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February 3, 2014 - 10:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Alpina Foods.

Local Greek yogurt maker Alpina has entered the national television yogurt wars with a series of commercials meant to entertain and inspire.

While industry leaders Chobani and Dannon dish out big bucks to debut commercials during the Super Bowl (including a both praised and panned spot from Dannon for Oikos Greek yogurt featuring the former cast of Full House, and Chobani's ad with Bob Dylan and a bear), Alpina held of until today the release of its new ads.

Press release from Alpina:

The new campaign focuses on individuals facing their challenges head on, or as we like to say “climbing their mountains.” Maybe your mountain is to run a 10k or graduate from college. The point is we all have mountains to climb. So satisfy your taste for the top with Alpina Greek Yogurt, it's encouragement by the spoonful. Alpina. Climb Your Mountain.

The ads will run in select areas in the Northeast, including Western New York, and will feature digital and radio advertisements. Western NY can also look forward to seeing our ads on TV and area buses. To complement the campaign, Alpina is offering a free trial to those who share their mountain with us through a link in our digital ads.

January 31, 2014 - 1:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, petco.

Workers at Petco are busy cleaning up the store and restocking shelves -- some stock had to be replaced -- following the fire at Bed, Bath & Beyond last Monday.

One thing General Manager Carol Hershberger is eager for local residents to know is that all of the animals that were in the store are safe.

They were initially taken to the Genesee County Animal Shelter and, contrary to a prior report, never returned to the store, she said. The animals have all been relocated to other Petco stores.

There's a lot of work, but staff is working hard, she said, to get the store reopened Monday.

Meanwhile, investigators have yet to determine the case of the fire, which started in the bedding department of Bed, Bath & Beyond and caused to smoke to fill both stores (not as heavily, in Petco).

UPDATE 3:57 p.m.: Hershberger called back to say after a long way of work today, she doesn't believe the store will be ready to open Monday. She said she's hesitant to predict when the store will open. "As soon as possible," she said.

January 30, 2014 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Terry Platt.

(File Photo)

A Buffalo judge ruled this morning that the city must issue a rooming house permit to local rental property owner Terry Platt for a 12-room rooming house at 316 E. Main St., Batavia.

The city's planning board turned town Platt's application in May following strenuous objects from neighboring property owners and other residents, so Platt filed an Article 78 action asking the court to step in and review the case.

Judge John Curran found that Platt's plan did not violate the city's master plan, as the city maintained in its argument against granting the permit.

The city didn't contest, according to Platt's attorney Michael Perley, any other aspect of Platt's application.

Curran found, Perley said, that the city's master plan allows mixed use on East Main Street, and the rooming house fits within permitted uses.

But even if the master plan didn't allow for mixed use in that area of the city, Perley said Curran indicated he would have ruled in Platt's favor because he would have found the city's plan flawed.

"My client is pleased and I'm pleased for my client," Perley said. "We thought all along it was a proper and appropriate project. Mr. Platt has always run these dwellings in the city and he has run them well. We believe it will be an asset to the city and the city will be pleased with the rooming house and how Mr. Platt operates it."

Previously:

January 29, 2014 - 6:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, sports, Darien, 5K, darien lake theme park, Color Me Rad.

Press release:

Back by popular demand, the Color Me Rad 5K, a nationally recognized human tie-dye spectacle and run/walk, is returning to Darien Lake for its second year bigger and better than before. More than 6,800 racers came out for the event last year, raising $15,000 for the Special Olympics of New York. This year, registration will be open to 10,000 participants so even more color-plastered racers can get in on the fun while supporting a great cause.

What makes Color Me Rad so unique is the excitement and entertainment generated by thousands of racers running through the scenic grounds at Darien Lake while a Color Bomb Squad takes aim their shirts, faces, and hair with a rainbow array of colors. A new element to the fun this year, racers will get hand-held color blasters so everyone can get in on the action.   

The event is June 21.

Registration for the run/walk is now open at http://www.colormerad.com/race/buffalo.  

“We strive to partner with organizations and families to create special moments that their kids will share with their kids. There’s no doubt that this is going to be a colorful memory worth sharing,” said Rod Rankin, vice president and general manager of Darien Lake. 

Participants are encouraged to continue their fun after the race with a day at Darien Lake. Accommodations packages are available for registered participants at www.godarienlake.com.

"Special Olympics New York is delighted to be the beneficiary of, and to partner with, Darien Lake and Color Me Rad 5K for this tremendously fun event in June,” said Special Olympics of New York President and CEO Neal Johnson. "Color Me Rad 5K is an energetic event for all, where the volunteers have just as much fun as the participants. Whether you register to run or volunteer for the race, you'll be helping Darien Lake and Color Me Rad 5K support more than 56,000 Special Olympics athletes across the state."

