Rural businesses: Cluster and prosper

Julia Reischel in the Watershed Post:

National rural-issues website The Daily Yonder ran an article yesterday exhorting rural businesses to form “clusters” if they want to thrive. The thrust of the story is counter-intuitive — the author, Stuart Rosenfeld, argues that rather than competing for customers, similar small businesses operating near each other seem to attract more business for all. He cites Vermont’s booming sustainable agriculture economy as an example:

Though the second smallest state in population, Vermont stands head and shoulders above every other state based on its per capita concentrations of local farms, CSAs (community supported agriculture), organic farms, and farmers markets. This is important because groups of related businesses — clusters — are now thought to be essential for economic growth. Businesses are more efficient when they are clustered. Workers generally earn more. Related business clusters can feed off each other.

The last section of the article has tips for how to build a cluster. Food for thought for the Catskills, perhaps?

Agriculture is no longer just crops and animals in Vermont. Except for the largest dairy farms, economic survival and growth depend on rural families finding ways to supplement their income from the food they produce though other innovative market opportunities. They may offer weekend farm stays, start catering services, process their own foods, direct sales to local markets, create artisan products and brands or produce renewable energy by selling biomass, wind power, or operating methane digesters.

Read the entire story at Watershed Post.

Catskill Farmer’s Market

Film looking for horse farm location

Th Hudson Valley Film Commission says a feature film looking to shoot this summer in the Hudson Valley region seeks a horse farm, “with a masculine/rustic looking home, a barn, stables/paddocks and smaller caretaker’s home. The house itself should have a rustic feel. It would also help if there was some type of water on the property, such a pond, brook or stream. Inside the house, there should be a very country feel–although they are willing to production design, the director wants a cinema verite look to the film. Ideally, a lot of wood trim, a darker color palette and a less modern look with more of a country feel to it.” Watershed Post says the films seems to be “Second Child,” by Chilean director Sebastian Silva, who won a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009 for “The Maid.” From an interview with Silva on Ion Cinema: “The title is ‘Second Child’ and it’s a fiction movie about an eight year-old boy who is gay and falls in love with his uncle during a family vacation. His family wants him to like his little cousin but he is more interested in his uncle.” Please email photo suggestions of locations with contact info to filmcommission@me.com

Changes in dairy safety net expected

Marc Heller in the Watertown Daily Times reports:

In the next few years, dairy farmers are likely to see big changes in the safety net that protects them from crashing milk prices — including a first-ever comprehensive system to limit milk production, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said. Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., said he believes the past year’s deep decline in milk prices will result in momentum for fundamental changes in dairy policy when Congress considers the five-year farm bill in 2012, as long as farm groups can find common ground and opposition from milk processors can be kept to a minimum. Mr. Peterson outlined his expectations in an interview at his Capitol Hill office in which he also disputed widespread criticism that the dairy industry is plagued by price manipulation and discussed the role Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, may play on the committee, to which he was named two weeks ago. Mr. Peterson’s committee already has begun weekly field hearings on the farm bill, which have generated hundreds of comments from farmers around the country. The farm bill sets farm, food and nutrition programs, as well as rural development initiatives. Read the entire story in the Watertown Daily Times.

Catskill farmer’s market will close a portion of Main Street on Saturday mornings this summer

Instead of completely closing down Main St., or putting stalls in parking spaces, the Village of Catskill will close one block of Main St. between Thompson Street and the entrance to the municipal parking lot at Willard Alley from 7:30 a.m. to at least 2 p.m., for the Catskill Regional Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market Saturdays from June 19 to Oct. 30, Susan Campriello in The Daily Mail reports. The farmer’s market had been held at Dutchmen’s Landing on the Hudson River, rather than downtown, and Village President Vince Seeley is also spearheading a similar move of the town’s July 4 fireworks, both in an effort to stimulate downtown business. WGXC Radio Council member Hudson Talbott is curating the non-farmer’s booths at the market.

