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SMALL FARM QUARTERLY Good Living and Good Farming – Connecting People, Land, and Communities

Feature Articles Innovation at Intervale . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 6 Kids and Shooting Sports . . . . . . . . . .Page 10 David Kline Essay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 17 Small Dairy Start-Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 21 Photo by Jason Houston

Supplement to Country Folks

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July 10, 2006


Cornell Small Farms Program Update Well, summer is finally, fully here after a long, cool spring. Like you, we’ve been busy, busy, busy! Here’s some of what we’ve been up to… NY ORGANIC DAIRY TASK FORCE On April 25, we helped to convene the first meeting of the new NY Organic Dairy Task Force. In attendance were organic dairy producers, organic grain producers, certifiers, educators, and organic dairy milk handlers. You can read all about the Task Force and our new NY Organic Dairy Initiative in this issue of SFQ, or visit SMALL FARMS CLUB UPDATE Club member Laura Harthan reports, “This year, the Cornell Small Farms Club met with agricultural economist John Ikerd in October, and visited several farms. In October, we paid a visit to Iron Kettle Farm in Candor, NY, talking with owners Skip and Jeanne Jackson, and touring the farm’s animal exhibits, greenhouses and farm store. In May we visited Lucy GarrisonClauson and Chaw Chang of Stick and Stone Farm in Ulysses. Stick and Stone is an organic farm that grows vegetables, flowers and free-range chickens. “We also visited Evans Farmhouse Creamery in Norwich, NY in May. The Evans family produces their own milk and processes it in their own creamery. In addition they process milk from other farms, under several different labels. Products include yogurt, homogenized and non-homogenized milk, cheeses and cheese curd.” The Club also helped set up a new onecredit class at Cornell entitled Exploring the Small Farm Dream. This class involved students in learning about smallscale sustainable agriculture and working on local farms to gain hands-on experience. Along with significant on-farm time there were weekly class meetings and written assignments. Eight students completed the class, and told us they gained a lot of valuable experience – and had a great time on their farms.

MORE FACILITATION TRAININGS Along with our Sustainability Partners* we held a very successful day-long training in April on Understanding and Working with Conflict. This training was part of our Northeast SARE-funded professional development series focused on strengthening facilitation skills of agriculture and food systems professionals. It was attended by forty-four professionals and was led by experienced trainers from the Community Dispute Resolution Center in Ithaca, TFC Associates in Ithaca, and Local Government Program at Cornell University. In May another intensive workshop on Building Collaborative Teams was presented over two days during the Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator's (ACCEE) annual conference. Nineteen Extension educators, agency staff and farmers participated in the training, which was designed and led by TFC Associates in Ithaca. We also held ACCEE workshops on Working with Beginning Farmers; Introduction to Holistic Management; Small Dairy Extension Strategies; and Writing for Newsletters and Websites. Man – it WAS a busy spring! * Our Sustainability Partners include Cornell’s Community, Food, and Agriculture Program, Community and Rural Development Institute, Local Government Program, Community Food Systems, and Farm-toSchool Program. SMALL FARM CLUSTERS RESEARCH Last September we began a 3-year collaborative research project exploring how certain clusters of small and mid-sized farms work together and with related businesses to increase their sustainability. Our partners include Penn State University, Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, and several others. The project team has selected eight unique small farm clusters across the Northeast for study over the next 2 years. We want to learn how and why these clusters have developed, how they impact the local community and economy, and how participating

How can I get Small Farm Quarterly? Country Folks subscribers automatically receive SFQ four times a year at no extra cost. Country Folks is delivered weekly for $35 per year. SFQ-only subscribers receive just the 4 issues of Country Folks that contain the SFQ insert for only $5 a year. Cooperative Extension Associations and other organizations can offer their members a subscription to SFQ as a member benefit! Your organization collects the names, forwards them to Country Folks Subscriptions, and pays Country Folks just $2.50 for each subscriber. Country Folks mails out the copies. Bulk orders: You can order multiple copies of any issue for just 10¢ a copy! Minimum order is 50. Orders must be placed at least 4 weeks before the publication date - Fall 2006 copies need to be ordered by September 8. To find out more, contact: Tracy Crouse Country Folks Subscriptions P.O. Box 121, Palatine Bridge, NY 13428 1-888-596-5329 email:

farms benefit from working together and through “cooperative competition” with one another. We also want to explore ways that Extension and other support agencies can work with small farm clusters to increase their positive impacts. The eight clusters we are studying Members of the Cornell Small Farms Club were hosted by Dave Evans of are: Evans Farmhouse Creamery in Norwich, NY. Photo: Joanna Green • Chesapeake Fields Farmers, tion go to LLC. (Maryland) pages/ projects/sfclusters.cfm. • Hmong farmers (Massachusetts) • Chester County mushroom growers GOODBYE ERIKA WORDEN! (Pennsylvania) Finally, we want to take this opportunity to • New York Certified Organic (New York) say Thank You! to Erika Worden, our able • North Country Dairy Viability Initiative student assistant for the past two years, (New York) who graduated in May. Erika has accepted • Pennsylvania Women’s Ag Network a position as a manager on a large dairy (Pennsylvania) farm in Western NY, and plans to apply the • Tuscarora Organic Growers (Pennsylvaexperience she gains there to starting her nia) own SMALL dairy operation in the future. • New Farmer Development Project partici- We wish Erika great success and satisfacpants (New York) tion in her endeavors! Our work will proceed in three phases. Interviews with Key Contacts for each cluster are happening now through Fall 2006. Next fall and winter, Focus Groups with up to 10 group representatives will help a develop deeper understanding of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats facing the group, community impacts, and potential directions for cluster development. Finally, in winter of 2008, we will conduct a survey of the members of each cluster. The survey will be designed with input from participants, and will be tailored for each clus- Goodbye and Thank You! to Erika Worden, ter to help them increase their own undershown here admiring the Small Farms Program standing of important issues that affect livestock shortly before her graduation in May. their group's progress. For more informa-


USDA Proposes Grass-Fed Marketing Claim Standard WASHINGTON, May 11, 2006 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking comments on a proposed minimum standard for grass (forage) fed marketing claims. The standard, when adopted, will become the U.S. Standard for Grass (forage) Fed claims. Increasingly, livestock and meat producers are using production and/or processing claims to distinguish their products in the marketplace. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, through its voluntary certification and audit programs, verifies the accuracy of these claims. The proposed standard will establish the minimum requirements for those producers who choose to operate a USDA verified program involving a grass (forage) fed claim.

The request for comments was published in the May 12, 2006, Federal Register. Comments must be received on or before August 10, and should be sent to: Martin E. O’Connor AMS Livestock and Seed Program Room 2607–S 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20250-0254. Comments may also be sent by fax to (202) 720-1112, by electronic mail to, or via the Internet at Comments should refer to Docket No. LS-05-09. Copies of the notice are available through the above physical address or by accessing the website at st-pubs.htm.

CORRECTION: Madeleine Charney was the author of “Land of Opportunity: Immigrant Farmers Put Down Roots in Holyoke, Massachusetts” in the Spring issue. We had incorrectly listed Eric Toensmeier as author. Sorry about that!

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July 10, 2006


Avian Flu Threat?

Reducing the risks of avian flu

Diversification and common-sense precautions reduce risks for small flocks and pastured poultry operations.

When it comes to avian flu, there are still many unknowns – particularly for small-flock and pasture-poultry producers. It’s tough to predict how a pandemic might put your operation at risk. But many of the recommendations targeted for conventional operations may make sense when adapted to smaller operations.

By Rebecca Schuelke

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focusing on risk management funded by the New York Crop Insurance Education Program under the Risk Management Agency (USDA) and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets. Despite highly-publicized reports of the potential for avian influenza pandemics, most small-flock and pastured poultry producers seem to be going about business as usual. But if you’re one of them, there are steps you can take now to help reduce potential risks to your poultry enterprises. Direct-market poultry producers say that their customers are only somewhat concerned about the potential for avian flu to infect humans. But producers are very concerned about the potential for future government policies aimed at preventing pandemics to affect the health of their poultry businesses.

“A few customers will ask what my take is. But I wouldn’t say there is a concern,’’ says David Smith, president of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA). Smith spoke to Small Farm Quarterly representing his own Springfield Farm in Sparks, Md., a diversified operation where he raises 2,500 layers and 5,000 broilers annually, as well ducks, geese, rabbits, beef, pork and lamb. (Other farmers raise an additional 15,000 broilers sold through Smith’s operation.) Direct marketers may have some immunity from the flu controversy because of the trust they’ve built up with their customers – at least for the time being. Customers often seek them out because they believe grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free, organic and similar foods are safer and healthier than supermarket alternatives. “I think customers are comfortable with what we do. They see the way we raise our livestock,’’ Smith explains. “Our farm is open to visitors. We want people to see that we do what we say we do.’’ HEALTHIER BIRDS, MORE RESISTANT? While there’s widespread concern in the conventional confinement poultry industry, little has been said about how avian flu could affect small flocks and pastured poultry producers. Smith speculates that oper-

Because he’s diversified, pastured poultry producer David Smith figures he’d only lose about 15 percent of his sales if he had to stop raising birds outside. Photographer: Hadad ations like his might be better able to weather the threat. “I’m of the opinion that pastured birds rotated and exposed to fresh grass are healthy and have built-up immune systems,’’ he says. Jim McLaughlin, a Norwich, NY-based poultry consultant, says pastured poultry producers typically stress cleanliness and hygiene as the first line of defense against disease. McLaughlin, who works with about 30 producers in New York and sells poultry processing equipment worldwide, says he’s fielding two or three phone calls a week from producers looking for more information about avian flu. “Most of my [clients] are concerned and asking for information,” he notes. Producers want to educate their customers to let them know the facts – that low-pathogenic strains of avian flu have been in this country for years, and that out of 6 billion people worldwide, only several hundred have died, he adds. “That’s not to say those deaths are not important,” McLaughlin is quick to point out. “But when you look at the numbers in the scope of things, I think the press is making a bigger deal out of this than it is.’’ The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is promoting bio-security measures to prevent avian flu, exotic Newcastle and other potentially devastating poultry diseases. (See sidebar “Reducing the Risks.”) While many of those measures make sense, scientists are still researching sources of avian flu and how the virus moves around. They also are still learning how it mutates into forms with greater or

Avian flu basics Worldwide, there are many strains of avian influenza virus that can cause varying amounts of illness in poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl), as well as a wide variety of other birds. Strains are classified as “low pathogenic” or “high pathogenic” based on the severity of the illness they cause. Migratory waterfowl are a natural reservoir for less infectious “low pathogenic” strains. “High pathogenic” strains are extremely infectious and fatal forms that can spread rapidly from flock to flock. Some low pathogenic strains can mutate into high-pathogenic strains.

Regardless of the size of your operation, your best safeguard is to diversify. If poultry makes up 80 percent of your business, you are far more at risk than someone who relies on poultry for only 20 percent of their business.

The various strains of the virus could travel to the U.S. by poultry, poultry equipment, people and migratory waterfowl. Once introduced, the disease can spread from bird to bird by direct contact. It also can be spread by manure, equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates and people whose clothing or shoes have come in contact with the virus. Viruses can remain viable at moderate temperatures for long periods and can survive indefinitely in frozen material. Birds can carry disease without looking sick. Adapted from Biosecurity for the Birds, USDA-APHIS, vs/birdbiosecurity

Healthy bird. Photo courtesy USDA

Below are other suggestions adapted from Biosecurity for the Birds, USDAAPHIS ( Keep your distance. Restrict access to your property and your birds. Allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them. Keep visitors away from your birds, especially if they have birds of their own. Keep other birds away, especially game birds and migratory waterfowl.

In addition to human visitors, keep other birds away from your flocks, especially game birds and migratory waterfowl. Photo courtesy USDA lesser potency and/or with the ability to infect different species, including humans. Smith says that means that at this point, any regulations can only be guesses at what might control the spread of the disease. Smith says the big fear among “unconventional” poultry producers is that the government will require that all poultry be raised in confinement, restricting or eliminating pasture-based systems, free-range production and home and hobby flocks. Such a regulation would address the concern that U.S. flocks might get the virus through contact with infected migratory birds. “I am concerned about the knee-jerk reaction of those who say everyone has to put their birds indoors,” Smith says. Members of Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology avian flu task force believe it is unlikely that migratory birds will infect humans or poultry in this country. They suspect that global trade (legal and otherwise) in poultry and wild-captured birds poses a bigger risk. APPPA takes a similar stance. The organization’s position statement on the issue points out that previous outbreaks in North America have been in large confinement operations – not pasture-based operations or home flocks. Still, APPPA encourages producers to take precautions, stay abreast of any specific threats, and to cooperate with authorities in the event of an outbreak. SPECIALIZATION MORE RISKY Smith has thought through how different avian flu scenarios might affect his operation. If he had to stop raising birds outside, he’d only lose about 15 percent of his sales. That’s because he has other enterContinued on next page

Keep it clean. Wear clean clothes, scrub your shoes with disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird area. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools. Remove manure before disinfecting. Dispose of dead birds properly. Don’t haul it home. If you go near other birds or bird owners (such as at a feed store), clean and disinfect tires, cages, and equipment before going home. Quarantine new birds for at least 30 days and birds you’ve exhibited for at least 2 weeks after the event before returning them to the flock. Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies – or at least disinfect them before they return to your property. Detect problems early. Observe your birds often. Look for these symptoms: • Sudden death • Diarrhea • Decreased or complete loss of egg production • Soft-shelled, misshapen eggs • Sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing • Lack of energy and appetite • Swelling of tissues around eyes and in neck • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs • Depression, muscular tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, lack of coordination, complete paralysis Report Sick Birds. USDA operates a toll-free hotline with veterinarians to help: 1-866-536-7593. Or contact your veterinarian or local Cooperative Extension office. If you notice sick or dead wild geese, ducks, or shorebirds, please contact Wildlife Services: 1-866-48732-97. For all other sick or dead wild birds, please contact the West Nile Virus Dead Bird Hotline at 1-877-9682473.

