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Farm revenues stagnant in latest ag census

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 April 2019 at 1:59 pm

Orleans farm revenues rank 14th most among counties in NY

Photo by Tom Rivers: Hay bales are pictured in Yates near Lake Ontario in this photo from August 2014.

The latest agricultural census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows farm revenues are stagnated from 2012 to 2017.

The U.S. government does the Census of Agriculture every five years. In New York, farm revenues totaled $5,369,212,000 in 2017. That was down slightly from the $5,415,125,000 in 2012. (From 2007 to 2012, the farm revenues increased 24.9 percent or by $1.1 billion from the $4.42 billion in 2007.)

In Orleans County, farm products sold for $155.3 million in 2017. That was up 3.3 percent over 5 years from the $150.3 million in 2012 for sales of fruit, vegetables, milk, livestock and other farm products. The 2012 figure was a 48.8 percent jump from the $101.0 million recorded in 2007, according to the Agricultural Census.

Agriculture is Orleans County’s leading industry. The 2017 Ag Census counts 498 farms in the county. The number of farms in the county is up from the 487 in 2012. (It was 554 in 2007.)

However, the number of land farmed dropped from 135,090 acres in 2012 to 129,573 acres of land in farm production in 2017.

In Orleans, there were 31,711 acres of corn for grain which produced 5,732,321 bushels in 2017. Orleans farmers also worked 21,614 acres for soybeans, producing 1,056,311 bushels. Farmers also used 13,011 acres for vegetables, and 6,006 acres for fruit orchards.

In Orleans, more than half of the farms had less than $10,000 in revenue. The Ag Census reports there are 181 farms in the county with less than $2,500 in revenue; 41 between $2,500 to $4,999; 44 between $5,000 to $9,999; 60 between $10,000 to $24,999; 40 between $25,000 to $49,999; 23 between $50,000 to $99,999; and 109 with $100,000 or more.

The top 15 counties in NYS for farm revenue

1) Wyoming, $307.5 million

2) Cayuga: $287.9 million

3) Genesee: $234.9 million

4) Suffolk, $225.6 million

5) Wayne, $221.3 million

6) Ontario, $205.2 million

7) Steuben, $196.0 million

8) St Lawrence, 191.1 million

9) Livingston: $183.7 million

10) Onondaga, $178.4 million

11) Clinton, $167.8 million

12) Jefferson, $165.1 million

13) Chautauqua: $161.0 million

14) Orleans $155.3 million

15) Lewis, $153.1 million

Source: U.S. Ag Census

NY saw 20 percent drop in dairy farms

David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau, issued this statement about the Ag Census:

“The most startling statistic is we now have 33,438 farms in the state, about 2,100 fewer farms than 2012. This is the largest drop in more than two decades and is triple the national average of a 3 percent loss. The losses run the gamut, including a 9 percent drop in both the smallest and largest farms in terms of value of sales.

“New York also saw a nearly 20-percent decline in the number of dairy farms in the state. These losses coincide with 9 percent increase in labor costs, while some other production costs like feed, gasoline and chemicals declined. The average net farm income of $42,875 per farm is slightly below the national average.

“On the positive side, there were elements of growth. New York saw a 35 percent increase in organic farms, from 864 in 2012 to 1,330 farms in 2017. According to the market value summary, the number of vegetable farms in the state is 3,544 farms, up 2 percent, and fruit farms rose 8 percent to 3,083 farms. New York had a 15 percent jump in maple operations to 1,662 in the state.

“While there is still much more to learn as we evaluate the mountain of data, it is clear that the depressed farm economy has taken a toll on the overall number of farms in New York, as labor costs continue to mount for our family farms. At the same time, there are still opportunities across the board. Agriculture remains a leading driver of our rural economy and the data shows we must continue to invest in the farming community while also finding ways to improve the business climate for our more than 33,000 farms in the state.”

Additional numbers:

• 98% of farms in New York are family owned

• 6,866,171 acres in production, down from 7,183,576 in 2012

• Average farm size is 205 acres, up from 202 acres in 2012

• 21,860 female producers and 35,985 male producers

• Average producer age is 55.8 years old.

