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agriculture

USDA will continue food distribution program through Dec. 31

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2020 at 2:02 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Ariyanna Boccacci, 14, of Albion helps with a food distribution on Wednesday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. Volunteers distributed 3,000 boxes of food – 1,000 each of meat, dairy and produce. Each vehicle could receive one of each.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Friday it will be extending a food distribution program for another two months through Dec. 31.

The USDA has authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA is issuing solicitations for the fourth round to existing Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) holders and expects to award contracts by Oct. 30 for deliveries of food boxes from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020.

“I’m gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Farmers to Families Food Box program from families, distributors, food banks, faith-based organizations and non-profits in communities across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We recently surpassed 110 million boxes delivered, and millions more are headed to Americans in need. I’m very pleased that we are able to extend this program and continue our relief efforts for American farmers and families.”

In Orleans County there have been distributions most Fridays at either Albion, Holley or Medina and every other Wednesday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

There will be a distribution this coming Friday in Albion at the Main Street Store parking lot, beginning at about 8:30 a.m.

In the fourth round, as in the third round, states have been allocated boxes based on the internal need of the state. The program will continue the purchase of combination boxes to include fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products, the USDA said.

Congressman Chris Jacobs, R-Clarence, said he was pleased to hear the program will continue for two more months.

“I commend the USDA and the Administration for continuing to make American families and farmers a top priority,” Jacobs said. “The Farmers to Families Food Box program has been a highly successful program that has provided healthy nutritious food to millions of American families. I have seen how it supports farmers and agri-businesses right here in NY-27 and will continue to advocate for programs that support local agriculture.”

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State Senate Republicans ask governor to keep Farm to School Incentive program

Posted 11 October 2020 at 10:18 am

Press Release, NY Senate Republican Conference, led by Rob Ortt

ALBANY – New York State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt and members of the Senate Republican Conference on Friday sent a letter to Governor Cuomo asking for clarity and a reverse course on any potential changes to the highly successful Farm to School Incentive program.

Recent information provided by stakeholders suggests that forthcoming Executive policy will result in half of all New York schools losing eligibility for the program.

“Long championed by the Senate Republican Conference, the Farm to School Incentive program should be a shining example of how we can do good for our communities as elected leaders,” said Ortt, R-North Tonawanda. “The program helps families and children struggling with food insecurity. It helps struggling farmers who have been drowning in New York overregulation for years. And it helps schools put locally sourced food on the table for a bargain. It’s not too late, Governor Cuomo – you can and should reverse course to save the Farm to School Incentive program for the sake of all New Yorkers.”

According to information provided by New York Grown Food for New York Kids, the potential changes to the Farm to School Incentive would result in increased food insecurity, another crippling blow to New York’s already-struggling farmers, and an irreparable loss of faith between school districts and the program.

Combined with the exacerbating circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, heaps of red tape recently thrust upon small farmers, and a dismal state economic outlook, a policy change that renders half of all schools ineligible for Farm to School would mean more dire outcomes for New York farms and families.

“Agriculture is one of the most important industries in our great state. We know that even the tiniest seeds of investment we plant as state lawmakers can return massive yields for all New Yorkers. I hope the administration reconsiders this potential change, because farmers, families, and schoolchildren cannot afford for us to go back at the precise time we should be moving forward to expand this program,” said Senator George Borrello of Sunset Bay in Chautauqua County. He is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

While in the Majority, Senate Republicans worked with the School Nutrition Association to adopt language in the state budget that provided an additional incentive for districts to source food from in-state growers and producers.

“In story after heartbreaking story, we have witnessed the plight of food insecurity spread throughout our state this year. Whether it’s long lines at food banks or record unemployment rates, it is clear that New York families and children have been through enough crises this year to last a lifetime. The last thing parents need to worry about right now is what their children eat at the lunch table. Significant changes to the Farm to School program would not only harm our farmers and schools, but the families and children who rely on them,” said Senator Jim Tedisco of Glenville in Schenectady County. He is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Children and Families.

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Knowlesville pumpkin patch, nearing 50th season, makes changes during Covid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 October 2020 at 3:36 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – Mary Lee Knights stands with some of the bigger pumpkins for sale at Knights Giant Pumpkins on Knowlesville Road. Some of the big ones are about 80 pounds.

