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The End of Week 3

Happy Friday all! So it has been a while since my last post and even though I still have not received my parameters for the project I have been hired to carry out, Laurel and I have been finding ways to keep me busy and continuing to learn more about Cornell Cooperative Extension.

To begin I will bring you back to last Friday where I was fortunate enough to get out of the office for the day to participate in the Ag Agents summer tour. Ag Agents are national, state, regional, and county wide associations that:

  • Represent the needs of agricultural extension field staff to Cornell Cooperative Extension Administration.
  • Represent the Agricultural Extension field staff at the state level with organizations such as the NYS Ag Society, NYS Farm Bureau, and the NYS Council of Ag Organizations.
  • Recognize members for outstanding educational programs and innovative field research and provide scholarships to members for professional improvement.
  • Mentor and guide newly hired educators.
  • Host professional development tours and seminars for field staff.

This group was the regional Capital District Ag Agents. The tour was really exciting and I am a sucker for anytime I get to hear and learn from farmers about their trades and commodities. Especially if it is something I really know nothing about.

We started the morning at O.A. Borden and Sons. They are a sixth generation dairy and orchard business that felt they were struggling and either needed to give something up, or update the business. They looked at their dairy and started with that. They built a brand new specialized barn that houses 100+ of their most productive cows which are milked 2 on Lely robot milkers. They showed us the new facility that was recently opened in November and all agreed that it was their best decision. Since the opening of the new barn, milk production has increased over 10lbs per cow, as well as overall milk quality which has allowed them to obtain super high quality premiums. They say that the free flow of the barn has contributed heavily to this, the cows are less stressed when they have to be taken to a parlor and are free to be milked as they please and allowed to return to the robot as often as they like, however the robot will reject the cow for milking if they have been there within four hours of the last milking. They have not cut down on any of their labor however find themselves finishing morning and evening chores an hour earlier, giving them 2 extra hours in the day to work on other things of importance around the farm. They are also still operating out of their old facility which also houses around 100 cows.

The group getting a lesson in vineyard management at Victory View Winery
The group getting a lesson in vineyard management at Victory View Winery.

We moved on from there to Victory View Winery, a member of the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail. As a Viticulture/Enology minor and previous vineyard/winery employee of the Finger Lakes, it was very exciting to learn about the Hudson Valley wine market and the types of grapes grown in this region. Most of his varieties lie on 4 acres of his large farm that was previously in dairy production before he purchased it. His varieties include all cold-hardy hybrids such as Marquette, Maréchal Foch, Frontenac, Melody, LaCrosse, and La Crescent. He explained to us his vineyard design and care and wine-making procedures before offering tastings to a few of us in the group.

Gerry Barnhardt describing to the group, the wine making process.
Gerry Barnhardt describing to the group, the wine making process.

We moved on next to a composting and topsoil facility, Booth’s Blend Compost. This was exciting because I have ever only been to one composting facility through my time at Cornell compared to the countless dairies and wineries I have experienced. This facility started as a backyard project to compost the dairy farmer’s manure 15 years ago.  A few years ago, his age and health made him choose between his own dairy and the composting business. Since then, he has been able to put a lot of time and energy into creating a quality compost for gardeners, landscapers and homeowners in the capital region. Demand grows rapidly though word of mouth advertising and neighboring farmers are also using the facility as a way to get rid of horse, cow, and fair manures. People can pick it up by the bucket or truck load, he also has the compost available in bags that he sells to local nursery and garden centers, as well as a delivery business. Currently they have an extensive wait list.

Lunch followed the visit to the compost. We ate a real lunch followed by ice cream at a local ice cream shop, the Ice Cream Man. Here we has a nice round table discussion to hear what all the different extension and Ag Agents are doing in all the capital district counties. It was a great way to learn the different jobs that CCE has to offer and the different outreach they make available in their areas. Young Ag Agents are especially educated in ways that they can do their jobs differently just by hearing the different suggestions offered by those with more experience.

The last stop on the tour was a brand new Farm Brewery, Argyle Brewing Co. This was probably the most educational experience for me the whole trip. I had never been to a craft brewery and do not know much about the brewing procedure. The biggest take away I got from the visit though was learning about the Farm Brewery Act passed here in New York State last year in 2013. This allows small craft breweries to operate under fewer restrictions than a microbrewery, and does not require the initial capital that other licencing may. This, if you haven’t already noticed has allowed more and more craft breweries to pop up all over New York. One of the most interesting things about the new legislation is that right now, it requires that these farm breweries have 20% of their grain and hops grown in New York. It can be processed anywhere and made into malt, but it must be grown in New York. By 2017, this number will increase to 40%, and 90% by 2023, 10 years after the legislation was passed. Not only this but I have noticed a lot more focus on hop and grain research coming out of Cornell about producing better grains because barley especially does not do well in the wet, cold climate of New York. It does much better in the Midwest.

Brewing is going to be the new boom to New York State agriculture. Many people that enjoy beer and have a passion for making their own, are starting breweries all over the state. Some farms, such as Sanford & Sentz, had other professions, in this case dairy, and decided with the new opportunities to give it up and start a brewing business. More and more of this is probably going to be seen across the state and more and more hop and grain growers as well, and rightfully so. There is going to be a very rapid increase in demand for grain and hops in the next ten years, it is going to be really exciting to watch this industry take off.  Just another reason, I love NY!

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