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agriculture

Schumer: Farm Bill is good for upstate crops, communities

Posted 13 December 2018 at 7:43 am

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed the details of the newly-released 2018 Farm Bill, Conference Report, which passed the Senate by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 87-13.

Schumer said the bill will benefit key Upstate New York agricultural communities. Senator Schumer detailed several major areas in which the Farm Bill will be a major boost to Upstate farmers, growers, food-needy families and producers, as well as other New York businesses.

Schumer said the newly announced bill reflects a variety of different priorities he pushed for on behalf of the New York agricultural community. Schumer lauded the months-long bi-partisan process to craft the Farm Bill and congratulated committee leaders Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican Chair Pat Roberts, as well as committee member, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for their assiduous work.

“The Farm Bill is a major victory for Upstate New York and its large and vital agricultural community,” said Senator Schumer. “Ensuring the passage of a Farm Bill is vital for New York’s agricultural community and our economy as a whole. The bill makes further investments to help Upstate New York dairy farmers, boosts the rapidly-growing organic sector, builds on New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry, expands rural broadband, strengthens crop insurance, and protects our most vulnerable hungry families and seniors from harmful cuts. While the bill does not contain everything that we fought for, it is ultimately a win for the farmers that are the heart of Upstate New York.”

Dairy:

The newly introduced Farm Bill includes major victories for Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers. The newly introduced Farm Bill invests in programs to help give much-needed relief to Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers. The Farm Bill includes a variety of helpful reforms including, an investment of $100 million to help improve the Federal dairy insurance program to help make the program work better for small to medium dairy farms, a provision waiving administrative fees for beginning, veteran, and underserved farmers, a provision continuing the vital changes made in the Omnibus Budget bill that allowed for the creation of new dairy insurance tools in the future, and a program that would provide funding to dairy organizations who chose to donate their products.

Rural Communities:

This Farm Bill focused on investing in our small rural communities across New York State and nationwide. One example of this was the establishment of a new grant program that will target high-need, rural areas seeking to undertake broadband internet projects. These projects will help connect our most in need areas and upgrade to more modern internet access. Additionally, the Farm Bill made important investments in programs that help grow our rural small businesses, as well as those that help to fight the opioid crisis.

Organic Farming:

The newly introduced Farm Bill establishes mandatory funding of $24 million over FY19-23 for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps support farmers who want to become involved in the organic market by providing reimbursements of some of their annual fees for United States Department of Agriculture organic certification – it includes an increase in critical funding for organic research through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from its current level of $20 million to $50 million by FY2023. Finally, the Farm Bill increases the authorization for the National Organic Program (NOP). Schumer has been a major supporter of this program that helps USDA protect farmers from having to unfairly compete against fraudulent organic imports while also helping to maintain consumer confidence in the USDA certified organic brand. This bill increases the authorization for the NOP to $16.5 million in FY2019, $18 million in FY2020, $20 million in FY2021, $22 million in FY2022, and $24 million in FY2023.

Specialty Crops:

The Farm Bill contained a number of provisions beneficial to Upstate farmers, but especially to farmers of specialty crops. New York produces a wide range of specialty crops (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, herbs and spices, maple syrup, Christmas trees, etc.) that rank highly nationwide in terms of both production and economic value. The Senate Farm Bill, according to Schumer, provides vital funding to key programs that aid specialty crop producers, such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs help provide support to New York’s specialty crop industry in the form of robust research funding.

Maple:

The Farm Bill reauthorizes Schumer’s original legislation known as The Maple Tap Act, which Schumer said is now officially called the Acer Access and Development Program. This provision will continue to help maple producers in the Hudson Valley and across Upstate New York boost their production and become more competitive with places like Canada, which produces 85 percent of the world’s maple product. Schumer said, specifically, this provision provides an authorization for USDA grants to states that create programs to encourage individual and private landowners to open up their trees to maple tapping. Schumer’s legislation would also provide grants to states to support market promotion, maple industry research and development, and education through leading institutions, like Cornell.

