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November 25, 2016 - 3:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Torrey Farms, elba, fire, news, agriculture.

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In farming, there's little time to dwell on losses and already the Torreys are moving on after a fire caused more than $3 million in losses to their Big O Farms onion packing and storage facility in Elba yesterday.

They're still shipping onions from two other facilities they own and making plans to replace the equipment lost in yesterday's fire.

"That’s what we’ve got to do," said Mark Torrey, who stopped by the scene of the fire at 5520 N. Byron Road this afternoon to meet an insurance adjuster. "That’s what keeps you going today. We got up this morning and had to figure it out. We had loads we had to get out today. We had to figure out how to get them out. We actually started working on that yesterday afternoon."

There were three lines of onion-packing equipment in the building, Torrey said. Some of the equipment was installed within the past year. The property is assessed at more than $400,000 and each line costs more than a half-million-dollars each.

"It's not something you can just buy off the shelf," Torrey said.

Most of the equipment is manufactured in Europe, so even if suppliers have already assembled the parts, it will take some time to get everything to Elba and get it installed.

Meanwhile, the Torreys still have onions from this season's crop to get to market and some 70 employees to keep working.

A few employees posted on Facebook about how sad they were about the fire and praised the Torreys as good people to work for.

"A lot of these people have worked for us for a long time," Torrey said. "They’re working in the other places (today), but yeah, we’ve got a lot of good employees and you try to treat them right."

The fire may have started with a tractor that was stored on the southeast corner of the building and had its engine block plugged into an electric socket to keep it from freezing. Nearly every fire department in the county, along with companies from Monroe and Orleans counties, responded to the Thanksgiving Day fire. There is reportedly a community effort underway to organize an event to recognize the volunteers.

Local contractor Vito J. Gautieri also was at the facility today. He built the plant in 1958 for the Ognibene family. He came with a model of a truss used in the main arched barn. The county's online property database doesn't list the size of the facility. Gautieri said it was greatly expanded from what he originally built, but he estimated the entire space to be about 25,000 square feet.

"It's the first building I ever built that burned down," Gautieri said.

Torrey acknowledged it's a difficult loss, but that the business will continue as usual.

"This is a big set back, but we’ve still got people, we’ve got product we’ve got to pack," Torrey said. "You’ve just got to get doing it and that sort of keeps your mind off of this today."

Previously:

November 24, 2016 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire, Torrey Farms, agriculture, news.

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It's been more than 12 hours since the first alarm sounded for a barn fire at  5520 N. Byron Road in Elba and volunteer firefighters are still on scene.

On Thanksgiving Day.

It was a massive fire. It consumed the entire onion packing and storage facility owned by the Torrey family. It's a facility that 15 years ago was owned by the Ognibene family, hence the name of the business location, "Big O Farms."

The facility is just a mile or so north on Transit Road from the Elba Mucklands, where the Torreys are one of the largest onion growers in the county.

Family members told firefighters that most of the recent season's crop was stored at other locations, so while about 1,000 crates of onions were lost, most of this season's harvest was not in the building.

What was in the building was all of the company's sorting and packing machines, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

"Obviously, these agriculture-design buildings have no built-in protection systems, so that’s a game changer for us," said Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator. "Then not having the adequate water supply for us initially, we were playing catch-up the entire time."

Clearly, the fire started in the southeast corner of the building. The cause, however, is unknown. Yaeger said investigators will look at electrical and equipment as the potential spark that lit the inferno. 

Elba crews were first on scene and started an exterior attack. Yaeger said that it's possible even by that time, given the wide-open spaces inside the building, the fire could have spread extensively.

It didn't take long for flames to reach the west end of the building, and a short time later, five- and six-foot high flames could be seen flitting through the roof.

Heavy equipment was brought in to knock down walls and open holes in the roof to help firefighters get water onto the fire.

But all morning, the water supply was a major obstacle to fighting the fire.

There was only one low-volume fire hydrant in the area, so as many as 20 tankers were called in from four counties to help shuttle water from fill sites (ponds, generally) and to porta-ponds set up on North Byron Road.