Hudson Farmer’s Market opens today

WGXC’s Kaya Weidman will have a table about community radio at the first day of this year’s Hudson Farmers Market, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in the parking lot at the corner of Columbia and 6th Sts. Master Gardener Donna Peterson will be available on the market’s opening day to help customers choose and care for the right plants for Mother’s Day gifts or for the start of the new growing season.

Tomato blight again?

Blight on tomato leaf.

Meg McGrath, a plant pathologist at Cornell University Agriculture Department, shares these tips for anyone who would like to grow tomatoes in the wake of last year’s blight (h/t Rural Intelligence):

The good news for gardeners is that they are starting with a relatively clean slate this year. Phytophthora infestans, the fungus-like pathogen that causes late blight in tomatoes, potatoes and other tomato-family plants (Solanaceae), currently requires living plant tissue to survive overwinter in the Northeast. That’s why the disease is relatively rare in the region. The bad news is, potato tubers are living plant tissue. So any late-blight-infested potato tubers that survived in your soil, compost pile or root cellar could harbor the pathogen and give it an early start again this season. “Destroy leftover potatoes and any volunteer potato plants as soon as they sprout,” McGrath urges. “Do not wait until you see symptoms. By then, new spores likely will have already developed and spread to other gardens or farmers’ fields.”

Other tips
Keep plants dry. The late blight pathogen thrives in cool, wet weather. That’s because it requires moisture to infect plants, grows best when it’s cool, and clouds protect spores from lethal UV radiation when they are dispersed by wind. Even in absence of rain, the pathogen can infect plants if the relative humidity is 90 percent or more. If plants need watering, water the soil – not the foliage.

Be vigilant. Inspect plants at least once a week – more often if weather is cool and wet. Immediately remove and bag foliage you suspect might be infected.

Act quickly. If symptoms continue despite removing infected foliage, consider removing plants entirely – sooner rather than later.

Dispose of plants properly. To reduce disease spread, remove infected plants during the middle of a sunny day after leaves have dried, if possible….Seal plants in garbage bags and leave them in the sun for a few days to kill plants and the pathogen quickly before placing in the trash or burying underground or deep in a compost pile.

Read the entire story here.

Was it cruel? Paper asks local vet

Diane Valden in The Columbia Paper attempts to see the point of view of Hillsdale farmers Jim Clapp, 76, his wife Ida, 74, and their son Charles, 49, who were each charged last week with 33 misdemeanor counts of failure to provide proper sustenance to some of their dairy animals by Columbia-Greene Humane Society investigators and Sheriff’s deputies. (They pled not guilty Wednesday.) While the Clapps are not talking, Valden did speak to local veterinarian George Beneke who was at the Clapps’ Sunny Mead farm when humane society officials visited:

“It’s complicated,” he said of the situation. The Clapps “have had it tougher than a lot of other farmers,” said Dr. Beneke, who has over 40 years of experience in the field. “They haven’t had any excess money for treatment and vaccinations, and I wished they had wormed them, but there was feed in front of those animals, though there was not money for grain,” he said. “Some of the animals looked very well and others looked very thin, but there are a lot of thin animals in the county right now, if you look closely,” Dr. Beneke said. “They were trying to do the best with the feed stuffs they had–haylage and corn silage–but some of it had spoiled. Though they tried to use only the best of it, it was very difficult.” Before the sale of the milking herd, the three of them were trying to take care of 175 head, which is more than they should have been doing, he said. The family hoped to make it through the winter, waiting for the spring grass so they could pasture the animals. The dead animals died of gangrene, mastitis, giving birth and scours–none of them died of starvation, the vet confirmed. “Their judgment could have been better,” says the vet who remained sympathetic to the difficulties the family faced. Still “it takes some source of income” to pay for an adequate parasite treatment and vaccination program, he said. Ron Perez, humane society president and investigator, agreed the “economic woes” of dairy farmers is a factor in the case, but he said that the Clapps are experienced dairy farmers and should have asked for help from the humane society and the local dairy community. Read the entire story in The Columbia Paper.

