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Agriculture highlighted for 'vital role' it plays in Genesee County

By Joanne Beck
Christian Yunker and Danielle Cummins
Genesee County Legislator Christian Yunker presents a proclamation for Agriculture Month to Danielle Cummins, a board member of the county's Farm Bureau, Wednesday in the legislative chambers of the Old Court House in Batavia. 

Danielle Cummins hopes that when folks drive down the rural roads of Genesee County, they can take in all that goes into those rows of crops growing in the nearby dirt and how they are so integral to the makeup of the county’s number one industry, especially amidst the labor challenges of limited work hours and competitive pay of nearby states.

Cummins represented Genesee County Farm Bureau as of member of the board Wednesday during a special presentation for Agriculture Month. 

“I hope, when you drive down our back roads that you see more than just a green field, you sort of respect and appreciate what's out there and what it takes for the men and women to do that job, to do it well,” she said. “You know, we're blessed with great resources in this county. And I think we've got great stewards of the land that do those things that we can continue to have the thriving agricultural economy that we have.”

According to the 2022 Agriculture Census, there were some 435 farms in the county and a market value of nearly $360 million of agriculture items produced in Genesee County, with more than $193 million of that being milk-related products sold and $11 million from farm-related sources. 

Cummins emphasized that point, as “our industry touches so many things,” she said. 

Danielle Cummins

“You can say you drive by cornfields, and we're blessed in this area where we've got a bunch of dairy farms, and we grow more than just your row crops. We grow a bunch of vegetables and fruits in this area. So we're blessed to sort of be a grocery store in our own backyard,” she said. “And this recognition, I think, really helps bring attention to the things that the men and women in the ag community do. And then the support roles that are able to exist because of that: the one-off businesses, the farm credits, the input suppliers, the machinery dealer is here. You know, there's so many other jobs that the agriculture industry, the farms support that we're really lucky to have in this county.”

New York State has mandated cumulative labor law changes for farm workers, reducing the number of overtime hours each year until it reaches a maximum of 40. 

How are farms dealing with this?
“I think people will make adjustments as they see fit for their own labor force, whether that means they're cutting back overtime hours or trying to change how they're managing their labor force. But when you have a somewhat tumultuous economy that's very volatile in terms of crop pricing, and what we're getting for grain, certainly what you're seeing in the milk market right now when we have these labor issues, it’s just another variable to try to solve for when things may already be difficult,” she said. “So even in good times, this is a hard problem to solve, for labor is a big issue in this area, specifically because of the crops that we grow. Seasonal help doesn't help a dairy farm. And seasonal help may be useful if you're harvesting onions or a more labor-intensive crop like cabbage, just to name a few. 

“And there are certainly programs in place that help get labor here, but they're not perfect by any stretch. So there there are some challenges. And I can only speak for the operations that I have seen. There's some questions that need to be answered. But it's a tough thing to implement,” she said. 

You have said that you're not serving as the official spokesperson for all issues, but what can you say on the record about the current immigration issue and its effect on farm labor and related challenges?
“Labor challenges, like the overtime law, do impact us at a state level in terms of competing to attract labor to come work in our state when you've got Pennsylvania that doesn't have the same restrictions," she said. "So somebody who was willing to do the same work here or in Pennsylvania can make a heck of a lot more money there. They're gonna go where the money is. So we are at a competitive disadvantage.”

And because farmers are likely going to have to pay more and do less with what they’ve got for labor hours, she said, “maybe that means our cost of production goes up.”

“And that's another financial obligation and challenge that we have to solve,” she said.

Are farmers tempted to begin the planting process with temperatures climbing already in mid-March?
“This early spring sure makes it tempting. I think we heard that (at) our county meeting last night. I think it's pretty tempting to try to get your green peas in, whether they like that cold, cool weather and wet weather, we've certainly got it right now. But what an opportunity for a dairy farm to be able to go out and spread manure early and not have to worry about dealing with holding it until the weather really breaks,” she said. “So, a great opportunity for people to get out in the field and start and advance, getting ahead of that spring chore of fitting the fields and getting the ground ready and getting your equipment pulled out of the shop. But the fact that it's mid-March feels a little early, but it's it feels a lot later.”

