ag District

Posted 8 June 2021 at 11:09 am

Press Release, Orleans County Department of Planning & Development

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from May 9, 2018 shows fruit trees in bloom at Watt Farms, near the pond behind their country market on Route 98 in the Town of Gaines.

ALBION – Orleans County is accepting enrollment of additional parcels in its existing, certified agricultural district during the month of June, pursuant to New York State Agricultural and Markets Law.  The annual 30-day window is for inclusion of property that consists of predominantly viable agricultural land.

During this time period, land may only be added and not removed from County Agricultural District No.1, which in 2016 became the sole agricultural district in the County as a result of a consolidation process.

This opportunity supplements, but does not replace, enrollment in an existing agricultural district during a more comprehensive review process held once every eight years. The next eight-year anniversary review – the only time during which parcels can be both added and removed – will not occur until 2024. Presently, there are over 116,700 acres in County Agricultural District No. 1.

Requests for inclusion in District No. 1 will be evaluated, in order, by the Orleans County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, the Orleans County Legislature, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. To enroll, owners must complete and sign a Letter of Intent for Annual Enrollment form.

These are available from the Orleans County Department of Planning and Development (589-3197) or online by clicking here.

Completed forms should be sent by July 1st to:

Corey Winters, Planner

Orleans County Department of Planning & Development

14016 Route 31 West

Albion, NY  14411-9382

Please note that requesting enrollment during this 30-day time period is not a guarantee that an owner’s property will be added to Agricultural District No 1. Moreover, it will not automatically qualify your land for a reduced agricultural property tax assessment. For information on obtaining a reduced agricultural property tax assessment, please contact your local assessor.

Medina farmers’ market opens for season this Saturday

Posted 1 June 2021 at 8:43 am

Musicians, artisans and food trucks will join many farm vendors

Provided photos: Dark Road Duo will perform at the market this year.

Press Release, Canal Village Farmers’ Market

MEDINA – This Saturday is opening day at the Canal Village Farmers’ Market in Medina and everyone involved couldn’t be more excited.

“After a very long, tough year of Covid restrictions and uncertainty, there is a palpable feeling that this year’s market season is going to be better than ever,” said Chris Busch, President of the Orleans Renaissance Group. “Interest in the market has never been stronger and we’ve never been more excited for opening day.”

The Orleans Renaissance Group or ORG is the 501(c)(3) organization that sponsors the Canal Village Farmers’ Market.

Human Farms of Appleton, one of the market vendors, offers a variety of vegetables.

“This past year, I think everyone has really come to appreciate things they may have taken for granted, like being able to gather Saturday mornings at the market,” Busch said. “People are so ready for some normalcy and interaction, and we’re excited to be able to provide that for the community.”

Gail Miller, manager of the market agreed and sees this year’s market as perhaps the best ever.

“Interest in the market has been fantastic,” Miller said. “I am looking forward to a great summer season for the Canal Village Farmers’ Market. There is a lot more going on this year so watch the market Facebook page to see selections each week. So much to choose from.”

Returning anchor vendors include: Baker Farms, Roberts Farm Market, Human Farms, LynOaken Farms, Gardner’s Gardens, Catherine Street Bakery, and Jamm ‘N Cookies.

Products include local beef, pork, chicken, garlic, garlic powder, eggs, mushrooms, cheese, numerous fruit and vegetables options, cut flowers, herbs, BBQ sauce, herb blends, tea blends, fudge, jam, jellies, sea salts, cookies, pies, cakes, breads, scones, muffins, and much more.

New vendors at the market include NewHouse Breads selling breads, scones, focaccia, pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls and more, with many vegan and gluten-free options. Also Heartland Organics selling organically raised mushroom varieties, dried mushrooms, cut flowers and fresh organic herbs. Catherine Street Bakery will be back with expanded offerings of primitive crafts and antiques. HeBrews Coffee will also be at the market every week serving iced coffee, Bubble Tea and bagels.

“There are new vendors, new products, tastings, music, and children/family activities too. Several of the new items are mushrooms and gluten free vegan baked goods. There will be coffee, bubble tea, and bagels each Saturday,” said Miller. “There are multiple farmers offering vegetables and fruit, beef, pork, chicken, and eggs. Inquiries from other potential vendors continue to come in each week, so we may yet grow a little more. It’s very exciting.”

