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by Ulf Kintzel

I will continue in this part 2 of the article on individual supplies and tools you will need to get started with Sheep. See the Summer 2017 issue of the Small Farm Quarterly for Part 1. I leave it up to you to research where you get the best price or what combination of items are the most reasonably priced once you include shipping fees.

Fencing is a very broad subject, and this article can only point you into various direction where you could go. The question will be if you want to build permanent fencing or if you want to operate with temporary fencing. Perhaps you like to do a mixture of both, as I do. I have a woven wire perimeter fence, and all my interior fencing are electric nettings. If you can build fencing yourself, you may have a good source locally for posts and wire. If there is no local supplier, Kencove is likely to have all what you need. Round Southern yellow pine posts would be my personal choice when building a permanent fence. No matter how old you are, each of these posts is likely to outlive you. High tensile wiring, whether it is single strands or woven wire, is in my view the way to go. For interior fencing I find electric nettings the safest. Premier One Supplies has the greatest variety of them, but is not the only supplier. Nettings 35 inches high with double-spiked posts is what I would recommend. Some have successfully worked with electric twine or poliwire and reels as interior fencing. In the past, I had to work with it and I find it just too unsafe. Sheep get out. Dogs can get in.

Don’t forget your Powerlinks to connect your hot perimeter fence with your interior fence. Also, I tend to go the extra mile to put up electric fence signs. Citing common sense will unfortunately be an unsuccessful defense if someone gets entangled in your electric netting, gets shocked, and then complains about it or even sues you. Electric fence signs go a long way in your defense.

I make my hay feeders from livestock or cattle panels. They are 16 feet long, which is about the circumference of a round bale and are the same height as such bale that is sitting on its flat side, which is four feet. I cut staggered holes in them that a sheep’s head can fit through. The panels, as well as a fork to spread out wasted hay around the feeder, are likely available at any local farm store.

Lambing season requires a variety of items. If you will castrate or dock tails, you will need “O” rings and a ring expander. It is advisable to have a tube feeder on hand to feed a new-born lamb that has problems to secure survival. Those who intend to bottle-feed orphan lambs will need bottles and nipples as well as milk replacer. While calf milk replacer is substantially cheaper than lamb milk replacer, it is not recommended because of its copper content. Yet, there are many who raise lambs successfully on calf milk replacer to save money. Colostrum can be purchased as well in dried form, although I freeze cow’s colostrum just prior to lambing season. Let’s hope you will never need it but if you do, have a prolapse harness and retainer in store when lambing is approaching.

Spray paint specifically designed for sheep, like the brand Sprayline, is a wonderful and easy way to mark sheep during lambing season, giving mothers and lambs a matching number. However, when I mark a sheep for other reasons, i.e. when I cut a ewe’s hoof that was limping, perhaps because she stepped on something, I use a twist marker, which is cheaper and handier for casual use. Buckets for the jugs and troughs for the pens will be needed, I expressed my preferences in part one of this article. If you wish to purchase and use your own scrapie ear tags instead of the one the USDA offers for free, you can have them custom-made by Premier One Supplies. Then there are the actual jugs themselves and the panels needed to make pens. I use rough-cut hemlock from a local saw miller to make them myself. I tie them together with bailing twine to five-foot long T-Posts to hold them in place.

For hoof care, you will need a pair of hoof cutters and a sharp knife. How do you catch a sheep? I recommend a leg crook. It comes in handy whenever you need to catch a lamb. I like using the blue leg crook Premier offers. You can also buy the head of a leg crook and mount it on a stick of your choice. Perhaps you do better with a neck crook. Many suppliers offer those. A foot bath for preventive care or as treatment against hoof rot or foot scald can be made by yourself, if you are handy with tools and lumber. If not, foot baths can be purchased from various suppliers.

Pine tar is a natural fly repellent when you have a sheep with a wound. Perhaps the guard dog bit a sheep, or you cut one while shearing – pine tar can be put directly on the wound, and keeps the flies away that might irritate it and keep it from healing. It will stay on much longer than anything else that I am aware of, and therefore doesn’t need to be re-applied as often.

Most of you will end up deworming sheep on occasion. You can do that either with a syringe and inject it, or with a drench gun and give it orally. When you have a good number of sheep, I highly recommend the Phillips Auto Drench Gun. For fewer sheep a cheaper or simpler version will do. To inject dewormer or to vaccinate, i.e. against Overeating Disease, you can use an automatic syringe. (see photo) Personally, I use one made by Allflex and attach 18-gauge needles, either ¾ of an inch or an inch long. Again, for fewer sheep a normal disposable syringe will do. Read the paragraph below for description. Both dewormers like Prohibit or Cydectin qork against the barber pole worm, or Valbazen against tapeworms can be purchased from various catalogues. You want to stay clear of Ivomectin. The deadly barber pole worm builds resistance against it in record speed.

In case of a sick sheep, i.e. a ewe having mastitis and it needs to be treated, you will need syringes and needles. The 12-cc syringe is handiest size in my view. I use 18-gauge disposable needles for it that are one inch long. Penicillin or oxytetracycline can be used as antibiotics. The most common brand for oxytetracycline is LA-200. However, there are much cheaper brands, like Duramycin or Tetra-Vet, that are the same antibiotic.