The county Legislature presented Cummins with a proclamation to celebrate Agriculture Month — with good timing, given that the 20th annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner is this weekend. Cummins also considers that event, meant to highlight the local bounty that goes into the dinner menu, in and of itself “truly an accomplishment.” 

Legislator Christian Yunker, a member of the farming community himself, read the proclamation:

WHEREAS, Agriculture Month is celebrated each year in the month of March. This serves as a time to recognize and appreciate the vital role that agriculture plays in our local communities, and

WHEREAS, Genesee County’s designation of an agricultural district consisting of vast, rich lands necessary for the 176,887 acres of farmland and 141,047 acres of cropland, and

WHEREAS, Genesee County farmers, ranchers, and community members involved in agriculture work tirelessly to ensure that the production of food, dairy products and other essential foods contribute to the well-being and prosperity of our residents, and

WHEREAS, according to the Agriculture Census in 2022, there were approximately 435 farms within Genesee County which produced $359,698,000 market value of agriculture products sold, which $193,820,000 being milk related products sold, and the total income from farm related sources were $11,105,000, and

WHEREAS, quoted by President George Washington, “Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employments of man”, and

WHEREAS, Agriculture Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable and responsible farming practices, as well as the need to support and promote the agricultural industry in Genesee County and encourage young people to consider agriculture as a career. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature recognize and fully supports the agriculture industry and urges the community to thank a local farmer for providing an abundance of healthy food and dairy products in Genesee County. As it has been said, “Farmers are our first environmentalist as they steward the land”. Be it further

RESOLVED, the Genesee County Legislature does hereby proclaim the month of March as Agricultural Month, a time to promote and celebrate the contributions of Agriculture.

Hawley attends Taste of New York reception in Albany

By Press Release
steve hawley
Assemblyman Steve Hawley with Bessie the Cow.
Submitted photo.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C - Batavia) attended the New York Farm Bureau’s Taste of New York reception in Albany yesterday. The event was hosted in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center and attended by county Farm Bureau members and public officials. During this time, Hawley met with local farmers and members of the Farm Bureau about the importance of New York agriculture. New York is one of the leading states for agriculture, the fifth-largest dairy producer in the nation and has roughly seven million acres of farmland. The industry has also created nearly 200,000 jobs, with the vast majority of farms in the state being family-owned. Hawley is proud to have attended this event and hopes it will bring more awareness to one of the state’s largest industries.

“It was great to meet with so many New Yorkers yesterday who share a passion for local agriculture,” said Hawley. “As a farmer once myself, I have a special appreciation for this industry. From the grocery store to the food in your pantry, we all rely on local farms like the ones we have here in Western New York. Holding this event in Albany will  shine a light on this vital industry and bring more attention to our family-owned farms.”

steve hawley
Richard Ball, commiseration with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, with Assemblyman Steve Hawley.
Submitted photo.

Chamber Awards: Genesee County Chamber honors Offhaus Farms for its commitment to excellence, community ties

By Mike Pettinella
offhaus farms chamber awards
Travis Offhaus and Levi Offhaus.
Photo by Howard Owens.

NOTE: This week, The Batavian is highlighting the annual Chamber of Commerce Award winners with a story each day through Friday. The awards dinner is Saturday evening at Batavia Downs.

Carrying on and expanding the farm operation started by their grandfather a half-century ago, Travis and Levi Offhaus are proud of the team they have put together at Offhaus Farms, Inc., 7892 Oak Orchard Rd., in the Town of Batavia.

“It has been a team effort, not just the owners or managers,” said Levi, during a sit-down interview with The Batavian in light of the 2,000-acre dairy/crop farm being selected as Agricultural Business of the Year by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s an honor (to get this award). We all try to do our best day in and day out in every aspect.”

Offhaus Farms will be honored on March 2 at the chamber’s 52nd Annual Awards Ceremony at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road.

Other honorees are Alabama Hotel, LLC, Business of the Year: Volunteers for Animals, Special Anniversary Recognition of the Year; Holland Land Office Museum, Special Recognition of the Year; and Michelle Gillard, Geneseean of the Year.

