agribusiness

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 4:31 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, Business, Warsaw, agriculture, agribusiness.

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Her excitement about her newest venture was evident in her voice and the light in her eyes.

“On Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 7) we are going to have a 'sha-bang',” said Burley Berries and Blooms owner Megan Burley. “We are going to have pumpkins, flowers, kid activities, apple dumplings, and we hope to sell East Hill (Creamery) cheeses as well and hope to have melted cheese on potatoes.”

Late last month, Burley officially opened the “Blooms” portion of her business at 6335 Route 20A, Warsaw, with a ribbon cutting and plans on expanding both berry and flower varieties next season.

“Growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania I learned so much…and it's a good way to raise children. And it gave me the people interaction. So it's helped in this venture.”

Burley moved to Wyoming County five years ago following her marriage to Ryan Burley. Four years ago they planted strawberries. This summer she expanded her U-pick offerings to include U-pick flowers.

Although this is Burley’s first year experimenting with the flowers, this season was the third for her berry patches.

“I added the flowers because I love flowers and the garden in front was filled with flowers. I liked them growing up, so I decided to do my own. I didn’t want to go into debt to build the business so I am starting out small.”

However, Burley didn’t start out with an entrepreneurial career plan, after graduating from Penn State with a degree in Agricultural Science, she planned on doing crop consulting. Instead, she married Ryan and moved to New York.

“We met on Farmersonly.com and I presented the idea of my own business pretty early on in the relationship. I also work for Cornell Cooperative Extension and work with beginning farmers, so it’s helped me in what I’m doing as well.”

Although Megan grew up on a farm, she didn’t know much about cows until she met Ryan. Ryan continues to work his family farm – East Hill Farms – in Warsaw. Her family’s farm was focused on vegetable crops.

“Even in high school I grew strawberries. When we first moved here we put in a half acre of strawberries and added a half acre every year since. We are almost up to two acres of strawberries.”

Although planting the berry can begin as early as March, the picking season has a much shorter window – three to four weeks – and it takes two years for the plants to produce fruit. In order to extend the picking season as long as possible, Burley planted a variety of strawberry called Malwina. She hopes this will give her an extra two weeks of picking season.

“We’ve planted 15 varieties and next year we will have eight pickable varieties. We have Early Glow, which are the first strawberries of the season and are very sweet, and Jewel and Honeoye…they are all sweet varieties.”

To make the best use of the land, Burley plans on rotating the crops every few years. She intends on keeping a planting of strawberries for three to four years. By that fourth year, the yield is less. Subsequently, the patch of land Burley used for her initial crop of strawberries will now become a blueberry patch, she says.

In addition to her part-time employment with CCE and Berries and Blooms, Megan and Ryan have two toddlers – Judson, 2 years old, and Leena, 1.

“They are 11 months apart so it was a big surprise when we knew we were having them so close together… Strawberry season is more overwhelming than the flowers…there is more effort with the strawberries.”

However, she said she couldn’t do it without the help of her husband and augmenting child care with daycare.

“Half if not more of the people who come here are moms and they bring their kids. I’m a mom so I understand the juggling act, so I encourage them to bring the kids. I’m more in this for the people than growing the crop. However, I do hope to make this a full-time venture.”

In addition to the Warsaw location, goods from Burley Berries and Blooms can be found at the Geneseo Farmers Market from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 19, and in a possible new craft beer from the Silver Lake Brewing Project.

“They bought strawberries, blueberries and currants. The idea is to give the ale an aroma.”

Burley Berries is still offering U-pick flowers this year and are sold on a self-serve, U-pick basis. Flowers can also be bought at bulk pricing for weddings or events.

For more information about Burley Berries and Blooms call (585) 687-7050 or click here.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 3:14 pm
posted by Billie Owens in North Java, Wyoming County, agribusiness, farming, Business.

Press release:

NORTH JAVA NY -- U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major effort to protect funding for the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC), which administers critical farm safety programs for Western New York and farm workers throughout Upstate New York.

One example of this important work is the National Rollover Protection System (ROPS) Rebate Program. NEC’s research led to this life-saving rebate program which provides critical information to farmers on how to find and install the right rollover bar for their machinery and provides rebates to farmers to cover approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS roll bar retrofit kit on their tractor.

Schumer pointed to data that says farm related deaths are 800-percent higher than many other industries, and that tractor over-turns are the most frequent cause of deaths on farms, at a rate of 96 cases per year. For this reason, Schumer vowed to fight and tooth and nail to reverse this proposed funding cut that delivers continued research and administration of life-saving programs like these.

“Keeping family farmers and farm workers who operate dangerous machinery safe should be a priority for us all. That is why I am urging my colleagues in Congress to reverse these harmful proposed cuts and restore funding for critical farm safety programs and research,” Senator Schumer said. “The work done by organizations like the NEC is exactly the type of work the federal government should be investing in: it’s cost-effective, informed by real industry experts, and helps save farmers’ lives every day.

"By slashing funding to this life-saving organization, we jeopardize successful programs that are providing critical resources to farmers, like a 1-800 safety hot-line number and on the ground experts in rural communities, so farmers can access the ROPS Rebate Program, which helps farmers correctly install rollover bars on their tractors just in case the tractor flips over. We need to do everything possible to make sure we are investing in developing new safety solutions for our farmers and growers and I will be doing everything possible to make sure this program which puts farmers first is protected.”

Schumer explained that the administration’s proposed 2018 budget would severely cut funding for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that conducts research, by more than 40 percent. This cut is significant because the funding that is threatened supports research in regional and community-based programs for farm safety, such as the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC).

The NEC, which is an affiliate of Bassett Health, serves a 12-state region and is headquartered in Cooperstown, NY. From Maine through West Virginia, NEC promotes health and safety research, education, and prevention activities in the high-risk areas of farming, commercial fishing and logging. With fatality rates in the agricultural industry up to 800 percent higher than many other industries, Schumer said the work NEC does is critical to the safety of Upstate New York’s farmers and farm workers and the loss of this crucial funding would hurt NEC’s ability to research innovative ways to protect farmers now and in the future.

An example of the importance of NEC’s work is the development and expansion of the National Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) Rebate Program. Tractor rollovers are the No. 1 cause of farm related injury and death, resulting in an average of 96 deaths year. In fatal instances, the cost of an overturn could reach nearly $1 million and nearly seven out of 10 farms go out of business within five years of an accident.

There have been four rollover accidents in Wyoming County reported since 1997, including two fatalities. In 2014 a farmer in the Town of Gainsville in Wyoming County was killed after his tractor overturned on a hill where he was operating in a field off of Route 19A. In 2004 a farm worker was killed when the farm tractor he was operating to move calf hutches overturned and pinned him between the tractor and a large storage trailer. Additionally, last month in August a man was fatally injured in nearby East Aurora when a tractor he was riding in rolled over him while he was dragging a stump.

