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Barre dairy farm is highlighted for energy efficiency

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2019 at 8:56 pm

Van Lieshout Farm is first in Orleans with robotic milking units

Photos by Tom Rivers

BARRE – Mike Van Lieshout on Friday leads a tour of the family’s dairy farm on Route 98 in Barre. About 50 people from Western New York attended the tour which included representatives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, National Grid, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The farm was started by Mike’s parents, Leon and Hendrika Van Lieshout, in 1978. Mike’s son, Garrett, joined the operation in 2015, bringing a third generation into the dairy farm.

The Van Lieshout farm recently constructed new buildings and installed new equipment. On May 7 they started using eight robotic milking units.

The Van Lieshouts are the first farm in Orleans County with the robots. One of the robots is shown milking a cow.

The farm has about 400 cows milked by the robots and another 85 cows in a traditional milking parlor.

The robots milk the cows 24/7. They spare the farm owners worry over a reliable workforce. The robots also allow the cows to milk on their own schedule.

The cows go to the milking parlor on their own accord when they are ready to be milked.

Each cow has a RFID, which is like a Fitbit, on a collar. The RFID allows the robot to identify each cow and track the animal’s feed intake and milk output.

“Labor was a big reason why we went this route,” said Cyndy Van Lieshout. “We wanted the younger generation to be able to come home.”

Jay Snyder of National Grid speaks to the group gathered in one of the barns. He said the energy company offers many incentives to help farms install energy-saving equipment.

The Van Lieshouts participated in a no-cost energy audit with the Agriculture Energy Audit Program through NYSERDA. Equipped with the results of the energy audit, the dairy farm worked with National Grid to install robotic milking equipment and other energy efficient equipment.

National Grid’s Energy Efficiency and Economic Development programs provided about $90,000 towards some of the new equipment at the Van Lieshout farm. The more efficient equipment is estimated to save the Van Lieshouts about $22,500 in reduced electricity costs.

The Van Lieshouts made upgrades in the barn with fan controls, plate coolers, milking equipment, LED lighting and with VFDS for manure pumps and water pumps. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) are a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor.

The Van Lieshouts said the upgrades at the farm were about 5 years in the making.

“It didn’t happen overnight,” Cyndy told the group on the tour Friday.

The Van Lieshouts also completed a Cornell Dairy Farm Business Summary on an annual basis to assess their business and plan for a sustainable future. For this project, they used Pro-Dairy’s Dairy Acceleration Program, now known as the Dairy Advancement Program, funded through New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to cost share their facility engineering.

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Dairy farm in Barre will host energy efficiency open house on Oct. 25

Staff Reports Posted 17 October 2019 at 8:48 am

BARRE – The Van Lieshout dairy farm at the corner of East Barre Road and Route 98 will host presentations and tours on Oct. 25, highlighting energy efficiency upgrades and resources available to farmers.

The farm is participating in a no-cost energy audit with the Agriculture Energy Audit Program through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Equipped with the results of the energy audit, the Van Lieshout dairy farm worked with National Grid to install robotic milking equipment and other energy efficient equipment.

National Grid’s Energy Efficiency and Economic Development programs provided approximately $90,000 to the project. By purchasing highly efficient products, the Van Lieshouts will save an estimated 311,000 kWh per year, which equates to approximately $31,000 per year in electrical costs.

During the open house from 10 a.m. to noon, farmers can hear directly from the Cyndy Van Lieshout about her family’s experience with various programs and services they used to help the farm become energy efficient and sustainable.

The Van Lieshout Dairy Farm, a third-generation family owned and run operation, has been in business since 1978. Investing in energy efficiency and making these upgrades will better position Cyndi’s son, Garrett, to manage the business in the future as the current generation prepares to retire in a few years.

The Van Lieshouts completed a Cornell Dairy Farm Business Summary on an annual basis to assess their business and plan for a sustainable future. For this project, they used Pro-Dairy’s Dairy Acceleration Program, now known as the Dairy Advancement Program, funded through New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to cost share their facility engineering.

Representatives from NSYERDA, National Grid, and Cornell Cooperative Extension will be on hand to answer questions and provide additional information.