Knights and her husband Ken started selling pumpkins 48 years ago from their home. Initially they sold eight that Mrs. Knights decorated with hair.

“It was a joke,” she said.

But the pumpkins sold fast.

The following year, Mr. Knights planted an acre of pumpkins. They have been hot sellers every fall since then.

The pumpkin sales helped their three kids pay for college.

Mary Lee Knights holds a pumpkin near hay bales that are decorated for the season.

The Knights family needed to modify this year’s setup due to Covid-19 guidelines from the state. They still have a corn maze and many “goofy” gourds, but there is no petting zoo, bounce house, wagon rides or bake sale and gift shop.

Knights said she continues to look forward each year to the pumpkin season. Many of the customers have been coming back for years – even decades.

Knights Giant Pumpkins is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3246 Knowlesville Rd. Customers are urged to wear masks.

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Invasive ‘Jumping Worm’ wiggling closer to Orleans County gardens

Posted 10 September 2020 at 8:32 am

Press Release, Katie Oakes, horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – Gardening has always been a therapeutic hobby, and this year saw an increase in new gardeners across the world as the pandemic forced people to seek out new ways to keep themselves busy at home.

As more and more people gain interest and skills in gardening, it’s important to be aware of and on the lookout for an invasive worm that has been found in both Erie and Monroe counties.

The “Asian Jumping Worm” is the common name for three different species of earthworms in the Amynthas and Metaphire genera. As the common name suggests, these worms originated in Asia.

There are actually no native earthworms here in Orleans County. The ones we commonly see on rainy days are actually species from Europe, brought over during colonization. These jumping worms pose a greater threat than the European species, however, because they consume organic matter in the soil at far greater rates than the naturalized European species.

This rapid consumption causes big problems for both plant and animal life that relies on healthy soil. Jumping worms leave behind nutrient stripped castings that make it difficult for plants to thrive.

These castings are pretty distinctive in appearance, often being compared to dried coffee grounds. The worms also disturb the soil to such extent that, in heavy infestation areas, the forest floor has actually been dropping due to the diminishing soil organic matter.

The soil disturbance can also encourage an inhospitable environment for vital soil fauna and those that depend on them for survival like salamanders, birds, and other animals. These earthworms can also reproduce without mating, so they can multiply rapidly creating high densities in the soil.

Jumping worms can be distinguished from European earthworms by their behavior and their “clitellum” (the distinct band near the head of the worm). In the jumping worm, the clitellum is often whitish in color and smooth (the European species tend to have raised clitellum that are pinkish-brown in color). The jumping worms will also often have “crazy” behavior, wriggling and thrashing erratically when exposed.

The good news? There have been no confirmed occurrences here in Orleans County yet. You can do your part to keep it that way! Invasive worms are spread exclusively through human activity, so some easy ways to stop the spread include:

  • Do not buy or use jumping worms for bait, vermicomposting or gardening.
  • Only sell, purchase or trade compost that was heated to appropriate temperatures and duration following protocols for reducing pathogens.
  • Clean compost, soil and debris from vehicles, personal gear, equipment, and gardening tools before moving to and from sites.
  • Dispose of all live worms in the trash or place them in a bag and leave out in the sun for at least 10 minutes. Then throw bag away.
  • Be careful when sharing and moving plants. Always check for worms and know where your plantings come from. Buy bare root stock when possible.
  • Check your property for earthworms using a mustard pour (it won’t harm your plants!) Mix a gallon of water with 1/3 cup of ground yellow mustard seed and pour slowly into the soil. This will drive any worms to the surface. If you have jumping worms, report it and avoid moving plants or soil from your yard.

If you think you might have jumping worms on your property, please report them by clicking here. You can also call Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or email klo54@cornell.edu with any questions.

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State legislators, congressman hear concerns about farmworker OT bill

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2020 at 8:37 am

LYNDONVILLE – H.H. Dobbins hosted a tour for state legislators and a member of Congress on Friday, and the company shared concerns about filling job openings and the prospect of having the overtime threshold drop from the current 60 hours a week.