Hemp:

Another important provision Schumer fought to include was the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Schumer, a cosponsor of the Hemp Farming Act, said the provision could help unlock industrial hemp’s full potential as an agricultural commodity across Upstate New York by removing hemp from a federal list of controlled substances. Schumer said the bill will do four important things for farmers nationwide including in New York State:

Remove industrial hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act

Empower states to be the principal regulators of hemp

Allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance

Most importantly, Schumer said this important provision would allow for New York’s agricultural community to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity if they so choose, allowing New York growers more flexibility

Barley:

The Farm Bill requires the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service to record all barley production in New York State. By ensuring that this critical information is accessible for barley farmers, they will be able to better determine any future plantings. Additionally, the provision would give crop insurance providers access to this essential information, which could spur them to expand coverage and potentially even offer a malting barley endorsement.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP):

Schumer explained that he fought to protect SNAP from any cuts in the Farm Bill. Schumer said that he also was able to push for other provisions to help those most in need. First, the Farm Bill creates opportunities for job training for some of the most in-need New Yorkers who participate in SNAP, to help them find and keep good-paying jobs. Second, the Farm Bill simplifies paperwork for New York seniors who participate in SNAP to ensure they get the nutritional assistance they need and deserve as quickly as possible. And lastly, the Farm Bill creates the “Farm to Food Bank” initiative, which will help provide New Yorkers using SNAP with locally-grown, New York produce and other food.

Conservation:

Schumer said the Farm Bill funds key environmental programs that are essential to farmers, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  These programs are voluntary conservation initiatives that farmers can utilize through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to help them continue to be good stewards of the land.

PAWS:

The newly introduced Farm Bill also includes a vital provision called the Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) Act, which Schumer is currently a cosponsor of.  This bill would help give victims of domestic violence and their pets greater access to safe sheltering options, as well as provide stronger legal protections to pets. According to the Humane Society, up to one-third of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation, because they fear for the safety of their pets, and up to one-fourth return to an abuser due to concern for their pets.

Local Food Programs:

The Farm Bill creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) by combining the Value Added Producer Grants Program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The value-added producers grant program helps dairy farmers that start producing artisanal cheese or apple growers that enter the hard cider industry. The grants administered through the new LAMP program will continue to support strengthening our local food systems from rural farmers to urban consumers.

Water, waste disposal, & wastewater facility grants:

The Farm Bill provides funding to support and strengthen rural water infrastructure.  Funding to Rural Development programs like the Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grant program will help families and businesses across Upstate New York and nationwide continue to have access to clean drinking water.

Community facility investments:

The Farm Bill supports Community Facility investments to continue to help provide resources to construct hospitals, improve schools, while also improving fire and police stations across small towns in New York State.

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Farm Bill provides needed help for dairy farmers, Collins says

Posted 12 December 2018 at 9:44 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) celebrated the passage of H.R 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. H.R. 2 includes critically important dairy policy reforms that will strengthen and grow the Western New York dairy economy that in recent years has faced significant challenges.

H.R. 2 provides greater coverage to dairy farmers through the Margin Protection Program (MPP), and will allow farmers to participate in both the livestock and dairy protection programs. Additionally, the program will be rebranded as the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program .

“I am extremely proud to see the 2018 Farm Bill make it to President Trump’s desk,” said Collins. “For too long, dairy farmers in Western New York have struggled to keep the agricultural industry alive because of inefficiencies in past programs and the overall decline in the dairy market. The reforms passed in H.R. 2 will provide a significant boost to farmers right here in Western New York by allowing them to better utilize this program.”

This legislation will also help strengthen trade enforcement, promote the research and development of specialty crops, ensure funding to help farmers locate new global markets, significantly increase investment in organic research, and offers cost-sharing assistance to help farmers transition into organics.

“The agriculture industry is the backbone of New York’s 27th district,” Collins said. “Protecting Western New York farmers will always be a priority of mine, and I’m committed to doing what is best to help them succeed. While we still have a lot of work to do to turn this industry around, H.R. 2 is a huge step in the right direction, and I’m pleased to see it pass today.”

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Orleans County Farm Bureau wins laurels at state annual meeting

Photo courtesy of Orleans County Farm Bureau: Orleans County Farm Bureau members David Bittner, left, and Chad Kirby are shown on the delegate floor during the New York Farm Bureau annual meeting this week in Syracuse.

Posted 6 December 2018 at 9:00 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Farm Bureau

The Orleans County Farm Bureau was presented with four County Activity of Excellence awards at the New York Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting, held December 4-5 in Syracuse.

The County Activity of Excellence awards are presented to county Farm Bureaus that have exhibited excellence in a variety of categories relating to effectiveness in agriculture promotion and outreach, leadership and county Farm Bureau management, legislative advocacy, and membership.

While at the State Annual Meeting, farmer members also took part in the grassroots process of laying the groundwork for the year ahead. More than 150 delegates from across New York proposed, discussed and voted on resolutions that will guide NYFB’s public policy agenda for 2019.