This season will see expanded food truck visits at the market.

“There will be food trucks rotating in and out throughout the season,” said Miller. “Medina native, Evin Galbreath brought the Left-Handed Spatula food truck from Rochester last season. It was hugely popular and we’re really excited to have him back along with a few new trucks.”

In addition to the Left-Handed Spatula and weekly anchor, El Gran Burrito, other food trucks scheduled at the market include Dubby’s Wood Fired Pizza from Albion and Parker’s Pit BBQ and Greenlief’s On The Go from Middleport. All are scheduled for visits throughout the season. Dubby’s will be on site for Opening Day.

Wineries, Mead and Spirits will make a return as well. Scheduled to return throughout the season are 810 Meadworks, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, Victorianbourg Estate Winery and Schulze Winery & Vineyard. Black Button Distillery will also be back every month.

“We’ve been contacted by quite a few artisans and crafters, and spots are still available,” said Miller. “There will be more to announce soon.”

Customers make selections from Roberts Farm Market in Medina.

Artisans and crafters include Stillwater Pottery, HateCuddler Craftworks or HCC, Laurel’s By The Creek, and Swan Woodworks.

Also returning this season will be live music. “We’ve really missed the live music vibe at the market,” said Busch. “ORG sponsors the market and certainly appreciates the importance of live music.” Scheduled so far: recording artist Barry DiGregorio, Thomas Reid Keefer solo, and Dark Road Duo.

“We’re always looking for musicians and sponsors for music at the market,” said Busch. “Interested musicians or those interested in sponsoring music at the market should reach out via our Facebook page- Canal Village Farmers’ Market.

As always, patrons will see the customary colorful canopies and vendor tables- all hallmarks of the community farmer’s market. The market will also continue to follow current CDC and NYS guidelines.

“Changes to protocols are on-going with improvements occurring almost weekly with Covid restrictions in New York State,” said Miller. “It will be so wonderful to see some smiles again this season. With new guidelines from the CDC and the state, masks are no longer required if vaccinated.”

Miller continued, “And as required if you are not vaccinated we ask that you please wear a mask at the market. Also if you are more comfortable wearing a mask (even if vaccinated), you may do that too! We want the market to be a healthy, comfortable and welcoming place for the entire community.”

The market also has some new options for making sales transactions.

“While most market transactions continue to use cash, most all of our vendors now offer additional forms of payment, including, credit via Square, PayPal and Venmo,” said Miller. “Payment options at the market have never been more convenient.”

The market accepts Senior Coupons, WIC, SNAP, and Fresh Connect Checks, and will soon be able to offer Double Up Food Bucks to SNAP recipients. More information is available at the Market Manager’s Tent.

The market is located in Downtown Medina at 127 West Center Street (across from the Post Office), and is open every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Miller, the market manager, can be reached at

Fruit farmers fret with snow-covered orchards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2021 at 11:56 am

Buds of trees in sensitive stage after warm start to spring

Provided photos: These peach trees at Hurd Orchards are in the blossom stage and now covered in snow.

The snow-covered landscape today in Orleans County is more than an annoyance for local fruit growers, who are concerned their crop of cherries, peaches, apples and other fruit could be damaged from the cold temperatures.

Fruit growers are hopeful they will get by without significant damage, because the temperatures aren’t expected to go below 28 degrees where there can start to be damage.

These apple buds at Kast Farms are just breaking out of the tight cluster stage, where they are more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

Although the snow-covered orchards is a scary sight for fruit growers, the bigger worry is tonight with how low the temperatures will go and for how long, said Craig Kahlke, a fruit specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program.

If it drops to 28 for about 4 hours, growers can expect a 10 percent loss in the crop. Dropping to 25 degrees in the full blossom stage could result in a 90 percent loss, according to Michigan State University which has developed a chart of critical spring temperatures during bud development.

Kahlke has worked as a local fruit specialist for 14 years. He recalled 2012 when half of the fruit crop was wiped out when freezing temperatures killed buds in early May.

He doesn’t expect the snow today and cold later tonight to do much damage. But he worries the buds still have two or three more weeks of being vulnerable to the cold.