"Some of the primary fill sites weren’t adequate because of the drought we had this past summer so they had to establish and look for other fill sites, which unfortunately were further away," Yaeger said. "Some points were four, five, six miles away."

While nobody wants to be dragged away from friends, family, parades and football to fight a fire on Thanksgiving Day, the timing of the fire had one benefit: plenty of manpower. Many volunteers were home today instead of at work on a typical Thursday.

"I was fearful on the way here when the alarm came in, you know, people go away, go to visit family, a lot people go out of town, so I was concerned about what our manpower situation was going to be," Yaeger said. "Surprisingly, it may have worked in our favor. We had more than adequate manpower."

Every fire company in Genesee County was mobilized in some way for the fire. If the department wasn't on scene, and most of them were, they were acting as standby or fill-in for the departments who did respond.

Responding from the county included Elba, Byron, South Byron, Bergen, Oakfield, Stafford, Alabama, Alexander, Le Roy, East Pembroke, Bethany, Pembroke and Indian Falls, with Darien and Pavilion placed on standby or fill-in.

Departments from Orleans County, including Albion and Barre, responded, as well as Brockport from Monroe County and inmates from Wyoming Correctional Facility.

All volunteers, all giving up all or a portion of their Thanksgiving to fight a fire.

But Yaeger suggested we not concentrate on the sacrifice of the volunteers.

"It’s difficult, but our hearts and thoughts go out to the business owner," Yaeger said. "That’s the primary concern. We don’t ever want to see this kind of destruction. It’s a total loss. That’s our real thought. For the firefighters, to be away from their families is difficult, but that’s what we do. In times of need, the fire services have got to be there and we were. It’s unfortunate it was today."

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November 24, 2016 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, elba, news, agriculture, Torrey Farms.

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Photos from the fire that broke out about 7:30 a.m., today, at Big O Farms, a property of Torrey Farms, where onions are processed.

We'll have more coverage later. Initial coverage, here.

Give thanks for our volunteer firefighters.

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October 18, 2016 - 2:30pm

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced $55,000 in state funding to establish a new joint agriculture education program for Oakfield-Alabama Central and Elba Central School districts.

The mission of the new program is to encourage more high school students to explore agriculture and consider a career in the industry.

“This important program will serve as another tool for educators to cultivate student development and success, and I am proud to have been able to jump start this new program," Ranzenhofer said. "Now, our students will have better opportunities to learn more about agriculture and be inspired to start a career in the industry."

The start-up funding will cover equipment, field trip expenses, instructional resources and materials, and instructional salaries. Enrolled students, in grades nine through 12, will experience classroom instruction, hands-on projects and opportunities to visit local businesses with a connection to the agriculture industry. The program will be administered by and located at the Oakfield-Alabama School District.

“We appreciate the support of Senator Ranzenhofer in this new program. Our students are surrounded by agriculture and now have the opportunity to learn about the careers of the industry. We hope the program will motivate some of our graduates to remain in the area as well,” said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent Mark A. Alexander.

Agriculture and its related industries are the number one economic driver for Genesee County and New York State, and industry demand for a properly trained workforce is greater than ever. According to the Land O' Lakes Foundation, food production in the next 50 years will need to be higher than the prior 500 years.

Senator Ranzenhofer’s office received letters of support from the local agriculture industry, including: Cornell University Cooperative Extension Genesee County; Lamb Farms Inc.; CY Farms LLC; East Pembroke Grange; Wayne E. Phelps Ent. Inc.; Offhaus Farms Inc.; and Z&M Ag and Turf.

The Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education will publicly recognize Senator Ranzenhofer for his efforts to establish the new program during tonight’s board meeting.

October 7, 2016 - 8:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Pavilion, business, agriculture, news.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved an application for Growing the Agricultural Industry Now! (GAIN!) revolving loan fund for a project in Pavilion. The Board also approved a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) extension for Empire Pipeline in the town of Oakfield at its Oct. 6 meeting.