July 10, 2006

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A Tale of Transitions – Deep Water Farm Grazing is key on this certified organic dairy By Chanda Lindsay THE FARM Deep Water Farm is a family owned and operated organic dairy farm in Southern Cayuga County, New York. The Staudermans haven’t always raised cows, however. They moved to the area in 1979 and began by raising hogs. As markets and preferences changed, they began to look at new opportunities. In 1986 the hogs left and in1988 they started milking cows in a rented barn. In 1994 they moved back to their home farm after they very creatively converted their hog barn into a freestall barn and the adjacent farrowing barn into a 16 stall, flat milking parlor. The transitions didn’t stop there -- in 2003 the Staudermans completed the move to one hundred percent certified organic. They first transitioned their cropland to organic and followed with the animals. As Phil Stauderman says, the transition to organic really turned the farm around and has allowed them to focus on making improvements to the farm, such as enhancing their rotational grazing system. Phil Stauderman and his children Karl, Mark and Lisa do all of the work on the farm. They currently milk 55 cows, and are up to a whopping 78 heifers. They work a total of roughly 365 acres of both owned and rented land, which includes both cropland and pasture land. They produce all of their own feed from crops grown on the farm. Phil says that producing their own feed was a no-brainer when they were considering the transition to organic, as the costs of purchased organic grains were too high to justify. GRAZING: THE KEY Grazing the animals was also a no-brainer. The Staudermans rotate the fields adjacent to the barn between crops and pasture. Their basic pasture mix contains mainly ryegrass and white clover, although they planted a “dairy pasture mix” for the first time last year and are awaiting the results. A field may be in pasture for 4-5 years, and will be turned over for crops for a year or two for weed control purposes. As the farm is completely certified organic, there are no chemical inputs to the land. Over time, they have discovered that managed, rotational grazing is the key to suc-

cessful grass-based dairying, and they are currently working towards a more intensively managed system. The herd is healthier when they are on the high quality forage from managed pastures, the pastures maintain their quality longer when they are grazed this way and the milk production remains consistent at about 50 pounds per cow each day. INFRASTRUCTURE This year, with a grant from the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Staudermans are installing a three strand, high tensile perimeter fence around most of their pasture land. They will continue to use one strand of electric wire fencing to separate the paddocks within the system. They are experimenting with solar powered fencers, but are still searching for one that meets their needs. The cows currently have access to the barn at all times, as there is no water system to service the pastures. As with all transitions, these things happen a step at a time! Because of the fact that they rotate the pastures into cropland periodically, it would be a challenge to find a good place to locate a permanent water line. They are currently thinking about building a water wagon to supply water to the paddocks. HERD MANAGEMENT All animals are pastured during the grazing season. Cows have free access to pasture at all times when they are not in the milking parlor, and their pastures are rotated once a day. Heifers also have access to pasture at all times, but their pasture area is not rotated as often. During the grazing season, the cows are fed some corn silage and cornmeal for additional energy. Karl works with a nutritionist to ensure that their summer and winter rations work best for both the cows and the farm’s budget. Overall, the Staudermans are very pleased with the performance of their animals on pasture. Karl says that herd health is excellent. They may see the vet about once every four months, often only for a routine pregnancy check. Hoof health is one area where they have noticed great improvements when the cows are on pasture versus in the barn. THE FUTURE The Staudermans’ goals for the future are

Avian Flu Continued from prev. page

Karl (L) and Phil (R) Stauderman are pleased with the performance of their animals – currently 55 milking cows and a whopping 78 heifers -- on pasture.

Grazing helps keeps the herd in excellent health. The vet comes only about once every four months, often only for a routine pregnancy check. to be successful at what they do and to continue to adapt to the changing demands of farming and the new markets that emerge. Grazing plays a big role in being able to provide high quality, fresh, organic milk on a consistent basis. The Staudermans look forward to maintaining healthy cows, healthy land and a satisfying lifestyle as they continue to move forward with their

Chanda Lindsay is Agriculture Resource Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. She can be reached at 315-255-1183 or Phil Stauderman can be reached at Deep Water Farm at 315-246-0689.

Check out Cornell’s

Small Farms Web Site! Resource Spotlight

prises to fall back on and could restrict access to pasture for some of his birds. Specialized pastured poultry producers are at far higher risk, especially because their portable facilities may not meet government definitions of “confinement.’’

Another government response could be to require strict animal identification and tracking standards. This would create extra paperwork. But it might be less of a hardship for certified organic producers who are already required to document birds and practices.

More About Avian Flu

If a pandemic forced eradication of his entire flock, Smith estimates his sales would fall 40 percent. But it would mean a total loss for specialized pastured poultry operations.

Smith has made some concessions to avian flu. While he still allows visitors to the farm, they are prohibited from barns and other structures. And he’s taking on the role of educating customers, neighbors and other producers.

APHIS – USDA biosecurity recommendations:

Even taking precautions have a cost. Smith says that restricting visitors to his farm could reduce business by 25 percent by eliminating on-farm sales. (He sells the rest of his meat and eggs to restaurants and small markets.)

farm and to more intensively manage their grazing system.

“We need to make people aware,” he says. “But let’s not cause panic. Let’s put our common-sense hats on.’’ Rebecca Schuelke is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County and a Small Farm Quar-

Panel discussion – Featuring APPPA’s David Smith and Penn State and USDA experts. Online at: http://www.cas.psu. edu/docs/biosecurity/avianfluvideos.html

Avian Flu resources from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology – Domestic poultry/bird flu information page: impact-on-birds/domestic-poultry

Centers for Disease Control – How avian influenza affects humans: World Health Organization – History and human health effects: avian_influenza/en American Pastured Poultry Producers Association: Cornerstone Farm – Jim McLaughlin’s website:

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July 10, 2006


Imagination… Innovation…Intervale The Intervale in Burlington, Vermont is emerging as a model for successful, innovative programs to develop young farmers, market gardeners, and a thriving local food system By Martha Herbert Izzi If you are trying to figure out what to do with an old tire, car or waste dump in your local area, (or even if you’re not) come to the Intervale in Burlington, Vermont and see where a once blighted eyesore is now a thriving and productive set of agricultural programs. You, too, can begin to change the recycling and eating habits of a city, build community, and give new meaning to sustainable agriculture.

The main action and profit center of the Intervale is the sand-pit sized composting area where a cacophony of sounds arises from trucks and cars of all sizes arriving hourly to deposit refuse in the form of food scraps, leaves and manure. Then the heavy equipment operators take over. They move, turn and package 20,000 tons of waste each year which comes from schools, households, institutions and restaurants, making it Vermont’s leading compost operation.

The Intervale (or literally “the land between”) is a seven hundred acre urban gem where dirt is seen as a sacred and rarified commodity. And so are farmers, new farmers especially, who are embraced and supported at every juncture as they work through the three-year incubator program known as the Intervale Farms Program. Beginning farmers share greenhouses, equipment, coolers, storage space, and know-how on twelve distinct organic farms, where they produce 500,000 pounds of food a year on 325 acres.

The Intervale Compost Products Program was created in 1988 to help restore the depleted agricultural lands of the Intervale and now represents a three-quarter million dollar revenue stream. At the same time, the composting program is redirecting eight percent of the local food waste. Garbage never looked so good especially as it is recycled into pallets of rich, organic potting soil slated for distribution to garden centers, organic farms and landscapers.

Serving the community is the driving force behind the Intervale. Kids are equally valued at Intervale, particularly at-risk teenagers who come from local schools for a six-week term to make a vital (and perhaps their first) connection between the land and their food through the Healthy City Youth Program. The teens produce and distribute 50,000 pounds of fresh organic produce to twenty social service agencies in the Burlington area. Healthy City youth also organize farmers’ markets and learn business and marketing skills while increasing their employment potential in a wide variety of agricultural venues. Presently six percent of Burlington’s fresh food comes from the Intervale; the goal is to reach ten percent. The savvy people who run it will even help you to replicate the Intervale model through its consulting arm. But get in line. The volume of inquiries from across the country and Canada has increased beyond their wildest expectations as more and more communities catch on to the value and need for locally grown, fresh produce. Developers, too, are getting the message. For example an investment group is going through the permitting process in South Burlington for a 220 acre tract of homes which will include a thirty five acre working farm.

Even Ben and Jerry’s has profited from the Intervale Compost program. The whey from the ice cream manufacturing process was wreaking havoc on the waste water center until it became part of the compost program. The partnership has saved the local water supply and Ben and Jerry’s has closed the circle by developing the pintsized container of Intervale compost and a couple of seeds in their familiar ice cream pints for sale at their stores. “The results are unbelievable,” said Lindsey Ketchel as she spoke of serving thirty five Vermont farms last year with business and marketing support through yet another Intervale program, the Success On Farms Program. Working on a one-one basis with farmers the SOF helped one apple grower to realize a net income of $120,000 versus the annual $16,000 he was earning. Sales “skyrocketed” when we developed a computerized invoicing system, a solid business plan and “held his hand” through the process. “We’re a little blanket,” Ketchel smiled, “the nagging teacher who makes you do your homework.” What makes the whole SOF program work is that each farmer/client gets a customized plan, tailored to specific needs.

Teen trainees with Intervale’s Healthy City Youth Program grow 50,000 pounds of organic produce and distribute it to 20 social service agencies in the Burlington area.

Intervale’s Compost Products Program processes 20,000 tons of waste each year.

Beginning farmers gain essential experience through Intervale’s 3-year incubator program, which encompasses 12 distinct organic farms on 325 acres. and foundations such as Merck and the Vermont Community Housing Board. The Enterprise Food Program is the next and most comprehensive goal for the Intervale. It will be a place to launch a yearround CSA, to raise root crops and wintergreens, and increase the supply of locallygrown, fresh produce for people in the cold northeast. It is at least two to three years away in terms of the permitting and the fundraising processes, but the drawings are ready, the plans have been submitted to the local authorities and the action-plan is on the drawing board.

Then there is the Intervale Conservation Nursery, a local source for native riparian tree and shrub seedlings and plants. It is yet another effort to prevent loss of agricultural soils and reduce stream and riverbank erosion, at the same time improving water quality. The program is a relatively new but important teaching arm, again, widening the recycling, replenishing, sustainable conservation loop. The growth and expansion of the Intervale has not been a straight-up success curve. There have been plenty of challenges and hard learning curves for the board and staff in its twenty year history. Part of it is the old story of trying to do too much with too little, a common affliction of people who see an enormous need and try to match it without the necessary capitalization and people-power.

Waste whey from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream plant is composted at Intervale; pint-sized B&J compost planters are sold locally Today, the Intervale emphasis is on forming partnerships, avoiding duplication and capitalizing every program before it gets off the ground. Revenue comes from the six hundred family CSA, composting, consulting,

For further information call the Intervale office at 802-660-0440. Kit Perkins is the Executive Director at ext 103 or Lindsey Ketchel is at ext 112 or Or visit Intervale on the web at http:// Martha Herbert Izzi writes and raises Tunis Sheep and Alpine Dairy Goats at Bel Lana Farm in Shrewsbury, Vermont. She is a member of the Small Farm Quarterly Editorial Team.

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ORGANIC FARMING producers, and information sharing will be beneficial to all – from transitioning farmers to existing producers,” Arnold says.

New NY Initiative Focuses on Organic Dairy Cornell Small Farms Program Plays A Leading Role By Kara Dunn Organic milk production, business enterprise development, successful farm management and enhanced information and idea exchange are the goals of the new NY Organic Dairy Initiative funded by the NY Farm Viability Institute, Inc. (NYFVI). The new Initiative is targeted to New York’s small and mid-sized dairy farms, including more than 200 certified and intransition-to-organic dairy farms. Cornell’s Small Farm Program received a NYFVI grant to oversee the Initiative. ORGANIC DAIRY TASK FORCE To kick off the NY Organic Dairy Initiative, the Small Farm Program convened a New York Organic Dairy Task Force to identify barriers to and opportunities for organic milk production. Participants included organic milk producers, processors, grain growers and certifiers, who brainstormed production practice and business management changes that could improve the profitability of individual farms and of the industry sector as a whole. NY Farm Viability Institute Outreach Coordinator David Grusenmeyer facilitated part of the meeting. “The good thing about this kind of task force is that all the players in the industry

come together to share their knowledge, to strategize, and to look at their industry from other perspectives to the benefit of all industry participants,” says Grusenmeyer, who has facilitated barrier identification panels for agricultural industry sectors across the state. Small Farms Educator Fay Benson of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County is coordinator for the NYOrganic Dairy Initiative. Benson, a 20-year dairy farmer who produced organic milk for seven years, says, “The barrier identification process ties together all the aspects of the industry so we can build projects to respond to farmer-identified needs and opportunities. New York farms currently produce only one-third of the demand for organic milk from New York consumers. We need to triple our organic milk production just to meet the current demand in New York. New York has a tremendous potential to become a leader in the organic milk industry.” MANAGING FOR SUCCESS Benson will also lead “Managing for Success” workshops for organic and transitioning producers at several sites around the state. The workshops will use resources adapted for organic producers from Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY materials. The work-

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Benson says a feature of NYFVI projects is business planning. Developing a business plan is especially helpful for evaluating the economics of transitioning to organic production and for dairies ready to Fay Benson (R) of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland Coun- develop value-added ty visits with organic dairy farmer Ed Schefler. Ed and his wife organic milk enterprises. Eileen have been milking cows since 1982 and became a certified Business planning speorganic dairy in 2003. Their three children help with the 45-cow cialists with Cornell’s NY herd on the Groton, NY, farm. Photo: Alex Benson FarmNet program, Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY Team, and the Tompkins, Cortshops will help farmers to understand how land, and Tioga Counties Dairy and Field organic production impacts animal health, Crops Team will work with producers particcrops, and farm finances. Goal setting, ipating in the organic dairy initiative to decision making, holistic farm managedevelop plans specific to each farm. ment, and essential recordkeeping that fits each farmer’s personal farm, family and financial goals will also be addressed in the The NY Organic Dairy Initiative will also produce educational materials on organic workshops. production to help farmers statewide. Benson says transition to organic does not “The dairy materials currently available are create instant success and is not for everynot keyed to organic production. It is great one. to see farm planning and management frameworks being built for organic produc“Managing organic farms follows many of tion. They will be good tools for farmers to the same principles that govern manageassess whether transitioning to organic proment of conventional dairy farms. The big duction will be a good move for them,” difference is that organic producers must Arnold says. “For existing operations, holisrely more on preventing problems without tic planning provides the opportunity to the use of synthetic fertilizers, livestock medicines and other tools that are available assess management and production practice adjustments or changes that could help to conventional producers,” Benson says. reduce costs and increase profitability.” “There is a learning curve that takes income down before it goes up for an The New York Farm Viability Institute, Inc. is organic producer.” a farmer-led nonprofit corporation dedicated to increasing product value and profSHARING INFORMATION itability throughout New York’s agricultural Kathie Arnold of Twin Oaks Farm, an industry. The Institute funds projects that organic dairy since 1998 in Cortland Counprovide producers with access to technical ty, says that information sharing about assistance, educational resources and a organic milk production is greatly needed.“I network of diverse expertise in production get calls all the time from conventional proagriculture and horticulture, agricultural ducers trying to think through how they economics, value-added processing, marmight transition to organic. Farmer-toketing, integrated pest management, busifarmer networking is a hallmark of organic ness planning, business structuring, waste management and other on-farm busiBALE-EZE™ ness opportunity development.


For more information on the NY Organic Dairy Initiative, contact Fay Benson at 607753-5077, or visit To learn more about the NYFVI, call 315-453-3823 or visit

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July 10, 2006



FSA’s Rural Youth Loans -More Than Just $$ By Randi Sheffer I recently had the opportunity to meet with three young adults who have received loans through FSA’s Rural Youth Loan program. Not only did they get money to start their business but they also established credit and are learning valuable life skills. Here are their stories. JONATHON KUHN of Johnstown NY is the owner-operator of Pro-Cut Lawn Maintenance. The business provides lawnmowing, hedge trimming, lawn maintenance including watering, fertilizing, weeding and lawn raking, and some landscaping. Jonathan maintains a weekly advertisement in the local newspaper and will be listed in the yellow pages starting in November.

