Jim Bittner named interim director Horticultural Society, Berry Growers Association

Posted 4 December 2021 at 7:10 pm

Press Release, NYS Horticulture Society and NYS Berry Growers Association

Jim Bittner

The Boards of Directors of the New York State Horticulture Society (NYSHS) and the New York State Berry Growers Association (NYSBGA) are pleased to announce that Jim Bittner of Appleton has been appointed their Interim Executive Director.

The NYSHS began 1855. Its purpose has always been to serve the fruit industry of New York. The programs of the “Hort Society” have changed over the years to keep up with the changing times. The present mission is to “…educate, promote and protect the New York Fruit Industry”.

Founded in 1988, the New York State Berry Growers Association is a nonprofit educational association for berry growers, from large wholesale family farms to independent farm stands and small pick-your-own operations, across New York State. The NYSBGA promotes the growing and marketing of berries through the exchange of valuable information, including scientific research and production techniques.

Bittner brings an understanding of the needs of the fruit industry and the needs of these organizations. His home farm, Bittner-Singer Orchards, in Appleton consists of 400 acres of fruit including apples, peaches, cherries, plums and apricots. His two sons, Kevin and David, are involved in the farm operation.

In the past, Bittner served on the Board of the Horticulture Society including being its chairperson. In that role, he was active in the Council of Agricultural Organizations and the Farm Viability Institute Board. He has been very active in Farm Bureau at many different levels over the years. All of these organizations are geared toward keeping agriculture as an economic engine for the New York State economy.

In addition to these organizations, Bittner served on the Niagara County Cooperative Extension Board and Niagara County Industrial Development Microenterprise grant program board. He is currently a member of the Soil and Water Board, Niagara County Farm Bureau Board, and Treasurer of the Barker Lions Club.

Bittner has received numerous agricultural and business awards including the Distinguished Service award from the New York Agricultural Society, Business Person of the Year from the Niagara County Chamber of Commerce, National Outstanding Young Farmer, 40 Under 40 from Buffalo Business First and Outstanding Young Alumni from the Agriculture and Life Sciences school at Cornell University.

Serving as Interim Director is important for many reasons, he explained. “There are many facets to these two organizations.  We facilitate communication between farmers, agricultural researchers, and educators through our Fruit Quarterly. We keep farmers apprised of regulatory issues that could affect our ability to farm and work to educate decision makers on how new regulations will affect agriculture. Thirdly, we work with other agricultural organizations to ensure that we understand and appreciate the challenges we all face. I am really excited to work with people I have known for decades in this new capacity.”

Norris says more farms go out of business, grocery prices rise if overtime threshold reduced

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2021 at 4:19 pm

Press Release, Assemblyman Michael Norris

Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C-Lockport) is encouraging members of the agriculture community to continue reaching out to the state’s Farm Labor Wage Board to persuade them against further reducing the overtime threshold for farm workers.

Recently, downstate special interest groups have spearheaded efforts to reduce the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours a week, a move that would spike grocery costs for consumers and put local family farms out of business.

Farms across the state have been besieged by rising costs, including energy prices, various taxes, and rising labor costs as well as the addition of costly mandates from the state leading many farms, particularly small, family-run farms to close, consolidate or downsize operations. As the Consumer Price Index has risen more than 5.4 percent in the last year, New Yorkers, like all Americans, are struggling to make ends meet in the face of inflation. Fewer family farms would reduce local access to produce and other fresh products at a time when global supply chains are in crisis.

“I voted against this matter when it came up in the Assembly because the negative impact it would have on our farms was clear. Now, with inflation and rising costs, families are struggling – even the cost of Christmas trees is through the roof this year,” said Norris. “Families are having to make tough choices and I, for one, think our nation, and this great state, can do better. We have people who want to work, are willing to work and there’s work to be done. This is not the time to limit hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity by putting farmers and farm workers alike out of business.”