I tried to be a comprehensive as possible in these two articles. Yet, I am afraid I wasn’t and there will be items you will need that I did not mention. However, I am confident that I have given you a starting point if you are totally new to this and some pointers if you are exploring ways to manage your flock. I want to end this second part of this article the way I started part one: I did not get into much detail about each item since this would go beyond the scope of this article. However, if you want to read about it in depth you may find your answer in one of the comprehensive articles I wrote for Small Farm Quarterly over the years, which almost certainly address any item or subject I touch in this article; all nicely compiled on my website under “articles” at http://www.whitecloversheepfarm.com/prl-articles.htm.

Ulf owns and operates White Clover Sheep Farm and breeds and raises grass-fed White Dorper sheep and Kiko goats without any grain feeding and offers breeding stock suitable for grazing. He is a native of Germany and lives in the US since 1995. He farms in the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York. His website address is www.whitecloversheepfarm.com. He can be reached by e-mail at ulf@whitecloversheepfarm.com or by phone at 585-554-3313.

What is new?

We have expanded our eligibility criteria to now include New York State dairy farms with up to 699 mature dairy cattle, as well as increasing the annual gross cash income to $349,999 for all farms.

About the program:

As the first program of its kind in New York State, this cost sharing program allows farmers to make lifesaving safety upgrades. “We’re excited to integrate this program into the portfolio of health and safety services we offer to the agricultural community,” says NYCAMH’s Director, Julie Sorensen. “The John May Safety Fund (JMFSF) fills a gap in services to small farms, where slim profit margins often make it difficult to do more than what is needed to keep the farm running every day.”

What kind of projects?

Any project that directly improves safety on the farm will be reviewed. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • The purchase and installation of equipment to improve animal handling safety
  • Repairing or replacing broken or outdated machinery that poses a safety risk
  • Repairing or replacing faulty electrical systems
  • Making necessary changes to operations to become OSHA compliant
  • Adding or replacing worn out safety signage

Who can apply?

The program is geared toward smaller farms of all commodities. Awardees must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Resident of New York State
  • Active farmer (part-time or full-time)
  • Annual gross cash farm income is $10,000 – $349,999 OR dairy farm has fewer than 700 mature dairy cattle.

Where to apply and how it works:

Applications to the program may be submitted at any time and may be obtained online at http://www.nycamh.org/programs/john-may-farm-safety-fund/, by calling NYCAMH at (800) 343-7527 (ask for the John May Farm Safety Fund) or emailing info@nycamh.org. The number of awards and the award amount will be determined by NYCAMH on a first-come, first-served bases.

by Amy Overstreet

Over the years, the Corse family developed a strong working relationship with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and implemented soil and water conservation practices to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for their dairy operation and herd of 60 grass-fed dairy cows. In a part of the state not considered ideal for farming, they continue to defy the odds. Instead of working against the land, they work with it to mimic nature’s rhythmic cycles. Neither bedrock, nor wet, heavy soils deter them from their goal to farm sustainably.  The Corse family formula for success includes fierce determination, commitment to conservation, and a deep and loyal pledge to stay true to family heritage and tradition.

Carrying the Torch
Abbie Corse grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Whitingham, Vermont, with her parents Leon and Linda and two brothers, Henry and Caleb. The 34-year-old earned a degree in journalism at St. Michael’s in Burlington, Vermont, and went on to pursue a career in the arts. Had you asked Abbie upon college graduation if she would ever consider returning to the family farm, her answer would have been an emphatic, “no.”

It was a barn fire in 2007 at the Corse farm that marked her turning point. In a critical moment, the question became, “Should we continue and rebuild, or sell the family farm?” Leon and Linda had to consider all the options and then pose the reality to their children.  “If there is any thought in your mind that you might want to be here someday, we need to know, even if it isn’t going to be for ten years.”

Three-year-old Niko (foreground) and six-year-old Eli are the seventh generation of the Corse family to care for the land in Whitingham, Vermont.

At that point they were two years into their transition to organic. If they continued, the cows would need to be moved to a local farm and milked eighteen miles away in order to complete the transition. It was a logistical nightmare, but one Leon and Linda felt worth doing if there was a chance one of their children might eventually wish to continue their farming tradition. The switch to organic was incredibly important to Abbie and she couldn’t imagine a world where the family farm didn’t exist. So, she told her parents, ”Yes. At some point, I do want to come back.” It was a revelation that surprised everyone, especially Abbie.

Stewardship Is In Their Blood
The one person it didn’t surprise was Abbie’s then-boyfriend and now-husband, Dave. A year or so later, in spite of making the decision to relocate back to their hometown and living a few miles across town from the farm, Abbie still hadn’t made the jump to go back to farming. It was Dave who reminded her that the happiest he’d seen her was the summer they had met again, while she was filling in for her brother. Worried about finances and insurance, and other practical life concerns, Abbie couldn’t figure out how it was going to work to come back, but Dave assured her that they would figure it out. If this was where she was going to be happy, they would make it work.