Murphy hosts agriculture conference in Dutchess County

Congressman Scott Murphy will host a “Buy Local Agricultural Conference” on Friday, April 30 at Tymor Park, 249 Duncan Road, in Lagrangeville, in Town of Union Vale. Murphy will speak with, “farmers, consumers, and community leaders to discuss different approaches and strategies to help local farms and agriculture businesses succeed in the new and increasingly global economy.” Murphy is running for re-election against Republican Chris Gibson.

State Senate Agricultural Committee votes down farmworker bill

On Tuesday the State Senate’s Agriculture Committee voted down the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. Among features of the bill, farmers would have had to pay over time to laborers who work more than 60 hours a week or 10 hours in a day and farm workers would gain the right to form a union if they work at the state’s largest farms. Some farmers protested that the mandates in the bill would be costly. Six of the committee’s nine senators — Darrel J. Aubertine, Michael H. Ranzenhofer, James L. Seward (who represents Greene County), David J. Valesky, George H. Winner Jr. and Catharine M. Young — voted against the bill. On Seward’s website he says, “Defeating the so-called, farm worker labor bill is a clear victory for our upstate farmers, farm workers and the agriculture industry,” said Senator Seward. “The bill, supported mainly by New York City politicians, would have forced farms to close, while driving up costs for the few survivors.” The bill would have granted collective bargaining rights to farm laborers; required employers of farm laborers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week; provided for an 8 hour work day for farm laborers; required overtime rate at one and one-half times normal rate; made provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farm laborers; provided a sanitary code that would have applied to all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house migrant workers, regardless of the number of occupants; provided for eligibility of farm laborers for workers’ compensation benefits; required employers of farm laborers to provide such farm laborers with claim forms for workers’ compensation claims under certain conditions; required reporting of injuries to employers of farmworkers.

Food movement passing upstate NY by?


From The Watershed Post:

The image above is a detail from a map from the USDA, showing growth and decline in farming between 2002 and 2007. Each red dot represents 20 farms lost during those five years; each blue dot is for 20 new farms. Read the entire article in The Watershed Post.

Stream management program funds awarded

Michael Ryan in the Windham Journal writes:

Thousands of dollars were handed out when the Schoharie Watershed Advisory Council awarded its second round of Stream Management Program funds, last week, during a meeting at the Windham Country Club. SWAC members awarded $77,627 to seven entities in Greene and Delaware counties for projects aimed at preserving water quality in the New York City reservoir system and increasing awareness of watershed related issues. All of the funds are provided by the Department of Environmental Protection, which has set aside $2 million to be distributed over a 5-year period, with two years having passed on the contract, administered by the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District. [Greene County] Funds were allocated in round two as follows:

—EDUCATION AND OUTREACH: The Mountaintop Arboretum in Tannersville, $6,810, with a $750 In-kind contribution to create landscape design plans for a Wooded Walk outdoor classroom, accommodating approximately 45 people. The natural amphitheater will offer year-round outdoor programming on ecological and natural history topics relating to the watershed such as wetland plants, insect and wildlife along riparian areas, birding, stream health and leaf pack workshops to learn about geology.

—EDUCATION AND OUTREACH: Greene County Cornell Cooperative Extension, $1,884 with a $498 In-kind contribution to set up a rain barrel workshop that will be held at the Sugar Maples Arts Center in Maplecrest. The hands-on workshop will take place during Schoharie Watershed Week, May 17-23, 2010, providing materials and instruction for approximately ten families, teaching them to construct a rain barrel for home use. While the rain barrels will be fun to build, they will also be functional. The workshop will also introduce participants to methods of stormwater control, non-point pollution prevention and conservation of water resources in a residential setting.