An ardent agricultural advocate, Norris says the more people who reach out directly to the Farm Labor Wage Board, the more likely they will be to offset the proposed farm worker overtime expansion. To contact the board, you can call the state Department of Labor at (518) 457-9000, or a better option is to write to them at:

Ms. Brenda McDuffie, Chair

New York Farm Labor Wage Board

W.A. Harriman Campus, Building 12

Albany, NY 12240

In addition to rallying the public, Norris has been working with dozens of his legislative colleagues across party lines to encourage the board, as well as the Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture and Markets, to beat back these crippling mandates.

“This is a tough, yet decisive, time for our state. There are far too many people going hungry and out of work,” said Norris. “There are shortages on the shelves. This is not the time to further hinder our path or any individual’s will to work hard and move forward.”

Master Gardener training will be offered hybrid – in person and online

Posted 1 December 2021 at 11:43 am

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Master Gardener Eileen Sorochty teaches a class on Hypertufa in 2019.  Educational classes for the public are just one of the ways that Master Gardeners volunteer their time.

KNOWLESVILLE – Orleans County CCE is hosting a new hybrid Master Gardener training starting in January of 2022. The training is the first step towards becoming a Master Gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension. This is the first year the training is being offered as an online/in-person hybrid course.

Master Gardener training has been offered for decades across NY state, but the core coursework has been in need of an update for some time. With the help of grant funding and input from volunteers and staff across the state, senior extension educators at Cornell spent the better part of 2019 curating the online content to offer thorough and in-depth lessons geared toward the adult learner.

The result is an online course packed with information on key topics such as Plant Biology, Food Gardening, Entomology and more, as well as options for more detailed content on specific topics under the “Explore and Learn More” link under each general section.

“I’m so impressed with this new hybrid format” said Katie Oakes, Horticulture Educator at Orleans CCE and coordinator of the Master Gardener program. “There is so much to learn within the training program, and an online format really allows participants to work at their own pace, on their own schedule.”

The training this coming winter will start January 13th and go until April 7th. Participants will be given access to the online portion of the course on the Moodle educational platform where they complete lessons on their own. The group will then meet every other week (dates vary) to reinforce key concepts and to complete several hands-on activities designed to put into practice what they learned on the Moodle course the weeks before.

“I think it’s really important to still have the in-person aspect,” explained Oakes, “Meeting in person builds that sense of community that might come a little less naturally in an online forum setting. Having the hands-on activities is really crucial, too, because people retain so much more knowledge by actually doing rather than simply observing.”

Past Master Gardener Trainings have consisted of sixteen 3-hour long lecture style classes covering a range of topics. The schedule was often difficult for participants with young families at home, full-time jobs, or other obligations. This new online course will give all participants the opportunity to gain knowledge and participate fully with a distance-learning perspective.  The online course also includes extensive additional information that a fully in-person training just could not accommodate time-wise.

“This new online format makes it so much easier to access valuable resources – and there are a lot! There’s so much excellent information included in this training, several of the videos and links to articles I can’t wait to re-visit and look at again!” said Nancy Halstead, an Orleans County Master Gardener who took the piloted online course as a trial last winter.

After completion of the training, participants can complete 40 hours of volunteer service through the various programs at Orleans CCE to become a full-fledged Master Gardener Volunteer. Becoming a Master Gardener allows participants to become a part of a nation-wide volunteer association focused on extending land-grant university’s research and expertise to the public in their own local communities.

Current MG Volunteers in Orleans County serve the community in many different ways – offering educational classes to the public, hosting informational tables at local events, speaking at area garden clubs, displaying at farmers markets and the 4-H Fair, collaborating with other CCE programs like 4-H and Master Food Preservers and more! There are about 20 active MG Volunteers in Orleans County, and in addition to monthly meetings, the volunteers get together for field trips, gardening conferences, and social outings as well.

“I really love the camaraderie that comes with being a part of this group!” said long-time MG Volunteer Eileen Sorochty “It’s so wonderful to be around like-minded people caring about our environment and each other’s well-being.  Being a Master Gardener has enriched my life in so many ways.”