The state on Jan. 1, 2020 instituted an overtime threshold for agriculture for the first time, with workers getting time-and-a-half after 60 hours in a week as part of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act.

That 60-hour cap before overtime could be reduced. A Wage Board is holding public hearings about the issue.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia was on the tour on Friday at Dobbins, an apple packing and storage company. Dobbins is looking to hire 20 people.

“The dilemma for many businesses, including agriculture, is finding enough people who want to work even regular hours,” Hawley posted on Facebook after the tour.

Other farmers were at the tour to tell the elected officials the reduced overtime threshold would hurt their businesses, making them less competitive with agricultural operations in other states and countries.

“We were joined by other area farmers who all expressed grave concern about the lowering of hours/week requiring OT pay,” Hawley said.

State Sen. Robert Ortt said many farmworkers are bypassing New York so they can be in other states where they can work as many hours as they want. New York’s farm labor law is actually resulting in smaller paychecks for workers, Ortt said.

Farmers worry the Wage Board could lower the overtime threshold to 40 hours.

“The Wage Board will increase costs for farmers and agriculture,” Ortt said. “They will drive businesses and workers out of New York State.”

The Wage Board includes the following members: David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau; Denis Hughes, former President of the New York State AFL-CIO; and Brenda McDuffie, President of the Buffalo Urban League.

Congressman Chris Jacobs also toured Dobbins on Friday. He is a member of the House Agriculture Committee

“H.H. Dobbins has an extremely impressive operation packaging and distributing fruit that harnesses the power of local labor and innovative technology,” Jacobs said in a statement. “However, they are also a testament to USDA programs’ success and the ability for local businesses to adapt. They took advantage of the Farmers to Families Food Box USDA program developed to aid growers and processors affected by COVID-19. This allowed them to keep their staff employed and supply families in need with nutritious food all around the country. These programs are vital to the restoration of our agriculture industry and seeing the benefits first-hand will make me that much stronger of an advocate for their continuation as we defeat COVID-19.”

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Cooperative Extension will resume in-person classes for the public

Posted 2 September 2020 at 6:51 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Provided photos: Master Food Preserver volunteers Kevin Bedard and Karen Desjardin during a past Sourdough MFP workshop.

KNOWLESVILLE – As the state begins to reopen, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension has re-scheduled several in-person classes for this fall.

“We really are so excited to be able to offer some in-person options for educational programming,” said Katie Oakes, Horticulture Educator at Orleans County CCE and coordinator of both the Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver volunteer groups. “I think that the public as well as our volunteers have been craving some human interaction and opportunities to learn and teach that take them out of their homes for a brief time.”

• The first in-person opportunity offered at Orleans County CCE will be a Botany Basics class at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14. The class will be taught by Scott Russo, president of the Buffalo Bonsai Society, and will cover the basics of getting started in Bonsai gardening.

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art of manipulating trees to enable them to reach maturity while staying small (often under two feet tall).  This class will be held outdoors under the Curtis Pavilion.  Cost is $5, masks and social distancing will be required.

• There will also be a 3-part series of Master Food Preserver workshops, re-scheduled from earlier in the summer. The Master Food Preserver program is a group of local volunteers who go through an extensive 3-day food preservation training through Cornell Cooperative Extension, then lead classes themselves to the public using the research-based and trial-tested preserving techniques.

The shutdown put a pause on the entire MFP workshops series this year, but the volunteers are excited to get back to educating the public on food preservation. Each of the three classes below will be offered demonstration-style in the Trolley Building. Masks and social distancing will be required as well.

Fresh pasta is made during a previous Master Food Preserver workshop.

• Home Beer Brewing will be the first in the 3-part series on Saturday, Sept. 26, 9 a.m. to noon. Led by Master Food Preserver and home brewing enthusiast Kevin Bedard, the class will cover topics such as necessary equipment, basic steps, brewing timelines and more.  Unfortunately, a beer tasting is not included in the class, but you will leave with lots of inspiration! Cost: $10.

• MFP volunteer Julie Baker will teach a Garlic class on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 6 p.m. Learn all about how to grow and preserve this versatile vegetable! There will be some hands-on activities and take-home products made in class. Cost: $15.