In response to this hazardous environment, the NEC launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor. In most cases this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200.

NEC also provides information to farmers on how to find and install the right rollover bar. Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone. The program has also been extremely popular in the nine-county Finger Lakes Region with over 200 farmers that have retrofitted, including 24 so far in Wyoming County.

Additionally, feedback from users has been extremely positive, with participants in New York reporting 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury were likely without protective structures.

Standing at Lamb & Webster, a Wyoming County-based farm equipment dealer in North Java, Schumer also underscored that the NEC relies on this federal funding to administer the National ROPS tractor rollover bar rebate program which supports local jobs. Lamb & Webster is one of many local businesses that work with NEC to install and retrofit tractors with the rollbar ROPS kit for farmers.

Schumer said in this way the ROPS program funding is a win-win-win: it helps farmers upgrade their tractors, it saves lives, and it supports local jobs at farm equipment suppliers like Lamb & Webster.

Schumer said that what makes this program so effective is that it is supported by the National Tractor Safety Council, an organization with representation from nearly 60 multi-sector industry and advocacy groups. Schumer added that by slashing funding for the NEC, we are not only putting this life-saving program at risk, but future development of new safety solutions will also be at risk.

The senator vowed to fight to reverse proposed NIOSH-CDC budget cuts so that the NEC can continue its valuable work with the ROPS Rebate Program and other initiatives that enhance the health and safety of agriculture, forestry and fishing workers in New York and across the country.

The NEC has been identified by the federal government as one of ten agricultural centers across the country. They partner with government agencies, hospitals, manufacturers, family farms, and industry professionals to identify and prioritize occupational injury and fatality patterns, conduct research on how best to address these hazards, and work to make safety practices more cost-effective and accessible to thousands of agriculture, forestry, and fishing workers throughout the Northeast. According to NEC, half of their staff was raised or currently lives on farms and they remain deeply rooted in the farm community.

Schumer was joined by New York State Farm Bureau District 2 Director Patrick McCormick, NYS Farm Bureau Field Advisor Amanda Krenning-Muoio, Local farmers Jeff Meeder and Sarah Noble-Moag who both used to the ROPS program to retrofit tractors for their farms, Vice President & CFO of Lamb & Webster Inc. Earl LeGrou, and Patrick O'Hara, clinical case manager at The Northeast Center For Agricultural Medicine & Health

O'Hara said: “Although the elimination of this program would obviously negatively impact the health and safety of farmers and their workers, it’s a particularly frustrating decision, given the increasing pressure farmers are under to eliminate hazards from a naturally hazardous industry. Our NIOSH funded program offers farmers expertise on farm training and safety assistance programs like the ROPS program all of which make safety changes easier and cost-effective for farmers. Eliminating programs like ours would leave only one solution for reducing occupational fatalities and injuries, OSHA and regulation.”

McCormick said: “This federal NIOSH funding is vital to continue the work of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, through the assistance of Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NEC) to provide training, farm safety research, and cost-sharing programs like the ROPS tractor rollbar rebate program. These efforts are vital to promote farm safety and safeguard our farm workers and farm families.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Press release:

Adam Marquart has recently been named to the newly created New York State Young Farmer Advisory Board on Agriculture.

Recommended by Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma), Marquart is to serve on the 20-member board comprised of representatives of the agriculture industry from across the state.

“I always wanted to be a part of agriculture and have been blessed to be able to do so,” Marquart said. “I look forward to working together on a committee that encourages local agriculture sustainability and ensures New York State continues to be a place for agriculture and family farms to thrive.”

The board will identify issues relating to young and beginning farmers. Additionally, it will provide advice to the commissioner, the governor and relevant state agencies regarding the promotion of agriculture as a career path and the economic development of young and aspiring farmers.

Marquart has a degree in Logistics and Business Management from Niagara University and is Operations Manager for his family’s farm, Marquart Brothers LLC in Gainesville. The vegetable and dairy farm produces potatoes, green beans, corn, wheat and hay. The farm has also introduced a line of potato chips called New York Chips, made with 100-percent New York potatoes.

"I am confident that Adam and other members of the Young Farmer Advisory Board will provide valuable guidance to help ensure New York’s vital agriculture industry continues to grow and succeed,” Gallivan said. “The best way for the state to support our farmers is to hear directly from those who provide the food and farm products we depend on.”

The Board was established by legislation cosponsored by Gallivan and approved by the Legislature and the governor earlier this year. Its members include people of the agriculture community appointed by the governor, the Senate and the Assembly. Members serve without salary and will meet quarterly. The board must also issue an annual report identifying and prioritizing policy issues, which affect young and aspiring farmers.      

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will provide support services to the Young Farmer Advisory Board.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, agriculture, agribusiness, Castile.

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Southview Farm on Upper Reservation Road, Castile, was the site for the seventh annual Agri-Palooza held Sunday. 

This one-day event highlights one of the county’s greatest resources – agriculture. Patrons were able to visit a working farm and find out what it’s really like to work in one of the county’s biggest industries.

While the seed of the farm was first planted in the 1800s, the roots firmly took hold in Wyoming County in the 1940s when Jim VanArsdale bought the farm.

Six years after Jim started the farm in 1949, he partnered with Dick Popp. Although Popp died in the 1990s, his legacy lives on at the farm. He was instrumental in bringing new agricultural technology to Wyoming County, says Tanya Nickerson, education specialist with the county’s 4-H program. 

One of the biggest changes on the farm is the technology, says Jim’s son, Jamie, current owner of Southview.

“Things change so fast, you just have to keep up with it,” Jamie said.

One of the greatest advances is the use of GPS planting. The farm uses a GPS-driven tractor that puts the holes in the earth for seed corn, following the pattern laid out by the tractor another follows to actually plant the seed. The idea behind GPS planting is soil conservation. Less tilling of the land not only helps keep the nutrients in the soil, but also keeps the soil in place. Additionally, the less the land is driven over by farm equipment keeps the soil loose and less compact which allows for better crop growth.

“We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planting,” Jamie said. “Less disturbance keeps the soil soft and pliable so the roots grow better.”

One of the goals of Agri-Palooza is to dispel the myth that farms are a corporate entity – focused only on the bottom line. The event showcases the partnership, so to speak, farmers have with not only the land, but also the health and well-being of the animals in its charge. It also highlights the families that work to keep agriculture alive in Wyoming County.

In addition to better soil conservation, the farm employs nutritionist Pat Brennan to help maintain a proper balance of nutrients to the bovines.

“Every visit has me checking the computer for records of milk production, reproduction and herd health,” Brennan said. “Then I take a look at the animals and look how they walk, chew, their body condition and manure. Then based on that information, I put together a recipe based on the need of the cows.”

A cow eats approximately 120 pounds of feed a day, produces about 90 pounds of milk (10 gallons) a day, and drinks about 30 to 40 gallons of water per day.