Now, Abbie works alongside her parents, while raising their two sons, six-year-old Eli and three-year-old Niko. “You don’t realize, when you’re growing up here, how entwined you become in the rhythms of the seasons and the pull of the land,” says Abbie. “But once I had been away for long enough I came to realize that it was integral to my wellbeing and something I didn’t know how to be without.”

The Corse family first purchased this land in 1868, and Abbie is the sixth generation to carry on the family’s steadfast commitment to conservation. To this tune and that of wishing her father’s knowledge to be passed along to more than just her, she encouraged her parents to consider a mentoring program for beginning farmers. After a few years of thought and reviewing options, Leon decided that the best way to accomplish this was through the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program (an independent non-profit organization and a National Apprenticeship under the US Department of Labor-Employment and Training Administration). Leon became a Grazing Master and was the first to sign on as a Master in Vermont. This spring they welcomed the first Dairy Apprentice to be placed on a farm in Vermont. The beauty of this program is that it encourages pasture-based grazing practices as the most affordable and realistic option for beginning farmers interested in a sustainable way forward.

USDA-NRCS Soil Conservationist Sylvia Harris worked with the family recently and says Leon truly embraces conservation. “He has adopted practices like rotational grazing and grass-based farming because he is, at heart, a grass farmer, and understands the importance of keeping his pastures healthy so his animals will thrive.” With a degree in plant and soil science, Leon says that it took him ten years to realize he needed to farm the way this farm needed to be farmed. “You have to work in concert with the natural resources. If you work with Mother Nature, and not against it, life is much easier,” he says.

Leon’s wife Linda is also very active on the farm and serves as the youngstock manager and bookkeeper, and is the afternoon milker three or four times a week. She is an active conservation leader and serves as Chair of the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District and treasurer of the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts. She was also the first female to serve on Windham County’s Farm Service Agency committee. But Linda had no farming experience prior to meeting Leon. They met thanks to Linda’s sister, who knew Leon through a square dancing club. When Leon heard that Linda was studying accounting in college, he remarked, “A farmer can always use a bookkeeper for a wife.” She says that soon after that, Leon called her for a date and seven months later, in 1980, they wed. “My only experience with a farm before I met Leon was when a friend in school let me learn by touch about electric fences!”

Seven generations of the Corse family—from left to right, Linda, Leon Abbie, Niko, and Eli.

Going Organic and Staying Committed to Conservation
The family hasn’t plowed in thirty years. As a result, they have seen a marked improvement in soil health and forage quality. They also eliminated the use of nitrogen fertilizer and have seen clover make a comeback. “On paper, this isn’t a viable farm,” Leon explains. The soil maps indicate that the soil is very wet and acidic, with lots of dense material and poor drainage. Harris says that there are many obstacles to farming with this type of soil, but that the family has worked hard to overcome those by building organic matter through intensive grazing management. In addition, a very short growing season and high winds add to the challenges.

They manage around ninety acres of permanent pasture for sixty cows and now ship their milk through CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley. Vermont NRCS Grazing Specialist Kevin Kaija worked with the family to implement practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). One of these practices was animal trails and walkways. “Leon told me he had a problem with animal trails and I shuddered,” says Kaija. “But then he explained that the problem was when he got one, he wanted another.” These walkways provide improved access to forage, water, and shelter, ameliorate grazing efficiency, and help prevent erosion. Other practices implemented through EQIP include fencing to keep cows out of waterways, nutrient management, pasture planting, pipeline, watering facilities, and a prescribed grazing plan. They also installed a solar powered water pump system to get water to the pastures. Abbie says that the prescribed grazing system and associated practices is a huge benefit: “it is so much easier, systematically.” Their conservation plan is ensuring that nearby waterbodies, including wetlands, are protected and that their improved soil and forage quality are paying dividends through a healthy herd. “Cold, wet, glacial soils are rebellious when placed in an artificial agronomic setting,” said Kaija. “The more artificial one gets, or the more equipment and disturbance, the less profit in the long run.”

The Rewards – and Challenges – of Farming with Family
Abbie never envisioned she would be the one to carry on the family tradition. She admits that the transition has presented some tricky moments: “I’m taking over Dad’s role on the farm, but he’s in a partnership with mom, who was our primary caregiver when we were young (and still is, she jokes), so we had to come to a place where we all understood that I couldn’t be him and mom and raise my family at the same time,” she explains. Her husband Dave owns and operates his own business off the farm. “When you farm with your partner, there’s a shuffling that can happen,” says Abbie. “My situation doesn’t allow for that.” She says it was particularly challenging when the kids were very young. “We had to figure out ways that I could be involved on the farm, but still be the primary caregiver for my kids.”

Abbie admits that the challenges can sometimes be overwhelming as she balances the role of mother and farmer. But she is eternally grateful to the sacrifices her parents have made (and continue making) that enable her to be part of the farming operation. “Realistically, I need to find another me!” she jokes. “But we are figuring it out as we go.”