• And finally, MFP volunteer Eileen Sorochty will lead her always popular pasta-making class on Wednesday, November 4 at 6 p.m. Eileen will teach basic techniques in making your own pasta from scratch, including unique recipe variations and best methods preserving the fresh pasta.  Cost: $10.

And for those who still prefer to learn online, Master Gardener Erica Joan Wanecski has planned a Zoom presentation entitled “Finding Respite with Olmsted Gardens in WNY” on Monday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.  Frederick Law Olmsted designed one of the world’s most famous parks – Central Park in NYC, but many are not aware that he had a hand in designing several parks and gardens across Western New York! Click here to register.

Please contact klo54@cornell.edu or call (585) 798-4265 with any questions.

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NY announces guidance for agri-tourism this fall, with no petting zoos allowed

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 September 2020 at 12:20 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Claire, 4, of Lyndonville pets a sheep as part of a petting zoo that also included goats and a donkey during the community’s Christmas tree celebration last Dec. 7. There were many activities as part of the community celebration, which was highlighted by 76 trees being lighted up for the holidays. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that petting zoos won’t be allowed this fall for agri-tourism businesses.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new state guidance for agritourism businesses as New York State enters the Fall season.

The businesses, which include corn mazes, pick-your-own fruit and vegetable operations, hayrides and haunted houses, are considered low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment and are permitted to operate under New York’s NY Forward guidance.

New Yorkers can also visit the state’s farmers’ markets and craft beverage trails, which have remained open under state guidance, supporting agriculture and tourism in the state.

“New York State’s amazing outdoor attractions and recreational opportunities are a boon for families and communities during the fall season each year, and we want New Yorkers to be able to enjoy this time with their family responsibly and safely,” Governor Cuomo said. “The new guidance announced today will ensure that these businesses can open to the public, allowing families to enjoy their favorite fall activities while providing a boost for our farming communities and local economies.”

The businesses that can reopen are subject to Low Risk Outdoor Arts and Entertainment and Public Transportation guidance. Guidance includes, but is not limited to:

  • Corn Mazes – permitted consistent with Low Risk Outdoor Arts and Entertainment guidance and the following conditions: Reduced capacity, face coverings required and social distance maintained between individuals/parties.
  • Hayrides – permitted consistent with Public Transportation guidance and the following conditions: Mandatory face coverings, social distance required between individuals/parties, frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, cleaned and sanitized between rides.
  • Pick-Your-Own Fruit/Vegetables Operations – permitted consistent with Low Risk Outdoor Arts and Entertainment guidance and the following conditions: Reduced capacity, face coverings required and social distance maintained between individuals/parties.
  • Haunted Houses – permitted consistent with Low Risk Indoor Arts and Entertainment guidance and the following conditions: Reduced capacity, face coverings required and social distance maintained between individuals/parties.
  • Petting zoos are not permitted.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has issued a full slate of guidelines for the agricultural industry, including guidance for farmers’ markets and for its food and beverage producers. All guidance can be found by clicking here.

“As one of the nation’s top agricultural states, New York traditionally comes together in the fall to celebrate the harvest—from apples to grapes to pumpkins,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “This year, while things may not look exactly the same on your favorite farm, I am happy to say we can still celebrate agriculture’s bounty and the many family-friendly activities that go with it. With this new guidance, we hope New Yorkers will be able to enjoy some of the best of New York agriculture in a safe and socially distanced manner.”

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Free Covid-19 testing will be available for farmworkers in Orleans, 4 other counties

Posted 21 August 2020 at 8:08 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Markets

The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Health, and Labor are encouraging farmers to register for the Covid-19 testing initiative for seasonal workers, as announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week.

The state is making available free, on-farm Covid-19 testing to agricultural workers in Wayne, Orleans, Genesee, Ulster and Clinton Counties, which see the highest number of out-of-state workers during harvest season. The registration page is available by clicking here.

Farms who hire seasonal workers in these counties are being offered an opportunity to have workers tested. This initiative is voluntary, free and will be set up at sites selected by the farms who participate.