To better use and manage the feed the farm grows or feeds the animals, it uses a bunker-style silo instead of the traditional upright silo. The bunker silo allows for better mixing of the feed as well as nutritional consistency. The silage is layered, then compacted, to get the air out of the feed which helps with fermentation -- key for cow palatability.

“It takes all of that to keep the cows healthy and producing milk,” Brennan said.

In addition to good nutrition, a well-ventilated barn is essential in keeping the cows comfortable during warm or muggy weather. To help minimize disease, especially lung disease in the young animals, white tubbing has been added to the newborn calf barn. The tubbing sucks outside air into the barn and fans it over the calves to keep fresh air circulating, which is better for the calves. The other barns not only have fans to circulate the air, they are also equipped with water misters to keep the cows cool and comfortable. 

“We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planing,” Jamie said. “We use the same line to till, fertilize and plant so it doesn’t disturb the ground as much when planing,” Jamie said. 

Other conservation or repurposing efforts Southview Farms employ include:

    • Solar panels on barns, which warms rainwater or snowmelt to be used for cleaning and in the milk parlor;

    • A scale, which weighs harvested food and feed. This helps keep track of how well a field is producing or how much feed they have on hand; and 

    • Five manure lagoons. The lagoons store the manure until a time where it would be beneficial to spread on the fields, thus reducing runoff into groundwater. It also minimizes the use of fertilizers, which in turn saves the farmer money.

The farm also uses manure for bedding by squeezing out the water, which rids the manure of bacteria, then the remaining material is stored for future use.

Additionally, while the farm traditionally breeds Holstein cows – they are the best milk producers – the farm is beginning to breed Jersey cows. Though the animals aren’t big milk producers, they do produce milk with a higher fat content. Recent research has shown that people are consuming more dairy products with a higher fat content – butter, ice cream and cheese. To fill the demand, Southview Farms is making the transition to the Jersey breed, a more compact bovine.

Southview Farms has 47 employees and milks three times a day at two locations. The herd included more than 2,000 cows and 1,600 young stock. Additionally, more than 3,100 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat are harvested annually.

Agri-Palooza is made possible by the partnership of the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism Department and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau.

For more information about agriculture in Wyoming County visit http://wyoming.cce.cornell.edu

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Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12:06 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, agriculture, agribusiness, Business, Castile.

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The seventh annual Agri-Palooza 2017 will be held at Southview Farms, 5073 Upper Reservation Road, Castile. It is sponsored by Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau and highlights agriculture in Wyoming County. The public is invited to discover, experience, and enjoy farming and all that it entails by spending the day on a working farm. 

The free event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. June 4.

Agri-Palooza features educational displays, farm tours, and children’s games and activities. Attendees will also see the variety of Wyoming County products on both display and for purchase. 

For more information visit GoWyoming.com.

Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Castile, agriculture, agribusiness.
Event Date and Time: 
June 4, 2017 - 12:00pm to 4:00pm

The seventh annual Agri-Palooza 2017 will be held at Southview Farms, 5073 Upper Reservation Road, Castile. It is sponsored by Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau and highlights agriculture in Wyoming County. The public is invited to discover, experience, and enjoy farming and all that it entails by spending the day on a working farm. 

The free event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 11:45 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, dairy, agriculture, agribusiness.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) recently led a bipartisan letter sent to President Donald Trump applauding his acknowledgements of Canada's protectionist trade policies related to dairy products and advocating for swift action to ensure Canada upholds its trade agreements.

"President Trump campaigned on putting America first, and protecting American jobs," Collins said. “The letter highlights how vital the U.S. dairy industry is to Western New York and dairy producing regions across the country. The U.S. dairy industry supports billions of dollars in exports and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

"Unfortunately, due to unfair competitive practices by Canada, we must take action to ensure our dairy products will be able to compete on a level playing field. I am glad President Trump has recognized how important this issue is to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans, and I will continue working with my colleagues to protect the U.S. dairy industry."

The letter, which 68 lawmakers signed, was also co-led by congressmen Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Ron Kind (WI-03), Sean Duffy (WI-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

The letter details Canadian trade practices that "may violate Canada's existing trade commitments to the United States by effectively discouraging U.S. dairy exports to Canada." It also reinforces that "our districts and states rely on the jobs the dairy industry provides and cannot afford further protectionist policies from our northern neighbor."

The letter to the president states in part:

The U.S. dairy sector relies on its exports to survive. In 2016, the industry exported approximately 15 percent of its milk production, worth roughly $5 billion. To our NAFTA partners alone, the United States exported $1.2 billion of dairy products to Mexico and $631 million to Canada. To that end, U.S. exports helped the dairy sector maintain roughly 110,000 U.S. jobs in farming and manufacturing.

Unfortunately, Canada's recent revisions to its milk classification system have prompted serious concerns. Canadians traditionally used five classes to price its products, ranging from fluid milks and creams to milk used for further processing. In April 2016, the Canadian province of Ontario began implementing a new milk price class, Class 6, which has dramatically altered dairy imports and skewed the market…

To read the full text of the letter click here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, agriculture, agribusiness, Business.

Press release:

The newly adopted state budget includes important financial support for New York’s agriculture industry. The Senate succeeded in restoring nearly $10 million in funding, for a total of $51 million toward agriculture.

"In the 59th Senate District and across the state, agriculture plays a vital role in New York’s economy,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “Once again this year, we are investing in our future by promoting the growth and success of our farmers, especially those just starting out. These programs not only support hardworking farm families, they ensure that agriculture will remain New York’s leading industry.”    

The state budget provides for almost $10 million in restorations and adds to agriculture programs as follows:

    • $1.5 million, for a total of $1.9 million, for the Farm Viability Institute
    • $1 million, for a total of $9.3 million, for Agribusiness Child Development
    • $1 million, for a total of $5.4 million, for the Cornell Diagnostic Lab
    • $544,000, for a total of $750,000, for the Apple Growers Association
    • $560,000, for a total of $610,000, for Cornell Rabies
    • $516,000, for a total of $1.2 million for FarmNet, Farm Family Assistance
    • $378,000, for a total of $l.2 million, for Pro-Dairy
    • $307,000, for a total of $l.5 million, for the Wine and Grape Foundation
    • $300,000, for a total of $842,000, for Future Farmers of America
    • $160,000, for a total of $160,000, for Local Fair Assistance
    • $500,000 for the Apple Research and Development Board
    • $600,000 for the Northern NY Agriculture Development Program
    • $260,000 for Cornell Berry Research
    • $250,000 for Tractor Rollover Prevention Program
    • $215,000 for Maple Producers Association
    • $200,000 for a “Seeds of Success” award to promote school gardens
    • $150,000 for Turfgrass Association
    • $125,000 for Christmas Tree Growers
    • $125,000 for Cornell Maple Research
    • $115,000 for Cornell Veterans to Farms
    • $100,000 for Cornell Vegetable Research
    • $50,000 for “Farm to Table Trail” development
    • $75,000 for Corn and Soybean Growers Association
    • $50,000 for Honeybee Research at Cornell
    • $50,000 for Cornell Onion Research
    • $100,000 for Wood Products Council
    • $25,000 for Low-Cost Vaccine Program
    • $20,000 for Island Harvest
    • $10,000 for NYS Brewers Association
    • $10,000 for NYS Cider Association
    • $10,000 for NYS Distillers Guild
    • $10,000 for Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association
    • $10,000 for Cornell Sheep Farming

The Senate succeeded in including Farm-to-Food-Bank in the final budget after last year's legislation was vetoed. More fresh, New York-grown produce will be available to help feed the hungry by allowing farmers to claim a tax credit for produce and other farm product donations to food banks or other emergency food programs.