Brothers Travis and Levi, along with their uncle, Scott, are partners in the business, which currently milks 1,400 cows per day – producing 110,000 pounds of milk each day – and farms 1,200 acres of corn and about 800 acres of hay.

The operation has come a long way since its beginning in the early 1970s by their grandpa, the late Gordon Offhaus, who was respected for his contributions to various causes throughout Genesee County. Gordon passed away in June 2022 at the age of 86.

“My grandpa was my hero from as long as I can remember,” said Travis, 34. “I was always trying to be like him. Later on, I realized the way he treated people. He gave everybody the time of day.”

Graduates of Royalton-Hartland Central School, Travis and Levi joined the family business in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

“Growing up in farming, I always enjoyed the ag business,” said Levi, 30, noting that Offhaus Farms has 25 full-time and five part-time employees in areas such as calf feeding, milking, herdsmen, nighttime managers and field crew.

Office Manager Annie Selapack is in her 20th year with the company.

While maintaining a large farm means “wearing many hats,” Travis primarily is in charge of overseeing the dairy portion, Levi coordinates the crop growing and harvesting and their sister, Liz, manages the calves and the milk culturing lab.

Travis said that the farm is affiliated with the Dairy Farmers of America and ships its milk to HP Hood and to a plant in Pennsylvania.

Nominated by Chamber’s Ag Committee
The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Committee, in nominating Offhaus Farms, recounted the farm’s history and credited its current success to the “dedicated people who come to work every day on the farm.”

“Throughout the years, Offhaus Farms has also developed strong relationships in the community and with area businesses that have been invaluable to the sustainability of the operation.”

It all started back in 1959 when Gordon Offhaus took out a loan for $1,800 and bought 18 cows, and rented a farm on West Blood Road in Erie County. By 1972, he had grown the farm to 45 cows, but he was still in the rented facility.

With a desire for a place of his own, Gordon and his brother, Bruce, started a joint venture and a new location. They found a good farm on Route 98 in Batavia and decided to buy it. Bruce and Gordon entered into a partnership with Ken Hall, whose father was the previous owner of the farm.

Together, Bruce and Gordon milked about 120 cows at the new locations. Things stayed that way until 1980, when Bruce decided to strike out on his own. This opened the door for Gordon’s youngest son, Scott, to join the farm in 1984. Working together, they increased the herd size to 800 cows by 1994.

In 2000, Gordon and Scott bought out Ken Hall’s estate, taking ownership on their own.

As indicated previously, Travis, Levi and Liz joined the operation and continue to chart its course today, along with their uncle, Scott.

Photos by Howard Owens.

offhaus farms chamber awards
offhaus farms chamber awards
offhaus farms chamber awards
offhaus farms chamber awards

Legislators speak up as bills go to Gov. Hochul's desk for signature

By Joanne Beck
Marianne Clattenburg with certificate letter
Genesee County Legislator Marianne Clattenburg holding the state letter of certification she just received for her reelected four-year position. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Bills that were passed in the Senate this year are now headed to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk, and Genesee County legislators made one more impassioned plea for her to veto the legislation, though perhaps in vain, during Wednesday’s legislature meeting.

One act is to amend the town, village, county and municipal home rule law that would revise certain offices to have three-year terms and elections to be on the first Monday in November of every even-numbered year is one of the bills proceeding for Hochul’s vote.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg, who just received her state certification letter in the mail acknowledging her legislative status, takes issue with the possibility that her four years might just get cut short a year.

“And the governor has called that up, and she has till the end of the year to sign it. If she doesn't sign it, then it goes away. If she signs it, then it becomes law. And I just wanted to state my opposition; first, the way it was done. And second, it will not save any money as far as elections go. And third, it was only concentrated on certain counties, not New York City people. And so I'm totally opposed to it,” Clattenburg said. “It'll skew everyone's terms. I was just reelected to a four-year term. If this goes through, my term turns to three. And I just think it's wrong because we put this to the voters, the voters decided our terms. And now they want to take that home rule away.” 