The deadline to register for the upcoming Master Gardener training (with a $50 non-refundable deposit) is December 22. Cost for the training is typically $200 per person, but there is a 50% discount for the first ten people to register (a $100 value). Reduced rate tuition is also available for additional participants as needed.  If internet accessibility is an issue, participants can utilize office hours at the Orleans County CCE Education Center M-F 8:30-4:30 to access the course using CCE wifi and computers.

For more information on the Master Gardener program in Orleans County, or to register for the upcoming Master Gardener Training, contact Horticulture Educator and MG Coordinator Katie Oakes at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or email

Horticulture educator and MG Training Instructor Katie Oakes demonstrates a grafting technique during a past Master Gardener Training.

State will continue Nourish NY food distribution program

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2021 at 9:03 am

Cooperative Extension serving about 275 households with food distributions

Photo by Tom Rivers: Marsha Cook, a 4-H volunteer, and Peter Beach, a buildings and grounds employee for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, work together getting cans of corn and beans ready as part of a pop-up food pantry on July 12 at the Fairgrounds.

The Nourish New York program has permanently enshrined into state law. Governor Kathy Hochul on Nov. 20 signed the legislation, reaffirming New York’s commitment to providing support to those facing food insecurity across the state.

The Nourish New York initiative reroutes New York’s surplus agricultural products to the populations who need them most through the state’s food banks. The program also provides much-needed support for the food producers and farmers who have lost markets as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic because the state’s food banks are buying agricultural products from New York farmers and food processors, Hochul said.

The program provides some of the food for about 275 households in Orleans County during recent distributions at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

This week’s distribution at Fairgrounds served 281 households and a total of  895 people, according to the check in.

The Fairgrounds will be hosting distributions on Jan. 3, Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 28, April 25, May 23 and June 27.

The distributions used to have volunteers setting 20-pound boxes of food in the trunks of vehicles. The Extension in July shifted to a pop-up food pantry. In the new format, people park their cars and go into the Lartz Building and pick and choose what food they want.

Hochul’s Office said through three rounds of the program, New York’s food banks have purchased over 35 million pounds of New York food products, which equates to 29,800,000 meals.

In this fourth round, to date, New York’s food banks have purchased 6,903,366 pounds of food, creating an additional 5,752,805 meals for households in need. A total of $85 million has been committed to Nourish NY since its launch in May 2020. Nourish NY food purchases have positively impacted 4,178 businesses across the state, Hochul’s office said.

“Nourish NY served as a critical pipeline getting food from our farms to people in need during the pandemic, especially when there were serious disruptions in the supply chain,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “Nourish NY will continue to assist farmers with the costs of harvesting, packaging, and transporting fruits, vegetables, dairy products and more while making sure all New Yorkers can put food on their tables. It is important that we continue to work together to strengthen New York agriculture and our local food system, so we have the ability to feed ourselves long after the pandemic subsides.”

Orleans Soil & Water awarded $276K grant for conservation projects at 5 farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2021 at 12:22 pm

The Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District has been awarded a $276,271 state grant to assist five farms in the Oak Orchard River, Sandy Creek and Johnson Creek Watersheds.

The projects include the following conservation initiatives:

  • Focus on building healthy soils and promoting reduced tillage practices
  • Implement over 3,600 acres of cover crops throughout the watersheds
  • Reduce excessive runoff of nutrients and soil erosion to positively impact water quality

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the grant as part of $14 million for 91 agricultural projects to help farmers address water quality challenges in priority watersheds.

“New York continues to take decisive action to protect access to clean water across the state,” Hochul said in a news release. “This money will go towards fulfilling both those goals by encouraging the implementation of cost-effective waterway protection and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Over the past 25 years, New York State has supported projects covering 500 separate watersheds across the State, including 1,300 manure storage projects to help farms actively balance nutrient supply and crop nutrient demand, Hochul said.

More than 800 acres of riparian buffer have been created to filter nutrients and sediment, protecting surface water, stabilizing streambanks, improving aquatic habitat, and reducing impacts from flooding.