Orleans County Farm Bureau is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community. The county is part of New York Farm Bureau, the largest agricultural advocacy group in New York State, known to members and the public as “The Voice of New York Agriculture.”

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Soil & Water approved for 3 grants for nearly $600K to assist local farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 November 2018 at 1:31 pm

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced $16.8 million in cost-sharing grants for 54 agricultural water quality conservation projects across the state, including three in Orleans County.

The funding will benefit 131 farms state-wide. The projects will help farmers prevent pollution of New York’s waterways, Cuomo said.

“Agriculture is one of New York’s greatest economic drivers, and we will continue to assist farmers across the state as they work to deliver quality products while also conserving our treasured natural resources,” Cuomo said in a news release. “As the fight against climate change continues, New York is committed to leading the nation in agricultural best-practices that support hardworking farmers and protect the environment.”

More than two dozen County Soil and Water Conservation Districts applied on behalf of farmers for the grants awarded through the state’s Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program. The program serves to award projects that assist with environmental planning or implementing best management practice systems, such as nutrient management through manure storage, vegetative buffers along streams, conservation cover crops and other soil conservation measures.

The Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District was approved for three grants totaling $579,637. Those grants include:

$114,386 to work with three farms in the Johnson Creek and Sandy Creek Watersheds, sub- watersheds of Lake Ontario. The project will

  • Implement best management practices that will reduce pesticide runoff
  • Promote safe agrichemical handling practices

$92,547 for Soil and Water to work with one farm in the Oak Orchard Creek Watershed. The project will:

  • Address water quality in the Greater Lake Ontario watershed
  • Implement practices that will eliminate runoff of nutrients and sediments
  • Facilitate improved nutrient management

$372,704 for Soil & Water to work with one farm in the Oak Orchard Creek Watershed. The project will:

  • Address water quality concerns in a high priority watershed
  • Facilitate improved nutrient management and eliminate manure application during adverse weather conditions

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Cost of Thanksgiving meal at lowest level since 2010

Posted 20 November 2018 at 7:52 am

Press Release, American Farm Bureau

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Nov. 22, 2013 shows two turkeys roaming along West Bacon Road in Gaines.

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual price survey of the classic Thanksgiving dinner – including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the fixings – revealed an average cost for a family of 10 was $48.90, less than $5 per person and down less than 1 percent from prior-year levels.

Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010.

For 2018, more than 150 volunteer shoppers from 37 states visited their local grocery stores to survey the prices of the various items used to prepare their Thanksgiving feast. To establish an accurate representation of the cost of this holiday meal, shoppers were asked to find the best value without using any coupons or discounts.

One of the major factors driving the decrease in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner is turkey prices coming in at an average of $1.36 per pound, or $21.71 for a 16-pound bird. This is down 3 percent, or nearly 70 cents, from last year’s $22.38, or $1.40 per pound. Our survey results show that the cost of turkey this year is the lowest since 2014. These results are in line with USDA data indicating wholesale turkey prices have been trending lower in recent years and are nearing levels not seen since 2010.

Heading into the holiday season, turkey production in 2018, along with frozen turkeys in inventory, are in line with prior-year levels. However, inventories haven’t been this high since 2009. This is helping to keep turkeys affordable this Thanksgiving. Survey shoppers also registered lower prices for other items, including milk, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.

In contrast, items on the Thanksgiving dinner menu that saw higher prices this year include stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie mix. Cranberries have seen higher supplies in recent years, prompting USDA to put in place volume controls to support those growers.

To reflect the diversity in Thanksgiving meals across the U.S., several new items were added to the survey. The new menu items include a bone-in ham, Russet potatoes and green beans. When including those items, the total cost of the dinner was $61.72.

Finally, with the rise of grocery delivery services throughout the country, popular food delivery services were surveyed to evaluate the cost for the same menu items in the Farm Bureau survey. The results show that the cost of convenience will increase the price of Thanksgiving dinner by as much as 60 percent, with turkey nearly 50 percent higher at almost $2 per pound. When including the new menu items added this year, the cost would increase to more than $10 per person – before delivery fees.

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Researcher who confronts challenges on the muck wins award from Cornell

Staff Reports Posted 9 November 2018 at 8:54 pm

Photo from Cornell University: Christy Hoepting, right, accepts an award for “Outstanding Accomplishments in Extension/Outreach” from Kathyrn Boor, dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

A senior extension associate who has worked on the muck and with Western New York vegetable growers for 17 years has been recognized by Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Christy Hoepting of Albion on Monday was presented an award for “Outstanding Accomplishments in Extension/Outreach.” Kathryn Boor, the dean of Cornell’s CALS, praised Hoepting for developing a highly innovative and responsive program.