She also opposes the bill because the state legislators passed it during budget negotiations, she said. The entire Genesee County Legislature sent its own letter as well as joining the state Association of Counties in passing a resolution to oppose the measure in a bipartisan effort, she said. 

Wednesday’s public appeal was one more attempt at reminding the state where this county stood, Clattenburg said.

Because today was the day (Hochul) called it up, we received an alert that we should make our sentiments known again,” she said. “So (Legislature Chair Shelley Stein) just wanted one of us to, you know, speak up and reiterate what we had said previously. And it just so happens that I got my certification in the mail today. I thought it was ironic that it says I have a four-year term. But if the governor signs the paper, it negates that.” 

Legislator Christian Yunker also spoke up about the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which he — and Stein, per her prior public comments — are against. 

This Act is a measure to prohibit the “sale, distribution or purchase by any person within the state of corn, soybean or wheat seeds coated or treated with pesticides with the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, or acetamiprid,” as of Jan. 1, 2027. 

Stein, of Stein Dairy Farm in Le Roy, previously wrote an opinion piece for The Times Union explaining her rationale that: "New York farmers have only one shot each year to grow a crop of corn or soybeans, and waiting under the soil are insects like the seed corn maggot that love to gobble up seedlings before they emerge," she said in her opinion piece. "Coating minute amounts of neonic pesticides on corn and soybean seeds is a proven practice to keep the maggots away and assure a successful crop — but legislation passed this year would take this tool out of New York farmers’ toolbox."

Yunker helps run CY Farms, Batavia Turf, and CY Heifer Farm. He said that New York would be the only state to enact this prohibition of seeds treated with the particular pesticides, which he considers to be promoted by “environmental radicals.”

“This would have devastating effects for farmers in New York State. Not only would we be able to see this as an unfair advantage … it will also have devastating environmental impacts that I don’t think most realize. These seed treatments are a critical tool for farmers … it’s a safe and effective tool; it’s been proven all around the world, and New York State wants to get rid of this critical technology,” Yunker said. “So, this is legislation that makes no sense. As rural residents and farmers, it just doesn't make sense, and I just wanted a strong urge against this bill.”

Christian Yunker CY Farms pic
Christian Yunker
Photo from CY Farm website

Schumer announces he has secured an extension for Dairy Margin Coverage Program

By Press Release
charles schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer during a dairy farm press conference in Pavilion in June.
File photo by Howard Owens.

Press Release: 

After standing with Upstate NY dairy farmers in Central NY, the North Country, and the Finger Lakes, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that he has secured an extension for the vital Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program dairy farmers rely on, that was set to expire this year, and which could’ve left farmers facing a “dairy cliff,’ cutting off payments to farmers and harming consumers by raising the price of milk. Schumer secured the extension of the Farm Bill in the Continuing Resolution budget deal which President Biden signed today.

“Our dairy farmers are the beating heart of Upstate, and when they came to me worried that this year we could be going over the ‘dairy cliff,’ I immediately started ringing the cowbell and promised I would churn up support to ensure these payments wouldn’t lapse. I helped enact the Dairy Margin Coverage Program in the 2018 Farm Bill, and I am proud to have secured this vital year-long extension while we work to develop a bipartisan Farm Bill in the next year,” said Senator Schumer. “Today our dairy farmers can breathe a sigh of relief and raise a glass of Upstate NY-made milk and more thoroughly enjoy this Thanksgiving.”

Schumer explained the “dairy cliff” refers to the expiration of the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, a risk management tool that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. The dairy industry would be the first impacted, as dairy farmers would lose out on monthly payments through the DMC, whereas farmers participating in other support programs are paid just once per year around harvest time. If we went “over the dairy cliff” that would have meant an end to monthly price support payments to dairy farmers who participate in the Dairy Margin Coverage program, supply chain disruptions causing increased milk prices, and potentially billions in wasted government spending as the federal government would be forced to make milk purchases at a highly inflated price.

Schumer fought tooth and nail to include a one-year Farm Bill extension in the Continuing Resolution budget deal and ensure dairy farmers were protected from going over the cliff at the end of the year. The extension keeps the vital Dairy Margin Coverage Program intact for another year to protect NY’s critical dairy industry while also giving members of Congress extra time to continue to work through the negotiations for the full Farm Bill.