What I Got From My FSA Rural Youth Loan By Brittany Nellis In 2003 I borrowed $5,000 for a FSA Rural Youth Loan Project. The money was used to renovate space in our cow barn, turning it into housing for calves. My project would be to raise calves for my parents and a neighbor. I raise all calves until they are weaned. I am paid a wage per calf, per day; this money goes to repay my loan, personal spending, and savings for college. I am in my third year and have learned many things. I understand credit and what a loan is; I can put together a business plan, I am good at managing my checkbook and getting better all the time at using QuickBooks. My calf raising skills continue to increase through experience, and some calf raising meetings I have attended. Every year I see improvement in calf mortality rates and treat fewer and fewer calves along the way. I am really enjoying this project and can’t believe how much I have learned. I really think I want to be part of this farm in the future and feel I am getting well prepared for that. I continue to do well in school and plan to attend college.

Brittany Nellis is 16 years old and lives with her family on their farm in Fort Plain, NY.

Jonathan first learned about FSA’s youth loan program when his mother was doing research on government aid to small businesses at the local library. Jonathan had already established his business mowing lawns using his parent’s lawnmower. In May 2002 Jonathan received his loan of $3,300. The youth loan gave Jonathan the opportunity to purchase his own lawn mowers, weed trimmer and trailer to haul his equipment to different sites. Shortly after purchasing his equipment, Jonathan fell and broke his ankle. The timing couldn’t have been worse -- just starting out and in the height of a busy season. Luckily for Jonathan his brother and the rest of the family pitched in and kept the lawns mowed! With Dad’s help Jonathan is learning about the proper care of the equipment and of lawns and he is learning about recordkeeping from his mom. Jonathan’s clientele has increased beyond his projections but he has found that repairs are costing more than planned. In spite of this, Jonathan is saving his profits in hopes of buying his own car or truck. Jonathan hopes his business will grow enough that he will have an established profitable business to continue after he graduates from high school. Although Jonathan had no experience with financing or accounting, he too, thought the application process was fun and would recommend it to any young person interested in starting their own business. JASON LLOYD lives in Middleburg, NY and was 14 years old in 1992 when he received his loan of $5,000 to purchase livestock. Jason bought 7 heifers, 5 were calves and 2 were springing heifers, all registered holsteins. Although the loan was amortized over 5 years, Jason was able to pay it off in 4. Jason’s plan was to eventually sell his animals to help pay for his college education. When the time came he decided not to go and his herd has now grown to 20 milking cows and 15 heifers. The growing herd gave Jason enough equity to form a partnership with his father and stepmother and Maple Downs II became a legal entity in 2001. Jason first heard of the RYL program from his parents who then had a loan with FmHA. Jason worked with Christy Marshall and said she made the whole process easy. Jason was a member of 4-H and his club leaders, John and Debbie Stanton, were also his mentors. Because of the

Resource Spotlight

Katie (L) and Brittany (R) Nellis each applied for and received FSA Rural Youth Loans of $5,000 to grow their own dairy enterprises on the family’s farm in Palatine Bridge, NY. loan Jason was able to open his own checking account and learned how to do his own balance sheets. Because of his newly gained knowledge he was able to establish his own credit history early which enabled him to buy a brand new pickup truck at the age of 18. Jason believes that the RYL program gave him the opportunity to increase the size of the herd faster and to go from a grade herd to a nearly all registered herd. With the growing herd, Maple Down II is currently planning an expansion. Plans include putting up a Cover-all™ building to house cows and youngstock and eventually convert part of the tiestall barn to a parlor. When asked if the program was worth the work, Jason said that the experience was well worth it and would recommend that everyone take advantage of the opportunity. KATIE NELLIS is the 11th generation to live on her family’s farm outside of Palatine Bridge, NY and is 14 years old. In the spring of 2000, Katie’s mom, Chris, was reading an article published by Farm Bureau about FSA’s Rural Youth Loan program and thought Katie would be interested. She was and borrowed $5,000. Katie thought the application process was hard trying to develop projections but in retrospect she says it was “fun”. With the loan Katie bought 2 registered Holstein cows, a registered Jersey cow and a registered Holstein springing heifer. Along with animals Katie was able to buy from her parents, she now owns 7 milk cows and 5 heifers. The loan is being paid off from income Katie receives from the sale of milk. Katie has her own prefix and DHI

FSA Loans for Beginning or Socially Disadvantaged Farmers The Farm Service Agency is authorized to assist beginning farmers and or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to finance agricultural enterprises. Under these programs, FSA can provide financing to eligible applicants through either direct or guaranteed loans. FSA defines a beginning farmer as a person who: • has operated a farm for more than three years but not more that 10 years • will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm • agrees to participate in a loan assessment, borrower training and financial management program sponsored by FSA

• does not own a farm in excess of 30 percent of the county’s average size. Each member of an entity must meet the eligibility requirements. Loan approval is not guaranteed. Socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers are identified as those who belong to a socially disadvantaged group. For additional information please contact your local USDA, Farm Service Agency office or visit our website at

records so she can keep track of her production. At last test her rolling herd average was 25,700 pounds. The records are used to calculate her income each month. Besides the milk income she also gets the cull and bull calf money. Katie pays her parents $1.25/day to board her calves and heifers. She also has an arrangement with her parents where she pays board and overhead per cow to keep them at the family farm. Overhead covers all expense including feed, labor, vet and $20 maximum on breeding. Anything over $20 and Katie pays the difference. Katie milks and does chores for her dad and this also helps pay some of the board for the cows. With the help of her mentor, Nancy Pickard, Katie has developed a record keeping system to keep track of her herd and her profits and losses. Katie is now working with excel and Quickbooks to keep her records. Between having her own business, school and sports, Katie keeps very busy but it is obvious she loves what she is doing. She said that everything is going very smoothly but wishes she had “more time to work with her records”. Katie’s plans for the future include continuing to increase her cow numbers and go to college. Preferably somewhere where she can play softball! For additional information about rural youth loans or to obtain an application, please contact your local USDA, Farm Service Agency office or visit our website at Randi Sheffer is a Farm Loan Officer with USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Greenwich, NY.



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Page 9


Using Brown Cows to Turn Green into Dollars Switch to Jerseys Helps Seacord Farm Succeed By Sandy Buxton

Nestled at the end of a dead end road, not far away from where it all began, is the latest chapter in the story of Seacord Farm. The current incarnation of the farm is a growing herd of Jersey cows that now covers two farmsteads.

Most people only get to see the Seacord Farm animals at the Washington County Fair and may not realize all that has gone into making this “4-H project gone wild” such a success! I spent some time talking with Richard and Brian Seacord to get a better picture and learn more about their plans.

IN THE BEGINNING… The farm was operated by Richard’s dad, with a mixed herd of cows for years. By the time Richard joined his brother Roger as a partner in 1971, Roger had half a barn of Jerseys and Richard had the other half filled with Holsteins. In 1977, Roger and his wife decided to leave the farm and he

took a job with Salem Farm Supply. Richard continued on with the farm using hired help; breeding and growing a herd of registered Holsteins. In 1991, economics, hired help problems and a divorce convinced Richard to liquidate his herd, rent out the farm and take a good job that he had lined up with Allenwaite Farm working with their herd.

4-H SAVES THE DAY All that was left of the Seacord herd were eight or ten Jerseys, 4-H animals belonging to Richard’s sons Mark and Brian. The Seacords leased the animals out to a local farm so the boys would be able to continue showing at the Fair each year. But this little herd kept growing and by late 1994, with a dozen cows milking, the Seacords decided to get back into the dairy game. This time it was all Jerseys! When Brian was a high school sophomore and turned 16 years old, the farm was milking 27 cows. He was working at home and also at Allenwaite. During his senior year, they hit 55 cows. Richard was still working at Allenwaite, while spending time on the home farm in his off-hours. In 1999, with a total of 65 cows in the barn, Richard returned to the farm full time. HERD GROWTH AND LONGEVITY One of the hallmarks of the Seacord Farm has been their ability to maintain outstanding internal herd growth. A low cull rate, high herd longevity and focus on youngstock health all pulls together to result in lots of animals that are available for replacements. Since they don’t need all of the heifers, they have gotten involved with the Jersey Marketing Service (JMS) a group that holds sales and works to maximize the price received on animals sold through them.

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The farm uses rotational grazing in the summer to lower operating costs since the cows are harvesting much of their own forage, and it is good for their cow health. Currently, they have a cow in the barn that is a daughter of one of the original 4-H animals from 1983. The dam was 13 when she had the calf, who is now 10 years old! There are 9 cows in the barn that are 10 years old or more. The oldest is waiting to have her 11th calf. THE JERSEY ADVANTAGE Jerseys have been a major factor in the Seacord’s ability to grow the farm. The cows have few calving problems, and they are efficient in their feed consumption. The

A picture of comfort, the cows at the tie-stall home barn are relaxing and ruminating. Elaine, the Seacord’s famous EX-95 cow, is on the left.

Seacord Farm’s hillside barn promotes the farm name while viewers admire the Jerseys. advent of component milk pricing in 2000 gave them a real advantage in producing high value milk. During 2004, their average net milk price was $20.80. They ship milk to Stewart’s and enjoy the relationship that they have with the company. Using JMS, the farm was able to pay off a Cover-all™ heifer barn they built in 2001 in a 3 year period, allowing them to have a great facility to raise all of their heifers. In 2004, they were able to sell 19 animals at an average price of $2050 each. They put money into painting and restoring the main barn after they finished their heifer barn payment. This really was their plan – grow heifers, market animals, pay off debt and bank some money for the next bunch of years – until a new opportunity presented itself. The LaCroix Farm became available on a long-term lease and while it is requiring some time and money to get it into a laborefficient set-up for their milking herd, it is providing them with an opportunity to grow to 150 milking cows. In preparation for the new farm, they kept heifers and purchased 15 more. At the time of the move, they were milking 90 cows in the old facility. Now there are 27 milking in the old barn with 85 at the new facility. GOALS FOR THE FUTURE Looking at the 10-year goals for the farm, it really boils down to maximizing their opportunities and facilities. The Seacords want to be able to: • merchandise consistent, good quality cattle who are high type animals with good production genetics. • deliver 75 heifer calves each year, and sell about half of them • continue to maximize their financial opportunities through grazing and custom harvesting so they don’t have money tied up in equipment. • continue to be active on the regional if

not national show circuit, which will help them in their plan to merchandise more animals TIPS FOR SUCCESS Knowing that they are only part of the way through the first year of expansion, I asked for some advice they would pass on to others, to help keep people from making the same mistakes. Planning. Spend more time getting everything pulled together. The Seacords felt they hurried too much when it might have been worth taking a little more time. You don’t always know what the idiosyncrasies of the new place are and it takes time to figure them out so you can minimize your mistakes. Also make sure that you document – measure, count and map the new facility. This insures that you are prepared for capacity – how many cows and heifers will fit in the barn, how many tons of feed will fit into storage, and how machinery will be able to move around the facility. Budgeting. Make sure that you develop a budget and then guess high on your estimates because it is always going to cost you more!!! Focus. Understand where your money is being made and be as productive in maximizing that as you can. Being successful at setting and reaching goals over the last 10 years, the Seacords and their internal herd growth program are looking forward to achieving their new goals during the next 10 years. Sandy Buxton is a Farm Business Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County. She can be reached at 518-746-2560 or This article first appeared in the March/April 2006 edition of Washington County CCE’s Ag Digest.

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July 10, 2006




On Raising Rural Kids -The Value of Shooting Sports By Celeste Carmichael While I was working on my undergraduate degree in biology, I got it in my head that I should learn to hunt deer. I loved fishing and learned so much about the environment and biology from fishing…that hunting seemed like a natural progression. My dad had a good friend that hunted, who agreed to take me along some time. The day came. It was snowy, and, as I recall - quite cold. My expectation was that we would go out, take a few shots, come home clean the deer, take some pictures... are you laughing yet? My vision was, as it turns out, completely out of whack. I didn’t realize at the time that hunting is about much more than the kill. Needless to say, we never even saw a deer that day. Several hours into the adventure I was cold, tired of being quiet… and ready to call it a day. Looking back, my hunting buddy was completely unbothered by the cold, quiet, deer-free time in the woods. Although I never did take up the sport, I have come to appreciate that hunters typically value all of the side benefits to the sport – learning patience, spending time with family and friends, learning to look for cues and clues for the natural world, and learning and passing on tips and safety information. I’m especially impressed with the focus on safety that true sportsmen have. Shooting sports is a very rewarding activity for a wide audience of people - young (12 and up) and not so young, men and women, people from varied backgrounds; and, it seems, especially appropriate for our rural families. I thought you might appreciate a look at the value of shooting sports as a family recreational activity, and the inherent need for safety education. First we’ll look at what the research has to say, and then we’ll hear from a practitioner of the sport. ON RISKS A comprehensive study of sports injuries in the United States (American Sports Data, 2002) ranks hunting injuries low on the list of injuries per 100 participants. In fact hunting ranks 29th on the list -- behind basketball, baseball, aerobics and most of the other typical sports that you can name. Perceived risk is certainly a different story. I remind myself of this regularly as I tuck my kids into the car- since driving is the riskiest thing we routinely do. In fact, it is said that the most dangerous part of a hunt is the drive to the hunting area. Taken further, the deer can be considered more hazardous than the sport. Nationwide, more people are killed by deer colliding with motor vehicles (100-150 per year) than are killed in hunting-related shooting incidents (fewer than 100 fatal huntingrelated shootings, including self-inflicted accidents). ON SAFETY With risk in perspective, it is important to note that accidents do happen to sportsmen and women – some that involve firearms and some that do not (such as falling from a treestand). The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation recently distributed a report citing 2005 as the safest year on record for hunting. Hunt-

ing injuries have progressively been decreasing over the last fifty years. The report shares the stories behind this year’s accidents. These stories confirm that accidents may happen, but many can be prevented. Education is one of the first steps to accident prevention and to this end there are many hunter safety education courses run through the Department of Environmental Education, Cornell Cooperative Extension and sportsman’s associations. You likely know, too, that all first time hunters must pass a 10 hour or longer hunter education course before obtaining a license. And, for the record, hunter and especially bow hunter education classes cover treestand safety to educate hunters about other potential hazards. ON BUILDING CONSERVATIONISTS Time in the woods and the outdoors does help young people to develop a relationship with the environment. Seems logical… and it has been proven. A recent study from the Cornell University Department of Human Development, links non-formal outdoor activities with positive attitudes and behaviors about the environment in adulthood. Previous studies have found that nature around a home can help protect children against life stress and boost children's cognitive functioning. All good reasons to be sure we are spending time outdoors, as a family, with our children. FROM THE FIELD The intent of this column is to share some statistics, research, and by way of an interview… a reality check. This edition’s interviewee is Joan Bennett. Although Joan now lives in California, Kentucky – she spent many years as a volunteer leader working with youth in the 4-H Shooting Sports program in Washington County, New York. Q: Joan, how did you come to volunteer your time with youth interested in shooting sports? A: I’ve lived on some sort of a farm most all my life. I’ve raised horses, calves, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, poultry, water fowl, raccoons, sheep and goats. And, of course, there has always been a dog or two and the cats. My boys and I rode saddle horses in gymkhanas for years. It was very special for me to spend that kind of time with my sons. Then my sons became interested in shooting sports. Although I took my first hunter safety course and got my license as a young adult… I didn’t become really involved until my kids had an interest. I learned to enjoy the sport and built confidence as a leader because of them. It was great to spend time together, plus it was important to model good safety practices for the kids. And, we had so much fun. Beyond hunting, we really enjoyed archery and skeet shooting. The kids could physically see their growth and improvement by looking at the archery target. They saw that persistence pays off. That’s the way they learned to master new skills. There was so much satisfaction in that. Q: What motivated you to want to learn to hunt… and pass it on?