More than 5,000 pounds of FDA-approved, colored cornstarch will be used during the event. In addition to “Color Bomb Squad” volunteers spread along the 3.1-mile course, walkers and runners will also be able to toss their own bags of color into the air, creating an unforgettable display of color.

Photos from last year's Color Me Rad at Darien Lake by Howard Owens.

January 28, 2014 - 9:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, NY-27, chris collins, farm bill.

It's a compromise that many thought a contemporary version of Congress could never pass, but Rep. Chris Collins said that even if he wishes some things were different, he plans to vote on a new farm bill that's ready for consideration by the full House.

The compromise bill was announced today and Collins held a telephone press conference to discuss his support of the measure.

"It's a very good bill, but there's something in it that pretty much everyone doesn't like," said Collins, who sits on the Agriculture Committee.

The 1,000-page bill ends decades of direct subsidies to farmers that paid out roughly $5 billion annually and replaces it with a crop insurance program designed to provide the same measure of financial management against disastrous weather or substantial price fluctuations. 

Several "outdated and ineffective dairy programs," according to an ag committee statement, are eliminated. Dairy producers will be able to voluntarily enter into a margin protection program that will not have government mandated supply controls.

Speaker John Boehner opposed the former programs as "Soviet-style" market manipulation.

The other major reforms in the farm bill deal with SNAP, better known as food stamps. The reforms are expected to eliminate $9 billion in fraud and abuse.

In all, supporters of the bill are claiming it will save taxpayers $23 billion.

Collins said it will particularly provide local dairy farmers a range of certainty around which they can plan production.

"Now they can plan farm activity around a new crop insurance program and they know what it's going to look like for the next five years," Collins said. "It's a big relief to have this move forward and come to a vote."

Those who wanted the regulation of catfish to be handled by the FDA instead of the USDA won't be happy with the bill, Collins said, which is an example of how the legislation won't make everybody happy.

There were some provisions that dairy farmer associations initially opposed.

But even the industry groups eventually came around and supported the bill.

A statement from Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation:

"That process is now complete. Despite its limitations, we believe the revised program will help address the volatility in farmers’ milk prices, as well as feed costs, and provide appropriate signals to help address supply and demand.

"The program that we have worked to develop establishes a reasonable and responsible national risk management tool that will give farmers the opportunity to insure against catastrophic economic conditions, when milk prices drop, feed prices soar, or the combination. By limiting how much future milk production growth can be insured, the measure creates a disincentive to produce excess milk. The mechanism used is not what we would have preferred, but it will be better than just a stand-alone margin insurance program that lacks any means to disincentivize more milk production during periods of over-supply.

Also unhappy, Collins said, will be those who think food stamps should never be touched.

"Let's be clear, no one who deserves food stamps is getting cuts," Collins said.

As an example, Collins noted that under the old regime anybody who received federal heating assistance, even if it was just $1 per month, was eligible to receive food stamps, even without any income or asset test. That ends with the new program, Collins said.

"It was a backdoor way for people to get food stamps who didn't deserve them," Collins said. "It's good government in this day of deficit spending that the money is going to go to the people who truly deserve it."

Asked if Democrats might to used the changes to SNAP as a campaign issue against those "heartless Republicans," Collins said, his message to them is go ahead and try.

"One thing for sure is that distortion of truth is what politics and commercials are all about more than substance," Collins said. "I'm sure there are those who will try to claim that this is a cut in food stamps for those who deserve it and if they do make that claim, it's a lie.

"Anyone who is opposed to this bill is somebody who is very partisan in nature and not interested in saving taxpayers money," Collins added. "I'd turn that back on anyone who wanted that debate and I'd turn it back in about two seconds."

January 27, 2014 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCC, Google.

Press release:

Anyone searching to find directions to Genesee Community College's main campus in Batavia are advised to avoid using the online Google Maps utility. Despite many attempts by the College to have Google correct the problem, Google Maps continues to direct visitors trying to reach GCC's main campus to the College's Albion Campus Center located 30 miles north of Batavia in Orleans County.

"We have contacted Google multiple times to rectify this problem and are continuously told that it takes weeks for their algorithm to correct misguided directions. In addition, Google claims its tech support cannot manually intervene to remedy the problem," said Donna Rae Sutherland, associate director of Marketing Communications.

"It's been incredibly frustrating and also rather dangerous. Buses of athletic teams, performing artists and potential students have all gone 60 miles out of their way traveling in haste back down Route 98, which is often very blustery with poor visibility during the winter months."

