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Adventures in the North Country: Adirondack Pride and Moth Hunting

Greetings from the North Country! I am currently in Plattsburgh, New York as an intern at the Clinton County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Over the next two months, I will be learning just what it means to work in extension. This will include conducting research on both leek moth dispersion across northern New York and farmer awareness of soil health and issues. I will also be performing miscellaneous jobs with all the agents in the office so that I may become exposed to multiple viewpoints.

I’m half-way through my third day on the job and one thing I already love is the camaraderie among the people who live in the “North Country”. Within the Adirondacks, you can immediately feel the connection between the people and the scenery (which I might add is absolutely stunning). There is also a pride in the work that is done here, and it shows in how they market themselves. For example, I was discussing a program called Adirondack Harvest with my supervisor, Amy Ivy. She told me how much thought in detail was put into the logo, which includes an apple tree, a tilled field, the Adirondack Mountains, a lake and most notably, the classic Adirondack chair. Displaying highlights of the region has allowed the “Northern Country” to create their own regional brand.

My view from the Lake Clear Lodge

Yesterday, I joined my supervisor Amy and the livestock agent, Peter Hagar, in attending the Northern New York Agricultural Summit. Around 25 individuals involved with extension in Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Essex and Jefferson counties gathered at the Lake Clear Lodge to discuss issues and opportunities across the region. This ranged from economic development strategies, optimizing the regional brand of the Adirondacks and various ways to increase productivity within the office. One of the most interesting portions for me personally was when Margaret Smith of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and Dave Smith of the CALS Northern NY Agricultural Development Program spoke about a grant received worth $500,000. They called on the staff present at the Summit for ideas for priority areas needing research. They encouraged the agents to find a researcher with whom they could collaborate, strengthening the ties between Cornell and the Cooperative Extension program. They also had hoped that these funds would be allotted to projects that could impact as many of the six “North Country” counties as possible. I was really inspired by both the desire to work together as a region as well as the opportunity that receives such a large grant permits. Different agents volunteered a few ideas, such as researching the needs of agricultural labor or creating jobs for different specialists in dairy or crops. Each individual was also encouraged to think within their own office and submit ideas in the coming fall.

Leek Moth Damage in Clinton County

In my first few days, I’ve already had the opportunity to be a part of research. Considering the research aspect is the most fascinating part for me personally, I was beyond excited that I started in my very first day. Leek moth, which was actually first spotted in United States in Plattsburgh, is a serious pest to members of the Allium family. The pupae feed on the crops, which stunts growth. I started out by researching the basics and then proceeded to do farm visits to learn about how they are being monitored. Currently, traps are being set up in areas where leek moth is known to have been. These traps have a pheromone that attracts and then holds the moth within them. On Friday, after setting up at three different farms in Clinton county, my supervisor actually received an email about leek moth being spotted for the first in Essex county! Sure enough, after examining onions this morning and finding twelve different pupae, it was confirmed that they are now present in Essex. Considering how far south this little moth would have had to travel, the new question to look into is how did these moths end up there?

I’m scheduled to do my first solo farm visit this afternoon and will be travelling across the state in hunt of more leek moths later in the week. Until next time!

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