Hoepting is part of a five-person team in the Cornell Vegetable Program. The team covers 13 counties along Lake Ontario in Western New York. She specializes in the management of onions and cool-weather crops such as cabbage and broccoli. Her highly productive and responsive approach emphasizes applied research and innovation.

Over 17 years with the program, Hoepting has earned a great level of trust with growers and recognition as a regional and national onion expert, Boor said.

“Christy’s work epitomizes the Land Grant mission of CALS — to tackle the challenges of our time through purpose-driven science,” Boor said. “Thank you, Christy, for supporting this enduring commitment.”

Hoepting currently chairs a multi-state committee to address the management of onion pests and diseases. Her research scouting program has resulted in a 50-74 percent reduction in insecticide sprays.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Christy Hoepting is shown on the muck with growers, discussing research projects on the fertile farmland.

Hoepting has conducted hundreds of on-farm research trials in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, cultural practices and crop nutrition, presented at scores of stakeholder and scientific meetings, and published many articles and research papers.

She scouts farm fields relentlessly, tracking the movements of insects and disease pests. She meets with grower on the muck on Tuesday mornings during the growing season for “Donut Hour,” where she and the farmers share what they are seeing in the fields.

“We’re part of a team working together to make sure the vegetable industry in Western New York is viable and sustainable,” Hoepting said about the joint effort among farmers and researchers.

The job changes every year, with vigilance required to protect the local crops.

“Agriculture is never dull,” she said. “The weather is such an unpredictable planner all the time. We never get the same weather two years in a row.”

She is based out of Knowlesville with the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The Extension in Orleans has been very supportive of her research projects, and also provides some space in a barn so she can dry onions.

She also works with onion growers in Potter, Sodus and Oswego and even makes trips to Orange County.

Her focus is on-farm applied research.

“We’re finding answers on the farm,” she said. “That’s my way of helping the growers.”

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NY farmers who donate produce may be eligible for tax credits

Posted 2 November 2018 at 7:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Emilie Barleben (center), president of the FFA in 2016-17, and Rylie Lear, and Garrett Derisley move 50-pound bags of cabbage off the truck during the Albion FFA’s food drive in 2016. The FFA collected 35,000 pounds of food that was delivered to Community Action on East State Street in Albion last year, which was a new record. The 35,000 pounds passed the 33,000 pounds donated by farmers in 2016.

Press Release, NY Department of Agriculture and Markets

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball reminded farmers that their donations to emergency food programs can earn them refundable tax credits starting in the next tax year.  The tax credit program, launched by Governor Cuomo in January 2018, is expected to save farmers $10 million annually.

“As the fall harvest winds down, I want to remind farmers that they can help those in need while offsetting their costs by donating to qualified food banks, pantries and emergency food programs,” Commissioner Ball said. “It’s a win-win, helping to feed those in need and providing a boost to those who produce our abundant and nutritious farm foods and beverages. We appreciate Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for taking this important step to support the generosity of farmers, who have donated at record rates for years.”

The tax credit, which is supported by the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy, can be claimed on donations of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat and some dairy products to qualified food pantries, food banks and other emergency food programs. Last year, New York State farmers donated more than 10 million pounds of food through the Harvest for All Feeding America Program.

Donations need to meet quality and labeling standards. The credit is equal to 25 percent of the fair market value of qualified donations, with a maximum benefit of $5,000 per year. An eligible farmer who makes qualified donations, with a fair market value of $12,000 this year would be allowed a 25 percent credit, equaling $3,000.

New York State Tax & Finance Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion said, “We’re proud to administer this beneficial tax credit to support our farmers and those who rely on food banks and pantries for healthful, locally grown meals.”

Those eligible to claim the refundable tax credit include business owners subject to New York State income tax, whose incomes are primarily from farming activity. Corporate franchise tax-payers and farmers who are in partnerships or are shareholders of a New York State corporation can also claim the credit.

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. More information on the guidelines and record-keeping requirements for farm donations to food pantries can be found by clicking here.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “New York’s farmers have historically been generous with their food donations. The tax credit will help offset a portion of the costs to pick, package and deliver the fresh produce to regional food banks and pantries. We encourage farmers to take advantage of the credit, available for the first time this year, and to always think about their local food banks as an opportunity to increase the availability of healthy, local food to New Yorkers in need.”