A: Originally, I learned to hunt because my family did it. My parents (both mom & dad), grandfather, uncles and aunts all hunted and I wanted to fit in so I wanted to go hunting with them. As my children became interested, I got involved to spend time with them. Over 20 years ago I became a project leader and later the organizational leader for the Adamsville Greenjackets 4-H Club. I met many super people and took part in many trainings myself. I went on many trips with my "kids" (as I always called all of them). I continued to be active after my kids were all grown because I enjoyed seeing how this sport helps kids to grow. Q: Who taught you to hunt and safely use firearms? A: I took hunter safety with Charlie Fountaine from Hawks Corners in Hartford, NY when I was 15 or 16. I still remember him well. I also learned tips from family and my boys’ father. Q: How should hunters (young and not so young) best prepare themselves to safely enjoy the sport? A: Hunter Safety Courses taught us the proper uses of firearms and archery. At the time my boys started Shooting Sports, there were many people jacking deer, my boys learned about the right and wrongs of the law from D.E.C. officers as well as from all their instructors of the program. Q: What advice would you give a family whose children are interested in shooting sports? A: My son Joe has hunted with his family for many years. Now that Joe's daughter Jessica has taken and passed both hunter safety and bow hunter safety she will hunt with her dad, uncles and possibly her grandfathers. I feel this has brought Joe and Jessica closer together, because it is special time spent together alone, there are three younger siblings that take up their dad's time also, plus his job.

they can with their children. Even if parents are already hunters themselves they should take part in the safety education and shooting sports programs along with their children. Both will learn a great deal from the program, as well as having some extra quality time to spend together. Involving parents makes this a great family activity. Thanks Joan for your comments! Clearly, shooting sports has been a great activity for Joan to share with her family and many youth over the years. Skills such as personal/self discipline, respect, ethical standards, wilderness interpretation, confidence, personal responsibility, leadership skills and communication skills are all benefits of this sport, which can be an activity that lasts a lifetime. Celeste Carmichael is State 4-H Program Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. If you would like to nominate a friend (or yourself!) for an interview in this column contact Celeste a 607-2554799 or Any topic related to rural youth will be considered.

Safety Basics The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides the following safety guidelines for families: • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction • Keep fingers off the trigger. • Keep the firearm unloaded when not in use. • Don’t rely on your firearm’s “safety” device. Want to know more about studies related to shooting sports? Here are a couple of websites to get you started: • NYS DEC website/dfwmr/sportsed/index.html • National Shooting Sports Foundation • 4-H Shooting Sports Program www.nys4hshooting

As long as youth and adults follow the rules and the laws for hunting, take extra time to be safe, and do the right thing we won’t have any problems.

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July 10, 2006

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Community Saves Farm From Jaws Of Development, Feeds Self Instead By Madeleine Charney

farmer, Jeremy Barker-Plotkin.

As the fertile Pioneer Valley looks on, valuable Massachusetts farm land is permanently snatched away and lost to development. Fortunately, there are forces afoot to counter that tragic trend.

HEALTH-CONSCIOUS COMMUNITY IN SEARCH OF LIKE-MINDED FARMER Last spring Jeremy was driving around with an eye for farming opportunities when he spied Dan Gallagher pounding a “Looking for Farmer” sign into the ground. After a lengthy process of sorting through proposals from various farmers, Jeremy and his wife Audrey were selected as the right match for the project. Their operation, Simple Gifts Farm, was already established in Belchertown, and has now been transferred to the new CSA site.

The North Amherst Community Farm (NACF), a non profit land trust, launched a new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in North Amherst, MA this spring. The 38-acre property boasts views of Mt. Warner, walking trails, a wetland stream, and a wildlife corridor. The group’s vision includes creating more equitable access to fresh, organic produce for the 10,000 people living within a 1-1/2 mile radius of the farm. But more than that, NACF plans to strengthen the bonds within this diverse community through its educational and cultural programming, raising awareness of the connection between food production and distribution and the health of the environment. Their right-hand man: Vegetable

Joining the Barker-Plotkins are Marcy Lowy, veterinarian, and her husband Dave Tepfer, livestock farmer, who will raise grass-fed animals on the land for meat and eggs. Rotating the livestock pastures with the organic vegetables fields will maintain healthier soil and reduce pests. HARD WORK PAYS OFF Gallagher, co-president of NACF and an Amherst resident, was one of the early participants who took action when the property was slated for the development chopping block. Economic conditions pushed the owners, the Dziekanowski family, to sell the family farm. The fetching price: $1.2 million. However, NACF was able to turn the project into a different animal. According to Steve Dunn, NACF’s other copresident, donations from at least 250 contributors amounted to nearly $140,000. In addition, the Town of Amherst contributed $100,800 from Community Preservation Act funds. Bundled together with $355,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, development rights will be jointly held by the town and the state. The Dziekanowskis, who could have asked a higher price from developers, offered an additional $600,000 in the form of a 30year low-interest loan. They made this choice to assure that the land would be farmed in perpetuity.

The Barker-Plotkins kept their business name, Simple Gifts Farm, and transferred it from Belchertown to the new site in North Amherst.

Says Dunn, “The value of the land greatly exceeds what a farm operation can generate.” For that reason, he encourages community members to continue their support with hands-on assistance as well as mone-

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Dave Tepfer (left) will raise livestock while Jeremy Barker-Plotkin (right) will raise produce for the new North Amherst Community Farm CSA. Photo by Jonathan von Ransen tary assistance. Do you like to write or take photographs? Then you might like to contribute to the farm’s newsletter. Do you relish physical activity? Consider helping with building and maintenance projects. Computer savvy? The website needs maintaining. Ongoing fundraising is another area where more heads and hands are greatly needed. THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THIS LAND IS MY LAND Hosts of people in the community have been stepping up to the plate, donating expertise, labor and time. Bruce Coldham of Coldham Architects, LLC will advise on the construction and renovation of buildings. Shaul Perry of Sunwood Builders volunteered to build a farm stand where produce will be sold to passersby. Ruth Hazzard, of the Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has been instrumental in the hiring process and defining the terms of the lease. “It is this collective, grass roots effort that’s making [the farm] work,” Dunn emphasized. He also credited the non profit organization Equity Trust for their dedication to educating NACF about economic options and strategies. Like NACF, Equity Trusts views economics as a web of relationships, the relationship of individuals to one another, the communities that we live within, and the earth that sustains us. To that end, plans are already underway for a children’s garden and ongoing projects with two local elementary schools. Commu-

nity members will be exposed to ecological innovations such as the use of renewable energy as the farm installs photovoltaics for heating buildings, a compost-heated greenhouse, and Jeremy Barker-Plotkin’s own “grease truck,” which is fueled by used cooking oil. SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE CSA Shares are offered on a sliding-scale basis, from $375-$425 with produce and meat available June through October. The goal is to recruit 100 members this season and increase to up to 200 in the future. Work shares will allow ten eligible members to work in exchange for a reduced rate. All members are encouraged to contribute one harvest shift, thereby reducing the workload for the farmers and increasing their sense of connection to the land. North Amherst Community Farm is located at 1089 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002. For information about the CSA, contact Jeremy Barker-Plotkin at or 413-323-8468. For information about contributing time or funds, call 413549-0722 or visit NACF’s website at Madeleine Charney is Information Resources Manager with the New England Small Farm Institute and a member of the Small Farm Quarterly Editorial Team. She can be reached at or 413-3234531. This article first appeared in the NOFA Mass News May-June 2006, and is used with permission.


You Know You're a Farmer When... ☛Your animals live in more expensive buildings than you do. ☛You can remember the fertilizer rates, seeding rates, and yields on your farm for the past 10

years, but you forget your wife's birthday. ☛More than half of your clothing comes from fertilizer or seed dealers. ☛Your dog rides in the truck more than your wife. ☛Weddings and other family events are planned around planting and harvesting.

T el/Faxx 607-965-8101

☛Friends buy a house with a two-acre garden, and you calculate how many bushels of corn it would grow. ☛Your wife finds nuts and bolts in the bottom of her handbag instead of loose change.

☛An afternoon off means getting up four hours earlier.

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July 10, 2006



Grazing Takes Center Stage NYS Conference on “Strategies For Going Grass-Fed” Sells Out! By Troy Bishopp and Joanna Green Cornell’s Small Farms Program was pleased to be one of numerous cosponsors for a landmark gathering of grazing enthusiasts this spring. A capacity crowd of two hundred farmers, educators, agency folks, and household chefs from all over the Northeast welcomed a host of seasoned, practical farmer-speakers on the subject of pasture, perhaps the Northeast’s most promising agricultural asset. Opening speakers included Assemblyman Bill Magee, Agriculture Committee Chairman, who praised the idea of using our grasslands more efficiently to stimulate the palates of the consumers who are asking for these products. NYS Commissioner of Agriculture Patrick Brennan was excited to see the passion for pasture in the crowd. He spoke of the environmental, social and financial benefits that grazing offers the farmers in this region. He and his staff promised to continue to work for constituents to enhance this critical resource for the viability of New York agriculture.

And then it was on to the real grazing experts -- farmers! Keynote speaker and author of No-Risk Ranching, Missouri grazier Greg Judy was passionate about the opportunities for contract grazing on leased land. He described how he uses over 500 beef cows, 300 hair sheep, goats, horses and Tamworth pigs to reclaim and maintain 1,300 acres of otherwise idle land. He talked about relationships with landowners, lease agreements, fencing and stocking rate strategies, and wildlife conservation. His enthusiasm fired up the crowd over and over again throughout the day.

Renowned Indiana seasonal dairyman Dave Forgey was just as enthused as he talked about having dairy animals on pasture and bringing the next generation into farming through a share-milking business partnership. His practical experience with forage species and replacement heifers is second to none.

Shannon Hayes, author of The Grass-Fed Gourmet, explained how Americans spent 68 billion dollars last year on kitchen renovations yet actually do very little cooking -only averaging 30 minutes together at the family meal. She emphasized the importance of locally grown meat, dairy and eggs raised on good pastures and the associated health benefits for consumers. She also had keen insight on marketing, and on educating consumers about cooking techniques to bring out the best in grass-fed meats. Shannon’s words were a great prelude to a truly awesome lunch featuring Sweet Meadow Farm’s grass-fed beef, lamb, pork and turkey prepared exquisitely by the Dibbles Inn chefs. The comradery and discussions at the dinner table among attendees was truly memorable.

(L-R) Conference organizer Troy Bishopp with NYS Assmblyman Bill Magee and Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Brennan.

The afternoon sessions featured more indepth discussions on pastured poultry from Dr. Ben Lucio, Jim McLaughlin, Jeff Mattocks and Mike Carroll. These gentleman laid the groundwork for a successful poultry venture and also discussed the Avian Flu concern. The livestock session focused on contract grazing, marketing and multispecies grazing strategies. Mike Debach, artisan butcher from Leona Meats led a spirited group on the benefits of grassbased genetics as it relates to meat quality, flavor and cutout ratios of beef animals. The afternoon dairy track featured Onondaga County grass-based dairyman Pete Mapstone and his thoughts on maintaining top production throughout the grazing season. Ideas for grazing replacement heifers and working with different forage species were explored. An organic dairy farmer roundtable discussion consisting of farmers Kevin Engelbert, Paul Knapp, Dave Stratton and Charles Blood ended the day on a positive note. Participants left feeling inspired to explore all the opportunities of pasture based farming. The “Strategies For Going Grass-Fed” conference was made possible by the support, vision and spirit of the Center for Agriculture Development & Entrepreneurship, Inc., Central NY RC&D Project, Inc., Northeast SARE, NY Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, Madison, Onondaga and Oneida Co. Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cornell Small Farms Program, The GRAZE-NY

We Want To Hear From You!

We welcome letters to the editor Please write to us! Or send a question and we'll do our best to answer it. We're also looking for beautiful, interesting, and/or funny small farm photos to print. Write or email Joanna Green, Cornell Small Farms Program, 135C Plant Science Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853,


A capacity crowd of 200 awaits a lunch featuring grass-fed beef, lamb, pork and turkey. Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida, Madison, Cayuga and Onondaga Counties, USDA/NRCS, Chenango County Ag. Development Council, American Pastured Poultry Producers Assoc., Oneida Co. Ag. Economic Development, Cornell University Dept. of Animal Science, Country Folks Magazine, Sweet Meadow Farm, Cornerstone Farm Ventures, Fertrell Minerals, Williams Fence Company, CROPP Organic Valley, Tru-Test Inc., Kings AgriSeeds, Adirondack North Country Assoc., Penny Nutrition, Wayne Perry Fencing, Restora-Life Minerals, LLC., Lakeview Organic Grain and Bishopp Family Farm.

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Idea From Iowa: County Policies To Promote Local Food Iowa has the highest production of corn and the second highest production of soybeans in the United States. How did little Woodbury County pass ordinances promoting local foods? Iowa's Woodbury County has some of the richest farmland in the state. Unlike much of Iowa, the landscape in Woodbury isn't flat. The Loess Hills, carved over millennia by the snaking Missouri River, create steep

ridges and gently rolling hills. The soil is gritty, sifting easily through your fingers. During a rainstorm, loess soil washes quickly down the cliffs. Local farmers constantly battle soil erosion.