In addition, more than 80,000 acres of cover crops have been planted to help prevent erosion, improve soil health, and increase organic matter in the soil, which retains more moisture for crop demand through the growing season.

Cover crops also sequester carbon, helping New York’s farmers combat climate change, Hochul said. Through Round 27of this program, approximately 20,000 acres of cover crop will be implemented.

Dale Stein, a dairy farmer from Le Roy, is chairman of the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee. “The awards announced today will have a far-reaching impact, helping these farms, and their county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, to improve soil health and preserve our water quality for years to come,” he said. “The Ag Non Point program has long been an important tool in our work to protect our natural resources, and even more so now, as we work to combat climate change.”

Other nearby projects funded include:

  • $64,040 was awarded to the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District to work with one farm in the Oak Orchard Creek/Spring Creek Watersheds: sub- watersheds of Lake Ontario.
  • $140,640 was awarded to the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District to work with one farm in the Tonawanda Creek Watershed.
  • $535,925 was awarded to the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District to work with one farm in the Oatka Creek/Black Creek Watersheds.

Farm Bureau: Cost of Thanksgiving meal up 14 percent

Staff Reports Posted 22 November 2021 at 7:50 am

It will cost more for a Thanksgiving dinner this year, with the average price for a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people at $53.31, which is up $6.41 or 14 percent more than last year’s $46.90.

The American Farm Bureau Federation released the results of its 36th annual survey of Thanksgiving dinner staples.

A turkey costs more than last year, at $23.99 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24% from last year, but there are several mitigating factors.

“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the Covid-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat.”

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

“The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019,” Nigh said.

In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $15.41, to $68.72. This updated basket of foods also increased in price (up 14%) compared to 2020.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 218 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Farm Bureau reported the following changes of individual items served at many Thanksgivign meals:

  • 16-pound turkey: $23.99 or approximately $1.50 per pound (up 24%)
  • 2 frozen pie crusts: $2.91 (up 20%)
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $3.64 (up 7%)
  • Half pint of whipping cream: $1.78 (up 2%)
  • 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.05 (up 15%)
  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.98 (up 11%)
  • 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.30 (up 7%)
  • 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.54 (up 6%)
  • 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.56 (up 4%)
  • 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 82 cents (up 12%)
  • Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.45 (up 12%)
  • 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $2.29 (down 19%)

NY makes $25 million available to improve housing for farmworkers

Posted 17 November 2021 at 9:47 am

Farms eligible for up to $200K to replace and upgrade housing

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a new $25 million package in grants and loans to improve housing conditions for farmworkers and to protect the health and safety of this critical workforce.

The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program will fund the rehabilitation and replacement of existing substandard farmworker housing. Grants are available from NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) through Federal Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funding, which provides resources to municipalities to improve housing and community facilities in response to Covid-19.

In addition, the State oversees a $15 million Farmworker Housing Program, a revolving loan program designed to improve farmworker housing, through which farmers can apply for up to $200,000 per farm.

“The New Yorkers who work hard to keep our farms operating deserve housing that is safe, secure, and does not jeopardize their health or wellbeing,” Governor Hochul said. “Many of these individuals often reside in congregate housing already in need of rehabilitation, and with the risks still posed by Covid-19, it’s critical we get this work underway as soon as possible. Thanks to this funding, we can make that a reality and ensure these hardworking New Yorkers have a suitable place to call home.”

For the Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program, municipalities may apply for grants of up to $1 million to support a farm or group of farms with 5-10 housing units in need of rehabilitation or replacement to address issues such as environmental hazards, outdated air filtration systems, and to provide essential personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer.

Grants must benefit low- to moderate-income individuals with incomes at or below 80% of the Area Median Income and work must be completed within 12-18 months of award.

Applications are available by clicking here.

The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program complements the New York State Farmworker Housing Program, which was created more than 20 years ago to help farms provide safe and appropriate housing for their employees.

