Jefferson County Ag Development Annual Report

The ninth annual meeting of the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation (JCADC) was held Friday, March 2, in Watertown. More than 130 people attended the event and luncheon, which was themed "Let's Be Ready for the Future of Agriculture".

In attendance were New York State Senator Patty Ritchie, New York State Assemblywoman Addie Russell, New York State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, and county legislators Caroline Fitzpatrick, Barry Ormsby, Phil Reed, Anthony Doldo, Jennie Adsit, John Peck, Bob Ferris, and County Administrator Bob Hagemann III. The meeting featured a presentation of the group's 2011 annual report, election of board members, a visit with several elected officials, and keynote presentations on the state of farming in Jefferson County. Those speeches were made by David Grusenmeyer of the New York Farm Viability Institute, J.W. Allen from New York Future Farmers of America, and Matthew Nelligan, manager of public affairs for New York Farm Bureau.

Here I am, repping Better Farm as a guest at the luncheon:
The JCADC's mission is to assist in the retention, growth, and promotion of Jefferson County’s agricultural industry. The group's website is a virtual cornucopia of resources for farmers; with news bites, grant information, calendars of events, and contacts who can answer just about any question.

Two morning seminars were offered for the first time: "Working with the News Media to Promote Your Business", and "Grant Programs for the Future of Your Business".

Here are some thoughts from the presentations and general discussion:
  • One-twentieth of 1 percent of the population works on farms. In other words, one-20th of 1 percent of the population is responsible for all the food production in the world.
  • On the status quo (in gardening, in farming, in business, in life): People around you are always doing more and getting better. If you're staying the same, in a relative sense, you're falling behind.
  • The relationship between people living in "farm country", i.e. upstate in the Jefferson County area, and those living downstate in cities and suburbs, needs to be strengthened. The recent spike in interest consumers have in where their food comes from will help this relationship. The responsibility of the farms upstate is to capitalize on that: with farmers' markets, with CSA's, with supplying food to small businesses and restaurants, etc. I'm particularly interested in this issue because of Better Farm's outreach work with artists and interns, most of whom visit us from more urban settings to acquire skills in organic gardening, rainwater catchment, alternative building, then return to their hometowns to spread the information. Stay tuned for a budding relationship between us and several of the organizations repped at this meeting.
  • Many schools have no agricultural education programs, particularly in secondary schools. Is there a way for this to be changed? How would Big Ag feel about such programming? Would the bureaucracy of the United States' educational system allow for ag education to flourish?
  • There was a lot of talk at the meeting about the beating the dairy industry's taken by animal-rights groups advocating against drinking milk and exposing certain factory-farm horrors. Dairy farmers in the North Country are offended by the ads and consider them patently false. There was a lot of discussion at the luncheon about how there could be counter ads put up on billboards about how milk is actually really good for you. I was thinking about this (full disclosure: I've been vegan for 11 years, vegetarian for 21), and was thinking a more effective way to argue the point would be to play up the great conditions many small farms have for their cows. Because of the big-agriculture, big-factory-farm backlash, rather than split hairs about nutrition of milk (soy milk has just as much calcium, vitamin D can be found in many other plant-based foods, etc. etc.), I think the best thing the North Country dairy farmers can do is to play up the excellent care their cows receive. Just as consumers are erring toward grass-fed, organic beef and free-range chicken eggs, what could promote the dairy industry around here is to play up the fact that most Jefferson County dairy farms are small, family farms, with healthy cows who enjoy plenty of time outside, and higher-quality milk for the consumers who want it.
To learn more about the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corporation, click here. For information on this summer's 1000 Islands Ag Tour, click here. To tell your senators to support local farms, click here.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.