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the newly installed equipment. Light Refreshments will be provided. The farm’s address is 4775 Oak Orchard Rd.

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Fall warmth is helping crops to mature

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 October 2019 at 9:16 pm

23,000 acres weren’t planted in Orleans due to wet spring

Photos by Tom Rivers: These soybeans in the Albion FFA Land Lab have benefitted from the warm weather in the fall, without a hard frost.

Farmers in Orleans County who took a chance by planting crops later than usual are getting some nice warm weather to help the crops mature.

Normally a hard frost has hit by now, with shuts down corn and soybeans.

But the freezing temperatures have stayed away, allowing crops to mature. Farmers would like about two more weeks of warmth for the corn and soybeans to reach good yields and high quality, said Larry Meyer, director of the Farm Service Agency in Orleans and Monroe counties.

In Orleans, there are usually about 125,000 acres planted each year with corn and soybeans. Meyer said the wet spring delayed planting with farmers deciding not to plant 23,170 acres. There were about 90,000 acres that went unplanted in Orleans, Genesee, Niagara and Monroe counties, Meyer said.

“There is still a lot of corn that is green,” Meyer said today. “But most of the soybeans are drying down. Most are looking good.”

Farmers who planted late will know in couple weeks if they have a quality crop with a good yield.

“If we can get a couple more weeks without a killing frost, we’ll catch up,” Meyer said. “It could turn out OK for people who did plant.”

The FFA Land Lab is on Clarendon Road behind the school campus. This year the FFA is growing soybeans after doing corn last year.

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3 local residents in new class for LEAD NY

Provided photo: The new class in LEAD NY is pictured at Camp Oswegatchie in Croghan, NY, during a Sept. 26-28 retreat that included introductions, teambuilding exercises and and introduction to leadership theory.

Staff Reports Posted 8 October 2019 at 3:49 pm

Three local residents are part of the new class for LEAD NY, a two-year program for agricultural and food leaders in the state.

Jessica Decker of Kendall (Quality Systems Manager for the Brockport plant of Bonduelle USA), Matthew Toussaint of Medina (Partner/Manager of Toussaint Farms LLC in Medina) and David Bittner of Lyndonville (Orchard manager for Bittner-Singer Orchards in Appleton) have been selected to participate in the intensive leadership development program.

LEAD New York, established 32 years ago as the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute, has inspired nearly 500 graduates to take on leadership roles and make meaningful contributions in virtually every segment of the food, agricultural and natural resource industries of the Northeast.

LEAD New York consists of seminars, workshops, and field travel experiences both in and out of New York State, including a week-long international study trip. It is designed for women and men who provide leadership to the food, agricultural and natural resource industry. The program focuses on leadership skill development, self-awareness, civic engagement, a greater understanding of rural issues and cultivating leadership networks.

Participants enter the program with diverse backgrounds, goals and levels of leadership experience, but all share a common commitment to the future of New York’s food and agriculture system and rural communities. Through LEAD New York they will become immersed in the latest trends, issues, perceptions and technological advancements in food and agriculture and get hands-on experience through facility tours and face-to-face meetings with influential figures.

Class members improve leadership and communication skills including public speaking, meeting management, and effective listening while building valuable professional relationships. The program enhances an overall understanding of agriculture and our food system from production to consumption, allowing individuals to seek creative solutions to today’s problems and anticipate tomorrow’s needs.

For more information about LEAD New York, click here.

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Schumer visits upstate apple orchard, touting federal crop research funding

Posted 8 October 2019 at 10:10 am

Press Release, Sen. Charles Schumer

File photo by Tom Rivers – Honeycrisp apples are pictured in October 2016 at the Roberts Circle R fruit stand and farm market on Route 18 in Carlton.

Standing at the Boehm Farm and Orchard in Greene County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Monday touted his recently-secured fix to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) as part of the federal budget extension.

Schumer detailed how a matching requirement for SCRI limited access to millions of dollars in grant funding for researchers, including the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who had to provide an equal amount of matching funds to their own projects, which is often not possible for researchers working with constrained budgets.

This would’ve reduced access to funding to study specialty crops like apples and how to increase crop yields, boost resiliency and adjust to other 21st century challenges. Schumer explained that this would have been a major detriment to Upstate New York apple producers, like Boehm Farm and Orchard, which are a major component of New York State’s vibrant agricultural economy.