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COUNTY FOOD POLICY? YES! In the near future, Woodbury County’s farmscape could look very different. In June 2005, the County passed an Organics Conversion Policy, offering up to $50,000 annually in property tax rebates for those who convert from conventional to organic farming practices. The policy is intended to address a growing problem in Iowa: rural population decline resulting from the growth of large commodity farms. Because the average age of a farmer in Woodbury County is 57, over half of the county’s farmland will need to change hands in the next 10-15 years. The County needs new farmers to continue its agricultural tradition. “We want to make it economically possible for young families to enter farming for our next generation of farmers,” says George Boykin, Chairman of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, in a Woodbury County press release. On January 10, 2006, the County also became the first in the United States to mandate the purchase of locally grown, organic food. The Local Food Purchase Policy requires Woodbury County departments to purchase locally grown, organic food from within a 100 mile radius for regular city use. The policy has the potential to shift $281,000 in annual food purchases to a local farmer-operated cooperative, increasing local demand and spurring increased production and processing. The policy also helps build connections between area farmers. Since the county must work with a contractor and broker, the farmers must network to aggregate supply. Together they are building an infrastructure that supports a locally-owned and controlled food system. The Local Food Purchase Policy supports the Organic Conversion Policy passed last summer, providing a market for the farmers who convert to organic production. “In the end, we anticipate a quality local food brand emerging from the increased economic activity in our area,” says Rob Marquesee, the Director of Rural Economic Development for Woodbury County, in a press release. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? In a state where 90 percent of the land is used for agriculture, Woodbury County’s organic and local food ordinances could serve as a catalyst for transforming Iowa’s agricultural landscape. With a graying farm workforce and population losses, Iowa’s rural communities need fresh ideas for retaining younger people and building economically viable regions. The Woodbury policies, while innovative, did not emerge from a vacuum. Nor will their existence immediately transform Western Iowa’s agricultural landscape. Still, what makes a Woodbury County happen? First, the support of key county officials. Rob Marqusee, the Director of Rural Economic Development for Woodbury County, already believed that local, agriculturebased economies were key to revitalizing rural communities. If he wanted to prove this to a larger audience of county economic development officials, he needed hard data and credible numbers to back up his claims. Some of that data came from research coordinated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, which is well regard-

ed for exploring and cultivating alternatives to conventional agriculture. The Regional Food Systems Working Group, funded by the Leopold Center and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has also been a valuable resource for the Woodbury County developments. In addition to providing assistance in Woodbury County, the Leopold Center has worked with Iowa State’s Center for Transportation Research and Education to develop a new tool that can help local groups make the case for supporting communitybased food systems. The Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator is helping users explore new or expand existing markets for fresh produce. MEASURING ECONOMIC IMPACTS Using supply and demand data from the calculator, Rich Pirog, the Leopold Centers Marketing and Food Systems Research Program Leader, and Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson examined what would happen to Iowa’s economy if 25 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Iowa were grown in the state. They determined that total new sales in Iowa would increase by nearly $140 million, and $54.2 million in additional labor income would be paid to 2,030 job holders, of which 190 would be working on farms. “We want to help groups make a better case for investing in local and regional food enterprises,” says Pirog. “The Iowa Produce Calculator is one tool that can help provide the numbers so often lacking in making that better case.” Additionally, demand for and awareness of local foods in Woodbury County is strong, thanks to a solid network of NGOs and farmers markets. With a strongly mobilized community, the community support will likely continue after external funding from foundations ends. Additionally, the increased demand provides an incentive for farmers and processing plants to work together to determine the best ways to serve the community. Over time, Woodbury County will showcase how county policies work in building sustainable regional food systems. In the meantime, The Leopold Center will continue studying the conditions and criteria needed to build resilient regional food systems. Although those criteria will vary by region, the Center expects to discover the essential elements common to all regions and construct a workable model for food and fiber businesses to foster rural development. For more information on Woodbury County’s Organic Conversion Policy or its Local Food Purchase Policy, visit This article first appeared in the January 2006 edition of FAS Update.

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Small Farm Quarterly

Youth Pages This issue of the SFQ Youth Pages features three young writers from the Cornell Junior Dairy Leaders program. This PRO-DAIRY program recruits 16-19 year olds for a series of 8 workshops over the course of a year. It features real-world learning; interaction and discussions with college students, faculty and industry professionals; and the opportunity for young people to explore career options in agriculture. The Junior Dairy Leaders have a lot to do and see. The class travels around the Northeast and Wisconsin learning about different types of dairy and agribusiness management styles and ideas. Other opportunities include resume development, internships

July 10, 2006

(opportunities), regional seminars, and public presentations with use of computer technology. The program also helps develop leadership skills needed to make positive changes and contributions to the dairy industry and to communities, using a team approach to problem solving. “The Junior Dairy Leader program was a great experience and opportunity to meet kids with the same interests as me from around the state and I established friendships that will last a lifetime,” says Hannah Young, class of 2004. “It helped me decide which college is right for me, and exposed me to all the unique opportunities there are in the dairy industry. I grew as an individual and learned more about myself and some key skills to be successful in a career. I cherish every minute I spent in the program.” For more information about Junior Dairy Leaders and 4H Dairy programs, visit or

The Power of Agriculture - Experience It! By Sarah Moss, Age 18, Chautauqua County 4-H Growing up on a dairy farm in Western New York has given me many opportunities to explore the field of agriculture. It all started when I was just 12 days old and my parents, Glen and Diane Moss, took me along to look at a farm that became the farm I grew up on. We currently have 130 cows and 120 replacement heifers. Our herd consists of mostly Holsteins, but we have about 30 Ayrshires mixed in, about 10 crossbreds, one Guernsey and one Brown Swiss. My younger brother and I have the responsibility of raising the replacement heifers. Each day after school we go to the barn and care for the heifers and calves. Then we go to the parlor and freestall barn to assist with other chores. During the summer I help harvest crops. We also rotationally graze our herd during the summer months. Over time our operation has grown and changed. We built a freestall barn and a milking parlor so that we can care for more cows with the same amount of labor. We no longer grow our own corn silage; we purchase it from a neighbor. And last summer we renovated our old stall barn to house weaned calves in 4 different pens. This year we are working on making our bunk larger so that we can have some of our haylage custom harvested. That way we won’t have to harvest as much ourselves and put it all into upright silos. Also, our line of older equipment will last longer. Lots to think and learn about! My interest in agriculture doesn’t stop at home. I’m an active member in the Pine Valley FFA chapter, the Dairy Judging team, the Field and Forage team, and the Chautauqua County 4-H program. I enjoy exhibiting my 4-H cows at the fair; currently I have 9 head of Ayrshires. Last year I served as a Jr. Superintendent at the Chautauqua County fair. I was also given the opportunity to represent New York State at the Dairy Management Contest held at the All American Show at Harrisburg PA. Three years ago I participated in the Dairy Youth Explorers program. I am currently a member of the Junior Dairy Leader Class, a PRO-DAIRY program run by Debbie and Dave Grusenmeyer, with the help of many sponsors. This program allowed me to attend the National 4-H Dairy Conference

Showing cattle with some of my 4-H friends at the county fair. L-R: Jamie Rhinehart, Morgan OagWalker, Sarah Moss.

and the World Dairy Expo held in Wisconsin. The program has allowed me to meet many new people from across the state and share our experiences from agriculture backgrounds. It has also allowed me to look at the many different management practices of dairy farmers across the state. Growing up in a rural area and on a family farm, I can appreciate many things. There are instances when nature can change plans for the day, so we need to adjust

our schedule. There Here I am learning how to IV a cow during a Junior Dairy Leader are other times when workshop. we can gaze at the stars after a late night calving, watch the as a family we pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the promises that spring brings. sun rise and set while doing chores, smell These little things have shaped my life and the spring rain, the first hay that is cut, and the falling of the leaves in the woods. I have greatly influenced me. have learned to appreciate a family workAll of these experiences have made an ing together toward a common goal. We impact on me and because of them I am are able to see each other every day and ready to embrace the opportunities availare able to confide in each other every able in agriculture. night. When fixing the fence in the spring

July 10, 2006

Page 15


Living and Loving Farming By Abigail Andrew, Age 17, Spirits of Tomorrow 4-H Club, Wayne County Growing up as a young farm kid, the days were long and the work was (seemingly) endless. Summers are what my sisters and I lived for, trying to break our 4-H show heifers wearing rubber galoshes and our parents old college tshirts …usually ending up with rocks in our

Abbey with Angel at the Wayne County Fair.

hands and cuts on our knees. Then of course we’d make our way to the bathroom for an Iodine and Band-Aid Party… “Bored” or “nothing to do” wasn’t a part of our vocabulary. Mornings consisted of calf and heifer chores. These, we thought, were never ending and always wondered why calves weren’t born pail trained, as we clasped our hands, withdrawing from the calf’s head in the bucket and inspecting our cuticles. At lunchtime, we’d snack on unripe apples from our farm’s apple tree while we worked on perfecting our sandbox town behind the horse barn. Then we’d finish the day with another set of calf chores and rounding out the evening by accidentally playing hide and seek in a patch of nettles, and as you could imagine my mother had the wonderful task of putting six screaming girls in the back of our station wagon and taking us home to a bath. Yep, we were farm girls; dirt under our fingernails, tangled and lop-sided ponytails, and boots without socks. What great memories! A big part of living and loving farming for me and my family was and is 4-H. It gives us projects to work on as a family and a way to

meet with other people with similar interests. My first memory of 4-H was as a Cloverbud, preparing and showing our heifers at the fair and trying to keep my whites clean just long enough to receive my green Cloverbud ribbon and then sprinting to help operate the 4-H Dairy booth. I also modeled my first sewing project back then -- elastic-waistband shorts, made from cotton Holstein cow figure fabric – and let me tell you, I was quite proud of them. Although my responsibilities on the farm have increased from calf chores to herd health and more, I continue to get excited about exploring new agricultural opportunities. These experiences have opened doors for me already. Because of my know-how on handling, caring and treating animals on our farm I’ve found a place on the Wayne Co. 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl team. I am also a part of the Jr. Dairy Leaders Program through Cornell University. Our first trip was to attend the National 4-H Dairy Conference, held on the campus of the University of Madison in Wisconsin. While I was there I listened to speakers presenting about all different aspect of life and agriculture, smelt the

beautiful waters of Wisconsin (at five in the morning), tasted malted milk balls from a brewery and felt the physical pain of barn dancing for four days straight. These experiences have affected me so much as a person. When I was younger I thought 4H was just a clever way to trick me into learning to cook and sew. But now I can see I’ve gained skills that are excellent tools for a young person to possess, such as the art of public speaking and presenting, dairy judging and learning to give oral reasons (which I believe comes naturally to no one). The knowledge I’ve gained in my years of 4-H has a beginning but no end. I’ve been taught that personal achievements are accomplishments, individual goals are some times challenging and average expectancies can be exceeded. My years in 4-H are numbered but, my memories and experiences will last a lifetime. These experiences, after all, will help me continue to live and love farming.

Broadened Horizons By Chad Wall, Age 18, Jefferson County Wow, am I tired. Not only do I think this every time I return home from a great weekend with my dairy leaders group, but right now I am beat. I mean come on -- I just finished delivering piglets, eight to be exact, and it’s way past my bedtime. But that’s all right because everyone knows that farming isn’t for the weak. My name is Chad Wall and I am a great example for showing that the NYS Junior Dairy Leaders program isn’t just for kids from dairy farms. If we were to take a look at my background I have almost no experience with the dairy industry. Besides raising pigs I also raise sheep, Boer goats, and beef cattle. I have shown many species at county fair and have even taken my animals to state fair for the past three years.

practiced giving IV’s to cows, doing hoof care, checking for ketosis and mastitis; but I have also made friends, and met people that are great contacts for the future. Our team attended the National Dairy Conference where we met people from all across the United States. We have toured grazing, rotary, traditional, and even self- trucking farms in various states. A flood of information and knowledge that I never knew has been presented to me. I have broadened my horizons, and learned so much in the process.

This is me with my Dairy Prospects classmates, learning how to IV a calf.

My family’s farm always had a little bit of everything on it, except for one of New York’s greatest industrious animals, the dairy cow. My first experience in dairy was showing a dairy cow at county fair as part of the super showmanship contest. Since then my dairy experiences have really developed. I have known for years that I want to become a veterinarian in the future. However, there were still some areas where my understanding was lacking, including dairy cows. So, I started to seek out some experiences. Through FFA I participated in cattle judging. And, then I found the Junior Dairy Leaders Program. Through the Dairy Leaders program I have had so many experiences and taken part in many activities that I know will help me in the future. Not only have I learned and

Here I am taking a “stab” at giving an IV to a calf.

Here we’re learning how to take blood from the tailhead vein.

Want to write for the Youth Pages? Writers need not be 4-H members. Please submit your article or letter to: Celeste Carmichael, 4-H Youth Development Program Specialist, CCE State 4-H Youth Development Office, 340 Roberts Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 Phone 607-255-4799, Fax 607-255-0788,

Page 16


July 10, 2006


Get Help With Health Insurance

healthcare, dependency services, radiation, chemotherapy, hospice and dental care.

Your family may qualify for low- or no-cost plans subsidized by many Northeast states.

Each plan is different. You need to fully investigate what each offers – and what the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are – so you can choose wisely which is best for you. Many programs offer dental and prescription drug coverage along with the plan or as an add-on for an additional fee.

By Maire Ullrich

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focusing on risk management funded by the New York Crop Insurance Education Program under the Risk Management Agency (USDA) and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets.

When it comes to health insurance, many farm families feel like they are between a rock and a hard place. Without an off-farm job that provides benefits, high premiums for private policies make health coverage seem like an unaffordable luxury.

But farming is dangerous work. And for children, a farm can be a dangerous place to live. Without health insurance, a serious injury or illness can quickly force families to liquidate farm assets to cover hospital and other expenses. In a flash, a freak accident to you or a family member can cost you the hard-earned equity you’ve built up in your farm.

Fortunately, you may have alternatives to expensive private plans that can help you minimize these catastrophic risks – as well as help you keep small health problems from escalating into major expenses – at a fraction of the cost. You won’t have to fret about how much it’s going to cost when deciding whether or not you (or your children) need to seek help for a minor health problem or for preventive care.

Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid due to ownership and equity restrictions, many Northeast states subsidize low- or no-cost health insurance plans. Investigating these options may help you save on premiums or broaden your coverage.

Your first step is to learn about the basics of how these state-based programs work. (Read on.) But the devil is in the details, and the details vary from program to program and state to state.

CHILDREN FIRST If you have some equity in your farm, you probably do not qualify for Medicaid. But in some states, your children might qualify if your income is below a certain amount. To find out, you need to ask state-level agencies. (The specific offices that manage the programs vary by state.) There are also separate state programs for children that cover basic care such as annual exams and vaccinations.

“All of the Northeast states have subsidized low-cost insurance programs for children who don’t qualify for Medicaid.”

All of the Northeast states have, at a minimum, subsidized low-cost insurance programs for children who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Eligibility is based on income and the size of your household. The income thresholds generally start at 150 percent of the poverty level and rise to as high as 400 percent. (Farm program payments may be considered as income, at least in part, and could affect your eligibility.)

In 2005, for example, the poverty level was $9,570 for the first person and $3,260 for each additional family member. So the 150-percent threshold for a family of four in 2005 was $29,025. Only spouses, children and parents or legal guardians count, and pregnant women count as two. Some states offer similar programs for adults. In addition to meeting financial criteria, you usually must have been without insurance for 90 days.