The program is administered by Farm Credit East in partnership with New York State Homes and Community Renewal and provides no-interest loans to finance improvement of existing housing or the construction or purchase of new housing for farmworkers. New York agricultural producers, including fruit, vegetable, greenhouse and nursery, equine, and dairy operations are eligible to apply.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “New York’s farmworkers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on our tables. We owe it to them to make sure their living conditions do not put them at additional risk for Covid-19 exposure. I’ll keep fighting to protect farmworkers and keep New York’s agricultural community strong.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “New York’s farmers value the men and women who perform essential work on our farms. This includes providing safe housing for our employees. The grant and loan programs announced today will assist farmers to construct new housing and modernize their facilities. New York Farm Bureau has been a longtime advocate for the Farmworker Housing Program, and we commend Gov. Hochul for continuing the effort and making grant dollars available to farms that have been on the front lines protecting farmworkers during the pandemic.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program and the New York State Farm Worker Housing Program are critical resources, allowing our farmers to invest in updated or new housing for their employees. As part of our work on the Agriculture Labor Advisory Group, which was formed several years ago, the state emphasized the importance of housing improvements for the safety and welfare of our year-round and seasonal workers who are essential to bringing food to our communities.  Thanks to the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal, and its partnership with Farm Credit East, our farmers have a unique opportunity to access much-needed funding in this area and I encourage them to consider applying for the programs.”

Gillibrand hails major debt relief for farmers included in Build Back Better package

Posted 2 November 2021 at 9:40 am

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Local Food Systems, and Food Safety and Security and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, member of the House Agriculture Committee, announced that the Build Back Better package drafted by the House includes transformative debt relief provisions for New York farmers, many of whom suffered massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Build Back Better package also includes important provisions to ensure that borrowers who receive this relief will still be eligible for further USDA loans and that producers receive no tax liability.

These provisions incorporate proposals from Gillibrand and Maloney’s Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act. The impact of the debt relief provisions in the Build Back Better package will be far-reaching in New York State, with approximately 98% of New York State’s FSA direct loan borrowers receiving either full or partial debt relief under the legislation.

“Before the pandemic, many of New York’s farmers and farmers across the country were deeply in debt and facing financial hardship, and the pandemic substantially worsened their financial situation,” Gillibrand said. “Thankfully, relief is on the way. The Build Back Better package will deliver transformative debt relief to farmers in New York and across the nation and will help them pay their workers, upgrade their equipment, and keep food on our tables. I am grateful for Congressman Maloney’s partnership on this important bill and look forward to working with him to pass it into law.”

Regarding the debt relief provisions in the framework, borrowers who fall under the following categories will be deemed economically distressed and will receive full debt forgiveness:

  • Operates a farm or ranch headquartered in a county or zip code with a poverty rate of not less than 20% or on Tribal land held in trust
  • 90 days or more delinquent on an eligible farm loan as of December 31, 2020 or April 30, 2021
  • Undergoing bankruptcy, foreclosure, and other financially distressed categories as of July 31, 2021
  • Received a USDA disaster set asides after January 1, 2020
  • Restructured eligible farm debt on or after January 1, 2020
  • Restructured eligible farm debt three or more times as of July 31, 2021
  • Owes more interest than principal on eligible farm debt as of July 31, 2021

All Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct loan borrowers who do not fall in the above categories will have their debt paid off in full if the debt is equal to or lower than $150,000, or otherwise will receive a $150,000 payment. That $150,000 payment will be reduced by the total amount of money that borrower received from the Market Facilitation Program in calendar years 2018 and 2019 and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in calendar year 2020.

Invasive jumping worm detected in Orleans County

Photo by Katie Oakes (left): Sample of Jumping worms brought into the Orleans County CCE office. Note the characteristic “coffee-grounds” appearance of the castings. Photo by UW Madison Arboretum (right): With nightcrawlers note the collar’s color and its distance from the head.

Posted 18 October 2021 at 3:43 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – The first confirmed case of the Asian Jumping Worm was submitted to the Diagnostic Lab at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension last week.  The specimen came from a home in the village of Medina. The homeowner could not be sure how it arrived to the property.