Farms who participate in these events must also ensure that they:

  • Have read, understood and comply with the State’s guidelines in the documents listed below.
  • Have a plan, including housing available to isolate workers if they are positive and quarantine workers who are identified as contacts to a case.
  • Have a plan to supplement their current workforce, if the need arises.
  • Pre-register using the link above.

An FAQ on the testing initiative is available in English here and in Spanish here. The flyer, which is being distributed in these counties, is available in English here and in Spanish here.

The prevention and testing initiative also includes partnering with the county health departments, local/community health care providers, county Cornell Cooperative Extensions and New York Farm Bureau to directly engage and educate farmers and farmworkers on the State’s prevention and quarantine protocols.

Farms will continue to partner with their local health departments to address the screening, isolation and quarantine status, and housing needs of their workers. Farmworkers are considered essential workers and may continue to work while under quarantine, provided the required conditions are followed.

From the start of the pandemic, New York State has issued guidance to assist the agricultural industry to remain operational and to provide worker protections. This includes Guidance for Prevention of and Response to Covid-19 on Farms, Prevention Tips for Farmworkers, and an Operator Checklist for Farms.

As New York began its phased reopening, New York State outlined mandatory protections for essential workers in its NY Forward guidance. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets implemented, with assistance from county Cornell Cooperative Extensions, a robust statewide effort to ensure farms had access to personal protective equipment, such as masks and sanitizer.

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Jacobs appointed to House Agriculture Committee

Posted 31 July 2020 at 7:12 am

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) has been officially appointed to the House Agriculture Committee.

“Agriculture is immensely important to both our Western New York community and economy, and I am honored to represent our great family farms in Congress,” Jacobs said. “Right now, my focus is on ensuring our farmers have the resources needed to continue their important operations providing food for families during this challenging time, but I am also looking toward the future to develop policies that allow for future generations of farmers to thrive in Western New York.”

A major need in the Western New York community is improving access to rural broadband. The Agriculture Committee currently oversees this area and is tasked with developing ways to provide reliable expanded coverage.

“I have been a vocal advocate for the need for greater broadband access in our area, not only do our farmers and their machinery rely on it, but it is also critical for small businesses, students, and telehealth services – which have become increasingly important,” Jacobs said. “While I fight for our great farming industry, I will also be working to improve the lives of all Western New Yorkers by addressing this critical need.”

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Ag & Markets warns about mislabeled packages of seeds from China

Posted 28 July 2020 at 9:45 am

Press Release, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball

ALBANY – NYS Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball issued the following statement about reports of mislabeled packages of seeds from China.

“Our office has received questions from a few New Yorkers who have received unsolicited packages allegedly sent from China that are marked as containing jewelry but which actually contain plant seeds.

“Similar packages have been received in other states and the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating. People who receive seeds should not plant or handle the seeds. They should store them safely in a place children and pets cannot access and email USDA immediately at erich.l.glasgow@usda.gov for instructions.

“Seeds imported into the United States are rigorously tested to ensure quality and prevent introduction of invasive species, insects and diseases. We will continue to monitor this issue and will pass along guidance as it is received from USDA.”

Consumers who email the USDA should include their full names and telephone numbers, pictures of the package and any other relevant information.

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NY Farm Bureau survey shows 43% of farms lost sales during Covid-19 pandemic

Photo by Tom Rivers: A bale of hay is in a field on Route 31A in Shelby on Tuesday.

Posted 22 July 2020 at 11:00 am

‘What we found with this survey is that no farm was untouched by the pandemic or the economic fallout.’ – NYFB President David Fisher

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

New York Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization, unveiled the results of a member survey that found 65% of the state’s farms and agribusinesses have been negatively impacted financially by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What we found with this survey is that no farm was untouched by the pandemic or the economic fallout,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “All of this underscores the need to continue to invest in our food system while also making health and safety a priority.”

More than 500 NYFB members participated in the informal survey conducted in mid-June that asked a dozen wide-ranging questions about the rural economy, health and safety of farm families and their employees as well as access to necessary personal protective equipment (PPEs). Respondents also described how they were personally affected. Here are some key findings.