The tax credit builds on other steps the state has taken to encourage growth and profitability for New York’s farmers, including the Farm Workforce Retention Credit, which is estimated to save another $14 million annually.

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State agencies have $1 million to assist new farmers

Posted 16 October 2018 at 8:47 pm

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Empire State Development and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced $1 million in funding is available to assist early-stage farmers through the New York State New Farmers Grant Fund.

The program, now in its fifth year, promotes growth and development in the state’s agriculture industry. To date, $3.27 million has been awarded to nearly 90 farms throughout New York State to expand their operations and improve their profitability.

The $1 million New Farmers Grant Fund will provide grants of up to $50,000 to assist with up to 50 percent of eligible project costs. To qualify, all farm business owners must be within the first 10 years of having an ownership interest in any farm business, and the farm must have a minimum of $10,000 in income from sales of products grown or raised on the farm. Eligible project costs include the purchase of machinery, equipment, supplies, and the construction or improvement of agricultural structures.

“Agriculture is vital to New York State’s economy, and the New Farmers Grant Fund supports our early stage farmers by promoting projects that increase overall farm profitability and ensure sustainability of farming operations,” said ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky.

Applications and guidelines for the New Farmers Grant Fund are available by clicking here. The deadline for submission is January 25, 2019.

New farmers are a critical piece of the overall agricultural landscape in the State and the future of the industry. To further support the State’s new and beginning farmers, the Department of Agriculture & Markets launched a New and Beginning Farmer One Stop Shop in 2017. The web-based resource helps new and beginning farmers connect to the resources and services that can help their businesses thrive. Information can be found by clicking here.

“The New Farmers Grant Fund encourages young people and those seeking second careers to pursue a livelihood that is not always easy but always rewarding,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball.

New York State is home to 36,000 farms that are top producers of more than 30 commodities, including apples, grapes, snap beans, maple products and dairy. New York’s dairy industry is the largest sector of the state’s agricultural industry, accounting for approximately one-half of its on-farm production, support services and value-added products.

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LynOaken, Chamber’s Agricultural Business of the Year, continues to diversify and make upgrades

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Wendy Oakes Wilson and her brother Darrel Oakes stand next to the tractor which takes wagons full of visitors through the orchards and vineyard at LynOaken on the Ridge. The family farm will be honored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce as Agricultural Business of the Year at the annual awards dinner Thursday night at White Birch Golf Club.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 15 October 2018 at 10:21 am

MEDINA – Darrel Oakes and his sister Wendy Oakes Wilson are the third generation to operate the family farm started by their grandfather Leonard Oakes in 1919.

On Thursday evening, LynOaken Farms will be honored as the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Business of the Year.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Chris Oakes, orchard manager at LynOaken Farms and the fourth generation to work on the farm, holds a Redfield apple, a variety that was developed in 1938. The apple has a red flesh and pink seeds. It’s one of the heirloom varieties in a U-Pick orchard at the farm.

The award is not only a tremendous honor, but a perfect preview of the events leading up to celebration of LynOaken Farms 100th anniversary next year, Wilson said.

“We don’t know who nominated us for the award, but we were pleasantly shocked and honored,” Wilson said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Leonard Oakes had just gotten certified in poultry service from Cornell when he purchased land at the corner of Alps and Platten roads in the town of Yates.

“There were apple trees on it, but he wanted to raise chickens,” Wilson said. “He also had row crops, tart cherries and cucumbers.”

When Leonard died in 1951, his son James and new wife Wanda came back from Purdue to run the farm.

“Wanda was just pregnant with Darrel at the time,” Wilson said. “Our father was not into raising livestock and poultry, but was more interested in fruit, so he started planting cherries, apples and peaches.”

James ran the farm until the early 1980s, when Darrel took over.

Wilson at the time was still a teenager. She graduated from high school and went to the University of Michigan, intending to pursue a career in international business. She spent a year in Brazil and a year in Spain as an exchange student.

When Darrel offered her a position on the farm as treasurer and head of sales, she accepted.

Wendy Oakes Wilson pours a glass of wine in the wine tasting room at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, 10609 Ridge Rd., Medina. LynOaken Farms, run by the Oakes family, has been named Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Business of the Year.

She is to first to admit she does not have a green thumb and the only thing she has been able to nourish is her husband and son.