The budget also includes $5 million in capital funding for local fairs across the state.

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Press release:

The Senate passed a comprehensive package of bills that would strengthen and preserve agriculture as New York’s leading industry March 22. The bipartisan measures help support farm workforce retention and expansion; create new tax credits for preserving farmland, transitioning to organic certification, and offering healthy options in communities; promote the use of local produce in schools; and help prepare new farmers for successful careers, among other initiatives.

"Agriculture is one the most important industries in New York and we need to do all we can to ensure its growth and success, especially for young farmers and those just starting out,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “These initiatives will support hardworking farmers, their families and others who rely on a strong and vibrant agriculture industry.” 

The measures build upon the Senate’s ongoing commitment to agriculture, including its role as the undisputed leader in restoring more than $55 million in proposed state funding cuts since 2011. This funding has helped support investments in cutting-edge agricultural research, education for the next generation of family farmers, environmental stewardship, and protections for plant, animal and public health. 

The bill package would help further support the growth of agriculture in New York and create jobs by:
    • S2905, doubling the existing Farm Workforce Retention Credit: cosponsored by Gallivan, would help farmers meet consumer demands with a strong and steady workforce. The bill increases the credit to $500 per eligible employee this year, and $1,200 per employee when fully effective, saving farmers an estimated $60 million when fully implemented.
    • S1430, helping schools purchase local produce: would allow school districts offering bids for food services to include language that favors local or regional farm producers. This expands the market for local produce, encourages larger distributors to invest in smaller farms, and could help co-ops or farms without the resources to independently participate in a bidding process access local school procurement programs.
    • S4021, establishing a Young Farmer Advisory Board: cosponsored by Gallivan, establishes a young farmer agriculture advisory board designed to advise and make recommendations on policies and programs affecting agriculture. Young and beginning farmers play a fundamental role in preventing the threat posed by the gradual aging of famers and in the future success and growth of New York farms.
     • S4660, creating a Future Agriculture Readiness Marketing camp (F.A.R.M.): helps those new to the agriculture industry gain the valuable knowledge and tools needed to promote their businesses. Offered once yearly to a select group of successful farmer applicants, this camp will expose selectees to several of the best agriculture programs in the state. Each participant will have access to all that SUNY has to offer, allowing them to develop their business and themselves. An exclusive group of graduates from the program will also be granted additional aid in the form of grant funds to help them make their marketing plan a reality.
    • S4900, increasing new farmers’ access to land: directs the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers. The agency would work with the Office of General Services to develop an inventory of state-owned real property that may be viable for farming. This would help younger farmers overcome frequent barriers that prevent them from gaining access to land and contribute to the aging of the farming population, such as the complex process of transferring ownership of farms and prohibitive capital costs.
    • S2479, conserving productive land: would create a statewide blueprint for conserving productive land and maintaining the vitality of agricultural production in New York State. The measure would require the state to propose programs that encourage the growth of emerging trends and practices that might benefit small- to mid-sized farms.
    • S3835, creating a farm savings account: establishes a tax-deferred savings account that will allow farmers to self-insure part of their risk to counteract strong cyclical downturns in the farm economy. Some of the methods used by farmers to help offset losses due to weather or other market forces include delaying the purchase of equipment and the repayment of loans. A farm savings account will offer farmers another management tool to help offset their costs.
    • S4721, providing tax credits for organic farm transitions: creates a tax credit to increase the profit margin for certain agricultural products that meet any one of several industry standards for crop quality during the three-year transitional period to USDA Organic Certification. This will reduce the uncertainty farmers face when attempting to achieve USDA Organic Certification by providing them with an expanded market for their products and greater financial security during the transition period.
    • S562, offering tax exemptions for organic farm transitions: creates a real property tax exemption for the lands of a farm operation that are transitioning to organic. In 2011, New York ranked third in the nation in the total amount of organic farms with 597, with the state’s certified organic farms selling a total of $107 million produced commodities. This credit would foster the growth of these farms and is similar to an existing tax exemption for the replanting of vineyards and orchards.
    • S4265, lifting size restrictions on wine ice cream: would lift the current minimum packaging requirements (at least one pint) for the sale of wine ice cream to meet consumer demand for smaller containers of wine ice cream for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours and other events.
    • S943, creating the Healthy Options and Community Outreach program: would create the program to increase public awareness and address the issue of “food deserts.” It would create a new tax credit for small grocery and convenience stores that commit to selling healthy food and drinks at their shops. Up to 100 percent of an improvement project’s cost could become eligible for a credit if the owner expands, purchases coolers or shelving for the purposes of selling healthier food options.
    • S4535, preserving farmland: encourages farmers – particularly those located in areas of the state with greater development pressure – to participate in farmland preservation efforts and remain stewards of their land for future generations. It would change the maximum acreage for agricultural assessment of farm woodlands from 50 to 100 acres.
    • S368, helping timber harvesters: authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to execute contracts for timber or other forest products valued at under $50,000 without approval from the state comptroller. Currently, any contract to harvest more than $10,000 of timber on non-protected state lands must be approved by DEC and the State Comptroller's Office, which can be time consuming and jeopardize timber-harvesting timeframes.
    • S1078, promoting farm cideries: would expand products sold by farm cideries and authorizing such farms to sell cider to other licensees for resale.
    • S1240, reducing transportation costs: allows the New York State Thruway Authority to provide a discounted toll rate of half the normal toll to farmers transporting agricultural products. This measure would give farmers some relief from high transportation costs for shipping goods to markets throughout the state.
    • S1333, awarding Excellence in Agriculture: provides a mechanism for the state to develop an agriculture and food awards program. It would be provided to farmers, manufacturers and processors that produce exceptional products using locally sourced ingredients, and the businesses that make a special effort to market and promote them. These awards could also be presented to restaurants, food retailers, and schools and colleges that feature and promote New York farm foods.