“Each plan is different. You need to fully investigate what each offers – and what the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are.” Most state programs subsidize private insurance companies to cover you and others who meet eligibility requirements. Private insurance providers will vary depending on where you live. Their premiums, when not fully subsidized by the state, will vary between companies and potentially between counties in the same state. In New York, the monthly premiums range from about $200 for an individual to $600 to $900 for a family. Co-payments may apply and they range from $10 for prenatal visits to $500 for in-patient hospital services. YOU’RE IN. YOU’RE OUT. Fluctuating farm income can make keeping continuous coverage challenging. Your kids may qualify for Medicaid one year, but not the next if your income rises. In some states, if you qualify for Medicaid you aren’t allowed to “buy up” into the state insurance program for your kids even if you want to. If you qualify for Medicaid, that’s what you get. State programs usually require annual applications that you must complete by certain dates or risk losing coverage. When choosing a health plan, you should think about the doctors you want and the services your family needs, and match those with the health plans available to you. Make sure the doctor or other providers you want to see participate in the health plan you choose. After you join a plan, you must use the hospitals, clinics and doctors that work with the plan. You won't be able to use your current providers unless they participate with the insurance company you choose, or you are willing to pay out of pocket. Bouncing between state programs and Medicaid can complicate choosing a provider. Not all providers accept Medicaid. If you don’t want to switch providers every time you’re moved from state-subsidized programs to Medicaid, choose providers who accept both. WHAT’S COVERED? Most of the state-subsidized programs for both adults and children provide comprehensive health insurance coverage. You will have a regular doctor, get regular checkups and see specialists, if needed. Coverage may include emergency services, testing, equipment, supplies, vision, speech and hearing services, mental and behavioral

In states that don’t routinely provide subsidized health insurance for adults, the state may provide coverage under special circumstances. These “special conditions” may include pregnancy/prenatal care, cancer, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, drug dependency, mammograms, diabetes, mental health conditions, specific disabilities (like blindness), children with special needs, and others.

accurate information from any of the health department, social services or insurance company employees you speak with, ask to speak with someone else. If you need help, discuss your plans with your insurance agent, accountant or Extension Educator.

“Keep in mind that many of the other folks applying for these programs do not have a business with land or other equity and fluctuating income. You may need to go the extra mile to explain your situation clearly.” The information is complicated – not to mention the bureaucracy. Keep in mind that many of the other folks applying for these programs do not have a business with land or other equity and fluctuating income. You may need to go the extra mile to explain your situation clearly. If you want good results, you need to be assertive.

Some other things to look out for when comparing programs: • Some programs may put a “binder” on equity. In an effort to recoup costs, many social service programs have a legal right to part of your estate when you die or sell. This practice is termed “estate recovery.” Depending on your personal situation, you may decide insurance is valuable enough to accept the lien. • If you or someone in your family has a “pre-existing condition,” find out what the law in your state says about whether or not insurance companies can reject you on that basis. • Remember that the fate of your statesubsidized insurance coverage may be determined by your state’s annual budget. Most states work on a first-come, firstserved basis. That means that if the state cuts funding for health insurance subsidies, those who joined the program most recently will be the first to be cut. At least one Northeast state offers insurance for children all of the time but to adults only when the state’s coffers are full.

The websites or printed information detail the application processes. In many states this will include an interview. Be prepared to bring at least last year’s tax forms. You may also need deeds and titles for land and equipment. Is this hard work? Sure. But when you consider the stakes – your family’s health and the survival of your farm – it may be the best investment you can make. Maire Ullrich, MBA, is a vegetable crops resource educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County.

BE ASSERTIVE! Now that you have a grip on these basics, follow up by studying program websites and/or calling program hotlines and asking them to send you more information on programs in your state. (See For More Information chart.) Some of the websites are difficult to navigate. If you get frustrated, call the hotline number and ask for written information. Be sure you understand the rules, eligibility requirements, and coverage for the program or programs you think might work best for you. You’ll need to do some number crunching on your own, particularly if you’re considering moving from a private plan to a state plan. Work up a couple of scenarios of when you might need insurance and compare what would be covered under each option. Families with special health needs may not get the security they need under public programs. Don’t be shy about asking questions. If you don’t think you are getting helpful,

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Page 17



Farming is Good By David Kline

Excerpted from the introduction of David Kline’s book Great Possessions with permission from David Kline. The year is a never-ending adventure. What many consider recreation we enjoy on our farm. This year we saw four firsts on our farm: our first Kentucky warbler; our first luna and imperial moths; and after waiting for over thirty years, I saw my first giant swallowtail butterfly. The aesthetic pleasures of diversified farming are obvious. From spring through fall the color of the fields are constantly changing. I like to look at our farm as an artist would behold his or her painting – a variation of colors and design, never a bare spot of canvas left exposed. The bare spots on our farm, such as cow paths, are covered in November with strawy horse manure to prevent erosion. I use the manure spreader, which works fine as a mulcher. The land is now ready for the rains and storms of winter. Probably the greatest difference between Amish farming and agribusiness is the supportive community life we have. Let me give an example. When we cut our wheat in early summer (we cut about half of a thirteen-acre field in one day), the whole family, after the evening milking, went shocking. It was one of those clear, cool June evenings. Simply perfect. Tim, our eighteen-year-old son, and I each took a row, while my wife, Elsie, and ten year-old son, Michael, took another row. Two of our daughters, Kristine, sixteen, and Ann, twelve took the fourth row. Eight year-old Emily carried the water jug. Row by row we worked our way across the field, the girls talking and giggling while they worked and Michael explaining in excited detail some project he

had underway in the shop. When we reached the top of the hill we stood together and watched the sun slip behind a brilliant magenta-colored cloud and then sink beneath the horizon. From far to the south came the mellow whistle of an upland sandpiper. Tim said, to no one in particular, “Shocking together with the family is fun.” He spoke for all of us. Then we heard voices from the next hill and saw three neighbors shocking toward us from the far side of the field. One of the girls excitedly remarked, “Seven rows at a time. That is speed.” Soon all the bundles were set up in shocks and everyone came along to the house for ice cream and visiting. The assurance and comfort of having caring neighbors is one of the reasons we enjoy our way of farming so much. Eight years ago I had an accident that required surgery and a week in the hospital. My wife tells me the first words I said to her in the recovery room were, “Get me out of here; the wheat has to be cut.” Of course she couldn’t and I need not have worried because we had neighbors. While Dad cut the wheat with the binder, the neighbors shocked it. When our team tired my brother brought his four-horse team, and by suppertime the twelve-acre field was cut and shocked. This year the neighbor who had been in first to help us needed help himself. Since a bout with pneumonia in July he hadn’t been able to do much. So last Thursday six teams and mowers cut his eleven acres of alfalfa hay. Then on Saturday afternoon, with four teams and wagons and two hay loaders, and fifteen men and about as many boys put the hay in his barn in less than two hours. We spent almost as much time afterwards, sitting in a circle beneath the maple tree with cool drinks and fresh cookies, listening as one of the neighbors told of his recent trip out west. He and a

Cutting oats with a horse-drawn binder. (photographer unknown) friend visited draft-horse breeders in Illinois, Iowa, and eastern Nebraska, and what a story he had to tell: of nice horses and nice people, of the worst erosion he had ever seen from the Iowa hills following eight inches of rain. I couldn’t help thinking of my young friend who got married last September and then bought his dad’s machinery and livestock and rented the farm. He and his wife really worked hard on that debt. Milking by hand, selling grade B milk, tending a good group of sows, cultivating corn twice, some three times, using no herbicides, they are nearing the end of their first year of farming on their own, and most of their debts are paid off.

David and his wife Elsie, along with their family, milk about 40 cows near Fredericksburg, Ohio. David has authored two books: Great Possessions and Scratching the Woodchuck. He also edits Farming Magazine, published by Friends of the Agrarians. Sample copies are available for $5. Subscriptions are $18/year for four issues, or $32 for two years. Write: P.O. Box 85, Mt. Hope, OH 44660; e-mail: More information at

He didn’t tell me this, he’s much too humble, but he did say this to me while threshing, “You know, farming is good.”

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July 10, 2006




Conserving Grassland Birds Northeast farmers can help stop the decline of Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and other grassland species. By Jim Ochterski One of the joys of being a farmer, amidst the crazy schedule, low crop prices, and weather woes, is the chance to see and feel connected to the wildlife that shares the farmstead, especially birds. It might be a winter flock of wild turkey in the corn stubble, ducks on the pond, or a pair of owls cruising low over a mown field at dusk. Of course, starlings contaminating the silage or the winged thieves that make off with hybrid grapes leave much to be desired. But on the whole, most birds are a pleasure to see and hear. No doubt if you have been paying attention to Meadowlarks and Bobolinks, you are not seeing and hearing as many now as in the past. They are disappearing, unable to find the grassland habitat that was once very

widespread in the Northeast. Likewise, obscure grassland species like Henslow’s sparrow and Vesper sparrow are declining all over the region, and across North America. HABITAT LOSS BLAMED IN PART ON FARMS Many bird researchers point to “modern farming practices” as one major reason for the decline of grassland birds. The practices deemed detrimental for grassland birds include early first cuttings of hay, manure spreading in grass hayfields, rotation of hay to row crops, and overstocking grazing pastures. Damage to grassland bird habitat on farms is usually a side-effect of adopting a particular agronomic technique. Farmers are not intentionally going after these birds or the fields they may occupy. In the case of hayfields, the first cutting is taken as early as it is to maximize the nutritional value of grasses. Crops are rotated to manage nutrient loads from year to year and to reduce problems of high pest populations. Unfortunately, crop rotation sets up habitat that may be only temporary. In the case of grassland birds, temporary habitat is as useless as no habitat at all. But some recent field studies are showing that blaming modern farming for the loss of grassland birds is too broad a brushstroke. In fact, some farms in may become a refuge for many kinds of grassland birds. A 2005 inventory of pastures on 24 farms in the Central Southern Tier showed that active livestock pastures do harbor grassland birds, while providing livestock with all necessary nutrition. Birds like Eastern meadowlark, Savannah sparrow, Bobolink, and some species of concern are using and likely breeding in pastures. So it depends on what kind of farming practices you use.

Lightly grazed pastures such as this provide good nesting habitat for some grassland birds such as the Savannah sparrow and Eastern meadowlark. Photographer: Jim Ochterski

Resource Spotlight

More on Grassland Bird Conservation Cornell Cooperative Extension has developed two new technical bulletins explaining how to blend hay and pasture productivity with grassland habitat preservation. These bulletins are titled “Hayfield Management and Grassland Bird Conservation” and “Enhancing Pastures for Grassland Bird Habitat.” A third bulletin, “Transforming Fields into Grassland Bird Habitat” is directed toward other rural landowners who have large fields to manage, irrespective of a farm interest. All of these publications are available as free downloads at the website titled “Grassland Birds in Fields and on Farms”, or you can request a print version from your local Cooperative Extension office. Your local Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, and Soil and Water Conservation District technicians can also help you better understand how to develop grassland habitat.

BENEFITS TO THE FARM There are several reasons why farm operators should consider taking steps to conserve grassland habitat, in hayfields, pastures, and idle fields. First, it is a compelling argument for farmland protection in any community. If farms can help protect fragile wildlife species like grassland birds, they are providing a significant public benefit in the name of land stewardship. Second, grassland birds benefit farms by reducing populations of insect pests. All grassland bird nestlings exist solely on a diet of weevils, caterpillars, cutworms, and flies brought to them by their parents. Similarly, turkey and pheasant poults require protein-rich insects for the first few weeks of their lives.

Grassland birds, including pheasants, need the cover provided by standing hay until about July 15th to successfully fledge. This farmer left part of the hayfield (in back) unmowed. Photographer: Jim Ochterski Some farms can use grassland bird conservation as a marketing angle (think “birdfriendly” milk or meat), provided they can back up those claims with appropriate conservation practices. Cost-share opportunities like the USDA Grassland Reserve Program can provide some farms a financial benefit, once they commit themselves to good grassland preservation techniques. HOW TO MANAGE FARMLAND FOR GRASSLAND BIRDS 1. Assess your current hayfield and pasture resources. On a map or aerial photograph, note which fields have the best potential for grassland bird habitat retention. These are fields of at least 10 acres, dominated by grasses and containing up to 20- 25% other plant species. The bigger the space, the better for grassland bird habitat. It helps if the grassy habitat is extended by adjacent pastures, idle grassy fields, other hayfields, or even mown lawns. 2. Evaluate your hay and forage needs to meet current and long-term production goals. You either have surplus hay, just enough, or not enough. This varies from year to year, so think about typical supplies, not the extremes. Consider what level of quality is best for your farm and what you need to do to make adequately nourishing hay. Delaying hay cutting for conservation or other reasons will compromise the optimal nutritional quality of hay. Later-cut hay has lower moisture content, lower digestibility, a higher rate of shattering, and lower protein. To maximize both yield and quality, grass hay should be cut at boot stage - just before or at head emergence; grass quality declines rapidly after heading. Delaying the cutting a week or two to allow for grassland birds to fledge will usually lead to hay that is essentially over-mature, but still potentially useful. Farms with animals that can tolerate moderately lower nutritive values - horse, sheep, dairy heifers, and mature beef can often use this later-cut hay.

used in these fields to maintain better hay quality. 4. Observe the bird species that appear in hayfields and pastures. Farm operators curious to know which birds are already using their pastures should solicit the assistance of a knowledgeable birdwatcher, or obtain an audio guide to bird songs of the Eastern United States (available at libraries and bookstores). In the spring and early summer, birds will be singing in the habitat daily. It is best to walk slowly around a hayfield or pasture in the morning, listening carefully and taking note of the different songs. 5. Consult with conservation educators and technicians. These folks can help you develop a schedule of mowing and rotation to balance farm needs with overall bird habitat. You can develop your own plan, but it is best to have a conservation specialist review the specifics to make sure you are not overlooking important details about your farm needs. Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) field crop specialists are located in most CCE county offices across NY State to help you make the most of your productive conservation needs. JOIN THE EFFORT Grassland bird conservation in hayfields and pastures can be as rewarding as it is challenging. Efforts made by many farms in one region or community will eventually attract potentially significant populations of grassland birds. As knowledgeable stewards with a deep and rich tradition of conservation awareness, farmers can lead this environmental success story. Jim Ochterski is a Senior Extension Resource Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Schuyler County. He can be reached at (607) 535-7161 or



3. Identify excess fields. These fields may not be critical for early hay mowing, or may usually be too wet for early mowing. These fields can form the base of a grassland conservation effort designed to maintain bird habitat. Late maturing varieties of hay grasses may be

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Page 19

After a garden, backyard chickens are one of the easiest ways to connect with where your food comes from. For our family, it's also deepened our appreciation of the hard work that something as simple as an egg represents. Some farms, such as Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, NY, even raise extra laying birds in the spring to offer their customers this grounding experience.