• 6,718 producers under the age of 35

• Hired farm labor is 55,363 employees

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Niagara-Orleans dairy princess touts the many benefits of milk

Posted 15 April 2019 at 9:09 pm

By Hayley Roehling, Niagara-Orleans Dairy Princess

Provided photo: These five are in the Niagara-Orleans dairy court for 2019-2020. They include from left: Alexis Giordano, Dairy Princess alternate Sadie Klumpp, Dairy Princess Hayley Roehling of Akron, Madison Slattery, and Ella Seib. The dairy princess pageant was April 6 at the Hartland Fire Hall.

HARTLAND – On Saturday, April 6th, I was crowned the 2019-2020 Niagara-Orleans County Dairy Princess. I am beyond excited to promote the dairy industry and create long-lasting memories with the court throughout the year.

Currently, the dairy industry is not doing as well as one would hope due to the increase in the amount of liquids made from nuts to be imitated as milk. In reality though, the nut juice does not compare to the nutritional value that is in milk.

Most consumers are switching to buy non-dairy products because they believe the ideas that are spread around by uneducated people; but these thoughts are falsehoods. Becoming Dairy Princess has led me to be highly motivated in promoting the dairy industry and the elements of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC), so that people can have a better understanding of what actually happens.

The first element to promote is the nutritional value of milk. There are nine nutrients in milk: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, protein, riboflavin and niacin. These elements within dairy products keep your bones and teeth strong, regulate muscles which allows movement, help an individual have energy, help recover from an injury, build muscle and bones, help with eyesight, keep your immune system strong to fight off sickness, and reduce cholesterol levels. Clearly, milk has a variety of health benefits available to the body if three servings of dairy products are consumed daily.

Some people question the quality of milk before it even comes out of the cow. The questioning begins with the care of the animals and the stewardship towards the land. Farmers themselves take really good care of their land. The land is the source of the food for the animals; without the land to farm, there would be no farm itself. For this reason, the land is very important and there is a lot of work involved to care for the property.

Some also believe that the cows are not treated in the best way which is just another falsehood. Dairy cows are taken care of in the greatest possible manner by farmers. The cows always have access to fresh food and water to have the essential qualities for milk production; there is also a nutritionist specialized in dairy cattle that frequently visits the farm to formulate a proper ratio for each component of the total mixed ration (TMR) that the cows consume.

The barn is cleaned out multiple times a day, and cows are milked on a set schedule to make them as comfortable as possible. There are so many other things that the farmer does daily to make the facilities a positive environment.

Dairy farmers are one of the hardest working class of people in this world who deserve more credit than they are typically given. They are on the clock 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No matter what happens, the animals and the farm comes first; the necessary tasks need to be completed. The animals need to be fed and milked on their schedule. It is a lot of work, but the work is worth it!

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Murray decides to hold off and rework law for special events at farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 April 2019 at 11:21 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Town Supervisor Robert Miller says Murray officials are trying to encourage more farms to hold special events that can strengthen the operations and draw visitors to the community.

MURRAY – The Town Board didn’t pass a new law regulating special events at farms and wineries on Tuesday, after several residents shared their concerns that the legislation could hurt the operations by imposing new restrictions.

The town will have the Planning Board and attorney Jeff Martin take another look at the law and try to address residents’ concerns.

That will push back enacting the law for at least a few months. The Town Board wanted to have the law in place to assist Kateland Farms, a miniature horse farm, with hosting weddings. The farm owned by Ted Jenney on Lake Road has been hosting weddings and special events in recent years.

However, the property currently can’t host those events, according to regulations for a residential-agriculture zoned district by the town. Murray last year agreed to allow Kateland to host scheduled weddings for 2018, but the town didn’t give approval for weddings in 2019 until Murray has a legal mechanism in place. That was the impetus for the new local law, with the town also wanting to encourage events at other farms and wineries, as long as the farms secured a special use permit with the town.

“We want to promote agri-tourism but not encroach on the neighbors,” said Town Supervisor Robert Miller. “We’re trying to strike a nice balance.”

Farms and wineries can host events if they are in an agricultural district. The Ag and Markets Department says the events are permissible as long as they don’t account for more than 30 percent of the farm’s revenue. Ag and Markets advised the town that Kateland Farms wasn’t covered under Ag & Markets for its events because weddings weren’t a direct tie to a farming operation, town attorney Jeff Martin said during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

The town wanted to help Kateland Farms continue to host weddings and special events. The proposed local law was geared towards farms and wineries that aren’t in agricultural districts.