The shift from a family unit to a working entity was, at times, awkward. “We were raised with an open and honest atmosphere where we didn’t always agree, and that was okay,” says Abbie. And Linda says that she took an important role of counselor and moderator between Leon and Abbie. “I spent many hours talking to them both when we started this venture,” she says. Linda says that both she and Leon had to realize and appreciate that Abbie is raising kids in a totally different world than the one in which they raised kids. “We had to adjust our perspective. Things are different today, and we are learning that.” This attitude marks exactly how this family is able to manage their process. And according to both Leon and Abbie, Linda is the backbone and keeps them both going. “Without her, we would both be lost,” says Abbie of her mom.

Leon Corse holds an old photo of his ancestors who first purchased the farm in 1868.

Linda says having Abbie work with them keeps the heart and soul in their farm, and it’s obvious that her parents are proud of her. “My hopes and wishes for her as she takes on this role are that her love of this farm, her strong beliefs in organic living, and her even stronger belief in the value of family and our roots here, will sustain her through the challenges she faces,” says Linda. “The road she has chosen is not an easy one. She is juggling being primary caregiver to her sons, strong partner and wife to her self-employed husband, on-site support to parents who aren’t as young as they used to be and who want to keep farming, and a strong advocate for organic farming when she has time to spare.”

Forever Protected
In 2013, the family worked to secure a permanent conservation easement through the Vermont Land Trust. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, with matching funds from NRCS, funded the easement purchase. Today, the Corse family is caring for the land with the next generation in mind. Abbie says that she and her husband feel lucky to be raising their sons on the farm where she gained her appreciation for nature. “People are isolated today,” she says. “I grew up near all my grandparents, with the passing down of stories, and a real sense of family.” She says that growing up on a farm really shaped the way she sees the world. When Abbie was young, her father was interviewed by a reporter who asked if his sons would farm after him. To that he replied, “I have a daughter too, and my bet’s on her.” Little did he know that this remark would become reality.

The Future Is Bright
Abbie emphasizes the fact that her parents never pressured her or her brothers to take on farming as a career. She said they got “the talk” at age fifteen. That talk reassured them that their parents would support their chosen career paths, even if it was away from the farm. But Abbie realizes now that farming is in her blood. “I didn’t know how to think about life without this farm.” She says it’s very interesting to watch her boys grow up on the farm, with Eli taking a real interest in the animals and “loving to be in the middle of it,” while Niko is a little less enthusiastic. But as important as she feels it is for them to grow up here and have this as a base, there will be no expectation that they should come back.

“Dave and I firmly believe that they need to be afforded the same respect in that regard that I had; to be encouraged to go and explore the world and decide with full understanding if this is the place for them.” Though overall she is overwhelmed by the reality of what lies ahead as the farm transitions to her stewardship, she is excited to think about the possibilities. She is fascinated by the idea of keeping bees in tandem with cows. And, she says she would love write a book to share the story of her family and their relationship to this land. For now, their story is still being written as the family stays the course on their path of stewardship.

Amy Overstreet has been writing about stewardship for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service since 1994. A native of South Carolina, she is learning to enjoy the climate of the Northeast and enjoys living in Vermont with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at amy.overstreet@vt.usda.gov.

Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cornell Cooperative Extension team up to host 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day.

by R.J. Anderson

From dairy robotics and precision farming technology to the chemistry of wine making and integrated pest management, jobs in agriculture dot a diverse and varied career map in the Finger Lakes. Helping area high school students navigate ag-related vocational opportunities was goal of the 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day on April 26.

High school students enrolled in the Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center animal science program participate in a workshop hosted by Keseca Veterinary Clinic at Hemdale Farms in Seneca Castle, New York.

A collaboration among the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board, Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Ontario, Wayne, Seneca and Yates Counties, the second annual event brought together 220 high school students from 17 school districts in the Finger Lakes area.

Featuring field trips to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York; the Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) Viticulture Center; and Hemdale Farms, a high-tech dairy with a robotic milking parlor and high-volume vegetable growing operation, the event paired ag-minded high school students with experts from Cornell, FLCC, SUNY Cobleskill, and professionals from the private sector. Each location included additional exhibitors, such as Fowler Farms, SUNY Cobleskill, CCE, Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center, Farm Credit East, Keseca Veterinary Clinic, and Lakeland Equipment.

Marie Anselm, a CCE agriculture economic development specialist based in Ontario County, guided a group of animal science students enrolled in the Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center animal science program. “Both years I’ve participated in this event I think the students and the participating guidance counselors have walked away surprised by how many career options there are in agriculture, particularly those that involve STEM fields,” she said. “Even if students have an interest in agriculture, they may not be aware of many career options are available to them. Exposing young people to these careers, whether they be on farms, in research and technology or in sales, gives them a better understanding of the overall industry and the opportunities that exist.”

Amanda Lesterhuis, Youth Systems Coordinator for the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board, who also led a tour group, agreed. “When community members, including high school students, think about the ag industry, they most likely just picture farmers driving tractors in fields, and while those are all very important roles, there are so many career opportunities available in this region that require a broad range of skills and education. Exposing students to these careers early on will hopefully entice them to remain in this area after high school and college and help eliminate skills gaps that exist in this industry on a local level.”

As presenter at the 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day, Larry Smart, CALS associate professor of plant breeding and genetics, showed high school students some of the tools he uses in his research at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

At each stop, attendees listened intently to multiple presentations that included hands-on demonstrations highlighting real-world applications of technology in agriculture. At the conclusion of each session, students peppered presenters with pointed questions about why they chose their particular career path and how they got started.

