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This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

By RJ Anderson

When it comes to shopping for meat, more consumers are looking for products raised locally. Many of those consumers, however, have trouble connecting with nearby farms to satisfy their buying preferences. Looking to break down that barrier in upstate New York was the inaugural Meat & Greet Farmer and Chef Fair.

Held March 11 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, the event was a collaboration between Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Finger Lakes Institute. Also sponsored by the Meat Suite Project and Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, the event brought together more than 20 farms and well over 100 consumers, including home cooks, professional chefs, restaurateurs and food distributors.

When Kyli Knickerbocker, co-owner of Firestone Farms in Livonia, New York, first heard about the Meat & Greet Fair, she was quick to sign on as vendor. In taking advantage of the networking opportunity – both with consumers and fellow farmers – she and her partner, Jake Stevens, appreciated having a much-needed forum to explain and promote their farm’s value-added agricultural practices…

 

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

Nothing captures summertime in New England like fresh, locally-grown heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms have captured the imaginations of chefs and the hearts of farmers’ market shoppers, who just can’t seem to get enough of them; they are the poster fruit of the “buy fresh, buy local” movement. Small farmers have responded to the opportunity with gusto, but it hasn’t come without its challenges, namely, that heirlooms are prone to unpredictable flavors, a short shelf life, irregular shapes and sizes, cracks, splits, and blemishes.

Despite these drawbacks, farmers are willing to assume the production risks to bring an allegedly better-tasting tomato to market, and consumers are certainly willing to pay for the experience. Knowing that taste quality varies considerably in the heirloom tomato market, both within and between varieties, we wanted to better understand how farmers choose to grow and market heirlooms. Our Research included in-depth interviews with fifteen Massachusetts heirloom tomato growers who sell at farmers’ markets to explore these questions:

(1) How do they decide how many and which varieties to grow?

(2) Why do some lump their heirlooms together in one colorful display while others separate and identify the varieties?

(3) How do they consider tomato flavor and texture when making broader production and marketing decisions?….

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

Two month old industrial hemp plant.

In early June, Cornell University researchers established three industrial hemp trials, one in Ithaca on the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and two in Geneva on the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.  There are no industrial hemp varieties developed for New York, so we are testing commercially available varieties from central and eastern Canada as well as from Poland, France, Denmark, Ukraine, and Italy.  We will determine which varieties yield well under different field conditions.  We have seventeen entries in our trials including four fiber varieties and thirteen grain or dual purpose ones.

For more information about this research program including dates and times for field days, please visit http://blogs.cornell.edu/industrialhemp/.

Read the rest of the article here.

Calling all military veterans interested in oyster farming! This free event will take place on August 12th, from 9:00am-1:30pm, and will include a tour of a shellfish hatchery, a boat ride, and a hands-on workshop in the shallow water focusing on the following topics: oyster farming demonstration, equipment, oyster management, and financial aspects of a small oyster farm. The workshop will be followed by a free lunch. RSVP and ask questions to melissa@farmvetco.org

Location: Little A’s Oyster Farm Great South Bay. 1.1 miles north east of Captree NY state park.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

by Reuben Dourte

If farming was to be broken down to its most simple definition, one could describe it as the supply side of a complex ‘manufacturing’ assembly line.  Agricultural products raised or produced by farmers find their way into an expansive array of goods.  As with any type of manufacturing, a products liability exposure inherently exists.  Additionally, the alteration of farm produce can create different liability exposures, and in a time where farmers are looking for additional revenue streams, the insurance conversation quickly lends itself to new, and more nuanced, questions.

If you have begun to engage in farming operations, hopefully you have already realized the need and benefit to insuring your operations via a Farmowners policy.  A typical, unendorsed Farmowners policy will provide you with liability coverage for your premises and your operations, including the farm products that you produce.  The definition of exactly what qualifies as “farm products” may vary greatly between insurance companies.  It is important to verify that your operations fall within the definition of farming and the items you are selling are not outside of the scope of farm products.

For example, Insurance Company A may consider the apples you sell at a roadside stand on your premises as farm products and thus covered for product liability on an unendorsed Farmowners policy, while Company B may consider the roadside stand and the gross receipts you make from this enterprise as a commercial exposure.  This may mean you will be compelled to purchase an agribusiness policy to receive the Products Liability coverage you need, or endorse your Farmowners policy to provide coverage for “Incidental Business Pursuits”.