David Piedmonte, a Holley garlic grower, said the proposed law might prove a hindrance to farms, rather than a help.

However, the Town Board was told by some farmers who do special events now that the proposal was vague in some parts, making the farmers nervous how the law would be interpreted by the Town Planning Board and code enforcement officer.

“It was a valiant effort by the town to try to resolve this issue,” said Town Councilman Paul Hendel. “Is this law perfect? I have no idea. But if we are waiting for perfection we will spend a long time waiting.”

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said the farm relies on events to see fruit, flowers and other farm products. Hurd has been doing events for at least 40 years.

The farm wouldn’t be affected by the town’s proposed law, attorney Martin said, because it is covered by Ag & Markets.

Machamer, however, said she remains concerned the law could be interpreted differently by town officials in the future, potentially impacting Hurd’s events. For example, the town proposed law requires 100-foot setbacks from the road for buildings. Hurd has many historic buildings that are close to the road.

The proposed law also has regulations for noise, bathrooms and other proposals to help mitigate the impact to neighbors.

“We’re trying to control it but not for the sake of controlling it,” Miller said. “It’s so it doesn’t get out of control.”

Joe Sidonio, Machamer’s husband, believes Kateland Farms is already covered in the town’s Right to Farm legislation. Sidonio said the proposed law is “overregulation” with unintended consequences.

Town officials said the law doesn’t include farms and barns that host graduation parties and family reunions – events where no profit is made.

Hendel said the town will continue to work on what he said it a “hard issue.” The town wants to help more farms to be able to sell products and host events that can help the farms supplement their income.

“I think this has the potential to be a win-win for everybody,” Hendel said.

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Ortt, several state senators want hearings across state on farm labor legislation

Posted 9 April 2019 at 11:16 am

‘This legislation will dramatically impact the leading industry across much of New York. Considering the grave harm it could have on our state’s small family farms, hard-working farm employees, and consumers, it’s unfathomable that entire geographic regions and sectors of agriculture are excluded from the discussion.’ – State Sen. Robert Ortt

Press Release, State Sen. Robert Ortt

Today, Senator Rob Ortt (R,C,I,Ref-North Tonawanda) and his Senate Republican colleagues raised concerns over the release of hearings surrounding the proposed Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act.

In a letter to the respective Chairs of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Labor Committee, they questioned the limited scope of only holding three hearings, which are set to take place in Nassau, Sullivan, and Madison counties. The Capital Region, Hudson Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, and Western New York – along with farm industries specific to those regions – will be without input into the sweeping legislation.

“It’s disheartening to see that Senate Democrats ignored our request to host statewide hearings on the proposed farmworkers unionization legislation,” said Sen. Ortt. “This legislation will dramatically impact the leading industry across much of New York. Considering the grave harm it could have on our state’s small family farms, hard-working farm employees, and consumers, it’s unfathomable that entire geographic regions and sectors of agriculture are excluded from the discussion. Once again, I am calling on both Senators to expand their planned schedule and include hearings in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, and Western New York.”

Joining Sen. Ortt in signing the letter were Senators Pamela A. Helming, Robert E. Antonacci, Rich Funke, George A. Amedore Jr., Chris Jacobs, Sue Serino, James N. Tedisco, Daphne Jordan, Betty Little, Thomas F. O’Mara and Fred Akshar. Last month, Sen. Ortt and his Senate colleagues authored a letter to the Agriculture and Labor chairs requesting that community hearings be held across the entire state. In a study conducted by Farm Credit East, it is estimated that the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act would add at least $299 million of costs on the backs of New York’s farming community, which would reduce net farm income by a staggering 23 percent.

(Editor’s Note: The hearing schedule is as follows: April 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at SUNY Morrisville in Morrisville; April 26 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Suffolk County Legislature in Smithtown, Long Island; and May 2 from 1 to 5 p.m. at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake)

Sen. Betty Little (R,C,I-Queensbury) said, “This is an issue that could severely impact our agricultural industry causing a ripple effect throughout the state’s economy. Most farmers I know don’t have the time to travel a great distance to attend a public hearing, but they want to be heard. They deserve to be heard. That’s why we’re imploring our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to take the time to organize and hold hearings all across the state.”