“For me, that was the best part,” said Anselm. “Seeing how engaged the students were at each stop was very satisfying. The presenters were blown away by the students’ interest and how great the questions were.”

For Lesterhuis, the biggest – and most unexpected – takeaway was the evolving conversation between chaperones. “The guidance counselors and school-to-career counselors I spoke with were impressed [by] how much technology and science are involved in agriculture,” she said. “They also talked about how they will adjust their recruiting tactics next year to entice more students who want to pursue science or engineering degrees, but may not know they can use those degrees in various agriculture fields.”

While organizers admit that putting together an event that excites a couple hundred teenagers from four counties while busing them to three locations is no easy task, they recognize it was their collaborative approach that made the event such a fluid and lasting experience. “The partnership between the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board, CCE, CALS, FLCC, and Hemdale Farms was vital to the day’s success,” said Anselm. “This event really strives to represent many sectors of agriculture, and that wouldn’t be possible without our partnership. We’ve really been fortunate to have so much community support come together to make it happen.”

R.J. Anderson is a writer/communications specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

When planning an agricultural construction project, do not fall into the myth of agricultural exemption a general permit for stormwater discharge may be required.

by Doug Kierst and Judy Wright

When planning construction in your farmstead or farm area, is one of the first considerations whether you should obtain a NYS Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit (SPDES) General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity (GP-0-15-002)? Many farms incorrectly assume a SPDES Stormwater Permit is only needed for non-farm construction and incorrectly assume that farm construction is exempt!  Do not fall into this easy assumption and potentially suffer fines and penalties.

We have run into farms that are not aware of their need to obtain a SPDES Stormwater Permit and may not be told during the planning process by the project engineer, unless they know to ask. We see and hear of inadvertent violations like this, frequently.  So why bring this to your attention now?  Many of our rural communities that have been traditionally agriculture are changing.  Newcomers to these communities are concerned about their surroundings and are asking questions of their town planning committees and boards.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) views barns and other large farm construction projects including buildings, silos (including bunks), houses, stock yards and ponds, as construction projects that may require a SPDES Stormwater Permit.

How do you know when you need to obtain a SPDES Stormwater Permit? It will depend on the type of construction activity that is proposed.  Information can be found on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/43133.html; you may also contact the NYS DEC Regional Office, your county Soil and Water Conservation District or county Cornell Cooperative Extension offices for additional assistance.

If you are planning to complete any farm construction, this activity most likely will trigger soil disturbance.  The outline below is intended to alert you to the requirements for permitting.

For certain sized projects, a SPEDES permit may be a necessary part of the job.

Soil disturbance of less than 1 acre: If you are disturbing less than 1 acre, it is not required to obtain permit coverage, however, water quality standards must be maintained to prevent soil from leaving your site and entering a watercourse.  The DEC can still issue a fine if a water quality violation occurs on the site, even if no permit is required.

Soil disturbance is between 1-4.99 acres – “Exempt Activities”: If you disturb between 1 and 4.99 acres, most (NOT ALL) practices are still exempt from permit coverage.  However, exempt projects and activities are still required to implement erosion and sediment controls during construction, but there are no requirements to implement post-construction stormwater controls.

Soil disturbance is between 1-4.99 acres – “NON-Exempt” Activities: If you disturb between 1 and 4.99 acres, and the construction activities include the construction of barns, houses, silos (including bunks), stock yards, pens, farm ponds and other farm buildings, a SPDES Stormwater Permit is required.  A stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) that includes erosion and sediment controls is also required to be developed and implemented.

Soil disturbance of over 5 acres:  Construction activities involving 5 or more acres of disturbance must obtain a SPDES Stormwater Permit and develop and implement a SWPPP that includes erosion and sediment controls.   For sites that include the construction or reconstruction of impervious area, the SWPPP must also address post construction stormwater management practices.

All sites that require a SPDES Stormwater Permit, also need a completed Notice of Intent (NOI) form which must be submitted to the DEC prior to the commencement of soil disturbance activity.  Soil disturbing construction activities, as defined by the Stormwater Permit, means any clearing, grading, excavation, filling, demolition or stockpiling activities that result in soil disturbance. Clearing activities can include, but are not limited to, logging equipment operation, the cutting and skidding of trees, stump removal and/or brush root removal – if site clearing is completed for a non-exempt practice, a stormwater permit is needed.  Clearing completed for a field that will be used agricultural crop production does NOT need a stormwater permit. However, it is strongly recommended that erosion and sediment controls are implemented during large clearing activities. Construction activity does not include routine maintenance that is performed to maintain the original line and grade, hydraulic capacity, or original purpose of a facility.

It is always easier to ask a question about stormwater control prior to starting a construction project rather than waiting until a potential violation is noticed and then deal with permitting and possible costly fines, increasing the cost of the project.  For more information you can consult DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/43133.html or   http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/introduction.pdf.

Doug Kierst is the Executive Director of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District and Judy Wright is a Senior Ag Resource Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County.