To address this issue that threatened Upstate New York’s access to this critical funding, Schumer successfully fought for a provision in the budget extension to eliminate this matching requirement, to ensure that the state’s specialty crop industry continues to have the support it needs to thrive and boost New York’s agricultural economy.

“New York State is the second-largest apple producer in the country, with apple farming having an estimated economic impact of $574 million to the state, and much of it is thanks to family farms like Boehm Farm,” Schumer said. “Even though we produce the highest quality product around, for the industry to continue being grown and cultivated, it depends on critical USDA research funding being sent to first-rate organizations like Cornell.”

Schumer pointed to a 2016 grant from the SCRI as a means of showing its value and importance to apple production in New York State. Cornell University received $4,218,618 through the program to advance research in the commercial apple industry.

This funding allowed Cornell to invest in new candidate rootstock and work to identify new genetic markers to select improved plant traits. These rootstocks can reduce the need for crop fumigation, improve disease resistance, reduce fruit disorders, and make orchards both more economically and environmentally sustainable. Considering that apple producers face annual costs of nearly $300 million to replant orchards to improve tree health in the face of persistent disease threats and changing soil conditions, this research provided to them through Cornell can make a major difference to their bottom lines.

Schumer explained that without the SCRI, Cornell would have struggled, financially, to execute such valuable research for apple farmers and other specialty crop producers.

New York is the second-largest apple producer nationwide, harvesting a total of 29.5 million bushels annually from over 650 farms and roughly 55,000 acres across the state. According to the New York Apple Association, there are 600 commercial apple growers, with the industry providing 10,000 direct jobs to New Yorkers, and another 7,500 indirect jobs.

The USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) was created in order to improve the quality and efficiency of farms through innovative research. Eligible projects must address research subjects like plant genetics to improve crop characteristics, invasive species, new technology, food safety hazards in production and more. Over the past 5 years, roughly $30 million in SCRI grant funding has been awarded to Cornell University for specialty crop-oriented projects.

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Extension warns of invasive insect at risk of spreading to NY

Posted 26 September 2019 at 8:50 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

Photo courtesy of NYSIPM staff: A Spotted Lanternfly adult is about an 1 long.

There is an invasive insect wreaking havoc in southeastern Pennsylvania, and the risk of it spreading to New York is high.

Spotted Lanternfly is native to Southeast Asia and was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014. It is a sap-sucking insect, inserting its mouthparts into the trunks and stems of various plants and feeding off of the sap flowing beneath the bark surface.

The preferred food source for this insect is Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive and problematic tree also native to Asia. While Tree of Heaven is the preferred food source, Spotted Lanternfly will feed on over 70 plant species. This puts many native, ornamental, and crop species at risk if or when Spotted Lanternfly becomes an issue in New York State.

Spotted Lanternfly can cause significant damage to apples and grapes – crops that are valued at over $350 million annually in New York State. Feeding damage can kill plants or weaken them significantly, leaving them vulnerable to attack from other deadly insects or diseases.

Photo courtesy of NYSIPM staff: Spotted Lanternfly adult females cover freshly-laid egg masses with a putty-like substance.

The insect secretes a clear sticky residue called “honeydew” as it feeds. This honeydew can reduce market value of crops in addition to creating a favorable environment for black sooty mold to grow.

In addition to severely impacting the fruit crop and ornamental plant industries, Spotted Lanternfly has hindered the quality of life of residents of Pennsylvania where the infestation is highest – honeydew covers plants, sidewalks, vehicles, or anything else beneath the feeding sites of the insect.

New York State DEC is working with the Department of Ag and Markets as well as USDA to try to slow the spread of Spotted Lanternfly and perhaps prevent it from invading New York. There are several things that New York residents can do to help.

First, if you are travelling from or through Pennsylvania, inspect vehicles and belongings thoroughly for any Spotted Lanternfly hitchhikers. The adults are large (about 1 inch long), with light gray spotted wings folded over their backs.