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.

Photo by UW Arboretum: Tiny cocoons are difficult to see.

The worms also disturb and degrade 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 closer to the head, and 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 spread of these invasive worms can be directly linked to human activity. Worms and their poppy-sized egg casings can be transported through soil, mulch, tools and equipment, shared or purchased plants, or even treads on shoes. Essentially any soil mass larger than a poppy seed has the potential to spread either worms or the cocoon egg masses. Adult worms will die off with the winter cold, however the cocoons will survive the winter, hatch in the spring and start the cycle over again.

Because these worms have now been confirmed to be present in Orleans County, it is important for homeowners and businesses to do their part to reduce the spread. Some key ways to prevent these invasive worms from becoming more prevalent in our community are:

  • Do not buy or use jumping worms for bait, vermi-composting, or gardening. Purchased earthworms may also be mislabeled, so learn to identify jumping worms by their look and behavior.
  • Scout the Soil: Check new mulch, compost, and soil for jumping worms and inquire with providers if measures have been taken to reduce the spread of jumping worms. If you can’t confirm the source is jumping worm-free, only purchase or trade mulch, compost, and soil that has been heated to appropriate temperatures and duration following protocols for reducing pathogens (104 – 130˚F for three days is sufficient).
  • Scan the Plants: Check the soil and roots of potted plants and trees for jumping worms or castings before planting them in your yard. When the option exists, choose bare-root plants over potted plants, ensuring no soil remains affixed. If you find jumping worms in materials you bring in, dispose of all contaminated soil and castings in the trash and kill worms by freezing or leaving in a bag out in the sun, then discard. Alternatively, worms may be killed using vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
  • Clean compost, soil and debris from vehicles, personal gear (clothing and boot treads), equipment, and gardening tools before moving to and from sites.
  • If jumping worms are present on your property, do not share or move plants. If you do move or share plants, wash roots and share them either bare-root or re-pot in sterile potting soil.

For more detailed information and images, please see the WNY PRISM Homeowners Guide to Asian Jumping Worms.

If you think you might have jumping worms on your property, please report them to

You can also call Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or email with any questions.

Resources: CCE Asian Jumping Worm Factsheet, WNY PRISM Homeowner’s Guide to Asian Jumping Worms.

Ortt, Assembly GOP members hear about pressing farm issues

Posted 16 October 2021 at 8:59 am

Lowering 60-hour overtime threshold among the concerns

Provided photo: State Sen. Rob Ortt joins other state legislators for a listening session on Friday with local farmers at Bittner-Singer Orchards. Pictured from left include Bittner-Singer Orchards President Jim Bittner, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Sen. Rob Ortt and Sen. George Borrello.

Press Release, State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt

APPLETON – Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, along with members of the Senate and Assembly Republican Conferences, on Friday held a listening session with local farmers and stakeholders to hear about the pressing issues facing the agriculture industry.

Discussions revolved around the potential impacts of lowering the 60-hour overtime threshold. Later this year, the New York State Farm Labor Wage Board will revisit the threshold set in 2019 and make a determination on whether to lower the threshold to 40 hours. Lawmakers also heard from participants about the issues they’d like to see as priorities in the upcoming legislative session.

“The agriculture industry continues to struggle under burdensome state mandates and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ortt said. “I want to thank the farmers and stakeholders who shared their perspectives, particularly regarding the negative consequences that will occur if the wage board further lowers the overtime threshold. My colleagues and I will continue to advocate on behalf of our farmers, and I urge the wage board to listen to those who will be directly affected by their actions.”

Senator George Borrello said, “New York farmers are among the most hardworking and resilient individuals anywhere. They are the foundation of our state’s $6 billion agriculture industry, which is known for producing some of the finest meat, dairy and produce in the world. However, the strength and viability of our farming community is threatened by burdensome mandates and misguided policies from Albany that are making it harder than ever to stay in business. At the top of the list of challenges are the Farm Labor Act and potential changes to the 60-hour overtime threshold. My conversations with farmers and farm workers in recent months have echoed the comments we heard today about how harmful this change would be for everyone. The agricultural community is united on this issue.”

