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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!

Helena Chemical: First Week on the Job

Me calling a customer to figure out where to meet.

Last week I started my summer internship working for the Hatfield, Massachusetts branch of the Helena Chemical Company.  Helena started as a small distributor of agricultural chemicals in the town of Helena, Arkansas in 1957.  It has since expanded and does business in all 48 continental states.  Helena believes that the company’s success “revolves around People…Products…Knowledge…” “Our People provide the correct combination of Products based on our Knowledge of our customers’ business and our interest in helping extend and sustain their success.”  The Hatfield branch is the farthest north of all the branches and has accounts in all New England states as well as many in Eastern New York.  The Hatfield branch sells seed to farmers all over the Northeast, does custom spraying applications for growers, and delivers bulk tanks and individual cases of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides to clients.

During my internship I am doing a wide variety of things to better help me learn about both the agricultural business in the Northeast and the business that Helena conducts.  At some point, I plan on riding along with a salesman to different customers.  Later in the summer, I will be conducting tissue and soil samples for clients to help them better manage their crops and achieve desired yields.  Currently, I am driving around the Northeast delivering orders of chemicals to growers.  In the one week I have been on the job so far, I have driven through every state in New England except Maine.  I have been on busy throughways, toured county roads, and have found myself lost on old dirt roads barely fit to be a horse path.  Most importantly, though, I have learned that the Northeast is a very prosperous and diverse agricultural region.

Unloading product at Cohen Farms in Connecticut

Many of the places I have made deliveries to are not what I would classify as “traditional” operations.  When I think of agriculture, I think of dairy farming and cornfields.  While I have driven by many dairy farms, I have not delivered to any.  Instead, I have discovered a diverse agricultural industry that I did not think existed in New England.  I have stopped at many apple orchards of various sizes all over Vermont and New Hampshire.  I always knew there were orchards in New England, but I did not imagine them to exist at the level I witnessed.  In Central and Eastern Massachusetts I stopped at few greenhouse operations.  While most were small roadside operations that had a greenhouse or two, I stopped at one so big a security guard had to check all outgoing vehicles to make sure no one was stealing products!  I had a hard time just getting into the place.  There were workers zooming around in golf carts and little Kubota tractors scooted about everywhere towing racks of potted plants from one greenhouse to another.  Sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  In Rhode Island, I stopped at one vegetable farm where I was given a warm loaf of bread by a couple of older men who were very hospitable and would not let me leave.  Thirty minutes later, I was given a cold stare down by a turf farmer that had an office that looked like it should have been Donald Trump’s.  Not only are the operations of New England diverse, but I guess the people are too.

Some equipment from the turf farm.

Besides agricultural clients, Helena offers a wide variety of products for both landscaping and ornamental plants.  I had stops at many lawn and garden centers as well as a handful of tree service operations.  The highlight of these stops, though, was taking an order of about ten cases to the grounds crew of Mohegan Sun.  I ended up sitting in the bus lot for an hour waiting with a guy who is connected to the Farm Aid concerts while I was able to sit and eat lunch.  Good thing I am not 21 or I probably would have lost the keys to the delivery truck at the Roulette Wheel.

Mohegan Sun.

I’m still trying to learn the ins and outs of the job.  For now I am preoccupied with battling traffic jams and uncooperative GPS systems.  As time goes on, I plan on chatting more with growers to learn about their operations and on learning more about the different applications of all the cases of chemicals I’m hauling all around New England.  For now, though, I am just going to take in all the different types of agriculture that New England has to offer while praying that my GPS does not send me down any more horse paths.


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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