It hit 80 on one March day and locally there have been other days in the 70s. That has the fruit trees more advanced than normal with their budding stages. Many of the apples trees broke bud in late March, Kahlke said, when there are still several weeks remaining where the weather could drop to damaging freezing levels.

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said she is concerned for the crop, but remains hopeful. Last year, the temperatures dropped to dangerous cold in early May and on Mother’s Day. She thought the crop would be significantly diminished but Hurd Orchards had a full crop in nearly everything.

“We are hoping beyond hope that that kind of mini miracle will be the reality for 2021,” Machamer said.

If the buds aren’t damaged, Machamer said there is also the worry that the blossoms may not get properly pollinated due to the snow.

Machamer said the temperatures don’t affect the orchards and farmland uniformly.

“There are micro-micro climates,” she said.

There can be pockets with slight temperature variances, and a contrast by even a couple degrees can make a huge difference in damage.

“It’s not a one size fits all,” she said. “And there are different varieties at different stages. It’s certainly scary but hopefully it will be OK.”

Brett Kast of Kast Farms in Gaines was nervous with the snow last night, but felt better the temperature didn’t drop below 30.

“28 is the magic number (when there can be damage),” he said. “Tonight will be a cold one and that is a concern.”

He also was encouraged checking the orchards and spotted a bee out looking to pollinate despite the cold.

The snow could benefit the sensitive peach blossoms by providing some insulation with expected low temperatures tonight.

Farmers urge to take tax credit for food donations in 2020

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion FFA members are pictured on Dec. 12, 2020 with 53,000 pounds of produce donated by local farmers. The FFA has been doing the food drive for 11 years. The 53,000 was a new record, topping the 40,000 pounds in 2019.

Posted 16 April 2021 at 11:40 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today reminded New York farmers ahead of the tax filing deadline of May 17, 2021 that they are eligible to receive a tax credit for qualifying food donations made to food banks and other emergency food providers in the tax year 2020.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, farmers across the state donated more than eight million pounds of food in 2020, helping to feed many families who faced increased food insecurity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“New York’s farmers are consistently among the nation’s leading donors to food banks, food pantries, and other charitable food organizations – a great feat in any year and especially during 2020 when our producers faced difficult challenges brought on by the pandemic,” Ball said. “Our farmers’ donations have provided fresh, healthy foods to millions of New York families who needed assistance more this past year than ever before.”

The farm donations to food pantries tax credit was enacted in 2018 to compensate farmers for costs associated with harvesting, packaging, and distributing local products to eligible food pantries, food banks, and other emergency food programs across the state.

New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt said, “We welcome the opportunity to join with our government partners to administer and support this commendable program, which provides fresh and nourishing food to struggling families while simultaneously encouraging farmers to reinvest in their land and vital operations.”

The tax credit, which is supported by the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy, is a refundable credit equal to 25 percent of the fair market value of qualified donations up to $5,000. Eligible donations include fresh fruits and vegetables grown or produced in New York State and provided to emergency food programs that qualify for tax exempt status. To claim the credit, the taxpayer must receive proof of the donation in the form of a receipt or written acknowledgment from the eligible food program.

Information about eligibility requirements for the tax credit is available by clicking here. For additional tax credit and exemption programs available through the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, agri-businesses can are encouraged to click here and choose “Farming and Agriculture.”

NY announces it will target vaccine to farmworkers, food production companies

Posted 13 April 2021 at 4:04 pm

State will partner with community health centers, local health departments to bring pop-up vaccination sites to farms

Photo from Governor’s Office: Andrew Cuomo speaks at Angry Orchards in Orange County today, announcing a push to get farmworkers and food production workers vaccinated.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new targeted effort to vaccinate workers at New York State farms and food production facilities. The state will coordinate with local health departments and Federally Qualified Health Centers to bring pop-up vaccination sites to workers, including migrant workers, at their places of employment.

The Governor also announced that as part of the new vaccination effort, New York State will provide 500 doses to Sun River Health, a local health care network, to administer to Angry Orchard employees, as well as farm and food production workers from other facilities in the Orange County area. Vaccines will be administered beginning Wednesday, April 21.