—EDUCATION AND OUTREACH: the SWAC Education and Outreach Committee, $5,100 with an In-kind contribution of $4,125 to conduct a series of events, activities and workshops for people of all ages during Schoharie Watershed Week, taking place throughout the region. On tap will be a watershed-related film series (at the Hunter Theater in the town of Hunter), fly-fishing demonstrations, downspout disconnect programs, an Adopt-A-Stream clean up, a watershed scavenger hunt and kayak and canoe demonstrations.

—RECREATION/HABITAT IMPROVEMENTS: the Town of Windham, $15,000 with an In-kind contribution of $6,536 (and a potential to raise more in community contributions) to be used toward the creation of a multi-use, non-motorized trail on the Batavia Kill. The 1.1 mile loop trail will be built on a 68-acre parcel owned by the town at the former Police Anchor Camp, along Route 23, on the eastern outskirts of the hamlet district, allowing for improved access to the popular fishing stream. Bridge and boardwalk materials are needed to cross over a wetland and a tributary. A trail committee of local residents and business owners is planning the Windham Path with assistance from the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District.

–PLANNING & ASSESSMENT: the Town of Hunter, $35,000 with an In-kind contribution of $5,000 to conduct a detailed review of current land use regulations with an intent to adopt revisions and write new regulations and/or guidelines promoting low impact design, climate smart and smart growth principles. In the absence of zoning, the town is seeking to investigate, and adopt as appropriate, innovative land use practices which will be an incentive to achieve desirable future growth related to private housing, development and commercial enterprises.

–PLANNING & ASSESSMENT: the towns of Ashland, Jewett, Lexington and Windham and the villages of Hunter and Tannersville, $12,000 with an In-kind contribution of $21,500 from the Catskill Watershed Corporation to hold “Mountaintop-wide Better Site Design Plan Workshops.” The workshops will guide each community through a comparison of the local codes against model development principles using a consensus building approach. Model principles will then be compiled into a General Guide for Mountaintop Communities, facilitating specific recommendations for each community.

SWAC has thus far awarded a total of $518,957.50 in the first two rounds of programming, leaving $1.481,042.50 for future projects. The application deadline for round three is August 2, 2010, with approvals formally taking place on October 27, 2010. Projects awarded funding in round one included improving stream access along the Schoharie Creek in the town of Prattsville by constructing a parking area and installing floodplain drains under Vista Ridge Road in the Town of Jewett, reducing backwater conditions causing channel aggradation. Stormwater retrofits were approved at the Mountaintop Library in the village of Tannersville and Town of Hunter, reducing the quantity of, and improving the conveyance of, stormwater runoff, vastly improving water quality.

Andy Turner speaks at Cairo Eco Faire


Click here to listen to or download mp3 of Andy Turner speaking at Eco Faire.
Andy Turner, the Executive Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County, speaking Sun. Sept. 13 at the Cairo Eco Faire in Cairo Town Park, streamed live on WGXC Online Radio. Turner is also on WGXC’s Radio Council, the board overseeing the community radio station. He speaks about sustainability at the Eco Faire, which was put on by the Cairo Chamber of Commerce.

Today’s local headlines

New Department of Social Services proposal?
From The Register-Star

“There will be a press conference at 4:30 p.m. today in the Supervisors’ Chambers at the county office building on 401 State St., Hudson, on the future placement of the county Department of Social Services. Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer, the Board of Supervisors, the Hudson Common Council, and Mayor Richard Scalera will discuss the future of a new home for the DSS staff and facilities.”

Nonprofit’s report cites lack of slaughterhouses in New York
From The Register-Star

Andrew Amelinckx writes an excellent story based on a report by Washington D.C. based consumer watchdog group Food and Water Watch that finds not enough slaughterhouses in New York state and blames federal policies that, it says, favors larger operations. There are two USDA certified slaughterhouses in Columbia County, Van Wie in Stockport and Hilltown Pork, Inc. Robert Beckwith of Hilltown Pork says he is backed up with animals until 2010. “People want to know where their meat is coming from,” he said. “There aren’t enough USDA facilities to meet the demand.”