They are laying egg masses this time of year, and will lay them on any surface – including vehicles, tree trunks, potted plants, etc. Egg masses are brownish gray and mud-like. Spotted Lanternflies do not fly long distances, so their spread is directly linked to being inadvertently transported by people.

Photo courtesy of NYS Department of Ag and Markets: This shows a Tree of Heaven seed cluster.

The DEC is also urging NY residents to be aware of and report the presence of Tree of Heaven trees. These trees have long pinnately compound leaves (similar to Black Walnut leaves). They have yellowish-orange seed clusters at this time of year which are visible on the tree from a distance. The leaves also emit a foul odor when bruised or cut. Some native look-alikes are Black Walnut, Sumac, or Ash. Being aware of where Tree of Heaven species are located will allow officials to monitor and survey for Spotted Lanterfly.

If you find Tree of Heaven (or any other invasive species), you can record data on invasive species right from your smartphone by using iMapInvasives, New York’s invasive species database, available for iOS and Android. Click here to learn more about the app or to find a training hosted by your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).

If you think you’ve seen Spotted Lanternfly, send photos and location info to, or fill out an online report (click here).

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Apple harvest gets underway, a little later than usual

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 September 2019 at 9:22 am

Photo courtesy of Zingler Farms: Zingler Farms in Kendall started picking SweeTango apples on Friday to kick off the fall harvest.

Apple growers in Orleans County have started their harvest, about a week later than usual due to the damp spring, and then some cool summer nights.

It will be a busy 8 to 10 weeks for the apple growers who expect other later-season varieties to mature on schedule. That will compress the harvest season and make for some long days to get all the apples picked.

New York is the country’s second-leading apple producer behind Washington State. New York harvests about 30 million bushels of apples each year.

Orleans County is a big apple growing county in New York, behind only Wayne County.

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Exhibit at Hoag Library features art by farmworkers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 September 2019 at 8:57 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – This painting – “The Cherry Pickers” by Juan Cavasos in 1989 – is part of an art show at Hoag Library in Albion. The artwork has been on display since early August and will continue to be in the library until Saturday.

Canvasos worked as a migrant worker from Mexico before going to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he completed a degree in graphic arts in 1996. His artwork has been featured in national traveling exhibits.

“I want to demonstrate the courage that we farmworkers have dedicated to hard labor, and that it not only means financial gain, bit also a reward which helps us survive and keeps us alive,” Cavasos said in an artist statement. “The majority of farmworkers lack the knowledge or skills to get other jobs. But we make an immense contribution to society, to the country and the community.”

Farmworkers last year did portraits of each other that are on display in the exhibit. This one is by Omar Lopez Cruz.

The Geneseo Migrant Center and Hoag Library are teaming to put on the exhibit, “Hand Picked: Art Expression of Farmworkers Who Feed Us.”

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, the traveling exhibit features 30 drawings by migrant workers of their hands, faces, stories (retablos), and poetry. The art show is designed to raise awareness of the inner and outer lives of migrant farmworkers in eight counties of Western New York.

This artwork from Javier in 2018 shares his experience being detained in an immigration facility after he said he was stopped by law enforcement who he said falsely claimed his back twilight was out.

Javier chose to take a voluntary departure and went to Mexico. He said he was grateful to be free and not behind bars.

“I am not a criminal!!” he writes. “Every night I prayed and gave thanks to God and the Virgin of Fatima because she gave me a chance to get free. Whenever you pray to a saint with the heart, it is very likely that she will grant you the wish.”

Maria in 2018 made this drawing after her daughter gave birth to a son.

“After the baby was born then I prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe and to the Divine Mercy. They listened to me and my daughter healed. I am happy and thankful.”

This drawing is by Filbert and Nestor. They give thanks to the Rosa Mystica Virgin. “My nephew and I were in grave danger … while trying to cross the border we were kidnapped, and while we were being tortured I commended myself to the Rosa Mystica. In those moments are kidnappers stopped torturing us and understood that we were just trying to reach the United States, and we were freed. Thank you to the Rosa Mystica for giving us another opportunity in life.”

Maria made this drawing of Estados Unidos

“This is what this picture means to me: My country is Mexico and the United States is where I am living now with all my family,” she writes. “When we were coming to this country I was very excited ti get to see more places, but I was also sad to leave my country, my friends and everything I used to know. Now that I am here, I have seen many beautiful places and I feel very good because, thank God, we have done very well and, hopefully, it will always be like that.”