  • 43% of farms have lost sales during the pandemic.
  • More than a third of farms and agribusinesses (37%) are experiencing cash flow issues.
  • Almost half (47%) say they have reduced spending to local vendors and suppliers or will do so in the future.
  • An overwhelming majority of farms (84%) have a plan in place to train and assist their employees to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • 46% of respondents say they are concerned about their mental health or that of someone they know.

“Farmers are doing their best to make sure food production doesn’t stop, but we need to maintain the ability to process, distribute and market what we produce,” Fisher said. “As the state and federal governments look toward potential budget cuts and additional Covid-19 assistance, agriculture must be a part of the discussion. It really does take all of us working together to have a strong, sustainable food system that supports the farm community and feeds yours.”

Editor’s Note: Some survey responses from farmers include:

  • An Orleans County livestock farm owner who said they are storing more farm products, meats and eggs. “Very difficult time getting cattle processed,” the Orleans livestock farmer said.
  • An Oswego County vegetable and fruit farm said it hired more workers to meet demand.
  • A Wyoming County maple farm was able to produce maple syrup before the pandemic but now the farm is storing the syrup rather than selling it.
  • A Saratoga County equine farm cut back on feed, tack and equipment purchases.
  • A Jefferson County dairy was forced to sell the entire herd due to lack of market.
  • A Suffolk County nursery and landscape business said it is selling more retail and wholesale while the landscape division “has been severely affected.”
  • A Schuyler County equine farm lost three months of farm income during the peak of the seasonal agritourism business.
  • A Yates County winery reports it had to cut 90 percent of its workers because it couldn’t sell wine to visitors. With the loss of employees “nothing is getting done on the farm.”

To cope with the changes in the marketplace farmers have been forced to respond. A Chautauqua County dairy farm reports it cut milk production by 15 percent. A Suffolk County aquaculture business shifted to more internet direct sales.

A Wayne County fruit farm hired an employee to develop a Covid-19 plan, monitoring employee health and implementing sanitation practices daily for vehicles, farm equipment, worker housing and offices.

An Orange County vegetable farm is doing its farm stand business by online orders only, with customer pickup at curbside.

A Cayuga County dairy farm reports it put an expansion on hold. It is looking into risk management options and added daily sanitation.

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Dowser, using divining rod and pendulum, tries to summon badly needed rain

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 July 2020 at 11:12 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Dave Porter, a dowser from Wellsville, visited Watt Farms in Albion today, trying to summon rain. He holds a divining rod which directs him to a spot in an orchard off Route 98 near the Watt Farms Country Market.

Porter, 73, is a retired school administrator. For the past 18 years, he has been a dowser, helping people find water as a hobby. He usually is called to help find an ideal spot to drill a well or to locate a spring. Today was his first time trying to activate rainclouds.

“You have to connect yourself to the earth because the earth has all kinds of energies,” Porter said.

Porter holds a pendulum that was swinging wildly in the first row in the orchard, just south of the road behind the farm market. When the pendulum swings in a fast pace, Porter said there is a lot of energy in that location.

Then he brings out two divining rods. He asks a higher being for permission to be a dowser in that location. If the rods cross, the answer is yes. He received that OK and then requested permission to ask for rain to come to the area. The divining rods again crossed, signifying “yes.” Porter said he doesn’t cause the rods to either cross or move apart.

Porter asked if there would be significant rain in a week? The divining rods moved apart, for a “no” answer. He asked if it would be in five days, and the rods stayed apart. He asked if it would be four days – again they wouldn’t cross.

When Porter asked if there would be a significant rain in three days, the divining rods slowly crossed.

He asked if it would rain in two days, but the rods stayed apart.

He believes the divining rods are predicting rain in 3 to 3 ½ days. This was on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. That would mean the area should expect rain on Saturday.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Dave Porter holds the divining rods in the Watt Farms fruit orchard off Route 98 in Albion.

Karen Watt of Watt Farms invited Porter to try dowsing at the farm. She said the local farms are in dire need of rain. The region could use a major soaking. That could make a $50 million difference on the local agricultural economy, she said.

“We need a whole day of nothing but rain,” she said.