Murphy plans steps to help dairy farmers
From The Columbia Paper

With milk prices falling to 1979 levels and New York dairy farmers expected to lose $650 million this year, new U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy plans to introduce legislation to help. The proposed legislation would further subsidize dairy farmers, and create a herd retirement program meant to curtail supply. “This proposal works two-fold, by providing immediate relief to our struggling dairy farmers today, and stabilizing the dairy industry for tomorrow. Before more small farmers are forced out of business, we need to bring fast relief and stability to the industry.”

Lates poll: Maloney 33% Gillibrand 27%
From Rasmussen Reports

In a very early poll, New York City congresswoman Carolyn Maloney leads appointed Senator Kristen Gillibrand with 33 percent of the vote to 27 percent and nine percent preferring some other candidate. Thirty percent are undecided.

Today’s local headlines

Local housing groups get $650,000 in grants
From The Daily Mail

The Hunter Foundation, in Tannersville, and the Catskill Mountain Housing Development Corporation, in Catskill, were notified Thursday that they are each a recipient of grants — $300,000 and $350,000, respectively — from NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), the administrator agency for federal U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds. The money is part of a statewide package of $31.4 million in housing grants announced by Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday.

Wilzig track foes win latest round in court
From The Columbia Paper

State Supreme Court Judge Patrick J. McGrath handed down an interim decision last week denying Alan Wilzig’s petition for dismissal of a complaint filed by the Granger Group in regard to his private motorcycle track. Mr. Wilzig received site plan approval and designation as a permissible recreational use from the Town of Taghkanic’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board earlier this year. But he was unable to proceed with paving the track because of an injunction against further construction on the facility. The injunction was obtained by the Granger Group, an association of citizens opposed to the track and concerned about enforcement of town zoning law, and by neighbors to the Wilzig property who believe that the track is not allowed under the zoning laws.

Hudson antique dealers struggling
From The Register-Star

Antique sales in Hudson are down around 20 to 30 percent, according to Hudson Antiques Dealers Association president Frank Rosa. Jennifer Arensksjold, co-owner of Arenskjold Antiques Art and Modern Design says sales actually fell more after the recession associated with the World Trade Center attack, which also coincided with a change in buyers’ tastes.

Falling dairy prices strain farmers
From The Daily Mail

A top official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture defended his agency’s response to tumbling milk prices as “extremely aggressive” but showed little appetite Tuesday for immediate and far-reaching measures that some lawmakers say would keep thousands of dairy farmers in business. The Daily Mail story does not mention New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s work on this issue:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation that would increase the amount farmers get through the Milk Income Loss Contract — or MILC –program. MILC pays dairy farmers cash when milk prices fall below certain levels. When demand is up, prices tend to be up as well. The program is aimed at helping small and midsize dairy farmers weather low prices. But Gillibrand says that under the current pricing structure, farmers aren’t receiving enough income to cover the costs of staying in business. She’s introducing a bill this week that would double the amount of money farmers get from the MILC program retroactive to the low point of the pricing crisis in March. Another bill would increase the MILC rate to account for inflation.

Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop
From The New York Times

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

Trippi’s weird “apology”
From The Albany Project

“Joe Trippi, who has been working secretly for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) in her primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for more than a month, posted an odd “apology” for his deception (which occurred at Daily Kos, Huffington Post and with several reporters) on his website yesterday.” This comes after PolitickerNY found Maloney’s second quarter FEC filing and found a $10,500 check to Trippi dated June 5, well before he stopped writing about Maloney as if he was an unpaid observer.

LIVE TONIGHT:
Mark Eitzel will perform at 8 p.m. Jason’s Upstairs Bar, 521 Warren St. in Hudson.