Sen. Rich Funke (R,C,I-Fairport) said, “Holding hearings in upstate New York would force the Senate Majority to see first-hand the damage their policies are creating for upstate families and farmers. I can understand why they would prefer to stick their heads in the sand but we simply can’t allow it. If they want to shut down farms in my district, I’m calling on the Senate Democrats to at least look my constituents in the eye while they’re doing it. We need hearings on the Farm Labor Bill and we need them now.”

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Albion accepts $2,500 from Monsanto for school’s ag program

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2019 at 2:31 pm

ALBION – The Albion Board of Education accepted a $2,500 grant from Monsanto on Monday through the company’s “America’s Farmers Grow Communities program.”

Monsanto chooses a customer for the grant, and that customer picks a local organization for the funding.

Phil Panek of Albion was picked by Monsanto for the grant, and he chose to support the Albion agriculture program at the school.

This is the second time a local Monsanto customer picked the Albion agriculture program to receive the grant. In 2014, Albion farmers Doug and Mitchell Kirby also chose the school’s agriculture program for the $2,500 grant.

This is the 10th year of the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program, where farmers have the chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a nonprofit of their choice. So far Monsanto has awarded more than $33 million to over 8,000 nonprofits across rural America.

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New Niagara-Orleans dairy princess will be crowned on April 6

Staff Reports Posted 28 March 2019 at 2:49 pm

Provided photo: Sadie Klumpp, left, of Newfane will be the alternate Niagara-Orleans dairy princess this year while Hayley Roehling serves as the dairy princess.

HARTLAND – New royalty will be crowned on April 6 during the annual Niagara-Orleans County Dairy Princess Pageant.

The reigning princess, Gwenna Goodenough, will reflect on her accomplishments over the past year before she passes her torch to the next princess, Hayley Roehling, of Akron. The alternate this year will be Sadie Klumpp of Newfane.

Dairy princesses from across the North East region visit schools, appear at community events and attend civic meetings to talk about milk and dairy products and the dairy industry.

Both Hayley and Sadie are seniors this year and exhibit dairy cattle in the Niagara County 4-H program. They are eager to share their knowledge of the program as well as work on new ways to promote the dairy industry.

The Dairy Princess Pageant will be at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Hartland Fire Hall.

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Farmer to Neighbor Night brings together the ag community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 March 2019 at 9:52 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

LYNDONVILLE – The 21st annual Orleans County Farmer to Neighbor Night was Saturday at the White Birch Golf Course and brought together about 150 members of the farming community.

The Albion FFA is one of the organizers of the event. The top photo shows emcee Barry Flansburg, president of the Albion FFA Alumni, and Abbie Pappalardo, a current member of the FFA. She said she enjoys making friends through the FFA.

Adam Krenning, the Albion FFA advisor and agriculture teacher, thanks the crowd for supporting the FFA program. He said many local farms and organizations back the FFA throughout the year. He is joined by, from left: FFA President Bailey Nesbitt, Harrison Brown, Melissa Robinson, Abbie Pappalardo, Bryne Dysard, Faith Woody, Kendall Derisley and Jeffrey Brown.

The Farmer to Neighbor Night celebrates the county’s leading industry. Agriculture generates more than $100 million in sales to the farms, and that doesn’t count the spinoff economic impact with tractor dealerships, veterinarians and other businesses.

The event is sponsored by Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, Farm Bureau, Soil & Water Conservation District, Chamber of Commerce and Albion FFA Alumni.

Harrison Brown, an FFA member, delivers one of the items that was up for bid. It was purchased by Tim Winters, CEO of Western New York Energy in Medina. An auction raised money to support the FFA program.

Melissa Robinson is introduced to the crowd. She said she enjoys meeting people through FFA and pushing herself in many of the FFA competitions.

Barry Flansburg chats with Paige Levandowski, a former Albion FFA member who was vice president of the FFA in New York. Levandowski now works as a middle school teacher in Albion and helps with the FFA program at her alma mater.