In other situations, Farmowners policies may not provide product liability when a product is sold directly to the public vs. being sold to a contractor or wholesaler.  For example, if you raise organic chickens and sell directly to a large integrator, a typical Farmowners policy will be able to provide you with coverage.  However, if you sell those same eggs directly to the consumer, many agricultural insurers will require that you declare this as a Business Pursuit on your Farmowners policy, and pay additional premium as consideration for the company providing coverage for the heightened liability exposure inherent with sales to the public.  Likewise, products you buy for resale, even if they are the same products you raise on your farm, are not considered farm products.  This means if you have a bad tomato crop and need to supplement your supply with some of your neighbor’s tomatoes, the sale of the products bought for resale will (likely) be considered, by your insurance company, as a commercial business pursuit, and as such the products exposure would need to be covered through a Farmowners policy endorsement or a commercial Agribusiness policy…

Read the rest of the article here.

Are you a Military Veteran interested in Urban Farming? Attend a day long workshop for aspiring farmers! The workshop will kick off at Brooklyn Grange where you will get your hands in the soil working alongside the crew. Followed by a guided tour of the Union Square Greenmarket. The day will be tied up by sharing lunch at Project Farmhouse, hearing from an established veteran farmer, and learning about resources and programs available for veterans interested in farming.

The event will be held in Brooklyn at Brooklyn Grange on Wednesday August 9 9:30am to 1:30pm, Free! Lunch provided. Send questions or RSVP to melissa@farmvetco.org by August 1 .

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

by RJ Anderson

For optimal yield and fruit quality, apple growers in the United States have long relied on chemical solutions to generate spring blossom thinning to promote the growth of larger, higher-quality fruit by giving them less competition for carbohydrate. However, in the last couple of years, one of the apple industry’s go-to thinning chemicals, carbaryl, has come under fire with retailers such as Whole Foods Markets prohibiting the chemical’s use on produce sold in stores.

Equally alarming for growers, says Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Mario Miranda Sazo, an orchard management and mechanization specialist with CCE’s Lake Ontario Fruit Team, are the continued whispers of potential U.S. ban on carbaryl. The carbamate insecticide has been outlawed in Europe since 2008.

“Growers in the Northeast are especially dependent on carbaryl – nearly all of them chemically thin in the spring using carbaryl in combination with either naphthaleneacetic acid or benzyladenine,” said Miranda Sazo. “Because of this region’s humid climate, removing a key contributor like carbaryl from current management practices could create obstacles for growers and make them less competitive.”

Jason Woodworth operates a tractor-mounted Darwin string thinning machine to thin apple blossoms at the Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, New York. Lamont Fruit Farms participated in a recent Cornell study examining mechanical alternatives to chemical blossom thinning.

Such concerns prompted New York apple producers, CCE educators and Cornell researchers to team up for a recently-completed three-year study examining a mechanical blossom thinning alternative to carbaryl. Published in the winter 2016 issue of New York Fruit Quarterly, research led by Miranda Sazo and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) scientists Poliana Francescatto, Terence Robinson and Jaume Lordan Sanahuja, tested mechanical string thinning on Gala and Honeycrisp apple varieties at Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, New York.

Mounted on the front of a tractor, the Darwin string thinner resembles a large weed whacker crossed with a feather duster. Featuring rotating flexible two-foot-long injection-molded plastic spindles, the machine whips away a third to a half of a tree’s blossoms. What remain theoretically will grow into bigger, healthier fruit.

“With this study, we wanted to identify the ideal thinning parameters while monitoring and mitigating potential spread of fire blight (a destructive and highly contagious fruit tree disease exacerbated when tree tissue is wounded),” said Miranda Sazo, who received funding for the study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and New York Apple Research and Development. “While measuring return bloom and potential yields for each tree, we looked at supplementing mechanical thinning with other chemical treatments.

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

By Pam Tinc, Senior Research Coordinator
Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

In June 2010, New York Farm Bureau member David Huse was returning home after a day of mowing hay on a friend’s farm when he was struck by an oncoming car that hit his tractor and flipped the tractor on top of him. David’s death was a tremendous blow to friends, family and business partners, as well as to the larger agricultural community, who lost a passionate and outspoken advocate for sustainable farming in New York. David’s neighbor and business partner, Judy Pangman, wrote the following in a heartfelt letter to her local legislator in response to this tragedy:

“For farmers, everyday brings a new challenge. Getting to and from our fields safely should not be our most difficult and deadly challenge. We need to make farming safer to prevent the loss of our friends, children and other family members, and employees in such senseless accidents and request your assistance and support. We miss David terribly every day. Please help us make farming safer for everyone.”

