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.