“I’m the first employee who is not responsible for anything in the orchards,” she said. “But what I brought to the table was experience in business and accounting, and the ability to sell.”

In addition to the home farm in Lyndonville, the Oakes branched out to Ridge Road, Medina, where they opened a market and gift shop. Since Wilson joined her brother, they have a presence in 90 different locations in Western and Central New York where they sell apples and peaches.

File photo: Jonathan Oakes, the wine maker at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, serves up some Steampunk Cider from the tasting room in August 2014 during the annual Steampunk Festival at the winery. Oakes dressed up for the festival.

In 2004, they built a controlled atmosphere storage; in 2008 they planted a heritage U-pick orchard with 300 varieties and started a winery; in 2013, they began picking in the heritage orchard and added a pavilion to the property.

This year they have built a new packing facility, which will be up and running in a few weeks and will allow Oakes to do six times more what they currently do, Wilson said. It will also allow them to facilitate the promotion of private label to retailers and to sort peaches on that line as well.

Leonard Oakes Estate Winery will also be operating a new tasting room, called Bar Cultivar, at the Barrel Factory in Buffalo’s Old First Ward.

The Oakes are not content to rest on their laurels, and are talking about expanding the U-pick orchards and remodeling, expanding and repurposing the existing retail building to take advantage of new opportunities, Wilson said.

From Leonard Oakes’ one-main operation in 1919, the family operation grew to seven full-time employees in 2001 and 28 full-time year-round now. Eighty-nine are currently employed during the peak harvest.

The fourth generation of Oakes are heavily involved in the business.

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Chamber’s Business Person of the Year is dedicated to farmers’ market in Medina

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Gail Miller, left, checks out the pumpkins at Maggie Roberts’ stand at the Canal Village Farmers’ Market. Miller has been the volunteer coordinator for the market since it opened in 2015. She has been named Business Person of the Year by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce for her efforts.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 10 October 2018 at 8:40 am

MEDINA – When Gail Miller retired in 2013 as a business analyst for IBM, she wasn’t planning on going back to work.

But that’s exactly what she did – as volunteer coordinator of Medina ’s Canal Village Farmers’ Market.

Her efforts in developing the market, securing vendors and promoting local agriculture have earned her the distinction of Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year. She will be recognized with the other Chamber honorees on Oct. 18 at the White Birch Country Club in Lyndonville.

“I was on the board of the Orleans County Farmers’ Market, and when it quit, I thought it was a shame,” Miller said. “I mentioned it to several people, including Cindy Robinson, who said she would be willing to help get another market going. I must admit, it was more work than I thought it would be, but it has been well worth it.”

Miller is at the market, which operates in the former bank lot on the corner of West Avenue and West Center Street, every Saturday morning. The lot is owned by the Orleans Renaissance Group, which sponsors the market.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Gail Miller strives to make the market a fun place. She wore an Angry Bird costume in 2015 near Halloween. She is pictured with Chris Busch, chairman of the Orleans Renaissance Group, which oversees the farmers’ market.

In July 2015, the new market opened with eight vendors. There are now 20 on most Saturdays, who offer a variety of products, such as sausage, pork, chemical free and heirloom produce, dehydrated mixes, vegan food, baked goods, poultry, flour and maple syrup.

There are also vendors with children’s books and wineries who rotate every Saturday. A Canal Kids’ Tent provides games, puzzles, chalk art and free books to children.

“While our goal is to have farm-based products, we try to build on that and have a variety,” Miller said. “We have a different artist every week, who might do pottery, needlework or painting. It’s like a part-time job, and if it wasn’t for my husband helping me, I would be spending hours every day.”

They provide a community tent for non-profits to use each week. A recent week it was used by the Knights-Kaderli Fund to promote their annual walk/run. Another week, it might be yoga demonstrations.

Miller said she couldn’t believe it when she learned she had been recognized by the Chamber.

“I don’t think of myself as a business person, but more of a coordinator to help other people reach their goal, while helping the community get good, healthy and home-grown food,” she said.

She credits Chris Busch, the ORG chairman, for his work with the market, especially doing all the advertising, and eight other volunteers.

Miller is an active member of her community in other ways, as well.

She is membership chairman for the Medina Historical Society, a volunteer for the Parade of Lights and a member of Medina hospital’s Honeysuckle Twig.

Miller grew up in Cambria on her family’s crop farm, where she worked.

“While I am honored by the Chamber award, it is a tribute to the market and all its vendors,” she said. “It’s been a group effort.”

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