“As we continue to expand eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine and establish more pop-up sites to reach New Yorkers in underserved communities, it’s critical that we bring the vaccine to every part of the state, not just those with high populations,” Cuomo said at Angry Orchards in Orange County today. “That’s why we’re making sure food production workers and farm workers in rural areas, including migrant workers, get vaccinated for Covid-19.”

New York Farm Bureau State Director Chris Kelder said, “Farmworkers are essential to the success of agriculture and to feeding millions of New York’s consumers, from St. Lawrence County to Manhattan.  It is critical that workers have ongoing access to Covid-19 vaccines to ensure their health and safety as they do their work. Access to vaccines has been the leading priority of New York Farm Bureau and farmers from across the state.”

The effort to vaccinate food production workers and farmworkers builds on New York’s efforts to combat food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The FY 2022 Enacted Budget adds $50 million to Nourish New York for a total $85 million investment to extend the program through 2021. This critical program helps people who are food insecure access the nourishment that they need, leveraging the vast agricultural industry of New York State to connect food banks and providers to purchase locally grown and produced food.

Since the Governor launched Nourish NY at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020, 21 million pounds of surplus agricultural products have been purchased from New York farmers and delivered to more than 1.3 million households in need across New York State.

Rural & Migrant Ministry Executive Director Reverend Richard Witt said, “It is important for all of us involved in the food system: farmworkers, farmers, consumers, the health system and the State continue to work diligently to ensure that farmworkers are protected and vaccinated. Today’s announcement is a critical step forward.”

Rural & Migrant Ministry Catskill Regional Coordinator Juanita Sarmiento said, “I have seen first hand, while translating and helping our local rural and migrant communities with testing and vaccines, the impact of this pandemic. We need to continue to uphold not only the efforts to keep New York healthy but to establish an accessible educational campaign on the importance of the vaccination and testing efforts. I’m glad to see us take these steps forward.”

Farm Credit East announces merger with Yankee Farm Credit

Posted 9 April 2021 at 7:29 am

Press Release, Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit

WILLISTON, Vt., and ENFIELD, Conn. — Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit are pleased to announce the board of directors of both associations have unanimously approved the signing of a letter of intent to merge the two organizations. This letter sets forth the terms and conditions of a proposed merger, which requires regulatory and stockholder approval.

Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit are both successful Farm Credit associations that already partner on a number of programs, including Crop Growers crop insurance, FarmStart investments for beginning farmers and the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement grant program.

The combined association will operate under the Farm Credit East name and, if all conditions are met, the newly merged association is expected to begin operation under the management of Farm Credit East CEO Mike Reynolds on January 1, 2022.

“This is a strategic merger for both Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit,” said Celeste Kane-Stebbins, chair of Yankee Farm Credit’s Board of Directors. “Our board has worked diligently to determine how best to support the long-term success of Yankee members and their Farm Credit association. Both Farm Credit East and Yankee are financially strong, and the two associations have successfully partnered in the area of customer services for several years.  Together we can enhance these services and provide even greater value for our members.”

“This is a good merger for members of both cooperatives,” said Laurie Griffen, chair of Farm Credit East’s Board of Directors. “Both associations are closely aligned in their missions and their focus on customer owners’ success, and both are optimistic for the future of Northeast agriculture, forest products and fishing. Together, the combined association will benefit from increased loan diversity, a stronger capital base and enhanced earnings.”

Over the next several months, both associations will undertake due diligence to assess the benefits of a merger for stockholders and to finalize the terms of the merger agreement. There will be no office closures or staffing changes considered as part of this merger, so customers can expect the same personalized service from the newly merged association. Following review by the associations’ regulator, the Farm Credit Administration, the merger vote will go to customer-stockholders for consideration later this year.

Yankee Farm Credit is a member-owned cooperative which provides loans and financial services to farmers and other rural customers. Yankee is an agricultural credit association (ACA) within the national Farm Credit System. Yankee serves all of Vermont, four counties in New Hampshire (Cheshire, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan) and two counties in New York (Clinton and Essex). Yankee Farm Credit is governed by a 12-person board of directors, nine are elected by Yankee members and three are appointed by the board. For more information, visit

Farm Credit East is a member-owned cooperative with 20 local offices, including Batavia, in its seven-state service area. In addition to loans and leases, the organization also offers a full range of specialized financial services, such as tax preparation, payroll, record keeping, appraisal and consulting for farming, forest products and commercial fishing businesses. Farm Credit East is governed by a 16-person board of directors, comprised of 13 customer-elected, one customer appointed and two outside appointed directors. For more information, visit

Grant will fund project in Orleans with youth growing produce for local pantries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2021 at 1:56 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County has been awarded a $12,862 grant for a project where local youth grow produce for food pantries.