The problem has been an ongoing for approximately a year with short periods of time when Google Maps accurately listed the Batavia Campus, but currently the right side panel posts a map and information to the Albion Campus Center without even mentioning the main campus is in Batavia. Google's proprietary software uses unique algorithms to provide mapping information automatically. Unknowing visitors are logically following Google's posted directions without clicking through to find the right campus and its proper location.

Sutherland recommends Web searchers utilize MapQuest and the College's Maps and Directions Web page available at: http://www.genesee.edu/about/visit/maps/ This gives users door- to-door directions to any campus location and also explicit directions to the main campus in Batavia.

"Most other online utilities are able to find us perfectly, but with Google's ongoing problem we strongly advise people to steer clear of using Google Maps to find GCC."

January 22, 2014 - 2:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Batavia Towne Center, COR Development.

A subdivision of Batavia Towne Center to make way for a Kohl's Department Store was approved by the Town of Batavia Planning Board on Tuesday night.

The subdivision is necessary, according to Kate Johnson, of COR Development (top photo) because Kohl's needs its building on its own parcel for financing, tax and insurance purposes.

Kohl's will own its building, but COR will continue to own the land.

A subdivision carves a parcel of land from an existing parcel to make a new parcel with its own tax ID number.

Kohl's is planning 56,883-square-foot building roughly in the area of the former Lowe's garden center.

Johnson also revealed that Marshall's is planning a store next to Dick's Sporting Goods and said a fourth store is planned for the former Lowe's space, but said she can't mention the name of the store.

Previously, it was reported that the discount chain 5 Below was planning a store for the location.

Town officials are also considering a sidewalk for pedestrians that would connect Batavia Towne Center and Batavia Downs as well as an extension of Richmond Avenue through to Veterans Memorial Drive.

January 21, 2014 - 9:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business.

Town planners approved a sign tonight for a new sushi restaurant that will reportedly open soon at 4140 Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia.

The restaurant, YUME Asian Bistro, will be the third location for the owner, according to Dan Lang, the town's code enforcement officer. The other two are in New York City.

Everything about the new restaurant, Lang said, is first-class.

"The interior looks wonderful, actually," Lang said. "He did a beautiful job on the inside of it."

Lang said the owner is just about ready, and eager to open.

The location is next to Pawn King, two doors down from Jagged Edges Salon, across from Walmart.

His top chef from New York will open the restaurant and train the cooks and staff before returning to NYC.

"He wants to make sure he has somebody who takes care of the sushi the right way," Lang said.

The restaurant will also serve Thai food as well as other Asian dishes.

Lang described the new restaurant as "high end."

UPDATE: So, apparently, Batavia will have two sushi restaurants going by similar names. Josh Gaylord says that he filed for a DBA for Yume Sushi in June and then Yumi Asian Bistro filed in July. Gaylord is planning to open his restaurant at the former Delavan's location on Evans Street in the city.  He's previously held a Sushi night at Sweet Ecstasy Bakery and his sushi has gained a passionate local following.

January 17, 2014 - 6:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy.
Kristin Gomborone, front, Gabrielle Keister and Scott Keister

A small Le Roy company has put itself on the cusp of the next big thing in municipal lighting -- LED.

This week, GotToGo Electric, a six-person company on East Main Road, landed a $77,860 contract with Mayville to sell the village 350 LED street lights.

Last year, GotToGo provided the village with LED street lights as part of a pilot project and then was the lowest bidder to provide enough lights to illuminate the entire village.

Traditionally, cities and villages provide night light with either high-pressure sodium lights or metal-halide lamps, giving main streets either an eerie orange glow or a cold blue hue.

Modern LED lights provide a white light, which has its own benefits, but the main reason municipal governments are taking a closer look at LED these days is the cost savings.

LED lights can cut electric consumption by up to 65 percent and are virtually maintenance free.

A street light with LED bulbs has a 10-year warranty, but should continuing working for 15 to 20 years.

Sodium and halide lights must be replaced much more frequently.

"LED is the new way to go," said company President Scott Keister. "LED is gaining traction very quickly. I think what we'll see in the next few years is the Department of Energy change its requirements for energy consumption, and traditional lighting (sodium and metal-halide) won't be able to meet those requirements."

GotToGo Electric is a manufacturer rep for two of the companies in the U.S. that make municipal lighting and fixtures.

Established in 1990 as a company selling products for electric companies, it was forced less than a decade later to pivot into a firm that represents the manufacturers of products for municipal utilities after the electric companies in the Northeast merged.