In Wyoming County, the drought of the winter, spring, summer, and fall of 2016 was devastating for local honeybee populations.

by Debra Welch

In Wyoming County, the drought of the spring, summer, and fall of 2016 was devastating for local honeybee populations. Fall nectars and pollens are critical for colony build-up for the winter.  If the honeybees cannot get the fats and lipids they need, survival is greatly affected. Though keepers can provide pollen patties and other honeybee feeds, these often are not enough.

The Bee Tree in April 2017, alfalfa field in background.

Many local hobby and sideline keepers reported partial or total colony losses for the past winter and this spring.  The previous summer I had been keeping track of a wild honeybee tree on the edge of an alfalfa field, and wondered, ‘if honeybees that are being fed can’t survive, how could wild bees?’ Of course, a good queen and hive strength are a big factor, but so are food sources. In a completely non-scientific way, I started making trips again to monitor the bee tree, a gnarled old locust. In March I saw no indication of life, though it was sunny and the temperatures were in the 50’s. I returned two more times in March, during mild days.  Again, nothing.

My fourth trip to the bee tree was on April 17 on a cool, sunny day. I was sure the colony had perished.  To my amazement, there were a number of honeybees buzzing in and out of the tree!  As an amateur beekeeper, this was fascinating. The colony had survived, and was now visiting a nearby swamp loaded with pussy willow catkins and lined with henbit and deadnettle blossoms, important early foods for the honeybees.

How had this colony managed to survive the drought? One factor might be the alfalfa field next to this tree. Last summer the local alfalfa fields were in full bloom three times. It’s rare to see this happen, because current dairy recommendations are to cut alfalfa at the bud stage to achieve proper nutrients for dairy cattle. All alfalfa fields have some blossoms, but during the drought, the stressed plants put out full blossoms early. Farm owners operate on a set harvest schedule, which allowed these blooming fields to stand uncut for some time. The fragrance was dramatic, and this sea of purple blooms was literally alive with all sorts of pollinators. The alfalfa blossom itself is not easy to access, it literally smacks the honeybee in the head; pollen deposit is the purpose of this tripping mechanism. Nevertheless, there were countless honeybees working the field.

Alfalfa nectar has been reported to be a major food source for honeybees in terms of pounds of honey per acre, when they can get to the blossoms. It seems the deep-rooted plants provided nectar and pollen when other sources may have been dried out, such as clovers and goldenrod.

I will continue to watch this fascinating wild colony, especially since last year they produced two valuable swarms. I have the great good fortune here in Wyoming County to be able to work with experienced keepers who generously share their knowledge and wisdom on this and many other honeybee subjects.   As one keeper said, “Nature finds a way.”

Debra Welch is an Ag & Natural Resources Association Program Educator at CCE Wyoming County in the Agriculture Department.  Beekeeping is one of her programs, as well as a hobby.

 

‘Learn about the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team, which works with beekeepers to improve honeybee health, reduce colony losses, and improve the profitability of the beekeeping industry.’   – 2016 NYS Beekeeper Tech Team Report, March 2017.

From the Editor

While Fall might feel like the end of the year for many farmers, in some cultures it is seen as the “New Year.” In some senses, after the long hard work of the season, with hay bales and canned tomatoes stored for the coming winter, it makes sense to start over, begin things anew.

Regardless, we can mark Fall as a transition point, and start to reflect on the season that was. This rather rainy and wet year is markedly different from last year at this time, when much of the region was still in a historic drought.

Despite the ups and downs, we can be grateful for making it through the season, and finding ourselves whole again. We hope you enjoy this issue of the Quarterly, and wish you a happy and restful fall.

~ Steve

 

Register for Online Courses This Winter

Registration is open for the 2017-2018 season of Small Farm Online Courses building the technical and business skills of farmers. Expert farmers and extension educators guide students through the latest research-based information to help improve efficiency and increase profit on small farms.

Students connect with other farmers, work on farm plans, and gain practical tips without leaving their home. Course content can be accessed anywhere with a high-speed internet connection.

Watch our short video about the courses: https://youtu.be/ki8-S5HA950

Most courses are six weeks long. Each week features an evening webinar and follow-up readings, videos, and activities. Students and their instructors connect through online forums and live chat. If you aren’t able to attend the webinars in real-time, they are always recorded for later viewing.

From aspiring to experienced farmers, there is a course for nearly everyone. There’s a handy chart on the course homepage to direct you to the right courses for your experience level. Courses starting soon include Veggie Farming, Berry Production, Poultry Production and more! See all the course listings at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/online-courses/

Course Calendar

Week of Nov 6 – Dec 15

Week of Jan 15 – Feb 23

Week of Feb 26 – April 6

 

Agroforestry in Practice: a 3-day training for Service Providers

October 17, 18, and 19, 2017

Schuyler County Cooperative Extension, Montour Falls, NY

Agroforestry is the science and art of combining trees and forests with crop production. It is a topic of great interest to many landowners and farmers, and offers many promising enterprises including maple syrup, log mushroom cultivation, silvopasture (combining trees and livestock) and others.

This three-day course is designed for service providers including extension educators, farm non-profit organizations, public and private foresters, and consultants who routinely work with landowners and farmers to implement best practices.