The bills acted upon on National Agriculture Day were among the latest efforts by the Senate to focus on growing New York agriculture from the ground up. Recently, the Senate passed a budget resolution that included extensive measures that invest in the state’s farm workforce, support the next generation of farmers, and help farmers connect to new markets, among other initiatives to support farming’s growth. 

Initiatives included:

    • $12 million in restored funding for important agricultural programs cut by the 2017-2018 Executive Budget;
    • $60 million in tax relief for farmers by doubling the existing Farm Workforce Retention Credit, as outlined above in S2905;
    • $10 million to help make additional investments in county fair facilities so that New Yorkers can continue to learn about agriculture and farms in their area.
    • Support for $3 million for drought relief in parts of Central and Western New York when lack of rain in 2016 caused severe crop losses;
    • $1.8 million to expand access for 120,000 seniors to get free, fresh produce at area farmers' markets;
    • An additional $200,000 for Farm-to-Schools, for a total of nearly $1 million;
    • Expand Future Farmers of America (FFA) by supporting and building upon the $542,000 in the Executive Budget;
    • $500,000 to help farmers with questions about employment laws and regulations by providing access to Cornell-based specialists;
    • $450,000 to help farmers expand to new markets, especially those needing assistance to achieve organic certification;
    • $250,000 for the Future Agriculture Readiness Marketing (FARM) Camps, also outlined above in S4660;
    • $200,000 for a "Seeds of Success" award to promote and recognize school gardens and gardening programs across the state;
    • $100,000 for "Farm to Table Trail" development that directs consumers to local food and beverage options; and
    • An expansion of Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) agriculture programs to create opportunities for high school students to achieve credits toward college study in Agriculture.

Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Eagle, maple weekend, agribusiness, Business.

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More than 20 years ago, 14 members of the Wyoming County Maple Association wanted a better way to market their maple products in a fun-filled way, hence the creation of Maple Sunday. When county maple producers realized there was a real disconnect between the producers and the consumers, the one-day event became a way to showcase one of Wyoming County’s largest agricultural commodities.

“We didn’t really have any idea what was going to happen,” said Gary Bray, owner of Bray Farms, Bray Road, Eagle, “but we wanted to give it a try.”

Now called Maple Weekend, the festivities comprise back-to-back weekends at the end of March. 

“We started out as one day, then two, and now…,” Bray said. “When we had people calling us asking if they can come to the farm another time, not only couldn’t we turn them down, we realized there was a real interest and had to add days.” 

According to Bray, New York State is number two in maple production – behind Canada, but ahead of Vermont. Additionally, maple syrup is only produced from Southeastern Canada, to the mountains of Virginia, west to Kansas, and north to Michigan and Wisconsin. Producers also tap in Ohio and Indiana.

“We are in the middle of maple country in the whole world. While you can tap red maples, the sugar density is different, thus not as flavorful.”

The flavor of maple syrup is derived from the soil where the tree grows, therefore, syrup from New York will have a different flavor than syrups from other areas. Yet syrup isn’t the only product sap is used for, it can also be processed into sugar, cream, candy, barbecue sauces, and other value-added products.

“Back in my grandparents' day, they would make blocks of maple sugar and take it to the market to trade. They would barter the maple sugar for groceries. The grocers would then turn around and sell the sugar to other consumers. During the war (World War II) sugar was in short supply, maple sugar was a way to sweeten things up. It can also be used in place of dry sugar in recipes, as can maple syrup; there is a conversion chart for that purpose.”

Not only has Bray opened his doors to residents of Western New York, other visitors to his farm hailed from Italy, France, Spain, Japan and England. 

“In other countries, maple syrup is a total luxury.”

The only thing in pure maple syrup is, well, syrup. For a Wyoming County producer to have their product labeled as pure New York State maple syrup, it must be accurately graded according to its color.

Part of the weekend also serves to educate the public on the nutritional value of syrup. Bray says, pure maple syrup has nutrients the body needs. 

Producers make the golden sweet liquid by concentrating the sap from the maple tree, which then produces a usable product. All the minerals and sugars in the sap are concentrated to 67-68 percent on the Brix scale (named after Adolf F. Brix (1798-1870)). The hydrometer scale is used for measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature.

“Making syrup is entirely dependent on nature…the type of soil, the weather, the atmosphere. Even the barometric pressure affects the producer and when and if they can boil. The process of making syrup is to boil off the water, the more moisture in the air, the harder it will be to boil. Syrup boils at 7 degrees over the boiling point of water; depending on the day and barometric pressure, the boiling point can differ, even within the same county.

“The more educated we become, it actually becomes more complicated. However, new technology allows us to better come to our final product.”

In the 21 years Bray has been a part of Maple Weekend he has not only seen changes in how maple is produced – from buckets to vacuum lines, and from woodstove processing to using reverse osmosis – he has also seen the market for maple products grow.

“We want people to come and ask us questions and learn what syrup is, how it’s made and how it can be used. It’s more than just pancake syrup. Maple is versatile…and it’s good for you.”

Maple Weekend continues March 25 and 26. For more information click here.

See related: Maple Weekend kicks off Saturday

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Friday, March 17, 2017 at 8:11 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Business, agribusiness.

Press release:

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them. The census is expected to be mailed at the end of this year.

“The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “As such, census results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.”

The census highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census revealed that more than three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a 4-percent decrease in the number of farms in the United States from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.

“Today, when data is so important, there is strength in numbers,” Hamer said. “For farmers and ranchers, participation in the 2017 Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity to shape American agriculture – its policies, services, and assistance programs – for years to come.”

Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the "Make Sure You Are Counted" button through June. 

NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data is used, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 5:42 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, maple weekend, agribusiness, Business.

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File photos

The 22nd Annual New York Maple Weekend celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 18,19, 25 and 26, at participating maple sugarhouses throughout Wyoming County. The Maple industry in the county is large and thriving, and even after this mild winter there is maple syrup in production.

Bring your whole family for an educational and fun experience. Learn how pure maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Tapping demonstrations, sap house tours, sugar-bush tours, and wagon rides- see, taste, and smell the maple-making process.  

Participating businesses include:

    • Merle Maple Farm, 1884 Route 98, Attica;

    • Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, 2887 Royce Road, Varysburg;

    • Beaver Meadow Audubon, 1610 Welch Road, North Java;

    • Maple Moon Farms, 1058 Attica Gulf Road, Attica;

    • Sage Family Maple, 4449 Sage Road, Warsaw;

    • Sweet Time Maple, 5680 Webster Road, Wyoming;

    • Wolcott Maple Syrup Products & Equipment, 1247 Dale Road, Dale (Wyoming);

    • Bray Farms, 1597 Bray Road, Arcade;

    • Georges Maple Products, 1766 Route 77, Strykersville;

    • Kibler Maple Products, 1802 Perry Road, North Java;

    • Kirsch’s Maple, Route 77, Varysburg;

    • Mohler Maple Products, 1627 Route 19, Wyoming; 

    • Over the Hill Maple, 2089 Maxon Road, Varysburg;

    • Siler’s Sugar Shanty, 2401 Pee Dee Road, North Java; and

    • Sudzy’s Purely Maple, 1076 Maxon Road, Attica.