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NY Farm Bureau says higher minimum wage would hit farms hard

Posted 6 March 2019 at 9:44 am

Fruit, vegetable and dairy operations are all labor intensive

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

Photos by Tom Rivers: Workers at Lake Ontario Fruit in Albion fill bags and boxes with SweeTango apples in this photo from September 2014.

New York Farm Bureau on Tuesday highlighted a new report that detailed the extreme costs facing the state’s family farms should the farmworker labor bill (S. 2837/A. 2750) pass this legislative session.

Farm Credit East, a credible financial organization that works directly with farmers, analyzed economic data and determined overtime on a 40-hour work week and beyond an eight-hour day will increase labor costs on farms by $299 million or more than 17 percent. (Click here to see the report.)

The additional labor costs would also take a significant bite out of net farm income, especially at a time when the farm economy is suffering. The report says, when combined with the rising minimum wage, net farm income will drop by 23 percent.

Some of the state’s more labor-intensive commodities would take an even bigger hit financially. Vegetable growers will see net farm income decline by 43 percent. Greenhouse and nursery operations will have a 58 percent drop. Fruit growers will take a 74 percent hit. And dairy farms, will see net farm income completely wiped out with a 101 percent drop. These numbers are based on a five-year average of financial results.

New York Farm Bureau spoke about the report during a press conference at the Capitol in Albany as part of its annual lobby day. More than 200 farmers from across the state visited with their representatives and adopted lawmakers from New York City.

The average farm wage is more than $14 an hour, well above minimum wage. Farms compete for labor, and they could not attract or keep workers if employees did not earn a fair wage. Many also earn other benefits including free housing, transportation, utilities, and paid time off. In addition, it is a myth that farms do not pay workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance. Based on state formulas virtually all farms with employees meet these standards and pay workers’ comp and unemployment insurance.

During the press event, NYFB President David Fisher said the repercussions of this legislation based on economic analysis will be felt far beyond the state’s family farms and extend to the further decline of the rural economy both upstate and on Long Island. Already, according to the USDA, New York has lost nearly 20 percent of its dairy farms in the past five years. Undoubtedly, this legislation would make that dire situation worse. Fewer farms means fewer jobs on the farm and off as farm spending supports other rural businesses in their local areas.

The Elba Muck stretches into Barre and Clarendon in Orleans County, as well as Elba and Byron in Genesee County. Onions, potatoes and other crops are grown on the muck, shown in October 2015.

“We understand supporters of this bill mean well,” Fisher said. “We also mean well. We greatly appreciate the contributions our farmworkers make to our farms and our food supply, but these numbers demonstrate that it will be incredibly difficult for farms to meet the proposed labor mandates. It would be difficult for farms to compete in the marketplace when they can’t control their prices and must take what the markets demand.”

Judi Whittaker, of Whittaker Farms in Broome County, has a dairy farm that has been in the family for more than 100 years and she fears her grandchildren will not be able to continue the tradition. She said the overtime provision would force payroll up on her farm by more than $200,000, from the current $500,000 payroll.

“We value our employees greatly,” she said. “We house our employees and pay them everything they need free of charge. Having the payroll go up by that much will put us out of business. We haven’t paid ourselves in pretty much a year. We are trying to do what is right and paying our employees and paying our bills. My family is at the bottom of the list. There needs to be a more workable number to keep those of us family farms here for the future. You all eat. You need us.”

Sarah Dressel, of Dressel Farms in New Paltz, said during the event that as an apple grower who utilizes the federal H-2A guest worker visa program, this bill would bring income on her family’s farm to record lows.  The H-2A rate for this year for New York will be over $13 per hour.  With a 40-hour overtime, she would be forced to pay employees over $20 per hour, plus room and board at no cost to the employee, in addition to increased employment taxes.

“Workers that come through the H-2A program want to work as many hours as they can within their contract dates, and I’m seriously concerned that we will lose some help that has been coming for years when we have to cut the amount of hours they can work so that we can be economically sustainable,” Dressel said. “I’m the fourth generation to work my family farm, and I have serious concerns about the future of our orchard, and agriculture in general.  Regulations and rising costs of doing business in New York are contrary to the prices that the national and global markets will allow.”

Brian Reeves, of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville, has a 350-acre vegetable farm growing both conventional and organic crops. With labor costs already making up 40 percent of his expenses, overtime after 40 hours per week would cost his farm an additional $133,137 in wages per year, or approximately a 15 percent increase, based on 2018 numbers.  This does not include the additional cost for taxes and workers compensation which would also increase with the higher wages.