The GCEDC board approved a GAIN! loan in the amount of $65,000 to Cottonwood Farms for the acquisition of milking equipment that would combine wind and solar power in one turbine in order to increase efficiency and electric energy output. The new equipment for the farm’s robotic dairy system is expected to reduce annual electricity costs by approximately $7,000 to $8,000. Cottonwood Farms LLC operates a 300-cow organic dairy farm in Pavilion.

Empire Pipeline owns and operates a compressor station and pipeline in the town of Oakfield. The GCEDC Board accepted the application and will set a public hearing for Empire Pipeline’s request to extend their PILOT agreement for 15 years.

“The GAIN revolving loan program has the opportunity to provide significant benefits to the agricultural sector in Genesee County,” said GCEDC Board Chairman Paul Battaglia. “While the program was just launched in May, the GCEDC has made a tremendous effort to get the money out to the farms, and working in our local economy.”

Through funding provided by Empire State Development, the GAIN program provides loans to qualifying businesses in Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties, all of which are in the top 10 agricultural counties in New York State.

October 4, 2016 - 8:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bethany, Pavilion, GCEDC, news, business, agriculture.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider two applications for GAIN! revolving loan funds for agricultural projects in Pavilion and East Bethany.

Cottonwood Farms LLC in Pavilion is seeking to install a wind turbine system that would combine wind and solar power in one turbine in order to increase efficiency and electric energy output. The GCEDC is considering a GAIN! loan in the amount of $65,000 to Cottonwood Farms for the acquisition of the dual system equipment.

The GCEDC also is considering another GAIN! loan for $177,139 for Sandvoss Farms LLC -- First Light Creamery in East Bethany. The loan will be used for the construction of a new refrigeration and storage facility, site work to improve access and traffic flow as well as a new hoop house for feed and materials storage and a new goat nursery facility. Sandvoss Farms processes pasteurized cheese, milk and yogurt from raw goat’s milk.

The Growing the Agricultural Industry Now! (GAIN) initiative is a $400,000 revolving loan fund for Genesee County farms and agribusinesses. It is designed to follow existing revolving loan funds that return investments directly back into a pool for the next round of projects. Projects can receive between $25,000 and $200,000 in gap financing at a 1 percent interest rate.

THE GCEDC will also review an application from Empire Pipeline to terminate their existing PILOT agreement, and instate a new 15-year fixed PILOT for their compressor station and pipeline in Oakfield. As the project incentives are more than $100,000 a public hearing will be set if the GCEDC Board accepts the application.

The GCEDC board meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6th, at the MedTech Center, across from Genesee Community College, on the first floor at the Innovation Center, Suite 107. All board meetings are open to the public.

October 1, 2016 - 3:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in 4-H, agriculture.

Press release:

On Thursday, Sept. 29th more than 100 Genesee County 4-H members and their families gathered for the 2016 Achievement Night celebration. It is the last 4-H event of the year and officially marks the end of the 2016 4-H program year.

Achievement Night is a time to honor the work and accomplishments of 4-H members, highlighting their progress and growth in their given project areas. We would like to extend a thank you to everyone who came out and made this year’s 4-H Achievement Night a success! 

Five 4-H volunteers were nominated for outstanding 4-H volunteer awards:

  • Tim Adams
  • Julie Ehrmentraut
  • Todd & Amanda Hofheins
  • Elizabeth Johnson-Walsh

The Genesee County 4-H Office awarded 22 county medals to youth who demonstrated exceptional work in a specific project area.

The 2016 Genesee County 4-H County Medal Recipients were:

Public Speaking:

-        District Public Presentations -- Melissa Keller, Becky Kron, Clare Mathes, Colton Tarbell, Torrance Tillery

-        Regional Horse Communications -- Alianna Baris, Alexandria Tarbell

Clothing & Textiles: Caroline Pelton

Horticulture: Melissa Keller

Poultry: Jillian Brewer, Celeste Brownell, Cheyanne Isaman, Clare Mathes, Teagan Mathes

Rabbit: Amelia Brewer, Christopher Swartzenberg, Maggie Winspear

Sheep: Becky Kron

Visual Arts: Bekki Allen

Outstanding Club Secretary: Elizabeth Rindell, Green Thumbs Club

State’s 4-H International Exchange Participant: Katie Ewert

September 20, 2016 - 2:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, farm bureau, scholarship, news.