For a complete list of activities, pancake breakfasts, and other happenings on Maple Weekend click here.

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Monday, March 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm

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From left: Lindsay Chamberlain, of Wyoming, representing Collegiate Cornell Farm Bureau; Ben Restivo, Future Farmers of America member, and Brian Parker, representing Wyoming County Farm Bureau, with Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

Press release (photo submitted):

Members from the Wyoming County Farm Bureau spent two days in Albany last week, meeting with lawmakers to highlight the organization’s state public policy priorities for the year.

The county Farm Bureau hosted a table at the Taste of New York Reception for state lawmakers, commissioners, and staff, which featured local farm products. Members also participated in the annual Lobby Day on Tuesday where they met with both their local senator and assemblyman as well as New York City lawmakers that the county Farm Bureau adopted.

At State Capitol, county members advocated for a number of priorities this year, including securing a refundable investment tax credit for farmers. With 2015 farm income down nearly 20 percent to $5.3 billion across the state, according to the latest figures from the National Agriculture Statistics Service, tools need to be in place to help farmers weather the downturn. This initiative would incentivize farm investment to meet the needs of global competition.

Additionally, advocates pushed to double the minimum wage tax credit from $30 million to $60 million. The first step of the minimum wage hike climbed at the beginning of the year on its way to $15 an hour for farms on Long Island and $12.50 for Upstate farmers. New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) led the way in opposition to the hike last year, resulting in a $250 tax credit per employee for this first year of the increase. That will cover only a small fraction of what it will cost family farms to implement the wage hike.

State funding for critical farm programs is another top priority for Farm Bureau. Governor Andrew Cuomo included a number of things in his budget plan which would help agriculture in the state. This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPA), which will assist farms with water quality, conservation and farmland protection programs, as well as necessary investments into animal health programs. 

Farm Bureau asked lawmakers to restore funding for promotion and research programs that also benefit agriculture. NYFB also supports the governor’s proposed $2 billion clean water infrastructure program that includes $70 million for nutrient management and conservation programs to reduce farm runoff.

The Farm to Food Bank bill is another top priority for NYFB members who have seen the governor veto the popular legislation the past two years. Members asked their lawmakers to include the tax credit that encourages greater fresh food donations to regional food banks and local food pantries to be included in their one-house budget bills.

These priorities are based on member-approved public policies that originate every year at the county Farm Bureau level and are passed by the full delegate body at NYFB’s State Annual Meeting in December.

In addition to advocating for priorities with lawmakers, county Farm Bureau members also participated in a special panel discussion with the commissioners from the departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation, and Labor.

The Wyoming County Farm Bureau is dedicated to advocate for public policies that will not only benefit agriculture but support rural communities as a whole.

NYFB is the State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization and is “the voice of New York agriculture.” It is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community.

Friday, March 10, 2017 at 6:53 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Agri-Palooza, Business, agribusiness, Castile.

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Press release (file photo).

The seventh annual Agri-Palooza 2017 will be held at Southview Farms, 5073 Upper Reservation Road, Castile. It is sponsored by Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau and highlights agriculture in Wyoming County. The public is invited to discover, experience, and enjoy farming and all that it entails by spending the day on a working farm. 

The free event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Southview Farms got its start in 1940 when James VanArsdale III  purchased a small farm in Castile. Today, it has become one of Wyoming County’s leading dairy producers. 

In 1964, Dick Popp joined the operation as a partner. Following his death in 1997, current General Manager John Noble joined the business. Jamie VanArsdale IV along with his wife, Margaret, continue to live and work on site. 

Cows are milked three times a day at two locations by the 47 employees.. In addition to taking care of more than 2,000 cows and 1,600 young stock, they harvest more than 3,100 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat.

Agri-Palooza features educational displays, farm tours, and children’s games and activities. Attendees will also see the variety of Wyoming County products on both display and for purchase. 

For more information and updates follow Agri-Palooza on Facebook.

The Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism is the leading membership organization for local and regional growth, advocacy, and connection for Wyoming County’s business community. Its mission is to serve the members and community; promote and grow the area’s economic and tourism assets; and work collaboratively to create an environment that leads to the success and economic prosperity of Wyoming County. 

For more information or to become a member call (585) 786-0307 or visit  www.wycochamber.org

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 9:59 am

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The Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism announces that Merle Maple Farm of Attica, has been named the 2017 Agribusiness of the year. The annual award was presented at the 10th Annual Pride of Agriculture dinner Saturday at the North Java Fire Department, Java.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we were very pleased to present the Agribusiness award to Lyle and Dottie Merle and Merle Maple Farm for their commitment to Wyoming County’s agriculture industry and their support of the community,” said Chamber President Scott Gardner. “The Merle’s are a strong voice for the maple industry, dedicated to education and their craft, and are outstanding agricultural ambassadors for Wyoming County.”

In his opening remarks, Gardner touched upon the legacy those in agriculture leave.

“In that word are meanings like family, tradition, commitment, passion, and an eye to the future. The legacy is borne out of the blood, sweat and tears of our pasts, the hard decisions and the growing pains, achievements of innovation, and knowing that you’re doing this for posterity.

“To leave a legacy you have to love what you do and instill that in your children and grandchildren by fostering pride, purpose, and ownership, through dedication and a belief in the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ agriculture is important.”

The annual agribusiness award is given to a business that exemplifies the following criteria: contributions to the economic vitality and quality of life of Wyoming County, capital investments, business expansions, job growth, community involvement, and their contributions that strengthen their industry sector.

The Pride of Agriculture dinner also featured the annual presentation of the coveted Pride of Agriculture -- Good Neighbor Award, given to Charles and Velma Seewaldt, of Varysburg, and the new Friend of Wyoming County Agriculture award given to Jodi Smith, of Arcade. Both awards are given by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, the Wyoming County Farm Bureau, and the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism offices. 

See related: Merle Maple Farm awarded Agribusiness of the Year

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Monday, March 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, mAPLE, Attica, Business, agribusiness.

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A reporter caught them at lunchtime and with the graciousness of those accustomed to a tight-knit rural community, Lyle and Dottie Merle spent the next couple of hours chatting about their maple farm.

During the annual Ag Awards dinner Saturday evening, Lyle and Dottie were the recipients of the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism Agribusiness of the Year Award for 2017.

“The annual agribusiness award is given to a business that exemplifies the following criteria: contributions to the economic vitality and quality of life of Wyoming County, capital investments, business expansions, job growth, community involvement, and their contributions that strengthen their industry sector,” said Chamber President Scott Gardner.

