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Adventures in the North Country: The Last Post

Greetings from the North Country! I started the week off by starting a small survey project. Through every field meeting I’ve participated in, I’ve noticed that growers are always quick to ask about problems with their plants, yet they rarely ever ask about soil health issues. The idea is to go around to a few growers, collect a small sample, and ask them to guess the pH. So far, most growers are incredibly close. Most are only off by 0.2 or 0.3. Though this doesn’t really indicate a larger need for soil health measures to be taken, I noticed that a few newer farmers were unsure what I was talking about. Most of these farmers were fairly new to growing and didn’t come from a scientific background.


Discussing Magnesium deficiency at a grower field meeting

It’s so strange to me that this summer has gone by so quickly. I’ve learned so much than I ever anticipated. Coming from a background of animal agriculture, I worried about how I would fit into an internship that seemed to focus on horticultural production. However, I found that studying horticulture is just as interesting as animal agriculture to me. I’m extremely excited to continue what I’ve learned this summer with classes back at Cornell in the fall.

Top of Mt. Philo with my incredible boss, Amy Ivy

I feel like I have to thank some people for helping me this summer. First of all, my boss, Amy Ivy, has been amazing at making me feel at home in Clinton and Essex counties as well as teaching me so much about horticulture and entomology. Other thanks to Professor Steve Reiners, who has been available to help me at every step. I would also like to thank Masa Seto for allowing me to help him with his research of the leek moth (and for the hike through AuSable Chasm!). Finally, I want to thank everyone at the Clinton County Cornell Cooperative Extension office for being so welcoming and kind!

Adventures in the North Country: Field Visits

One of the most educational experiences of this internship takes shape through field visits from Cornell faculty. By bringing in a different person each week, Amy Ivy (executive director for the Clinton County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension – and my boss!) has made expert knowledge accessible to the members of the North Country. The idea is that by performing local farm visits as well as hosting a field meeting, the farmers and growers are able to ask specific questions about specific problems instead of being forced to search through Cornell databases for help. The informal atmosphere also helps to foster collaborations among farmers in the same region.

Consulting with a grower during Jud's visit

Last week, Jud Reid came in and hosted a field meeting at The Carriage House. Being an expert on vegetables and insect management allowed him to pass on advice to local farmers about nitrogen management during periods of heat stress. We stopped by multiple farms and growers. One that we lingered at for awhile was Campbell’s Greenhouse in Saranac, NY. Here, Jud gave advice to the owner about proper care for high tunnel tomatoes. The two discussed the proper suckering techniques. At another farm, Jud taught me easy identification of problems in plants. For example, yellowing of the tissue between veins on leaves of a crop can indicate a magnesium deficiency. At the end of his visit, The Carriage House hosted a field meeting that gathered multiple growers. One interesting aspect I learned from this tour was about how one grower was doing a study through a grant from the USDA that required he grow the same crops in two adjacent plots: one inside a hoophouse, the other outdoors. The one outdoors was more susceptible to threats such as pest infestations and weather disasters, while the other faced more problems with heat stress.

Talking with growers during Professor Reiner's visit

This week, Professor Stephen Reiners and his graduate student, Sarah Hulick, visited from Monday to Wednesday. On Tuesday, we spent the day visiting different farms and talking about issues at each. At each place, I was able to learn about something new. While attempting to identify a cover crop of grass at one farm, Sarah was able to teach me techniques to identify grasses (which should come in handy in my Field Crops class during the fall semester!!) such as looking for oracles. At another farm, Professor Reiners showed me an example of the blossom end rot for the first time and explained how it occurs due to a calcium deficiency (as well as other factors) and can be treated by applying appropriate moisture.

These field meetings have been a great experience because it perpetuates a discussion that will benefit all parties in the long run. Though you may think that growers would hold back due to fear of competition in the marketplace, that has not been my experience in Clinton and Essex counties. Growers have been very open and willing to talk about their strengths and their witnesses. At each field meeting, you can always spot a few growers chatting amongst themselves about which pesticides each is using, whether or not to use row covers, etc.

Also, it really is fun to goof off with your faculty advisor.

Adventures in the North Country: Trying to Keep Everything Straight

Greetings from the North Country! It’s been a hectic few weeks. It’s almost time for the Clinton County Fair, which means the entire office is buzzing with excitement. From making to posters and registering 4-H kids to making changes to the actual grounds, there are so many things to do. I have volunteered to judge both 4-H projects as well as the Swine show. This will be an interesting change of pace, considering I have participated in swine shows myself for the past seven years but have never judged one before.