See the agenda, and learn registration and lodging details at;

http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/agroforestry-in-practice/

 

Veterans in Agriculture Conference

Calling all veterans interested in farming and the service providers that support them. A Veterans in Agriculture Conference will be held in late fall in central New York. Don’t miss the chance to attend this one-day event featuring educational workshops, networking opportunities, and updates about resources that are available to veterans in New York State. Date and details will be announced by the publication of this paper on the website below.

For more information, or to register, visit the FarmOps website at: smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/farm-ops/

 

by Brian Moyer

Many times when we introduce our products to the marketplace, we don’t always think about how our potential customers will view the product. We may know how special our new product is, but how do we get that information to our customers? An example might be trying to sell freezer beef in the local “Penny-Pincher” paper. Most of that readership are looking for inexpensive purchases and might not respond well to the purchase price of a quarter or half of a beef. On the other side, if your goal is to be the lowest priced sweet corn producer, an up-scale farmers market might not be your best outlet. Those customers might view your product as lower quality simply because you are offering a lower price than your competitors. In both cases, neither is a good product, place match.

The Hartman Group, who specialize in researching and understanding how consumer attitudes and behaviors lead to purchases, have a presentation entitled “From Farm to Fork and Beyond; A Consumer Perspective”.

Here they asked consumers about their involvement in “sustainability”. The “core” are those who are very involved (recycle, purchase local food, conserve energy). The “periphery” reflects those who do not necessarily go out of their way to follow any kind of sustainable practices.

Notice the kind of language these groups use to reflect what they value or what is important to them when making purchases. Words such as “transparency”, “greater good”, and “authenticity” are the values of the “core” and “inner mid-core” groups. It’s very similar to the language of the local food movement, so if you believe your product would be beneficial to this group, then think about where they might make their purchases or get their information and center your marketing efforts and materials on their values and shopping habits.

“Price”, “convenience” and “comparability” are words that are used here by the “periphery” group and most closely resemble what we might see in box stores and grocery store. If your product’s benefits meet those customer needs, then you will need to capture this group where they get their information and where they shop.

Now, think about where you think your product falls in here and consider if promotional materials and language reflect the group of consumers you are trying to reach.

Let’s say you raise grass-fed beef. Maybe your customer base will lie within the “core” and “inner mid-level” group of consumers, who are interested in a sustainable lifestyle and would most likely purchase your beef products. We need to show how authentic our products are and that our values of farming reflect their values when making food purchases.

The customer wants a high quality eating experience from beef raised on beautiful pastures. The one thing you will notice that is missing from this ad is pictures of cows.  We as farmers are greatly interested in our animals, but the customer may not be.

Whether we share the same values as our customer isn’t as important as making sure our products do.

Brian F. Moyer is a Program Assistant with Penn State Extension in Lehigh County PA. He can be reached at 610-391-9840 or bfm3@psu.edu.

Maintaining and improving soil health and fertility in a high tunnel is difficult and demands an analytical approach.

by Andy Fellenz

My first introduction to high tunnels was in 1998 at an organic farming conference, when I was still a wannabe farmer and knew little about farming.  I eagerly absorbed the presenter’s message on high tunnel soil health and fertility management, which in summary was, “a little compost is good, more is better, it is probably impossible to have too much and soil tests won’t really tell you much.”  Fast forward to 2004, and I had two whole years of farming (well actually, closer to glorified gardening) experience and had erected my first high tunnel – a 26X96 Quonset. For the next few years I continued to add and sometimes subtract tunnels until in 2012, when I had six tunnels at the farm: three 30X96, two 26X96, one 20X48, and three small greenhouses to supply transplants for the high tunnels and field; I was also working to expand my selling and growing seasons to twelve months.

High Tunnel Tomatoes at Slack Hollow Farm, Argyle NY.

Soil testing established a baseline for where my soil was in terms of nutrients before the tunnels were constructed.  Soil pH was in the mid sixes; Calcium was high, greater than 3,000 lbs/acre; soil organic matter was relatively low, at approximately 2%; and other nutrients were within normal ranges.  Since a little compost was good and more was better, and because I wanted better soil for the intense growing I planned to do in my tunnels, I added a lot of dairy-based compost and fertilized with a poultry litter compost.  A subsequent soil test about two years later showed pH climbing close to 7, significantly more calcium, higher organic matter, and other nutrients ranging from optimum to high levels.  With the exception of calcium levels and soil pH, I thought I was on the right track and continued compost applications and the use of a composted poultry litter as a fertility amendment.  Two years and another soil test resulted in a soil pH level greater than 7, calcium even higher than before, and all of the nutrients in the high to very high range.  These results were definitely not good, especially the high pH which suggested that plants might be having a hard time taking up nutrients from the soil.

Across my six tunnels, I was happy that organic matter continued to increase, my soil pH’s were above 7, calcium was around 10,000 lbs/acre, and the other nutrients were almost all in the very high range. However, I was approaching a tipping point – a point where the soil chemistry was going to significantly limit crop quality and yields.  The “a little is good, more is better” approach – especially with compost, the Alfred E. Neuman, “what, me worry?” approach to soil testing, and a laissez-faire approach to nutrient management – turned out not to have been a good one.