Merle (pronounced Mer-Lee) Maple Farm began around the 1870s with the “farm up the hill,” Lyle says.

The farm “up the hill” was located on Merle Road off Merkle Road in Attica. Although the farm was lost during the depression, their current farm, on Route 98 in Attica, well, “technically the Town of Bennington, with an Attica address, but with a Varysburg phone number,” has been in use since then. And it’s a good thing too, Lyle had said, because “fortunate for us, sap runs down – his family hails from both France and England – he is the fourth generation, of the six generations of Merles involved in agriculture, on the maple side of farming.

“When I was still in high school, my dad gave me the option of going to school (college) or continue on the farm,” Lyle said. “I opted to continue the tradition of making syrup.”

As with many of those who are self-employed, Lyle went to the “school of hard knocks,” learning the family business by virtue of growing up with parents who have carved out a niche by the sweat of their brow and determination.

“My dad was quite creative and innovative and involved in the cutting edge of the industry. I guess I inherited that from him.”

Lyle not only owns and operates the maple farm, he is also on the Cornell University advisory committee for New York State, as well as a delegate for the State’s International Maple Syrup Institute.

Merle Maple Farm has received a number of Best in Show ribbons for its maple syrup at the New York State Fair. And it was one of the very first maple producers to be listed with the Taste of New York tourism campaign, which featured their products at Taste of NY kiosks up and down the NYS Thruway.

Additionally, the Merles received the Maple Producer of the Year award in 2007. In 1988, Lyle’s father, Arthur, was inducted into the Maple Hall of Fame, and received the Hubbell Award by the New York State Department of Ag and Markets, which acknowledged their work to further education of maple sugaring.

Maple season typically begins in January with the season occasionally lasting until April 15, but is entirely weather dependent. While tapping can be done anytime the temperature rises above freezing, it’s the overnight temperatures that ensure a lengthy season. When it freezes overnight the tree draws up the sap from the roots. Anytime you have cold weather you can tap, but it has to be consistently cold at least a week or the syrup has a different flavor. Depending on the type of weather you have that season can also change the flavor of the syrup. Once the weather consistently stays above freezing both during the day and overnight, tapping is finished.

“The season is typically 25 days, but in those 25 days it’s pretty close to a 24-hour operation.”

When the Merle family began tapping, they never had more than 1,000 buckets to catch the sap and they used horse-drawn carriages to collect the buckets. That all changed with they began to use a tubbing system in 1958. 

About 10 years ago about a quart of sap a day was harvested from the trees, which produced about 4,200 gallons of syrup a day. To further increase production, they now use a reverse-osmosis process and vacuum pumps to extract and process the sap. 

The Merles have approximately 17,000 taps and at least 100 miles of line on the 400-acre farm. Of those taps, 4,500 run directly into the tap house, the remaining run into holding tanks scattered throughout the property. The sap is then collected and brought to the storage tanks at the tap house. 

Generally speaking, it takes approximately 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. On any given day, the farm produces two gallons of syrup a day per tap, which equates to approximately 20,000 gallons of sap a day to produce around 400 gallons of syrup a day. That’s about 8,500 gallons of syrup in one season.

In addition to the syrup production, the farm also makes sugar, spreads, candies, gummy leaves, and even barbecue sauce. To make the value added products it takes approximately 400 gallons of syrup to make sugar, 800 gallons for the maple spread, and 1,600 gallons for the candies. 

When asked how they keep up with production, Lyle’s answer was an easy “Well, there’s 24 hours in a day…” 

Operating one’s own business is no easy task, but they “do what it takes to get the job done.” With 15 employees – mostly part-time – Lyle says a typical day begins around 6:30 a.m.. And while his 102-year-old mother, Florence, still gets up and helps when she can, he said – with tongue-in-cheek – “since she turned 100, it was tough to get a full day's work out of her.”

Although working in the woods is taxing, Lyle said he has no desire to retire and “shuffle cards in Florida.”

“Many people may think we (business owners) only work half a day. And really, that’s true, it just depends on which 12 hours it is. Many people don’t get the opportunity to be a part of a family business, I’ve been fortunate in that department.” 

One of the most rewarding experiences Lyle has with working and owning the Maple Farm is that he is able to create new products and able to keep ahead of the industry. He also enjoys the value of Maple Weekend, which he says he is able to educate the general public about the maple industry and how it has evolved over the years.

A few of the innovative changes he has made to the business is the use of UV lighting which sterilizes the sap to allows them to keep the sap longer before processing without losing the quality of the product. The advances in how the sap is boiled has also allowed the company to produce more with using less energy. For example, instead of using wood to boil the sap they use fuel oil. Even with the use of fuel oil, Lyle has developed a way to use less fuel oil for boiling now than was used in years past.

“It used to take four gallons of fuel oil for every gallon of syrup made. Now it takes one gallon of fuel oil for processing. We are doing our part to be green and produce for efficiency.”

itstheir consumption of fuel oil, they also replace trees that are too old or have been damaged in some way for use. Additionally, Lyle “thins” the woods to allow for better growth of mature trees. A tree has to be about 30 years old for it to be tapped. Some of the trees he currently taps are around 100 years old. However, even with the thinning of the woods, he is conscientious in replacing the trees he removes with new ones. 

Sprawling over the land across the road, one can notice several dozen saplings planted for use for future generations, and as he says he likes “watching the trees grow.”

“What can I say, I like to plant trees. They don’t argue and you don’t have to send them to college. Some of those trees will be around 100 years after we are gone.”

In addition to developing better practices to increase productivity, the couple has developed a barbecue sauce recipe with no corn syrup in it. Dottie is certified to make acidified products – barbecue and hot sauce fall into this category.

Ever thinking of new products to make, the Merle’s decided to try their hand at making gummy leaves. 

“The first batch didn’t have the right consistency,” Dottie said. “We needed to find a way to make the product not quite as sticky.”

Working with students from the food science class at Cornell University, they have developed a better consistency for the product.

“Farmers don’t do it all by themselves,” Lyle said. “It also takes engineers that have developed the technology to help us advance in our field.”

Maple syrup is only produced in the northeastern part of the United States and Canada. And while there is a bit of “friendly competition” between the States and its northern counterpart, the demand for maple products has a growth rate of about 10 percent per year.

“Fifty years ago it was a 24 million pound worldwide market for maple products. Today, it has grown to about 170 million pounds,” Lyle said. “We in the industry feel that we can grow to 300 million pounds worldwide. People in Quebec (Canada), use maple products seven times more than we do here and live three years longer. I just think we need to use more maple products.

“We work to educate the consumer, because when you grow up in the field, it becomes second nature.”

As Lyle says, our customers don’t necessarily have to be our neighbors, a developed area to a farmer is an acre of woods or corn or wheat, because cities, well, they are “customer storage units.”