The Willsboro Research Farm hosted a Farm Tour on Tuesday to show what they do. Having visited and met with the staff of the farm, I already knew how hard they all worked, but this tour was still an eye-opener for me. They conduct multiple wheat and grass trials, as well as grape, corn, tomato and even more than I could name.

Overhead shot of different grasses at the Willsboro Research Farm

They also hosted a session with a local baker who discussed why he valued using local products. As a baker, he told us how it is the most important thing to create a quality product as opposed to creating an optimally efficient set-up. Overall, it was incredible to see the connections made through this research farm.

For the duration of the leek moth project, I have been working under the guidance of Masa Seto, a researcher working at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. The experiment breaks down into seven sites with pheromone trappers and data loggers which record the daily temperature and light intensity. These are set up near plots of onions, which were planted to specifically lure in the pest. Our preliminary findings show that the leek moth seems to be moving south, as it was confirmed in Willsboro, NY for the first time this year. We spent a day together travelling to each site and meeting with the farmers. We even experienced a stroke of luck – one home gardener knew of a neighbor who had complained of problems with her onions. We ended up visiting her and confirming that she also had the pest.

Our office also organized a field meeting with Abby Seamen, the New York State IPM Coordinator. Seven local farmers met up at the Juniper Hill farm to get advice straight from an expert. Concerns were brought up about leaf hoppers, cucurbit pests and corn pests. It was really great to see farmers put competition aside and simply share their ideas with one another. Considering that these farmers are competing with each other in the marketplace, it was reassuring to see a collaboration to achieve the greatest possible yield. Abby also left behind handouts of color photos of pests in case the farmers had any questions in the future.

Scouting for Leek Moth with Masa

For me, these past few weeks have given the fairest representations of what it means to work in extension. As the intern, I realize that I bounce back and forth between departments, but this enabled me to see just how much is going on in this office at any given moment. Our Nutrition Educators share their recipe ideas with me as they prepare for a program to encourage students to live healthier lifestyles. Our 4-H agent tells me about the progress of planning a county fair. Our horticultural agent shows me downy mildew for the first time. The collaborating researcher tells me about how he got into research and what role extension plays in connecting the work in the lab to the farmer in the field. Though this internship is definitely hard work, it sure isn’t boring.

Adventures in the North Country: Calf Pools, Grants and Agritourism

Greetings everyone! What a hectic two weeks it has been. Leek moth scouting has continued almost daily, as well as looking for cutworms and armyworms. I’ve been attempting to make a deeper connection to the region, and in this process came across a great documentary called Small Farm Rising. It profiles how three first-generation farms in the area work towards defending small-scale, sustainable agriculture. After watching this film and then meeting one of the featured farmers, it’s evident how much these farms have come to represent the agriculture industry in the North.

Aside from all the leek moth scouting I’ve been doing, I’ve also had the opportunity over the past two weeks to attend three different meetings that I’m excited to discuss here. The first was a presentation given to local beef producers entitled ‘Feeder Cattle Marketing’. I was especially excited by this talk for two reasons: my family raised beef until I was about twelve years old, and the professor who delivered the presentation, Dr. Phil Osborne, was from WVU, my home state. The presentation was unique in that it was given via Adobe Connect and the farmers in New York were able to ask Dr. Osborne questions via a microphone. He spoke about how calf pools benefit small-time producers by assuring quality and value. The idea is being thrown around here currently, though there may be issues with a central infrastructure, how calves would be graded and how to assess willingness to participate.

I also attended two other workshops last week. The first was an introduction to grant writing for extension staff given by Carol Hegeman of Hegeman Consulting. Though I personally take a greater interest in the actual execution of research, I cannot deny how crucial it is to be able to write a grant in order to fund research. Hegeman was able to make this process engaging and interactive, and she introduced possible ethical dilemmas that we might deal with throughout the process. For instance, is it better to collaborate with another office when applying for a grant or is it dangerous to alert them to the opportunity? The second workshop I attended was an Agritourism meeting hosted at Rulf’s Orchard. Members of the council discussed different ways of showing people how much there is to do right in their own backyard. Rulf’s is hosting a Strawberry Festival.

Strawberries from Rulf's Orchard

The Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau is recruiting booths for the Clinton County Fair. There are also wine tours, U-picks, etc. One idea thrown out that I found particularly interesting was a “Bucket List” to give to people with things to check off by the end of the summer. It reminded me of the 161 List that so many students strive to complete before their senior year. I even know of an app that tracks your progress! If your town had a “Bucket List”, would you attempt to complete it?

Until next time!

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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