It was an easy transition, said CEO Kristin Gomborone, because GotToGo had already established the relationships with the cities and villages in New York.

"Along with the relationships, we've been working with municipalities for about 24 years now, so we've built a rapport," Gomborone said.

The company is owned by Gomborone and her sister, Gabrielle Keister, who is VP of Finance, and GotToGo is a certified New York woman-owned business.

Both women were born and raised in Le Roy. Keister is from Alexander and attended Notre Dame High School.

Besides selling LED lights, GotToGo handles just about everything a municipality might need to provide utility service, from gas and electric meters, to cable and transformers for electricity and, of course, lighting.

Primarily, the company bids on behalf of the 25 manufacturers they represent for the sale and installation of utility products. But the company is also positioned to ensure ongoing maintenance needs, if any, are met.

Keister explained that manufacturers use product reps such as GotToGo because it's less expensive than maintaining a full-time staff in a territory.

GotToGo got into LED lighting as the demand began to grow.

Ten years ago, LED systems were expensive, provided a bluish light that consumers rejected (think of those district blue headlights that were common for awhile on some new model cars) and didn't provide as much illumination as traditional lighting.

Now the cost has come down, the light temperature has shifted to a neutral white (or a moonlight white) and systems can put out as much, if not more, light than sodium or metal-halide.

GotToGo's clients for LED lights include the City of Buffalo, Westfield, Jamestown, Springville and the company's first LED client, Auburn, which installed 450 new street lights.

And not just municipalities are in the market now for LED lights. Universities and colleges, malls, car dealers -- any place with the need to illuminate a large area -- is a potential customer for GotToGo's products.

"It's probably the most exciting thing we're doing now," Keister said. "It's up and coming. Like I said, it's been around 10 years, but it's really just starting to take a grasp."

The main thing holding back wider adoption of LED systems, Keister said, is the inability of Albany and the electric companies to come up with a plan on how the electric companies will serve municipalities.

There are about 42 cities and villages in New York, such as Mayville, that provide their own municipal electric service, so there aren't hoops to jump through to make the switch to LED.

But in all the others municipalities, the local governments contract with a big electric company to provide the lights, the electricity and the maintenance.

It's kind of a lease agreement paid for through a tariff.

"To charge people the current tariff rates for a fixture that is much more efficient and basically eliminates maintenance is not fair to the consumer," Keister said.

So, as the market changes -- new regulations requiring less energy consumption from street lights, and a new tariff scheme out of Albany -- GotToGo Electric, with its experience and connections, should be well positioned as the go-to company in WNY for municipal street lighting.

Click here for a story from an online news site in Chautauqua County about the Mayville purchase and to see a picture that shows the color temperature difference between LED and sodium lights.

January 13, 2014 - 8:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

Press release:

WCJW-FM, “CJ Country”, a country music station servicing Genesee, Wyoming & Livingston counties has tapped a local Batavian, “Jimi Jamm” (real name Frank Collins) to take over hosting the morning show on the station. Jimi has been doing weekend airshifts, sports reports and play by play of high school football for 2 years and he replaces Trevor Carey who accepted a radio job in Virginia. Jimi will be on air from 6-10am Monday-Saturdays beginning this week.

A 1987 graduate of Notre Dame High School, Jimi has been an award winning music director and DJ for radio stations in Detroit, Omaha, New Haven and Buffalo, among others as well as being a former recording artist for Buffalo-based Amherst Records. He returned to the Batavia area in 2011 with his wife, Margot because of his love of Western New York and desire to be back home where most of his family resides.

“Radio jobs are harder to find than ever, especially if you don’t want to relocate.”, says Jamm. “I am absolutely thrilled to be back working at the job I love for CJ Country in the region I love. Radio exists to serve the community and I hope to serve the audience, entertain with the music and have fun!”

WCJW, based in Warsaw can be heard in Batavia at 105.5 FM and other areas at 104.3, 103.7 and 100.9, online at wcjw.com or on the TuneIn app for smartphones and tablets.

 

January 9, 2014 - 7:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, Pavilion.

The way Pavilion resident Stephen Gould sees it, a career in agriculture is a great choice for a young person. There's opportunity, innovation and lots of options for somebody industrious enough to jump into the field.

Gould speaks today at the NYS Agriculture Society's annual meeting in Liverpool as part of a panel called "The Next Generation of Agriculturalists: Millennials' Perspective on Their Future in Agriculture."

He'll be joined on the panel by three other recent college graduates who are pursuing careers in agriculture.

After two years at Alfred State, Gould transferred to Cornell and earned a degree in animal science. He graduated in May and took a job as a farmhand on his family's farm on South Street Road, Pavilion.