It was time for a change and some education – what was I doing that was causing my soil chemistry to change so rapidly, and what would I need to do to get things back in balance?  Enter Jud Reid, and the Cornell Vegetable Program.  I had been a cooperator with Jud on a previous high tunnel project looking at natural pest control methods for extended season growing – trialing parasitoid wasps and other biocontrols in the tunnel to control pest insects – and had mentioned to him my concerns regarding soil health and fertility.  It turned out that my farm was not the only farm facing nutrient challenges; Extension, with support from the New York Farm Viability Institute, began regular soil and foliar testing at farms across the state to see what farms were experiencing.

High Tunnel Tomatoes and Cucumbers at Slack Hollow Farm, Argyle NY.

I was embarking upon a remediation effort, rather than just updating my fertility program.  It was also apparent that my previous management scheme had been woefully ineffective and that I needed to pay more attention to soil testing and the expected nutrient demand for the crops I was growing; I had to consider the impact of everything being added to the soil.  What I needed was to turn the ship around and get my soils back in balance.

What was also needed was the recognition that growing in a tunnel is significantly different than growing in the field, and that the tunnel is a much less forgiving environment than the field.  An early epiphany was realizing the impact that irrigation water had on my high tunnel soil.  The tunnels never saw rain, were rarely flooded (flooding only occurred when someone forgot to turn off the water or a timer failed), and if drip irrigation was being used, portions of the tunnel would be as dry as a desert for months. I irrigated with well water, which in my case was very difficult, and the minerals in the water (especially the calcium) were having a measurable impact on my soil.

So, what to do?  Three things were changed – since my irrigation water tended to increase the soil pH, I began to acidify the water and added sulfur directly to the soil to decrease its pH.  An injector, a 275-gallon stock tank, and several hundred pounds of citric acid each season enabled me to neutralize my irrigation water.  An annual springtime application of sulfur to the soil (when the soil biology is conducive to reacting with the sulfur) has helped to stabilize acidity, and hopefully will reduce the soil pH in the future.  I also replaced annual additions of compost with peat moss.  The peat moss is acidic, which helps to reduce soil pH and has stable organic matter, which improves my sandy loam soil’s water holding capacity and soil tilth.

Jud Reid, Fallkimmer Farm, Fallkimmer Farms, Eden NY.

For nutrients, I shifted from a composted poultry litter (which had significantly increased phosphorus levels in the soil and also had increased salts) to elemental amendments which emphasized nitrogen, the only primary nutrient which was in short supply.  Bloodmeal was used to provide immediately available N, and Feathermeal, which releases N through biochemical activity in the soil, was used as a slow-release N source.

Soil nutrient levels in my tunnel soils are stabilizing, but it will be a long road to return them to normal and healthier levels.   I’ve realized the value of annual soil tests and recognized that a high tunnel environment is very different from a field and needs to be managed much more precisely. The next frontier is making effective use of foliar testing to allow for in-season tweaks, especially for the times when the crop’s nutrient requirements can exceed the soil’s capacity to deliver those nutrients.

My farm’s high tunnel experience has unfortunately been duplicated on many farms across the state.  Sometimes the only possible correction is to move the tunnel and take the affected area out of production for a few years. Other times, it may be possible to correct the soil’s nutrient profile.  In work supported by the New York Farm Viability Institute, Cornell Cooperative Extension and NOFA-NY are working together to identify real-world best management practices that will enable farms to maintain soil health and fertility in their high tunnels over the long haul.  A large data set from soil and foliar testing at 15-20 farms/year for the last five years, along with production histories in the tunnels, will support development of farm-focused best management practices.  As the NOFA-NY leads on this initiative, I am excited to be working with Jud Reid, Cordelia Machanoff, Amy Ivy, and Teresa Rusinek from Cooperative Extension on this initiative, and really appreciate all of our cooperating farmers.

Andy is a 2nd career farmer who recently embarked on a 3rd career with NOFA-NY as their Organic Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator.  Andy has grown in high tunnels since 2004 and has been a cooperator on many Extension high tunnel research projects.  He is particularly interested in identifying organic practices which facilitate profitable long term high tunnel soil health and fertility.  He can be reached at andy@nofany.org, or andy@fellenzfamilyfarm.com.

 

For more information on high tunnel soil health and fertility management contact Andy Fellenz, andy@nofany.org or Judson Reid, Cornell Vegetable Program, jer11@cornell.edu.

Registration has been opened for the 2017-2018 season of Small Farm Online Courses, helping to build the technical and business skills of farmers. Expert farmers and extension educators guide students through the latest research-based information to help improve efficiency and increase profit on small farms. Students connect with other farmers, work on farm plans, and gain practical tips without leaving their home. Course content can be accessed anywhere with a high-speed internet connection.

Most courses are six weeks long. Each week features an evening webinar and follow-up readings, videos, and activities. Students and their instructors connect through online forums and live chat. If you aren’t able to attend the webinars in real-time, they are always recorded for later viewing.

From aspiring to experienced farmers, there is a course for nearly everyone. Visit the Online Courses page for more information.

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