The grant will use $10,000 to reimburse youth who grow the produce and donate it to local pantries. They will receive the market value of the produce.

“We’re hammering out details and will kick it off in May/June,” said Robert Batt, CCE director in Orleans County. “It’s a really cool project and something I hope we can maintain work on beyond this initial funding.”

The grant was announced today by the State Department of Agriculture & Markets. It is among $150,000 awarded for projects in the nine-county area that makes up the Genesee Valley.

The funding, which was approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority in collaboration with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will support critical education, workforce development, and marketing and promotion initiatives, said Richard Ball, the state’s agriculture commissioner.

A portion of the funding, more than $50,000, will support projects that engage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in agriculture, providing hands-on workforce training opportunities at local farms and farmers’ markets.

“Congratulations to the all of today’s award recipients,” Ball said in a news release. “They have developed creative and exciting projects that will help move the agricultural industry forward.”

The following entities were awarded funding to help engage New York’s BIPOC communities in agriculture:

  • The Vineyard Farms, Inc., $15,000 – This project will train 12 young people, ages 10-18, to participate in the Youth Organic Farming & Farmers’ Market Training Program. Participants will learn the principles of organic farming in a greenhouse to maximize the yield of fresh fruits and vegetables through year-round production. They will also receive training in urban and sustainable farming and general business principles that will lay the foundation for a career in the agricultural industry. Participants will learn marketing techniques to operate an on-site farmers’ market to sell and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables. The project will also help address food access in an underserved area.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension in Monroe County, $14,750 – This project will support the Landscape Technicians’ Training Program, which is a 120-hour, six-week training program in the field of horticulture. Students learn basic horticultural knowledge and are introduced to the many resulting possible career paths. Students also receive their 10-hour OSHA Construction Safety certification. The goal of the program is for all students to gain immediate employment upon completion of the program.
  • Green Visions, $15,000 – This project will support Green Visions, which provides supervised workforce experience, job certifications and career development training to 15 young people, ages 17-24, in industries such as agriculture and food processing. Participants will install, maintain, and harvest cut-flower gardens on former vacant city lots in Rochester. Arrangements will be sold through Wegmans stores and at the Rochester Public Market, giving participants experience in production, sales, and marketing.
  • Westside Farmers Market (WFM), $10,000 – This project will launch a pilot program to connect local farmers, including BIPOC farmers, to the WFM. The project goals include having new vendors at the WFM during the 2021 season and to help build small BIPOC-owned farms and connect them with farmers’ markets.
  • Food for the Spirit, $15,000 – This project will engage 5 Black farmers from the Genesee Valley and create a marketing campaign featuring Black farmers in the region. It builds on a collaborative effort to develop a New York State Black farmers marketing co-op.

In addition, the following projects were awarded funding for the promotion and marketing of New York agricultural products and programs, and agricultural education:

  • NY Kitchen (NY Wine & Culinary Center), $15,000 – This project will support and promote hands-on cooking, craft beverage and agricultural education at the NY Wine and Culinary Center, including their 100% New York State Tasting Room.
  • Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (FLWA), $15,000 – This project will support the updating of strategic marketing content through photography used to improve websites, print material for distribution, social media advertising, etc., brochure redevelopment, and website upgrades and updates.
  • CCE – Orleans County, $12,862 – This project will increase the capacity for youth to engage in agriculture and the food system in a meaningful and economically successful way that encourages engagement in agricultural careers and increases community connection to the food system.
  • CCE – Yates & Steuben Counties, $15,000 – This project will support the creation of a professional video promoting Keuka Lake wine history, viticulture, and enology, which will be provided to winery owners who may not have funds to support their own promotional videos. Video will be shared on social media and the websites of Tourism Promotional Agencies and CCE Extensions.
  • Marcus Whitman High School, $15,000 – This project will support the construction of an on-campus maple syrup sugarhouse, allowing students to learn about the maple syrup industry, food processing, and on-farm work skills.
  • Bishop Kearney High School, $15,000 – This project will continue to enhance the high school’s horticulture and agriculture program through a partnership with CCE. Through CCE, students will develop cultivation and harvesting skills and increase their knowledge about organic gardening, natural resources, nutrition, and the impact we all have on our environment.