Har Go Farms was founded by his grandfather in 1956 and is now run by his father, John, and mother, Sue. Gould expects someday he'll run the organic dairy farm, but for now, he's cleaning out stalls, managing the summer grazing and helping to build a winter shelter for calves.

It's his full-time job and it's exactly what he wants to do with his life, he said.

"I think it's a great lifestyle," Gould said. "You can do anything here. You can be a mechanic, a veterinarian or an accountant. When you're a farmer, it's always changing every day. You also get a great sense of accomplishment, to build something, take something as unorganized as nature and organize it into something productive."

While Gould has chosen to be a farmer, he said one of the great things about agriculture today is there are so many jobs in research, farm services and production. A young person really has a world of options.

"There's a lot of youth who are excited about jobs in agriculture," Gould said.

With exploding demand for food around the world, especially in China and India, it's really an exciting time to be in the ag business, he said.

"Then domestically, there's a lot of innovation," Gould added. "In dairy, you have Greek yogurts, drinkable yogurts and new spinoffs on just plain milk. There's strong demand for dairy, but there's other work. There's research being done on how to improve production, how to get more production per acre of crops or vegetables."

In Gould's own family, there's a clear example of the diversity of career opportunities for young people. His brother Michael graduated from Cornell with a degree in food science and now works for Chobani in Idaho. 

Gould's other brother, Matthew, is a student at Penn State and his sister Kathleen is an occupational therapist.

The farm went organic in 2008 and Gould thinks it was a good move.

"It's hard because there are fewer tools," Gould said. "But the whole organic philosophy is they don't want to kill anything. They don't want to use chemicals to kill bugs or use chemicals to kill weeds. They're all natural and holistic. I agree with that approach. I think any farmer, deep down, would not want to use any tools. They would love to make it all work, but organic isn't as productive. On the operations side, it's not as efficient. That's the constant challenge, to make it efficient. It's been a steep learning curve for us."

The Goulds run 150 head of milking cows on the 600-acre farm. Their fields must be kept chemical free and feed must be bought from certified organic suppliers.

"I enjoy it," Gould said. "It's a challenge. It's something not a lot of people are doing and we've had pretty good success with it."

The hardest part of farming, Gould said, is that cows don't take breaks. They need constant attention.

There are no days off on a dairy farm, he noted.

Gould was a wrestler in high school but says he doesn't follow a lot of sports these days -- the Bills at the beginning of the year when it looked like they might be good, but otherwise tunes most of it out. He likes to read, especially historic novels such as "Gates of Fire."

He also does a little woodworking and enjoys spending time with friends and family, but otherwise, he works and thinks he has a pretty good, if demanding, job.

He'd recommend ag to any young person, he said.

"Whether you're on a farm or in the service side of the industry, there's a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity in agriculture," he said.

January 8, 2014 - 12:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, business, agriculture.

Press release:

The 12th Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner, set for March 22, is a celebration of the number one industry in Genesee County – Agriculture.
 
Tickets to the dinner are currently sold out!
 
Thank you to the following farms and businesses that are sponsoring this year’s event:

Lamb Farms, Inc., William Kent, Inc., Stein Farms, Farm Credit East, Windy Acres Farm, Five Star Bank, Clark Patterson Lee, Z&M Ag and Turf, United Memorial Medical Center, Torrey Farms, Inc., Muller Quaker Dairy, Arctic Refrigeration Co., Baskin Livestock, Carolina Eastern Crocker, LLC, Freed Maxick & Battaglia, National Grid, The Southcott Agency Inc., The Bank of Castile/Tompkins Insurance, Porter Agency - Farm Family Insurance, Del Mar Farms, Java Farm Supply and Geer Farm Services.
 
Proceeds from the dinner help support agriculture educational events in Genesee County.
 
The Celebrate Ag Dinner is coordinated by the following partners: Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District and Genesee County Farm Bureau.

December 31, 2013 - 5:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Health Care, UMMC.

Press release:

United Memorial Medical Center and MVP Health Care® are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement which will allow United Memorial to be included as a network facility for MVP health insurance products purchased through the New York State of Health Exchange. The agreement was reached today, December 31st and will go into effect tomorrow, January 1, 2014.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, people who do not have health insurance through their job, or cannot afford the plan offered by their employer, now can use the “Healthcare Exchange” or “Marketplace” to compare plans and sign up. In New York State, residents are provided a list of insurance companies and plans to select from, based on their county of residence.

“We greatly appreciate the patience and understanding of our community as we are working to address the sweeping changes brought on by healthcare reform,” stated United Memorial’s CEO Mark C. Schoell. “I am pleased that we were able to bring the negotiation with MVP Health Care to a successful conclusion.”