Press release:

The New York Farm Bureau Promotion & Education Committee is encouraging high school seniors who have been involved with agriculture and plan on continuing studies in this field to apply for the 2017 New York Farm Bureau Agricultural Youth Scholarship.

Scholarship awards are $1,500 for First Place, $1,200 for Second Place, and $1,000 for Third Place. District winners chosen from the county winners will each receive $100 and a memento. The state awards are sponsored by the New York Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee. 

Students applying must have a family Farm Bureau membership or a student Farm Bureau membership. A membership application may be included with scholarship enclosures.

Students are required to complete the application and submit a brief essay answering the question, "What do I feel is the most important challenge facing agriculture in my community and why?”

The application can be downloaded at www.nyfb.org and emailed to [email protected] with all required attachments or mailed to NYFB’s Albany office with attention to Sandie Prokop. 

At the district level, a personal interview and essay presentation may be scheduled at the discretion of the district representative for the Promotion & Education Committee. The county winner will be the applicant scoring the highest for each county. County winners within the district are recognized at the discretion of their county Farm Bureau. The district winner will be the overall highest county winner in each district and will advance to the state competition in January. State judging will be based solely upon the application and attachments.

The application submission deadline is Nov. 16. To request an application, call 1-800-342-4143 or visit www.nyfb.org. The application is a fillable PDF and must be downloaded and completed.

September 14, 2016 - 5:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in congressman chris collins, agriculture, business.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins today released the following statement after receiving the “Friend of Farm Bureau” award from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“The American Farm Bureau Federation recognizes that the agriculture industry has always been one of the primary economic drivers throughout our country, especially here in Western New York,” Congressman Collins said.

“I was proud to promote AFBF’s mission in Congress by supporting legislation that will strengthen the lives of rural Americans and help build robust agriculture communities for our nation’s farmers. I am honored to be a ‘Friend of Farm Bureau.' ”

In a letter addressed to Congressman Collins, dated Sept. 7, it states: “The American Farm Bureau Federation gives the ‘Friend of Farm Bureau’ award to members of Congress who have supported Farm Bureau issues, as demonstrated by their voting records, and who were nominated by their respective state Farm Bureau and approved by the AFBF Board of Directors,” wrote Dale Moore, Executive Director of Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Thank you for your support of America’s farmers and ranchers and food security for America’s consumers.”

Established in 1919, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization that is governed by, and represents, the farmers and ranch families of America. The Farm Bureau is local, county, state, national and international in its scope and influence and is non-partisan, non-sectarian and non-secret in character. The AFBF works tirelessly to improve access to education, economic opportunities, and social advancement for agriculture producers at all levels.

For more information about the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), please visit: http://www.fb.org/.

September 12, 2016 - 10:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, Le Roy, Pavilion, National Grid.

Press release:

National Grid today announced that the company has invested approximately $300,000 through its 3-Phase Electric Power Incentive and Electric Capital program to help farms in the GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) region retain and create new jobs. The grants will assist Stein Family Farms LLC, Udderly Better Acres LLC, Friendly Acres LLC and East View Farms Inc. with various redevelopment and expansion projects.

$100,000 was awarded to Stein Family Farms LLC, located in the town of Caledonia, to support expansion of the farm’s dairy operations and increase productive capacity through necessary electrical infrastructure updates. The project’s total capital investment is approximately $1.2 million, and will retain 11 jobs and create one new job.

Udderly Better Acres, located in Le Roy, received approximately $58,000 to support the upgrade of its current electrical operations from a single-phase system to a three-phase system, a required improvement for the building of an additional barn and lagoon pond with a pump system. With a capital investment totaling approximately $374,000, the project will result in the retention of three jobs and the creation of six new jobs.