With the short growing season in the Northeastern US, greenhouses are essential for starting early crops and being ready for opening day at the local farmers' market or CSA. Holcomb Farm CSA, West Granby, CT.

From Field To Plate Photo Essay by Jason Houston I photograph food and agriculture because I believe it’s one of the most important, urgent, and universally relevant issues we face today. My concerns include my own family’s health; the monumental injustice of global hunger; sustainability in our communities; preserving traditional knowledge from far off places; the irreplaceable loss of biodiversity; the yet to be realized threats of genetic engineering; the ethical treatment of animals; the instability of a cheap oildependent economy; the warming of our planet; and even terrorism. One of the area's youngest farmers, Sean Stanton at Blue Hill Farm, often chooses historic breeds and old world methods over more conventional animals and techniques. Sean can be seen driving his Norwegian Fjords through downtown Great Barrington making deliveries and picking up compost from the Berkshire Coop and this year he learned to plow with his horses at nearby Farm Girl Farm CSA.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson underscored this in his resignation announcement where he counted our import-dependent food system and vanishing food and agriculture trade surpluses as one of our greatest national security liabilities. Proponents of industrial agriculture will insist we are too far gone and must buy into their technological solutions to satisfy an increasing demand. But in a growing number of communities around the world farmers from small, independently-owned and community-focused farms are proving this assumption wrong, helping local economies grow and sustainable agriculture take hold. They represent real alternatives and I want to photograph them to contribute to the critical conversations we need to be having on where our food comes from and the sustainability and vitality of that system. A solo exhibition of Houston’s work titled 'FARMER' will be at Spike Gallery in NYC until August 30. At the 32nd Annual NOFA Summer Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, Aug. 10-13, Houston will be coleading a workshop with Billie Best of the Regional Farm and Food Project, on talking to your community about agricultural issues. For more information on this project or these events, please visit:

Harvesting grey and yellow oyster mushrooms at Blue Moon ‘Shrooms Farm in Housatonic, MA.

Kelsey VanBeever feeds the pigs in their open forest run at Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield, MA.

Seamus Wolfe tends the early season crops with his mother and sister at Wolfe Ridge Farm in Sheffield, MA.

Each spring Kevin Ford comes to shear the Horned Dorset sheep at Moon In The Pond Farm. Kevin is a professional hand blade shearer. He learned to shear on a visit to his ancestral Ireland in 1975. In 1991 after achieving master blade shearer certification from the New Zealand Wool Board, he sheared in the sheds of New Zealand's North Island. He now shears more than 5,000 sheep and goats each year from New England to the Carolinas.

Bags of organic potting soil ready for the first year of greenhouse planting at Great Barrington, MA’s Newest CSA, Farm Girl Farm.

In Berkshire County alone (pop approx 150,000) there are 8 farmers' markets, with many more in the surrounding areas. Most start quietly in midMay with flowers and some early crops, but by early summer it's possible to eat completely locally -- and well -- shopping only at farmers' markets.

Page 20

July 10, 2006



Doing A Lot With Little – Starting on a Shoestring By Nancy Glazier and Bill Henning It was a crisp clear February morning when we drove up to MacKenzie’s for the first time. We parked by a big old red barn with a beautiful stone silo where we met Leith and Sasha. After some small talk we began to realize how cold it was and started trudging up the hill, into the woods, to the cabin. Entering through an unheated mudroom, which also contained the bathtub, we soon appreciated the warmth of the wood stove that heated the only room. On top of that stove was a homemade reservoir with a spigot – hot water on tap. In the company of three herding dogs, enjoying some very good herbal tea, over two hours of conversation ensued in the wink of an eye. Leith MacKenzie grew up in Italy Valley, Yates County. His folks had a small beef farm and made maple syrup. The couple met at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, a liberal arts school that also operates a farm. Sasha grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. Before returning home Leith went west to work on a cow-calf operation, a heifer raising farm, and another farm that raised pastured poultry. After four years in the west Leith returned to Italy Valley with Sasha. They have now been there almost two years. With help from Leith’s brother the couple came up with enough money to buy about 100 ewes and enough electric netting to keep them contained. Since the initial expenditure spending has been the BARE minimum. The MacKenzies spend labor and forfeit convenience in place of spending money. The only plumbing in their one room cabin is one tap of cold water. Yes, the restroom is an outhouse. Taking care of the property while the owners are away pays the rent. In place of feeding grain they move portable fence every day so the sheep have fresh grass. They now have access to 300 acres and only pay rent on sixty. There are no permanent fences. The grazing season is extended as much as possible. Leith and Sasha also receive a management fee for managing an additional 100 ewes. The herd of beef cattle is all Scotch Highlanders, a small, slower growing breed that produces meat with unique flavor. Last year several Highlander stockers were purchased to add to the beef supply. Leith

Sasha harvesting lunch from the hoop house. By mid-May, she and Leith had already been eating out of the hoop house for six weeks. Photo by Nancy Glazier

The “Management Team.” Leith and Sasha McKenzie began farming two years ago in Italy Valley, NY. Photo by Bill Henning

Leith and company doing the chores. Photo by Nancy Glazier says he can buy these cheap and retail them at a premium. As of the middle of May, when we made our visit, Sasha and Leith had already been eating produce out of their small high tunnel greenhouse for six weeks. Gardening is a way of life along with freezing and canning. Maple syrup is a project shared with Leith’s folks along with the beef, pastured poultry, and natural pork. Everything is direct marketed out of a little store that was originally a milk house. This young couple’s goals include a modest new home, maybe in about five years, and raising a family on a farm that is about as self sustaining as possible. They want to continue their astute observations of nature - Sasha is an avid birder -- while growing old together in amongst the hills of Italy Valley. So if you’re ever traveling the road between Italy and Naples keep an eye out for the sign reading ‘SWEET GRASS MEATS’. You’ll not only find delicious food but the enjoyment of some very enthusiastic conversation. In the meantime, you can reach the MacKenzies at 585-374-9913. Nancy Glazier is a Technical Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension of

The McKenzies live in this small cabin and keep spending to a bare minimum. Photo by Nancy Glazier

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Small Steps Reduce Risks During Small Dairy Start-up Pasture-based production, seasonal milking and organic marketing make small dairy possible for this couple By Fay Benson

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focusing on risk management funded by the New York Crop Insurance Education Program under the Risk Management Agency (USDA) and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets. In 1998, Dana and Gail Sgrecci both had “real” 40-hour-a-week jobs and a dream of starting their own dairy farm. Today, they each put in more than 40 hours by midweek. But they’re working for themselves on their own More Sun Farm – a 65-cow, grass-based, seasonal milking, organic dairy in Odessa, NY.

As a bonus, the Moores were experienced dairy farmers themselves. To the Sgreccis, they weren’t just landlords. They were mentors. LEARNING FROM OTHERS In addition to tapping the Moores’ decades of experience, the Moores’ son Rob had set up his own seasonal, grass-based dairy right next door to the old home farm that the Sgreccis were renting. Rob had spent years researching grazing, and had developed a sophisticated pasture system and built a greenhouse-enclosed swing parlor. He was a tremendous help when the Sgreccis planned their pasture system, helping them make sure that they laid out their lanes, gate locations and water system efficiently and effectively. The Srgeccis started milking 40 cows in spring of 1998, and Gail quit her off-farm job later that summer. One of the benefits of pasture-based dairying is that Gail was able to do most of the daily chores herself. This allowed Dana to continue his work at Dairy Marketing Services (DMS), providing dependable cash flow and affordable health insurance. Their first child, Nicholas, was born in March 1999. Relying on pasture helped keep feed costs low for the couple. It also reduced machinery costs, since they didn’t raise grain or silage, and when the cows are on pasture they harvested their own forage and spread their own manure.

The Sgreccis use their small Scottish Highland beef herd and horses to clean up pasture leftovers left by the dairy herd. Neither Dana nor Gail grew up on a dairy. But when they set out to farm full time, they realized that there were many possible paths to get there. The couple chose the least risky one, taking small but steady steps toward a clear goal – establishing a financially sustainable, ecologically friendly dairy where their family would be happy. That meant making the most of limited capital, seeking advice from more experienced farmers, and relying on the risk-reducing benefits of pasture-based dairying. Financial risks are perhaps the most daunting for new farmers. Debt repayment particularly stresses cash flow. So instead of taking out expensive, long-term loans to buy a farm, the Sgreccis decided to rent one from Bob and Helen Moore in Nichols, NY, in April 1998. By renting instead of buying, the Sgreccis were able to focus their limited capital on income-generating assets, especially cows. It also gave them flexibility. The couple didn’t feel locked into farming in one place the rest of their lives.

The Sgreccis milked year-round during the three seasons they rented the Moores’ farm. But they realized that taking time off from milking was important to their growing family. So they carefully planned to switch to seasonal milking when they bought their own farm in Odessa, NY, five years ago. To prepare for the move to their new More Sun Farm, the Sgreccis bred 13 heifers to calve in spring 2001. They also sold the rest of their Holstein herd and bought a 32cow mixed herd that was mostly spring calving. In addition to time off from milking during the coldest months, seasonal milking with spring calving synchronizes peak milk production when pastures are at their most productive and nutritious. REDUCING WEATHER RISKS The Sgreccis’ new farm has 28 acres of permanent pasture and another 44 acres of fenced hayfields on tillable ground. They manage their forages to maximize grazing and harvest any surplus as hay or baleage. Their management also reduces weather risks to their hay crop. The strategy starts in fall when cows graze permanent pastures late into the season. Cows usually start grazing again in mid-April, going wherever the grass is ready first. Because the permanent pastures are slow to recover from the late fall grazing, this means the cows often graze the fenced hayfields early in the season.

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Grazing hayfields early in the season pushes back first hay

Gail Sgrecci with her children Camille, Brock, and Nick. Photos by Fay Benson.

Start-up tips: Even if your start-up involves other enterprises, you can still learn a lot from the Sgreccis’ experiences: • Set clear goals and take small steps to achieve them. • Reduce financial risks by renting land instead of buying. • Invest your capital in income-generating assets. • Maintain off-farm income and health insurance. • Relevant work experience can help prepare you for faming. • Find a mentor and build relationships with other farmers. • Keep machinery and other costs low during start up. • Track finances carefully. • Don’t forget to take time off to meet personal and family goals. cutting into June, when the weather is more settled it’s easier to make high-quality hay. When permanent pasture growth slows in midsummer, the cows often graze the hayfields again. Forage species vary from paddock to paddock, but include orchardgrass, white clover and Kentucky bluegrass, as well as some fescue and reed canarygrass. One-inch plastic pipe supplies each paddock with water using a portable tub. Early in the season, the Sgreccis provide the whole herd with several acres of fresh pasture after each milking. They gradually reduce acreage as grass growth increases. They try to err on the side of offering too much grass rather than just enough. They clean up any leftovers with their herd of Scottish Highland beef cows and horses, or clip pastures. The Sgreccis admit that the day-to-day management of their pastures is challenging. But keeping in mind their goal of maximizing pasture production helps make decisions easier. They must be doing something right. Last year they estimated that 86 percent of their forage during the grazing season came from pasture. INSURING THEIR FUTURE Dana’s work as a field inspector and supervisor for 10 years took him to other farms almost daily. Observing different operations taught him the value of good business planning and carefully tracking finances. Since 2001, they have participated in Cornell’s Dairy Farm Business Summary. The Summary allows the couple to compare their business performance with other farms their size, measure progress towards their

financial goals and reduce financial risks. By October 2004, the Sgreccis’ finances looked good enough for Dana to leave his off-farm job. But in 2005, the couple looked ahead and realized that they still had to compete with larger farms. They knew there was a limit to how many cows they could milk on their own and still rely mostly on pasture. So they figured that the best way to increase income was to sell certified-organic milk. They felt their management style was already very compatible with organic standards. And seasonal milking made their transition much easier. One of the toughest requirements for would-be organic dairy farmers is that the cows must receive 100percent organic feed for 90 days before their milk can be sold as organic. It’s costly to feed expensive organic grain to a milking herd during this time without receiving any premium for organic milk. The Sgreccis avoided much of that expense by timing their transition for when their cows were dry this past winter. The couple received their first organic milk check in April. The Sgreccis feel content that their eightyear journey – though long – was worth the trip. What’s next? Says Gail, “We hope to raise our three children, Camille, Brock, and Nick, to enjoy farming and maybe have an interest in keeping it going.” They’re already taking small steps toward that goal too by making sure their children enjoy growing up on the farm and want to come back. That’s because the Sgreccis know that with small steps, they can achieve most any goal. Fay Benson is a small farm educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County. He coordinates the New York Organic Dairy Initiative and is a Small Farm Quarterly editorial board member.

For more information… If you farm in New York State, you can participate in the Cornell Dairy Farm Business Summary – contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office. The Cornell Small Farm Program offers online resources for beginning farmers ( ources/beginning) and has several ongoing dairy projects (

Page 22


July 10, 2006




Canning Your Garden Treasures

By Judy L. Price and Katherine J.T. Humphrey

research-based recipes, tested for safety and quality.

Preserving the bounty of your vegetable and fruit gardens and orchards shouldn’t be a skill of the past. Because the time of today’s farming households is filled with many different responsibilities compared to previous generations, you might not think of home food preservation as a positive use of your time.

For readers who are not comfortable with using the internet and like to have a cookbook in their hands, one of the very best resources is the 5th edition of “So Easy to Preserve,” which will be available in summer 2006 from the University of Georgia (the site of the National Food Preservation Center). Ordering information may be found at or by writing to: Ag Business Office, 215 Conner Hall, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 306027506.

However, preserving fruits and vegetables is an activity that will bring family members together with a common purpose, fill your cupboards with highly nutritious foods, keep food at your fingertips on a cold and snowy winter evening, and result in a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

Throughout the years, food has been preserved in many ways, using various methods. In the 21st century, we know that some of the methods our grandparents and parents used are no longer considered safe. If you have canning books in your home with publication dates before 1989, they should only be kept for sentimental reasons, and should not be active resources in your kitchen.