Maribel created this drawing last year.

“My drawing is about a very sad time in my life. It is about my Mother,” she writes. “A few months ago, she was sick in the hospital because she was working, she hurt one of her toes. It had to be amputated and she was doing badly. Christ represents the strength to keep going forward because they day she went in the surgery room, she just thought about Christ. The Virgin represents the faith of all our family, and the flowers represent happiness because everything went very well, thank God. Also, the flowers represent all the support we have in our family. My Mother is fine now and we are very happy.”

Among the displays in the artwork are several poems, including this one by Ana Rio:

I miss touching

I miss touching my kids and my grandchildren

And my great-grandchildren that are far away

I miss touching my island Puerto Rico

I miss touching my doggies

I miss touching my friends from childhood

I miss touching my mother who I no longer


I miss touching my father his soft face

I miss my childhood with friends

I miss touching my siblings

I miss touching coffee beans recently


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Plant-killing Late Blight confirmed in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2019 at 12:56 pm

Photo courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County: This tomato from a home garden in Carlton has been confirmed to have Late Blight.

CARLTON – Late Blight was confirmed in Orleans County on August 23. It was found in a tomato from a home garden in Carlton, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County reported.

Late Blight is a serious disease of tomatoes and potatoes and can kill plants in less than two weeks. Disease spots are often dark gray to brown in color and tend to be surrounded by pale green tissue. Disease lesions can be found on all parts of the plant – stems, leaves, fruit, tubers.

“If you find late blight it is probably too late to save your plants,” said Katie Oakes, Extension horticulture educator.

Bag up diseased plants ASAP, preferably when the sun is shining and if possible, when the plants are dry. Let them cook in the sun in garbage bags, then dispose of them. Do not compost plants.

The spores are airborne so leaving your plants alive will infect your neighbors as well as local farmers whose livelihoods will be severely affected, the Extension said in an advisory.

For help identifying Late Blight, bring a sample to a Cornell Cooperative Extension office – preferably in a clear, plastic bag.

Since this disease is aggressive, spreads easily, and can be very damaging to area farmers, Cornell Cooperative Extension asks that anyone suspecting they have Late Blight please contact their local CCE office for assistance.

In Orleans County, the office can be reached at 585-798-4265.

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Farmers tell Hawley they’re concerned about impact of farm labor legislation

Staff Reports Posted 26 August 2019 at 11:11 am

Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Steve Hawley’s Office: State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, right, was given a tour last Thursday of Kludt Brothers Farms in Kendall by Gary Kludt, left. Hawley is looking at crates of sweet corn ready for shipment. The Kludts are in their third generation as as growers of beets, corn, wheat, sweet corn and cabbage, which is shipped all over the Northeast.

KENDALL – During a three-county tour of farms last Thursday, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said he heard from farmers they are concerned the legislation will increase their operating costs and also make it more difficult to find workers.

The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month and takes effect on Jan. 1.

“As a former farm operator, it was great to meet so many dedicated families that are driving New York’s agricultural sector here in Western New York,” Hawley said. “A consistent theme at all of the farms we visited was the new labor regulations pushed by downstate politicians and their detrimental effect on family farms throughout the state. Many owners are concerned about labor shortage during an already short growing season and the possibility of migrant workers leaving to earn more money in other states.”

The legislation will require overtime pay after 60 hours in one week. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act also provides unemployment insurance, 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, and a sanitary code for all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house farm laborers. It also gives workers the rights to collective bargaining.

Hawley toured CY Farms in Elba, Zuber Farms LLC in Churchville, Kludt Bros Farm in Kendall, and Lynn-ette & Sons Inc. in Kent.

“I want to thank all the farm owners and their families for having me on a tour of their facilities,” Hawley said. “I understand how detrimental these new labor regulations can be to our agriculture sector and I will be pushing very hard to have a seat at the table for the Commissioner of Agriculture and Farm Bureau members on the new wage board.”

The farm owners are concerned the legislation will result in workers going to other states with fewer hourly and wage restrictions, Hawley said.

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