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Gypsy Moth caterpillars are damaging trees, shrubs in Orleans

Photo by Sarah Bacon – A European Gypsy Moth caterpillar is in Shelby. A distinctive feature of the GM caterpillars are the pairs of blue spots directly behind the head followed by pairs of rust-colored spots.

Posted 25 June 2020 at 9:03 pm

Press Release, Katie Oakes, horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension office is receiving high volumes of calls from homeowners concerned about the defoliation of trees and shrubs by small hairy caterpillars.

These pests are the larval stage of the Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar, an invasive species that can cause massive defoliation in home landscapes and woodland forests.

Photo by Kathy Brooks – Gypsy Moth caterpillars congregate on an affected tree in Albion.

The Gypsy Moth was accidentally introduced to the US in the late 1800s and has become widespread across North American ever since. Gypsy Moth is one of the most destructive forest pests in the country.

The moth goes through four distinct life stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult – usually just one generation per year.  The larval stage is the only one that causes damage.  The adult moth doesn’t feed at all, its only purpose is to reproduce and lay eggs. But the larvae can cause significant damage while it is active.

Caterpillars of the Gypsy Moth are hairy and can be identified by the pairs of blue and rust colored spots running the length of their bodies.  The caterpillars go through 5 or 6 molts (or instars), during which they feed voraciously on shade trees and some shrubs.

The majority of the feeding happens in the last two instars, which usually occurs in late June to early July.  The caterpillars prefer tree species such as oak, birch, apple, willow and linden, However they are not host-specific and will feed on a variety of other species of trees and shrubs.

After the caterpillars complete their development, they drop to the ground and seek a place to pupate. After about 10-14 days in the resting pupal stage, the adult moths emerge.  Adult moths only have about two weeks to reproduce and lay eggs before dying.

Deciduous trees that suffer a small amount of defoliation will usually not suffer long-term. Trees that suffer complete or near complete defoliation will be stressed, which can lead to secondary problems, but they should be able to send out a second flush of leaves and recuperate a bit before the growing season is over.

Keep defoliated/refoliated trees evenly watered throughout the rest of the growing season and avoid fertilizer until next spring.  Evergreen trees such as pine and spruce can die from one single season of defoliation, so if you’re noticing heavy feeding on these trees and they are valuable to you in your landscape, you should consider treating for the caterpillars.

Many homeowners wonder what they can do to manage exploding populations of hungry caterpillars. If the caterpillars are under 1-inch long, the recommended pesticide to use is one that contains a naturally occurring bacteria: Bacillus thuringensis var.kurstaki (Btk).

Once the caterpillars enter later life stages, Btk is less effective. There are other insecticides labelled for use against Gypsy Moth caterpillars as well. However, when the caterpillars are longer than 1 inch and they are found feeding high in the canopy of shade trees, treatment can be difficult and a call to a tree service is often recommended. When using any pesticides, the label is the law and must be followed exactly.

Homeowners can also try banding methods of management – tying a piece of folded burlap around the affected tree trunks. In later life stages, the caterpillars typically move down the trees during the day then climb back up at night to feed. The folded burlap will trap caterpillars between the layers and homeowners can then destroy them.

After the caterpillars finish feeding, the best option for control is destroying egg masses to reduce populations the following year.  Look for the tan colored, fuzzy splotches on tree trunks, buildings, fences or other objects anytime from fall until April.   Remove the egg masses by scraping them off into a bucket of soapy water and leaving for a few days.

For more information check out the Cornell Insect Diagnostic Lab factsheet or contact Orleans County CCE Horticulture educator Katie Oakes by calling 585-798-4265 ext 125 or emailing klo54@cornell.edu.

Sources: Cornell Insect Diagnostic Lab

UConn Ladybug Blog “Gypsy Moth”

University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Factsheet on Gypsy Moth

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Nourish NY program brings 3 million pounds of produce, dairy to food banks

Posted 18 June 2020 at 9:09 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Photo from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Facebook Page: Kathy Hochul gets a tour of Noblehurst Farms and Creamery in Pavilion on Wednesday.

Nourish New York, Governor Cuomo’s initiative to get food from farmers to families in need during the COVID-19 outbreak, reached a milestone this week as the amount of surplus dairy and produce provided through New York’s food banks reached more than three million pounds.