Matthew MacKinnon, vice president, Network Operations, MVP Health Care said, “We are happy that United Memorial Medical Center is a participating provider for MVP products in Genesee County, including new Exchange coverage, and we look forward to continuing to serve residents of the Batavia area.”

December 23, 2013 - 4:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Batavia Towne Center, COR Development.

The Town of Batavia Planning Board will hold a public hearing Jan. 7 to consider an application for a subdivision of property in Batavia Towne Center.

The subdivision would make it possible for Kohl's Department Store to own its own property inside the shopping center, much like Target does now.

Kohl's would be purchasing the parcel from COR Development.

In June, the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board approved $1.8 million in new tax abatements for COR (on top of the $4.6 million in tax breaks COR received from GCEDC in 2006), ostensibly to attract new businesses that provide goods or services not readily available in Genesee County.

Kohl's is a department store chain that sells furniture, clothing, bed and bath items and other general merchandise.

The store will be located where Lowe's once had its garden center, just south of the new Dick's Sporting Goods.

To the north of Dick's will be a Five Below and possibly Marshall's; both are discount retailers.

In order for Kohl's to own its own parcel, the property currently owned by COR must be subdivided.

All subdivisions must go through a public hearing, which is a chance for the public to learn the facts of the project relevant to the subdivision and comment on the issue.

The same process was used to subdivide Batavia Towne Center for Target. A portion of the tax breaks secured by COR in 2006 are now applied to the Target property.

While it's possible for Kohl's to apply to transfer tax abatements received by COR to the new parcel, Rachael Tabelski, director of marketing and communications for GCEDC, said the agency has yet to receive an application for the tax abatements from Kohl's.

The hearing will be held at Batavia Town Hall, 3833 W. Main Street Road, Batavia, at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 7. Written comments will be accepted prior to that date.

December 18, 2013 - 7:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture.

There's an upside to dropping corn prices -- higher profits for dairy farmers, which is a good thing in Genesee County, but if prices fall much further the impact on corn growers could be substantial.

Today, corn is selling for $4.25 a bushel, which is still high enough for a profit, said Craig Yunker, CEO of CY Farms in Elba. The cost of growing corn, he said, is at least $4 a bushel and as low as $3.50 for more efficient operations, so any further drop in price could put a squeeze on corn growers.

That could be a bigger problem in the Midwest, where corn is often grown on a much larger scale and without the crop diversity common locally.

"I think we could see a range of corn prices from $3.50 to $5.50," Yunker said. "Much depends on the demand in China and depending on the production around the world. At $4.25 we're right in the middle of that range."

The big beneficiaries of lower corn prices are dairy farmers, Yunker noted, and with dairy being a big part of the local ag economy, the current corn price is a big help to some local farmers.

Jeff Post, at Post Farms in Oakfield, agreed lower corn prices help local dairymen.

"A significant amount of our milk checks goes for purchasing feed, so when the corn prices are really high, we're definitely not as profitable," Post said. "We're fortunate that we grow a lot of our own corn, so we haven't had such a steep swing (in profits), but not every dairy farm can grow its own corn. Farms that rely on buying a lot of corn grain, it definitely has a bigger impact."

It would help, Post said, if soybeans would drop in price (soy being the key source of protein for dairy cows).

"From what I'm seeing, it's not trending down," Post said.

Corn has been in a bit of a bubble the past two years, trading for a period at more than $6 a bushel. What's happening now is likely a predictable market correction.

"We're coming back to normal," Yunker said. "The last two years have really been abnormal."

The big fear in the Midwest, where corn is king, is that farm land prices could see a big drop in value, threatening some farmers with insolvency.

It could mean the kind of farmland price bubble experienced by farmers in the 1980s, according to media reports.

Yunker doesn't see that kind of collapse coming, however.

"Farmers were much more leveraged (in the 1980s)," Yunker said. "When prices started to fall, there were no buyers for farmland because everybody was leveraged and couldn't buy. Now farmers are more balanced. There will be buyers because there are farmers who are healthy."

Locally, corn prices will have a minimal impact on farmland prices.

Post noted the same land in Genesee County that might grow corn can just as easily grow other produce.

Yunker, whose farm is diversified in what it grows every season, said he and his managers won't decide on the coming season's crops and how many acres of corn to plant until February. That will give him a lot of time to study what's happening in the international markets.

The big factors, Yunker said, are what happens in China and how the corn growing season does in South America and how much the Ukraine produces.