The National Center for Food Preservation website, is a wonderful resource you can use for the most up-to-date home canning, freezing and drying information. While it is quick and easy to look for recipes on the internet, food preservation recipes and directions should only be taken from internet sites such as the National Center for Food Preservation, university sites (those ending with .edu), and companies that promote preservation products (such as Ball and Presto). These are sites you can trust for

Another recommended resource is the Ball Blue Book. Be sure to check the publication date if you already have a copy, and remember anything before 1989 may have recipes and directions that are potentially unsafe. In every case, the directions must be followed in order to prevent the growth of C. botulinum and its deadly toxin, other microbes that make us sick, and spoilage microorganisms. The following safety recommendations are a result of food preservation research at various universities in the last few years: • 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (or 1/2 tsp. Citric acid) MUST BE ADDED to a quart of canned tomatoes to raise acidity. • Pureed squash and pumpkin MUST NOT be canned, as the product is too thick to allow adequate heat penetration. • Chopped garlic in oil MUST BE STORED in the refrigerator, and only for a few days. • Home-dried jerky may be made according to any family or old-time recipe, AS LONG AS the pieces of meat are cut no


Growing “Clean” Sweet Corn Project reduces worms with natural pest controls; increases customer satisfaction “Clean” sweet corn is not easy to grow. Organic and no/low spray growers especially have to contend with infestation levels of European corn borer and/or corn earworm that can approach 100 percent in some seasons. For consumers, that means husking an ear of corn to find little worms among the kernels. Five farm families working with Abby Seaman of Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Program and Cornell entomologist Mike Hoffmann on a project funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute, Inc. have helped improve the odds for harvesting a good crop of the popular vegetable. BIG SAVINGS, HAPPIER CUSTOMERS Economically, successful application of the natural pest controls to prevent a 25 percent loss of a sweet corn crop can mean as much as $750/acre in sales for an average harvest of 1000 dozen ears per acre and an average selling price of $3/dozen. It can mean $2,250/acre in a year of severe infestation when 75 percent of a crop could be lost. Having worm-free corn increases customer satisfaction and purchasing of other farm market products. “We saw the most worm-free corn we’ve

ever had and our customers were quite pleased. That positive response impacted the sales of all of our farm market products,” says Mike Thorpe. Mike and his wife Gayle own and operate Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm in East Aurora. WASPS, PHEREMONES, AND BT Three organic and two no-spray growers provided a total of 36 acres of sweet corn for field trials. They tested the use of tiny Trichogramma wasps as natural predators that attack the eggs of the European corn borer and an all-season pest, the fall armyworm. Pheromone traps were used to monitor moth activity as a gauge for timing three releases of the wasps. “The control we had with the wasps in 2005 was better than with our past use of insecticides,” says Dave Henderson. He and his wife Cheryl grow unsprayed corn on their farm in Penn Yan. The growers also evaluated spraying an insecticide approved for organic production, and applications of a Bt microbial insecticide mixed with soybean oil put directly on the corn silks as control methods for a late season pest, the corn earworm. Overall project results were measured by customer survey at each farm. Ninety-one percent of surveyed customers were satis-

more than 1/4-inch thick before drying, and the dried strips are pasteurized by placing on a baking sheet (close together but not touching) in a 275 degree F. oven for 10 minutes.

Resource Spotlight

Home Food Preservation Info Here are some good links for canning/freezing/food preservation. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office if you don’t have access to these online resources:

Source: So Easy to Preserve, 4th edition. Judy L. Price and Katherine Humphrey are retired Extension food preservation specialists, formerly with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County and Livingston County, respectively.

National Center for Home Food Preservation

Seasoned Tomato Sauce (about 5 half-pint jars)

USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning

10 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 5 1/8 quarts) 3 medium onions, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups) 3 cloves garlic, minced OR 3/8 teaspoon garlic powder 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves 2 bay leaves 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 teaspoon sugar Bottled lemon juice Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Press mixture through a food mill and discard seeds and bay leaves. Cook mixture until thick over medium-high heat, stirring frequently (reduce by about one-third for thin sauce; by one-half for thick sauce.) Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon citric acid into each half-pint jar. If using pint jars, add 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid to each pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process.

fied with the quality of the corn. All the farms market their corn directly to consumers. “Control with wasps will naturally be more variable than the consistency achieved with insecticide application, but the results will most of the time satisfy customers that prefer direct market purchase of organic or no/low-spray products,” Seaman says. For more information on integrated pest management, go online to The wasps, Trichogramma ostriniae, used in this project, can be purchased from IPM Laboratories in Locke, NY. The farmer-led New York Farm Viability Institute provides funding for projects that address producer-identified barriers to productivity and profitability and provides agricultural and horticultural producers with access to technical assistance, educational resources and a network of diverse expertise in production agriculture and horticulture, agricultural economics, value-added processing, marketing, integrated pest management, business planning, business structuring, waste management and onfarm business opportunity development.

University of Minnesota's Extension Service -- Food Preservation Gateway to Government Food Safety Information

Option 1 – Process in a Boiling Water Bath Canner: Half Pints or Pints ……………………………………..35 minutes Option 2 – Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pound pressure OR in a Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner at 10 pound pressure: Half Pints or Pints ……………………………………..15 minutes Note: This recipe may NOT be safely canned in larger canning jars. For more information about this research contact Abby Seaman at the Cornell University Integrated Pest Management Program, 315-787-2422. For more information about the New York Farm Viability Institute, Inc., visit or contact R. David Smith at 315-453-3823.

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July 10, 2006




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Bedded Pack Barn at Lazy Crazy Acres The covered bedded pack system may be emerging as a Best Management Practice for small dairies, providing environmental controls, economic benefits in the form of production efficiencies, the social benefit of avoiding liquid manure storage odors, and enhanced carbon cycling and sequestration. By John Thurgood Outside the small Catskill mountain community of Arkville, up a long and picturesque road, you will find Jake Fairbairn’s Lazy Crazy Acres. The farm nestles in a narrow valley with steep pastures, meadows on one side and woodland on the other. The well-cared-for main dairy barn harkens back to an earlier time and is unique in that it is narrower than most, likely built to fit better against the hillside.

His next stay was at the Alfred and Sue Krusenbaum farm in East Troy, Wisconsin, where 91 cows are managed on a bedded pack with a feed alley; milking is done with a swing-16 parlor. The Krusenbaums produce their milk organically and use biodynamic practices. Reflecting on these experiences Jake said, “I learned more over the summer than I did during the winter.” In the summer of 2004 Jake purchased 16 cows, grazing them on the 70 acres of pastureland that lies just above the farmstead. The pastures were fairly run down at the beginning, having been relatively idle. Since the land was not in rotation with annual crops, the organic matter levels and soil health was strong. Nutrient levels on the pastures were medium to high and overall pH levels were good. The plants, however, were not vigorous, and there were too many weeds from a lack of grazing. Through well-managed rotational grazing, the pastures have started to come back with a vengeance. Jake’s herd now consists of 40 crossbred cows. He doesn’t hesitate to tell you that he doesn’t like to do any unnecessary chores; labor efficiency is always on his mind. And at 6’ 6” in height, Jake knew that bending under the cows wouldn’t work. He decided that building a swing parlor was his first priority.

The bedded pack structure will be 50’ x 100’ with a hoop and fabric roof and 10-foot sidewalls of tamarack. Round bale feeders will be rotated daily to avoid a concentrated build up of manure. A feed alley would create liquid manure requiring storage; rotating the feed area eliminates this issue. The waterers will be placed on cinder blocks so levels of block can be added to elevate the waterers as the pack builds up. ADVANTAGES OF BEDDED PACK The advantages of the bedded pack system are expected to be numerous. It is estimated to be more cost effective than construction of a traditional concrete barnyard, gravel or concrete feeding area and manure storage, especially if it is a nonearthen storage structure. While providing environmental benefits, the system can offer more efficient housing and milking than a tie-stall barn.

GETTING STARTED After four years of liberal arts at Plattsburgh State, Jake learned of The School of Beginning Dairy Farmers offered by the University of Wisconsin. From November 2002 to March 2003, he participated in their beginning dairy farmer course, which focuses on general agriculture with an emphasis on grazing. One expectation of the program was that participants serve internships at the end of the academic sessions. To that end, Jake interned at Burt and Trish Paris’ farm in Bellville, Wisconsin. The Parises manage 80 cows on a bedded pack and milk with a ten-unit swing parlor; the cows are fed outside.

readily available in the Catskills, and with renewed interest in alternative fuels, access to these products is likely to get worse. It is questionable whether this processed straw can be stirred for composting; Jake is not interested in adding another task to his chores so, at this point, composting is not an option.

Bedded Pack Barn at Butterworks Farm. Photographer: Dan Flaherty Using what he had learned about swing parlors, he designed a system to be installed in the tie-stall barn. You might wonder where the cows would spend the winter…Jake felt comfortable with out-wintering the cows on a bedded pack of straw. As to the impact of an outdoor pack on udder health, Jake relates, “I had the lowest somatic cell count for the county (Delaware 2005).” ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS Move the clock forward to the winter of 2005 when Jake was working with his whole farm planner Dan Flaherty, Small Farm Program Manager for the Watershed Agricultural Council. Using the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) process, Dan and Jake identified the farm’s environmental issues and developed a whole farm environmental plan as part of the NYC Watershed Agricultural Program. Out-wintering the cows was working well from a cattle management perspective, but runoff from the barnyard area adjacent to the bedded pack and from around the feeding area was identified as an issue by the AEM process. Lazy Crazy Acres also had the challenge of not having enough land for winter manure spreading that had a low risk of runoff.

THE BEDDED PACK SOLUTION Dan Flaherty had heard of farms in northern Vermont that had constructed covered bedded pack barns to address manure storage. Dan brought up the idea to Jake. At first Jake thought, “It won’t work…too much manure in the bedding. It will turn into a mess.” After the trip, both Dan and Jake were sold on the idea. One of the farms they visited was Butterworks Farm, owned and managed by Jack and Anne Lazor. Butterworks Farm manages 45 Jersey cows organically; produces organic corn, oats, barley, soybeans, and alfalfa; and processes its milk into yogurt. Dan and Jake were impressed with how clean and content the cows were on the bedded pack -- let’s face it, they were down-right happy! In addition to housing the cattle, Jack believes the pack is a major benefit to his farm system as a valuable source of carbon to be returned to the soil. Jack is concerned that we have “decarbonized agriculture” in America. The added carbon is expected to benefit the soil biological community, increase soil organic matter and enhance soil health. Increased soil organic matter will also carry the benefit of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, where it otherwise would contribute to greenhouse gases.

The traditional approach to these issues would be to construct a barnyard water management system, a heavy use area for cattle feeding, filter area and a liquid manure storage. These practices would be very expensive, and Jake did not want liquid manure due to odor and other issues.

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With the covered bedded pack system, the bedding is not stirred as with composting bedded pack barns that were discussed in Frans Vokey’s article “Composting Bedded Pack Barns Get Attention,” in the Small Farm Quarterly Spring edition. Bedding, in the form of straw or coarse hay, is added daily. Jake has had good MINIATURE HAY BALER success with • Made from 1/4” & 1/8” Steel Price: $695 FOB • Laminated hard Maple pusher processed, blocks w/2 coats of polyurethane large, square• The steel unit is powder coated • Spring loaded tension control (optional) baled straw, • Bale size is 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” x 3 5/8” which CAN PAY FOR ITSELF spreads well WITHIN 2 DAYS with his box Make it a business in itself or add it to your existing business. spreader. Cost 3-4¢ to make a bale. Wood shavCLEAN & GREEN CORP. ings and sawBY: TED RIBU PO BOX 158 • LOWELL, IN 46356 DIST dust are not

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The fact that Jake has his animals on pasture for six or more months during the year will significantly reduce the bedding requirement and cut labor costs. Coupled with Jake’s swing parlor and grazing, the farm has the promise of being very labor efficient. Jake has been designing his covered bedded pack system in cooperation with the Watershed Agricultural Program; construction will begin this summer. He is confident that udder health will remain strong with the covered bedded pack, “I think having the pack covered will make it easier because it will be keeping all that moisture out.” As for having the lowest somatic cell count in the county, Jake said, “If I could do that again I would be pretty happy.” There are some unanswered questions about the system such as dry matter intake using round bale feeders, bedding cost and alternatives (will mature reed canary grass work?), labor required for pack management and the total farm system, mastitis, and unanticipated effects. In future issues of the Small Farm Quarterly we will keep you informed of Jake’s experiences with the covered bedded pack system, and may be able to answer some of these questions. For more information on bedded pack barns, you can call me, John Thurgood, or Dan Flaherty at 1-607-865-7090. To talk with Jake Fairbairn about his system, please call 845-586-1255. More information on Butterworks Farm can be found at The farm’s bedded pack system was also featured in the May 2006 edition of Northeast Dairy Business. John Thurgood is a senior whole farm planner for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Delaware County as part of the NYC Watershed Agricultural Program. The Watershed Agricultural Program works with farmers in the Catskills to develop and implement whole farm plans to protect the water supply for the nine million residents in and around New York City while enhancing farm viability. Information at

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July 10, 2006




“World’s Largest” Perennial Grass Trial in NNY By Kara Dunn As homeowners begin mowing lawns once again, farmers in New York’s North Country are hoping their grass grows and grows and grows into prime cattle feed. Perennial grasses, by their natural recurrence year after year, save farmers the need and the cost to replant seed each year. Now, with a Northern New York (NNY) Agricultural Development Program grant, researchers from Cornell University are evaluating grasses in what may be the world’s largest tall fescue trial. The 2006 field trials at the Extension Learning Farm in Canton and at the Cornell plots at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy involve five replicates and at least three harvests of 47 varieties of tall fescue and other perennial grasses.

at W.H. Miner Agricultural Institute in Chazy two years ago. Baker Research Farm Manager Michael Davis says the trials are producing data that will be valuable to regional farmers as they begin planting tall fescue on their farms. “Tall fescue is an incredibly productive grass crop. The first year trials’ three harvests have produced data on heading (optimum harvest) dates and the fiber, crude protein and other feed value indicators,” Davis says. “We are also closely watching

the leaf structure and texture for how it will affect the palatability for dairy cows.” Jerry Cherney and Debbie J. R. Cherney, a Cornell University Animal Science professor, have tested tall fescue in dairy cow rations compared to alfalfa and other grasses. He says no problems with palatability were observed in any of the three dairy feeding trials they conducted. He adds that, when dairy rations are balanced, feeding tall fescue silage can produce as much milk per cow as alfalfa silage.

The NNY Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research and education program specific to New York state’s six northernmost counties (Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex). For more information on this project, and other NNYADP-funded research projects, visit or contact Board Chairs Jon Greenwood, 315-386-3231, or Joe Giroux, 518-563-7523.

“Most cropland in Northern NY is better suited to perennial grass production than to legumes and row crops,” says Dr. Jerry Cherney, NYS Forage Specialist. “Regional soil and climate strongly influence variety persistence and performance. We need a method for evaluating yield and quality among the many varieties. This project will provide that evaluation.” Cherney leads the grass variety trial research and is considered a leading authority on grass production in the U.S. In past research in the NNY region, tall fescue often ranked the highest for yield among grass species that grow well in cooler climates. New varieties of tall fescue recently released for use in the Northeast have improved palatability and yield. For the 2006 trials, two other species of grass have also been planted as a measurement standard for comparing yield and quality of the new varieties. Field Crops Educator Peter Barney of Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County says these grass trials are important to NNY dairy farmers. “We are always looking to give farmers more options. We know we can grow tall fescue. We know dairy cows will eat tall fescue. We need to add to our information on which varieties will establish the easiest in our soil conditions, will withstand adverse weather conditions, and will yield relatively high tonnages of dry matter per acre of quality forage for milk cows.” The farm crew of the Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm at Willsboro seeded the tall fescue trials at the Cornell plots

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