Friendly Acres LLC, a dairy farm which milks more than 500 cows in the town of Attica, was awarded $86,000 to assist in expanding the farm’s dairy operations and increase capacity through a 3-phase power system, which will result in improved efficiency for its new milking herd facility. The project’s capital investment totals $4.2 million.

Lastly, East View Farms Inc., located in the town of Pavilion, received $100,000 for electrical upgrades to assist in the expansion of its dairy cattle herding operations. The project’s total capital investment is $2.8 million and will result in the retention of five jobs, as well as the creation of five new jobs.

“With these unique incentive programs, it is our goal to support small businesses throughout the region, especially agribusiness customers like these four farms, in dramatically reducing their electric costs and remaining competitive,” said Kenneth Kujawa, regional manager for National Grid. “Our continued investment into these types of projects plays a critical role in the retention and creation of new jobs in the GLOW region.”

National Grid’s 3-Phase Power Incentive Program provides grants of up to $50,000 to extend electric service to eligible customers. A 3-phase electric system provides an increased level of reliability and allows modern farm equipment to operate more efficiently. 

National Grid’s Electric Capital Investment Incentive Program provides funding to businesses to help offset costs associated with upgrading utility infrastructure to accommodate a business expansion or new construction project. Specifically, the program supports business attraction or expansion projects located in National Grid’s Upstate New York service territory.

Information about National Grid’s suite of economic programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

September 10, 2016 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, agriculture.

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Timmy Bartz, 8, is selling vegetables he grew at a stand on Bank Street this afternoon.

September 7, 2016 - 1:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, business, news, steve hawley, disaster relief.

Press release:

Due to harsh drought conditions experienced by many of New York’s farmers, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced that Genesee, Monroe and Orleans counties have been designated natural disaster areas and are eligible for assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

State officials will be conducting on-site assessments of the damage to local farms and working with Cornell University experts to devise recovery solutions.

“Farmers are the backbone of New York’s already excellent, diversified and growing agriculture sector,” Hawley said. “As the former owner and operator of our family farm for many years, I can personally attest to the determination of our famers to battle ever-changing weather and devastating floods and drought in Western New York.

"It is important to protect the livelihood of our producers and assist them when unforeseen circumstances threaten their prosperity. I am pleased the federal government is offering our famers this much needed assistance.”

Further information and a list of services available can be found here.

August 25, 2016 - 10:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, business, batavia.

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Rep. Chris Collins hosted members of his Agriculture Advisory Committee -- local farmers and people involved in the local ag industry -- at Genesee Community College yesterday for a briefing on issues at the federal level affecting agriculture.

Collins noted that while he's not on the Ag Committee in Congress, he is on a committee with key oversight of a number of issues that affect agriculture.

"I am on Energy and Commerce, a more powerful committee, with oversight over the EPA and FDA," Collins said. "It’s certainly a good place to be."

Collins also addressed the issue of immigration, an important issue to farmers who, in recent years, have struggled to fill their farm labor force.

The NY-27th's representative is one of the few members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president and until this past week, Trump was calling for the deportation of 11 million immigrants who may have entered the country illegally. In the past week, Trump modified his position and is no longer promising to deport migrant workers living in the United States peacefully. 

Collins said the shift reflects Trump growing into the job of presidential candidate and one who is open to discussion.

"We will secure the borders and make sure the workforce that many of you have do have legal work papers and can figure out visas and other things that might ensure you’re not short of help," Collins said. "I think that’s a positive."

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Mark Zittel, from Erie County, who brought samples of some of the produce he grows.

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Collins staff member Jeff Freeland.

August 19, 2016 - 1:50pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, business.

During the last week of September, a Bovine Reproduction & Artificial Insemination Training Course in collaboration of Genex Cooperative, Inc., will be offered IN SPANISH at HY-Hope Farms in Stafford.

(The English version of this two-day class will be offered in Shortsville on Sept. 26-27 at Willow Bend Farm.)

The Stafford course on Sept. 29-30 is an excellent opportunity for Spanish-speaking farmers and employees who are interested in learning the important points of artificial insemination. It runs both days from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. HY-Hope Farms is located at 5908 Horseshoe Lake Road.