But the biggest factor is how much demand for corn there is out of China. That demand is effected both by how much meat the Chinese eat and how widely disease spreads through China's chicken farms.

If Chinese demand for corn drops, so will prices.

Recently, China rejected some shipments of corn, reportedly because of an assertion that the corn was genetically modified in a way not approved by China. Yunker doesn't think that's the real reason.

"I think it's because the prices went lower," Yunker said. "They're finding a reason to kick the load now. It's always a problem when prices go lower. People find a reason not to accept what they purchased."

If prices drop below $4 the impact on local farmers could become more severe because the cost of production is relatively fixed. It's a price local farmers will be watching closely over the winter.

"A lot depends on the demand in China and it depends on the production around the rest of the world," Yunker said.

December 18, 2013 - 4:19pm

T.F. Brown's and the Lions Club of Batavia will host their annual community Christmas dinner Dec. 25.

The dinner is free to all.

There are two seatings available, noon and 1 p.m. 

An RSVP is requested by Dec. 20. If planning to attend, please call (585) 345-1000 and let Maud know how many people are coming, for which seating, and the gender, ages and first names of children.

Children will receive a present from Santa.

T.F. Brown's is located at 214 E. Main St., Batavia.

Pictured are: Tony Scalia, Joe Teresi and Michael Tomaszewski from the Lions Club and T.F. Brown's owner Rick Mancuso.

December 10, 2013 - 10:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, elba, Torrey Farms, Genesee County Farms.

This is the fifth in our series on Genesee County's farms and farmers. For previous stories, click here. (Obviously, I started this story in late fall and am only now publishing it. I've got one other story that I started at the same time as this and hope to finish in the next week).

When you farm 11,000 acres -- growing cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, pumpkins, winter squash, onions, potatoes, carrots and tending milk cows -- you always have something to sell.

Whether you always have a buyer is another matter.

Each work day -- spring, summer, fall and winter -- Maureen Torrey arrives at the main office of Torrey Farms in Elba at 8 a.m. to start marketing the products grown on the farmland owned by her and her brothers John and Mark.

She talks to potential buyers not just in the Northeast, but as far away as Texas and California, trying to get the best price, and sometimes just trying to set a reasonable price, to move perishables before they spoil.

Torrey is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in journalism. She was a Cornell Extension agent for awhile then worked in merchandising for Chiquita for four years. The merchandising job gave her a taste of how she could contribute to the family farm.

"I realized I really liked the wheeling and dealing," Torrey said. "The markets are different every day. It's all by your gut. You're looking at weather patterns and what's available and what your gut is telling you. You look at whether to raise the market or lower the market and look at who's short around the country."

The roots of Torrey Farms goes back to the founding of the nation. In 1626, the Torrey family left England and settled in Connecticut. But the rocky soil of The Nutmeg State wasn't great cropland, so as pioneers moved West, so did the Torreys, looking for better farmland.

John Torrey arrived in Bethany in 1803, and while there are still Torreys farming in the Bethany area, Torrey Farms as we know it today began in 1948 when Elbert Torrey, the grandfather of Maureen, John and Mark, purchased the 375-acre Higley Farm in Elba.

Don't let the size of today's Torrey Farms fool you -- it's as much a family farm as the one with 100 acres and 40 cows. Besides the three offspring of Charles Torrey running operations today, Mark's children also work in management roles on the farm.

Jed is charge of grain crops, Travis, daily labor, Lucus, harvest and planting, Shannon, marketing and sales, Molly, human resources and Jordon in accounting and marketing.

"We're very much a hands-on operation," said Maureen, whose three daughters are all in college. Jill is at Cornell, Julie is at Florida State and former Elba Onion Queen Jamie is a freshman at the University of Arkansas.

The farm employs 80 workers throughout the four seasons and brings in as many as 220 workers for the spring through the early fall.

Most employees, as is the case in agriculture throughout the United States, are migrants and immigrants.

After the weather -- if not before -- ensuring the farm has enough labor to plant and harvest is the biggest difficulty Torrey Farms faces. Both John and Maureen agree on that point.

"More than 70 percent of all the food in this country is planted and grown by immigrants," Maureen said. "That's pretty significant. Without them, we'd be pretty hungry."

Yet, there's an endless supply of politicians in Washington -- and it's been this way since the 1980s --  seemingly intent on trying to make it as difficult as possible for farms to get the labor they need to feed Americans.

"Our biggest challenge is the labor, the immigration issue," John said. "You're always going to have the variables of the weather, but the last several years, what we're most uneasy about is immigration."

Fighting against hard-headed politicians in Washington has put Maureen Torrey on a national stage. She's testified before Congress and worked with both labor and agricultural groups trying to bring about sensible immigration reform.