Tractors are an essential piece of farming equipment, but they can also be one of the most dangerous. Studies have shown that the leading cause of death and permanently crippling injuries on a farm is due to tractor rollovers, and the Northeast has the highest rate of overturn fatalities in the nation.  In the event of a rollover, the use of a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and a seatbelt reduces the risk of injury by 99 percent. Wearing a seatbelt on a ROPS protected tractor will keep you within the “zone of safety” in the event of an overturn. While using a seatbelt with your ROPS will give you complete protection, the rollbar alone still greatly increases your chance of survival.

Lee Marks Crane, NY

Though newer tractors come equipped with ROPS and retrofit ROPS kits are commercially available for many older tractors, nearly half of tractors on US farms remain unprotected. For many farmers, the cost and time required to retrofit a tractor are low priority, given the many other items needing attention on the farm. To make it easier for farmers like you to retrofit their tractors and keep themselves, and their family, safe, we created the ROPS Rebate Program more than ten years ago.

You may have heard about, or participated in, the ROPS Rebate Program. Since 2006, we’ve retrofitted over 2,300 tractors in seven states, and more farmers are calling every day to sign up. The Program rebates farmers approximately 70% of the cost of retrofitting a tractor, including the ROPS kit, shipping, and installation (if applicable)…

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

By Rachel Carter

“I want to die with my boots on,” a New England farmer stated in a focus group held by the American Farmland Trust and Land For Good, to study U.S. Census of Agriculture data on retiring farmers and future plans for the farms.

Green Acres Milking Shorthorns cows were sold as a part of a successful farm transfer in Randolph, Vermont. Credit Green Acres Milking Shorthorns.

According to the study in April 2016, nearly 30% of New England’s farmers will most likely retire during the next decade, and only one in 10 are farming with someone age 45 or younger by their side. This paints a grim picture surrounding the future of farming and accessibility of farmland to the next generation of farmers for food production in New England.

“Some senior farmers may have a plan for their farm’s future,” said Jesse Robertson-DuBois, New England Director for American Farmland Trust. “But we learned through this study that many do not. A large number of older farmers are worried about their ability to retire and to find a younger farmer who can afford to buy their land.”

At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during ownership transition. Farmers involved in the study expressed they need help to make sound transfer agreements.

“The 1.4 million acres they [farmers] manage and $6.45 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will change hands in one way or another,” said Cris Coffin, Policy Director for Land For Good, who directed the study. “To keep this land and infrastructure in farming as it transitions, we will need better policy tools and increased support services to exiting and entering farmers.”

Read the rest of the article here.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.

by Elizabeth Henderson

Early in 2016, Evangeline Sarat at Sweetland Farm, in Trumansburg, NY, announced that she would paying wages to her employees at the Tompkins County living wage level.  Evangeline explained, “For me, it is very pin pointed: if my employees work, they should make a living. Especially, with food. If they’re working to grow healthy food, I don’t see how it’s logical that they not get enough to live.” Her declaration set off a flurry of emotional discussion among farmers and foodies that has not died down, especially with Governor Cuomo agreeing to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.   Paul Martin, current manager of Sweetland, explained the consequences of Evangeline’s decision for Sweetland.

Paul Martin of Sweetland Farm

To afford to pay higher wages, Evangeline raised the price of her farm’s CSA shares by $100.  The immediate effect was that member numbers dropped from 380 to just 300.   Paul still paid their four workers $15 an hour for the 2016 season. After completing financial calculations for the season, he reports that things were “a little tight,” but worked out. The drought made it harder: there was only enough crop for summer shares without the extra he had planned for summer wholesaling.  Nevertheless, Paul is determined to make things work and says, “At Sweetland we are still experimenting on how to have an economically sustainable farm.  The farm has to be thriving enough, an attractive business model so that my kids or someone else would want to buy the business.  I still feel like it is important to pay labor, but it is just as important to pay the farmer a living wage and that has to come first.” He has set out to achieve the balance among pricing to customers, the needs of his employees and his own needs….

Read the rest of the article here.

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