Jonna Egli and Abraham Cohen of Genex will be teaching the class. While the course will offer as much hands-on practice as possible, it's important to note that it is a beginner's course meant to teach the basics of artificial insemination. Participants should expect to practice inseminating cows on a regular basis in order to become proficient.

Cost is $175 for those enrolled in NWNY Team, others pay $225. Cost includes classroom material and lunch both days

Register today at https://reg.cce.cornell.edu/BovineReproduction-2_256 or by calling Zachary Amey at 585-786-2251. Contact Libby Eiholzer (607-793-4847) with any questions.

August 7, 2016 - 10:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire services, agriculture, batavia, news.

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It's been a long time since there was a grain bin incident in Genesee County, which is one reason a training session for volunteer firefighters at the Fire Training Center on State Street Road was so important yesterday, said Jim Bouton, one of the county's emergency management coordinators.

"It's important to keep up your skills and learn what has been working and not working over the years," Bouton said. 

Saturday's training was conducted by Dan Neena, director of the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety. The training session was co-sponsored by the Genesee County Farm Bureau and some local farmers attended, as well.

A farm worker might enter a grain bin because the top has become encrusted or for other maintenance work, and if he or she falls into the grain, can easily become trapped.

A rescuer can't simply grab a person buried in grain and pull him or her out.

"Once you’re trapped in the grain, the deeper you are, the more pounds that have to be exerted to release the person," Bouton said. "If we were try to pull a farmer who was trapped up to his neck, it would take like 650 pounds of pressure to try and pull him straight out. Well, that’s not possible."

Neena showed rescuers how to use a modular tube that is fitted around the victim's body, sunk into the grain, and then grain can be removed with an auger to suck the grain out of the tube, allowing the person to climb out of the grain.

The other danger for firefighters and the victim is that a grain bin is a confined space, which means potentially lower oxgyn levels, so rescuers need to be aware when breathing aparatus is required.

Firefighters were also trained how to use an especially designed saw for the task, to cut vents in the side of the grain bin so that grain can be released from around the person.

To learn about becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community, visit ReadyGenesee.com.

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July 20, 2016 - 10:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in 4-H, Livestock Auction, Genesee County Fair, agriculture, news.

Photo (by Howard Owens): Tyler Jirovec with his Champion Market Steer.

Press release:

Thank you to everyone who supported 4-H at the 46th Annual Genesee County 4-H Market Animal Auction! On Thursday, July 14, market goats, lambs, steers and hogs which were raised and shown by local 4-H members were auctioned by William Kent, Inc., at the Genesee County Fair.

The Champion Market Goat was exhibited by Michael Ehrmentraut and purchased by HLW Acres of Attica. The Reserve Champion Market Goat was exhibited by Cody Ehrmentraut and purchased by Crossen’s Christmas Tree Farm of Basom.

The Champion Market Lamb was exhibited by Maisy Ross and purchased by Dave Reisdorf, Inc., of Batavia. The Reserve Champion Market Lamb was also exhibited by Maisy Ross and purchased by Ed Roggen of Basom.

The Champion Market Steer was exhibited by Tyler Jirovec and was purchased by Turnbull Heating and Air Conditioning of Batavia. The Reserve Champion Market Steer was exhibited by Becky Kron and purchased by Clyde’s Feed & Animal Center of Hamburg.

The Champion Market Hog was exhibited by Cole Carlson and was purchased by The Red Osier Landmark Restaurant of Stafford. The Reserve Champion Market Hog was exhibited by Caleb Carlson and was purchased by Dave Reisdorf, Inc., of Batavia.

The objective of the Genesee County 4-H Market Animal Program is for engaged 4-H youth to gain valuable life skills such as responsibility, goal setting, decision making, communication, record keeping and community service through learning the basic principles of research-based animal science/husbandry practices, quality assurance and marketing of their project through hands-on learning opportunities in a positive youth development environment.

Thank you to all bidders and buyers! The Genesee County 4-H Livestock Committee and 4-H club leaders would also like to extend a special thank you to William Kent and Family for 46 years of continued services and outstanding support of the 4-H Market Animal Program.