It hasn't been easy.

"We're trying to get some people in Congress to stand up and be fair and do what needs to be done for the country," Maureen said. "They need to make strong decisions and stop worrying about elections. They hear from some advocacy groups, from people who are well organized and use social media and send tons of letters, but they need to look at the meat of the issue and see what it means for the country and who is doing the work and how it's getting done.

"We've always got to educate a new batch of congressmen," Maureen added.

Like just about any farmer you talk to, the Torreys have tried hiring native-born workers, but it never works out. After six hours, maybe two days, the domestic workers leave or don't come back.

The work is hard and dirty, and there are too many handouts from the government to it make worthwhile for citizens stoop and bend in farm fields.

Misinformation spread about immigrants sucking money from that same social services system is what drives border crack downs and makes it harder for farmers to bring in crops, Maureen said. People come here from Mexico to work, Torrey said, not collect welfare.

And often their wages get poured back into the local economy.

"They talk about (immigrants in) the schools, but this farm land and our housing all generate school taxes," Maureen said. "They're also the best shoppers for our retailers. Three weeks ago, 42 brand-new TVs went back on the bus to Mexico. Talk to the store owners in Albion. They love these guys. It makes their business for them."

December 7, 2013 - 8:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID, taste of the holidays.

Friday night was the first night of Taste of the Holidays. The festivities included a chance for visitors to the tent on Jackson Street to sample food from area restaurants and visit with other vendors. Bus rides to the Holland Land Museum Office to see the Wonderland of Trees were also part of the event.

The event continues today from noon to 3 p.m. and will include carriage rides and a scavenger hunt.

Children can also visit Santa today in City Centre.

December 2, 2013 - 3:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, infrastructure, Center Street.

A private contractor is working on a water line on Center Street today. The line broke Saturday afternoon. The line runs into Center Street Smoke House and for most of the day, the city has been able to provide water to the restaurant. The restaurant is expected to be open for business this evening.

UPDATE: Water service was fully restored at 5:30 p.m.

December 2, 2013 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Alpina Foods.

Press release:

Alpina is expanding their two popular Greek yogurt lines with the addition of new flavor varieties. The new flavors enhance the company’s line of all-natural yogurts that are created using an authentic straining process, and are the combination of the simplest ingredients: milk, active bacteria cultures, and fruit.

Alpina Greek yogurt line will now offer three new flavor varieties: Pineapple, Raspberry, and Key Lime Pie. The Alpina Greek with Artisan Granola line welcomes Pineapple with Tropical Chia Granola, Raspberry with Super Foods Granola, and Black Cherry with Super Foods Granola.

All new flavor varieties for both Alpina Greek and Alpina Greek with Artisan Granola lines will be available in select stores beginning December 2013.

Alpina Foods’ Alpina Greek is an all-natural, authentically strained Greek yogurt made entirely from natural ingredients with no artificial thickeners or flavoring and up to one third less sugar than leading competitors. Alpina Greek is a fruit-on-the-bottom style yogurt available in nine flavors: blueberry, strawberry, vanilla bean, mango, peach, and now available in key lime pie, pineapple, and raspberry.

Alpina Foods’ Alpina Greek with Artisan Granola yogurt line is the same all-natural, authentically strained Greek yogurt but comes paired with certified gluten-free granola mix-ins. The granolas are a unique, proprietary blend of nuts, grains, and seeds created by a health and wellness chef and prepared by Udi’s Gluten Free.

Alpina Greek with Artisan Granolas is available in nine flavors: blueberry with almond berry granola, strawberry with almond berry granola, vanilla bean with chai spices granola, honey with chai spices granola, mango with tropical chia granola, peach with tropical chia granola, plain with superfoods granola, and now available in pineapple with tropical chia granola, raspberry with super foods granola, and black cherry with super foods granola.

“Expanding our Greek yogurt lines allows us to continue satisfying the consumers growing demand for healthy and wholesome, all-natural yogurt options,” says Gustavo Badino, Alpina Foods’ General Manager. “The holiday season is the perfect time for us to be adding several new and exciting flavor varieties to our already extensive product line as consumers are seeking out snacks that are fulfilling and indulgent without the guilt.”

Alpina brand yogurts are currently available in a wide variety of retailers throughout the U.S., including Wegmans Food Markets; Duane Reade; Delhaize Group stores Hannaford and Food Lion; as well as ShopRite and other national and regional food retailers. Alpina yogurts are distributed by KeHE Distributors, Lipari Foods in the Midwest and Dora’s Naturals in New York. For a full list of retailers, visit www.alpina.com.

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