Senator Edward Rath said, “The agriculture industry is critical to our state’s economy and the character of our rural communities. Reducing the overtime threshold for farmworkers would have a devastating impact on the New York State agriculture industry at a time when many farms are struggling. To do so after so many farmers have stepped up and continue to step up to donate products to those in need during the pandemic, is unacceptable. Now is not the time to play politics, we need to listen to stakeholders and industry experts.  The future of New York State’s agriculture industry depends on it. The evidence is clear; lowering the overtime threshold hurts farmers, workers and consumers.”

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan said, “Agriculture is one of the state’s most important industries, directly and in-directly employing thousands of hard-working residents.  As we prepare for a new legislative session, it is important that we hear from farmers and others in the agriculture industry about the challenges they face, especially potential changes to the Farm Labor Act and other burdensome regulations that threaten the future of farming in New York. I look forward to working with those throughout the industry to improve the state’s business climate.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley said, “In upstate New York, agriculture is more than an industry, it’s a shared heritage and way of life. The proposal to lower the 60-hour overtime threshold for farm laborers jeopardizes farming in New York as we know it today. It makes it less feasible to grow labor-intensive crops that New Yorkers expect to see on grocery store shelves and in their farmers markets. While our farm workers are some of the hardest working people in our state, I fear the unintended consequences of this policy could limit their opportunities and weaken agriculture in New York entirely.”

Assemblyman Mike Norris said, “Every farmer matters in New York State. Agriculture is a multibillion-dollar industry in New York, yet unfortunately, state regulations affecting our farms are far too often created by representatives who have never stepped foot on a farm.  I have had the privilege of touring small, medium and large sized farms in various agricultural industries throughout Western New York, and I commend Minority Leader Ortt for hosting this roundtable because it is critical that we continue to gain valuable feedback on issues affecting our agriculture industry so we can ensure the future of farming in New York State is bright.”

Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, “We must be cognizant of the reality of farm work. Seasons, crop readiness for harvest and weather conditions cannot be scheduled in the same manner as traditional manufacturing. Farmers provide perishable goods that dictate their readiness for market. Remember if you ate today, thank a farmer.”

Record corn and soybean yields expected for New York

Posted 13 October 2021 at 11:09 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A corn plant stands tall last month in a field of soybeans by Albion Central School near Clarendon Road.

Press Release, National Agricultural Statistics Service

ALBANY – The USDA-NASS has released the crop production forecast for October. The latest survey, which was conducted during the last week of September and the first week of October, included the following commodities:

• Corn production is forecast at 83.5 million bushels, up 6% from 2020. Based on conditions as of October 1, yields are expected to average 167.0 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month but up 10 bushels from the 2020 average. If this forecasted yield is realized, it will be a record high yield for New York. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 500 thousand acres, unchanged from 2020.

• Soybean production is forecast at 17.0 million bushels, up 7% from last year. Based on October 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 53.0 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month and up 2.0 bushels from last year. Area for harvest is forecast at 320 thousand acres, up 8 thousand acres from 2020.

• Alfalfa hay and alfalfa mixtures production is forecast at 672 thousand tons, up 102 thousand from 2020. Based on October 1 conditions, yield is expected to average 2.40 tons per acre, up 0.50 ton from last year. Harvested area is forecast at 280 thousand acres, down 20 thousand acres from last year.

• Other hay production is forecast at 1.70 million tons, up 49% from 2020. Based on October 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 2.00 tons per acre, up 0.50 ton per acre from last year. Harvested area is forecast at 850 thousand acres, up 12% from 2020.

Orleans to add 137 acres to agricultural district

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State takes new actions to benefit and protect honeybees

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

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

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

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

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

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

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

The update to Article 15 of the AML:

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

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

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

New York’s Pollinator Protection Plan

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

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

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

Farmworkers praised for commitment to English classes during pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kendall family grows hops, an uncommon crop in Orleans County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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