Reeves added that an eight-hour per day restriction is a high overtime burden, especially considering this is not current law for other employers in New York.  His employees may work six hours one day because of poor weather conditions and need to work 10 hours the next day to make up for lost time.  It is conceivable that a farmworker may only work 40 hours in a week yet have several hours of overtime because all the hours occurred in four days due to weather restrictions.

“As our costs increase and we have no ability to recoup that increased cost, our future as a viable business is put into jeopardy,” Reeves said. “The next generation of our family has to seriously consider if they can continue to operate a profitable fresh market vegetable farm in New York State.”

New York Farm Bureau will continue to have positive conversations with lawmakers, including the bill’s sponsors. The organization has repeatedly asked for hearings, both upstate and on Long Island, where Senators and Assembly Members can hear from the people who will be directly impacted by the bill. We are pleased that the chairs of both the Labor and Agriculture Committees in the Senate and Assembly are working to make this happen.

“If supporters of this bill don’t take the farm community’s concerns seriously, the face of New York agriculture as we know it will change,” said Jeff Williams, NYFB Public Policy Director. “Rural New York matters. Local food production matters. We need to make sure farms have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive for the sake of their families and employees.”

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Albion FFA students meet state legislators in Albany

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 March 2019 at 5:20 pm

Photo courtesy of Albion FFA

ALBANY – Albion students in the FFA have spent the past two days in Albany meeting with state legislators and agriculture officials.

The photo shows, from left, FFA Advisor Adam Krenning, Lauren Beam, Bryne Dysard, Albion chapter president Bailey Nesbitt and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

They meet at the Taste of New York reception on Monday, sponsored by the New York Farm Bureau. This event highlights agricultural products produced in New York State. The reception was held at the Empire State Plaza Convention Hall.

Students also met with State Sen. Robert Ortt and Richard Ball, commissioner of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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Apple growers from all over the world come to Orleans for inspiration

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2019 at 8:24 am

6 local farms highlighted on tour for International Fruit Tree Association

Photos by Tom Rivers

KENT – Roger Bannister, owner of Excelsior Farms in Kent, gives a tour of a block of apple trees on Route 98 near Lake Ontario.

Excelsior was one of six apple farms in Orleans County on a tour Tuesday by the International Tree Fruit Association. There were 350 people on the tour with apple growers from Washington, Michigan and other states as well as growers from Australia, Israel, Canada, China and New Zealand.

“We have a lot of cutting-edge growers,” said Craig Kahlke, a fruit specialist with Cornell’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program. “They each are featuring something different. The goal is to help put more money in growers’ pockets.”

The IFTA is having its annual conference in Rochester. The conference was in New Zealand last year. The four-day conference is offering growers tips on reducing costs and increasing efficiencies.

Rod Farrow, co-owner of Fish Creek Orchards (formerly known as Lamont Fruit Farm) in Waterport, is the current president of the International Tree Fruit Association.

Tour buses stopped at Excelsior Farms and five other apple orchards in Orleans County on Tuesday. There were 350 people on the tour.

Excelsior Farms has a high-density orchard with multi-leader trees. Using multi-leader trees saves farms from planting more trees, compared to ones that are one leader. Excelsior also spaces the rows at 8.5 feet. That distance allows for lots of sunshine on the trees.

Other farms on the tour included:

• Kast Farms in Albion, which showcased a Geneva rootstock trial.

• Sandy Knoll Farms in Lyndonville, which demonstrated three-dimensional to two-dimensional tree architecture conversion.

• Fish Creek Orchards, formerly known as Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, which discussed a robot-ready fruiting wall and bloom thinning trials, where a robot takes images of a tree and helps to quickly identify how many apples need to be removed for an optimum crop.

• Zingler Farms in Kendall, which featured for an organized vertical canopy. The trees are very similar and that increases predictability, making it easier for workers to thin and prune trees.

• Orchard Dale Farms in Carlton demonstrated grafted blocks using beaver and side grafts.

Photo courtesy of Molly Zingler: Mike Zingler, right, and his son James were featured speakers on the tour of Zingler Farms in Kendall.

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