“I was told way back when that Western New York was a leader in agriculture. The reason we are leading is because we work with our neighbors and share ideas and knowledge. In a conversation, you always get something out of it. You may be giving away information, but you’re always getting something back.”

Lyle and Dottie have both contributed many hours and a great deal of maple products at various conferences and workshops, with the aim of helping other maple producers learn to make better maple, create a better value added maple product, and even the marketing and improvement of a maple display.

Last fall Lyle and Dottie hosted a value-added workshop at their maple kitchens, with the help of Eileen Downs and NYS Maple Specialist Steve Childs. Several batches of syrup were cooked for melt-in-your-mouth maple sugar pieces, including cinnamon flavored and cinnamon cream, and granulated maple syrup.

“A group came from Michigan to learn how to make a maple product. And the universal comment was that ‘no one would ever show us how to do this back home.’ But that’s the way it is here, not just in the maple business, but across agriculture in all of Western New York,” Lyle said. “If you get into other areas of the state, you may find a different view, but here, we believe in all boats rising.”

Even though Lyle and his brothers are no longer in business together – they had a combined farm that included some crops and cows – they still all support each other. During maple weekend, a patron may find at least 30 members of the Merle family working in some capacity to assist the 3,000 people that visit the farm during the event. And even though some of those who help during the two-day affair aren’t blood related, to the Merles, they are still family.

Maple Weekend will be held March 18 and 19, and 25 and 26.

For more information about Merle Maple Farm visit http://www.merlemaple.com/ or their Facebook page.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Press release:

Legislation to move the H-2A Agricultural Visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture has been introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). 

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 aims to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.

"The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet," Collins said. "Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York's agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this common-sense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program."

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.

"Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers," Stefanik said. "When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This common-sense legislation simply puts the H-2A Agricultural Visa Program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms."

The current program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across the nation. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round. This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating a category for these workers.

"Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on the The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York's diverse agricultural community," said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher.

Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A visa application process.

Click here for full bill text.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Perry, agriculture, agribusiness, farming.

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) says $10.1 million has been awarded to nine projects in the Finger Lakes Region to help protect 5,500 acres of property through the State’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. Recipients include at-risk farmland in the towns of Perry, Leicester, Avon and Groveland, which will receive more than $6.2 million in grants to help maintain the land for agricultural purposes and protect it from development. 

“Farming is vital to our local and statewide economy,” Gallivan said. “By protecting these lands, we are ensuring that agriculture remains New York’s number one industry. We are also investing in future generations by making sure that farmers have the natural resources needed to produce food and products that New York families depend on.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Farmland Protection program, which is part of New York State's Environmental Protection Fund.  

Grant recipients include:

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, towns of Leicester and Perry -- $1,988,110. This land trust will permanently protect Old Acres Farm, a 1,294-acre dairy operation located in Livingston and Wyoming counties. Old Acres Farm contains 39 percent prime and 27 percent statewide important soils. The farm is the first in New York to install a system that recycles its manure into bedding for its cows; doing so has eliminated the need for the farm to purchase any materials such as sand or sawdust for bedding. The landowners are contributing 12.5 percent of total project costs;

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Leicester – $1,970,195;

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Groveland – $1,977,545; and
    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Avon – $339,715.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets administers the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and not-for-profit conservation organizations, or land trusts, were eligible to apply for individual grants. Farms protected under the program remain taxable.

Since 1996, the state has awarded nearly $238 million for farmland protection projects, assisting local partners in 30 counties. To date, 236 projects have closed, protecting in perpetuity, more than 59,800 acres of farmland. 

Monday, May 9, 2016 at 8:36 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, agriculture, agribusiness, Warsaw, Business.

Press release:

The Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) recently announced the availability of a new low-interest loan fund for agriculture, new agriculture technology, agriculture diversification or food processing. 

The loan fund, known as Grow our Agricultural Industry Now (GAIN), is a gap loan fund that will subordinate to a lead lender for capital projects. Loans ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 will be available for up to a 10-year term at an interest rate of 1 percent.  

Priority will be given to ag-related projects that demonstrate:

    • Job creation/ job retention;

    • Farm diversification including: value-added agriculture products; farm-based retail/wholesale (farm markets, wineries, distilleries);

    • Investment in new technology including

        – renewable energy projects

        – production, harvesting and processing equipment;

    • An increase in the amount of land for productive agricultural use;

    • Growth in net revenue for agricultural enterprises;

    • Leveraging other sources of funding;

    • Renewable energy applications; and 

    • Projects that produce secondary economic development multipliers (e.g. other business expansions).

The GAIN program is a project that received a grant funded by NYS Empire State Development (ESD) for the Finger Lakes Region that includes Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties. The Region contains three of the top five, and five of the top 10 agricultural counties in New York State and is considered the “bread basket” of the state. The diversity of the region’s agricultural industry is considerable with economic strength in such sectors as dairy, yogurt, apples, stone fruit, cash crops, grapes, wineries and more. GAIN is for farms and support businesses so they can continually innovate, expand and diversify in order to thrive.  

The Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is administering the grant project on behalf of each county’s economic development organization. Each county will have a share of the $3 million based on the 2012 Agriculture Census. Wyoming County has the largest sales of agriculture commodities in the region will have access to nearly $600,000.

For more information about the GAIN Loan Program contact IDA Executive Director Jim Pierce at  (585) 786-3764 or via e-mail: jpierce@wycoida.org.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Press release:

Small business owners and family farmers joined together yesterday at a press conference in Batavia to ask state lawmakers to oppose the $15 minimum wage. The April 1 budget deadline is just days away, and the coalition remains united in its efforts to defeat what will be a tough blow to local employers.

The consequences of a 67-percent wage hike are far reaching. The small businesses shared their personal stories of what this will mean to each of them, including the decisions that will have to be made to compensate for the major increase in labor costs. A reduction in the number of employees and an increase in automation are on the table should this proposal pass in Albany.

The impacts will be felt statewide. A recent report conducted by the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that at least 200,000 jobs will be lost across the state. A separate independent analysis by Farm Credit East estimates a $15 minimum wage in New York State would cost farmers between $387 and $622 million in 2021 at the peak of the wage rollout and nearly 2,000 farms would no longer be profitable. Businesses that can’t make money, don’t stay in business.

Because of the statewide ramifications, today’s event coincided with more than a dozen others happening in communities across New York. It is a final push to make the compelling point to lawmakers that there are serious consequences, from job loss to higher consumer prices, should New York pass a $15 minimum wage. The small business owners asked their local lawmakers to vote no on $15.

“Businesses will be forced to raise prices to compensate. As a farmer, I cannot do this. I am a price taker not a price maker. This will make me uncompetitive with surrounding states, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, whose labor costs will be half what they are in New York. This will put some farms out of business or force them to move to a different state which will hurt our economy,” said Pat McCormick, NYFB District 2 Director and dairy farmer from Java Center.

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