Previously: 4-H'ers display their hard work at Genesee County livestock auction

July 19, 2016 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, land use, solar energy, agriculture, news.

Local municipalities with farmland should consider whether they want to address the issue of a zoning code for solar farms, Genesee County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari told members of the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board at last night's meeting.

There are a couple of companies who have approached local landowners, Oltramari said, and if towns in the area want solar farms within their borders, they need to address it with a zoning code change and then decide how to regulate the farms.

Towns that do nothing, that currently have no permitted use for solar farms, will be deciding by default not to allow solar farms in those jurisdictions, Oltramari said.

If a land use isn't expressly mentioned in the local zoning code than it is completely prohibited.

Only the Town of Batavia has created provisions for solar farms, and it's a pretty bare-bones code at this point, Oltramari said.

The Town of Batavia took the action after SunEdison approached a local landowner about building a solar farm. An attorney representing SunEdison attended a couple of town meetings, but there's been no apparent progress with SunEdison since then and currently SunEdison is going through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

Since then, no other town has moved forward with solar farm zoning, but the Town of Oakfield is considering a solar farm on its land adjacent to its wastewater treatment plan and the Town of Alabama is considering a solar farm for the retired quarry in the town. 

"I think that’s a perfect use for that, too," Oltramari said.

The Town of Batavia is also looking into a solar farm on its former landfill.

The big issue for agricultural land, however, is that a solar farm would take the land out of crop production.

Agriculture average typically leases for about $60 a year and solar companies will pay $1,500 per acre per year for 20 years.

"This has alarmed farmers that rely on rented land for their operations," Oltramari said.

Companies looking to set up solar farms are typically looking for 20-acre parcels and they must be within two miles of a power substation.

Donn Branton, chairman of the Farmland Protection Board, thinks landowners should look carefully at any deal offered by a solar company.

"The frosting sounds pretty good, but the cake batter seems to get pretty messy," Branton said. 

There's a two-year planning process and the company decides what part of your farm it wants, he said, and then during construction they decide where the roads go.

"They pretty much have the run of your farm," he said. 

And taking the land out of production could cause it to be reclassified as commercial property rather than farmland, increasing the property tax rate. 

'It's something you want to investigate thoroughly with a legal service," Branton said. "$1,500 sounds great, but then you've got all the stipulations that go with it."

Oltramari recommended that towns -- and potentially landowners -- address issues such as preserving topsoil and herbicide use (in the event the land ever reverts to food production).

Zoning could also be used to limit the location and size of solar farms, buffer zones and visual screening.

Typically, in this area, solar companies are looking for 20-acre farms that produce two to four megawatts of energy.

One megawatt of solar energy could power 165 homes.

An energy generation facility (solar or wind) that produces more than 25 megawatts is exempt from local zoning laws, but such a farm in Western New York would need 125 to 200 acres of land, so Oltramari doesn't foresee such a farm coming to Genesee County.

July 15, 2016 - 3:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mucklands, business, agriculture, elba, news.

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Representatives from onion companies from all over the world were in Genesee County today to see the world famous Elba Mucklands.

The tour is part of a convention of onion industry leaders hosted by the National Onion Association in Niagara County this week. The attendees had breakfast in Batavia and then toured the mucklands.

The visit included a presentation by Christy Hoepting, a researcher with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, who is studying the impact of weeds on onion growth and how best to control them in the field.

There was also a presentation on experimental onion varieties being grown in the muck.

There were people in the tour group from not only the United States, but also Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.

"This is a beautiful and productive place," said Kim Reddin, director of public and industry relations for NOA. "Absolutely, it's unique and one of the main growing areas in the eastern part of the United States."

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July 14, 2016 - 11:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Fair, batavia, news, agriculture.

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Here are a few photos from Thursday at the Genesee County Fair. We'll have more photos and a story about the 4-H Livestock Auction sometime Friday afternoon.

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July 13, 2016 - 9:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Fair, fair, batavia, news, agriculture.

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