For more information on the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, click here.

Jacobs hears concerns from ag leaders in 27th District about farm labor, broadband gaps

Posted 30 March 2021 at 8:15 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) held the first official meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Committee this past Saturday. The meeting was held virtually, and members discussed a wide range of topics and issues facing Western New York agriculture, including dairy and farm labor needs, trade enforcement, infrastructure and rural broadband development, and vaccine eligibility for farm workforces.

Each member also provided a brief overview of their business and the commodities they represent.

“In order for me to craft effective policy and ensure the long-term prosperity of our region’s farmers and agribusinesses, it is critical to make sure they have a seat at the table,” Jacobs said. “We had a productive introductory meeting and discussed many of the pressing issues facing Western New York agriculture. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

The NY-27 Agriculture Advisory Committee is comprised of members from across the eight counties of the New York 27th District and includes stakeholders affiliated with farms, agribusiness, academia, and advocacy organizations. Its members produce a large variety of commodities including dairy, cash crops, vegetables, fruits, maple, and poultry.

“We are very pleased that Congressman Jacobs asked to be appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, and the agricultural community lauds Congressman Jacobs in recognizing the diverse agriculture businesses in his district. His first meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Committee was a major success as all facets of agriculture from dairy, vegetables, apples, grapes, peaches, poultry, flowers, grain, greenhouse, family farms small and large, and agribusinesses had a chance to share trends and concerns about this major economic driver in his district with him,” said Maureen Torrey of Torrey Farms Inc.

“The Agriculture Advisory Committee gives all categories of agriculture a voice and representation in matters that directly impact our lives and our family’s lives. We appreciate Congressman Chris Jacobs for caring what that voice is and following through with what he says, I can’t wait to continue that partnership and collaboration,” said Stacie Rogers of Rogers Dairy.

“As a farmer in Western New York, I am honored to be part of Congressman Jacobs’ Agriculture Advisory Committee. His willingness to serve on the House Agriculture Committee demonstrates his commitment to Western New York and the businesses that are its economic engine. Most recently, he supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will benefit every employee on my farm and those around us. Congressman Jacobs has also introduced a bill to allow dairy farms to participate in the H-2A visa program. This will have long-term benefits which will preserve our industry. As discussions continue, I appreciate his willingness to learn what is important to those who feed our citizens and how to support it through legislation,” said Jim Bittner of Bittner Singer Orchards.

“I believe the first meeting went very well, and I hope that the topics discussed give Rep. Jacobs a better understanding as to how crucial these issues are to agriculture. Labor and infrastructure are just two of many ongoing concerns that affect how we can be competitive in today’s global environment. I look forward to our next meeting,” Bruce Naas of Naas Farms LLC.

“The Agriculture Advisory Committee is very promising, with participants from every aspect of the ag industry represented across NY-27.  Congressman Jacobs will have a wealth of knowledge to pull from and very active members of the farming community to look to as a resource.  I look forward to providing the Congressman with updates and concerns that NY-27 farmer members have.  I think committee’s like this are critical in regard to connecting our needs with Congress to ensure our family farms are represented appropriately going forward,” said John King, president of Niagara County Farm Bureau.

Drought monitor puts Orleans as ‘abnormally dry’

Photo by Tom Rivers: Matt Panek of Panek Farms plows a field on Gaines Basin Road in Albion last week. The dry conditions have allowed farmers to get out in their fields earlier this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2021 at 8:56 am

Below normal precipitation the first half of March has much of upstate New York, including Orleans County, “abnormally dry.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor has a large swath of the northeast as abnormally dry. At that condition, crop growth is stunted, fire danger is elevated, lawns brown early and surface waters decline. (New York has an outdoor burn ban in effect through May 16.)

The Drought monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows areas in yellow that are “abnormally dry” and the light brown/tan areas as in “moderate drought.”