As of Wednesday, food banks have purchased more than $3.2 million in Nourish NY product from New York’s farmers and processors. This includes 1.36 million pounds of dairy products, including fluid milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream, and more than 1.6 million pounds of produce, such as fruits and vegetables, that have been provided to more than 100,000 New York households.

There have been more than 350 Nourish NY distribution events across the state since the program was launched in May, including food distribution sites in Orleans County.

The Nourish New York initiative aims to quickly reroute New York’s surplus agricultural products to people who need them through the state’s food banks. The state is providing $25 million to food banks and other emergency food providers so they can buy surplus milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruit and more.

The Nourish New York program also provides support to the state’s food producers who have lost markets as a result of school and restaurant closures. The program is administered by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Health.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted the Nourish NY program on Wednesday during a stop at Noblehurst Farms and Creamery in Pavilion, Genesee County, saying, “Nourish New York has connected local farmers with food banks to help struggling New Yorkers put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state-funded initiative has delivered more than three million pounds of food and dairy from across the state to those in need since its launch in May. Nourish New York is helping to support local farms and grow the agriculture industry as we continue to work to make sure New Yorkers have the resources they need as we reopen and build back better for the post-pandemic future.”

New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball said, “As the Governor has said, Nourish New York is all about connecting our farmers who can’t sell their products right now to consumers who are facing challenges in being able to buy them. The need on both sides is critical and I am pleased that Nourish New York allows us to rise to meet that need.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “New York Farm Bureau commends the Nourish NY program for quickly reaching this milestone just a few weeks after its launch. The effort provides a new distribution channel for the state’s farmers at a time when the pandemic seriously disrupted the food chain. By connecting the dots, Nourish NY is eliminating food waste, compensating farmers, and feeding our fellow New Yorkers with healthy, locally produced food.”

Chris Noble, farm partner in Craigs Creamery said, “When COVID-19 hit, we as dairy farmers temporarily lost many markets for our products, including schools and restaurants. The Governor’s Nourish NY initiative has helped local demand for milk and dairy recover more quickly by providing hunger relief for our local communities, specifically from New York farmers and food producers. We are hopeful that we can continue to build on these new supply chains by creating a local and more resilient food system.”

Kirby’s Farm Market co-owner Chad Kirby said, “I think Nourish NY is a fantastic program for the community and for farmers. It’s been a huge benefit and it has made a massive difference.”

The State is asking any philanthropies that would like to help the State’s food banks to contact Fran Barrett, Director of Non-Profits at COVIDPhilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.

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Roy-Hart FFA and food service program bring cheese wedges to community

Posted 15 June 2020 at 10:53 am

Press Release, Roy-Hart FFA

Provided photo: Peggy Burgess holds a lunch tray that includes cheese wedges from Yancey’s Fancy in Corfu.

MIDDLEPORT – Students, parents, families, and members of the Royalton-Hartland community are enjoying over 400 pounds of Yancey’s Fancy famous cheese wedges.

This delicious donation was made possible by a partnership with the “SAY CHEESE” philanthropic effort and the Royalton-Hartland FFA Chapter. SAY CHEESE is a new effort designed to provide nutritious extended shelf life dairy products to people in need, and at the same time, support and promote the dairy industry.

Thanks to the donations of Western New York agriculturists, over 775 Yancey’s Fancy cheese wedges have been shared with the Royalton-Hartland community.

There were 550 cheese wedges provided to Roy-Hart students and families through the school’s weekly bagged meal pick-ups. Additionally, the FFA Chapter donated over 100 wedges to both the Middleport and Gasport food pantries.

The effort was coordinated by the Royalton-Hartland FFA Chapter, under the direction of Matthew Sweeney, Roy-Hart Agriculture Teacher/FFA Advisor; Julie Feurch, Royalton-Hartland Food Service Director; and Feurch’s food service team.

During these challenging times, Sweeney urges the public to continue to support our farmers by purchasing locally sourced food products.

The Royalton-Hartland FFA Chapter strives to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. FFA is an intra-curricular activity open to all Royalton-Hartland students grades 5-12.

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