The dairy industry is one of New York's largest contributor to the agricultural economy. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Dairy statistics, there are approximately 3,200 dairy farms in New York that produce over 15 billion pounds of milk annually, making New York the nation’s fifth largest dairy state.

sen charles schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer during a dairy farm press conference in Pavilion in June.
File photo by Howard Owens.

Celebrate Agriculture dinner tickets going on sale Dec. 4

By Press Release

Press Release:

Plans are already underway for the 20th Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner which will take place on Saturday, March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Alexander Fire Hall. This annual event is a celebration of Genesee County’s #1 Industry, Agriculture!

The highlight of the night is a delicious meal using locally produced foods prepared by the Culinary Arts Students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. Let by Chef Alberto Santos and Denise Kaus, Culinary Arts teacher aide, this will be the third year of this perfect collaboration between the Chamber’s Agricultural Committee & Culinary Arts Program. The dinner is open to the public.

Tickets go on sale Dec. 4 at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 8276 Park Road, Batavia. Tickets are $30 each or a table of 10 can be purchased for $275.

Sponsorships are also available which help support agriculture educational events in Genesee County. Only 400 tickets will be sold. Tickets must be purchased by February 24, 2024. For more information or to download the registration flyer visit the
Chamber’s Website

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. 

Sponsors of the 2023 celebration included: Alleghany Farm Services, Arctic Refrigeration, Baskin Livestock, Inc., Batavia Muckdogs, Carolina Eastern Crocker, CPL, Farm Credit East. ACA, Farm Family Insurance, Fieldstone Private Wealth, Freed Maxick CPA, Junction Motor Freight, L&M Specialty Fabrications, LLC, Lamb Farms, LandPro Equipment, Lawley, L-Brooke Farms, LLC, Monroe Tractor, My-T Acres, National Grid, OXBO International, Perry Veterinary Clinic, Sackett Farms, Torrey Farms, Western New York Energy, LLC, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. William Kent, Inc. and Windy Acres

Farms and businesses that donated locally grown food for the 2023 dinner included: Dorman Farms, Farm Fresh First, Inc/Nortera Foods, Fenton’s Produce, Harrington’s Produce, SJ Starowitz Farms, Torrey Farms, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., Kreher Family Farms, Daves Ice Cream, Doug & Peggy Torrey, Yancey’s Fancy. 

For ticket information or questions contact the Kelly B. at The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 585-343-7440 or

Genesee County 4-H announces project area awards winners

By Press Release

Press Release:

Congratulations to the Genesee County 4-H members who were selected to receive an award for their excellent work during the 2022–2023 4-H Club Year.

Project Area Awards are a form of recognition for 4-H members who have excelled in a certain project area. 4-H members must be nominated in order to receive this award. 

Award criteria include the 4-H member’s accomplishments in the project area, the length of time the 4-H member has worked in the project area, and the 4-H member’s leadership.

Project Area Awards Recipients:

  • Arts & Crafts: Kasey Pagels
  • Beef Cattle: Cody Carlson, Makayla Sugg
  • Cavy: Layla Baker, Evan Winspear
  • Citizenship: Amelia Brewer, Justin Hart, Maggie Winspear, Evan Winspear
  • Dairy Cattle: Rachel Best, Amelia Brewer
  • Gardening: Brook Pagels
  • Goat: Ellie Hudson, Liam Baker
  • Livestock: Madison Lowe, Maggie Winspear, Bing Zuber, Chase Zuber
  • Poultry: Mildred Kendall, Clare Mathes, Kasey Pagels, Brook Pagels, Alyssa Pimm, Raelyn Pimm
  • Rabbit: Layla Baker, Amelia Brewer, Nico Faulks, Mae Grimes, Maura Grimes, Brook Pagels
  • Sheep: Katelynn Rumsey, Colten Sugg
  • Swine: Jillian Weaver
  • Waterfowl: Brook Pagels, Kasey Pagels

The Genesee County 4-H Program is a youth development program for youth ages 5-18. New 4-H youth members, adult volunteers, and clubs are always welcome to join.  For information about how to join the Genesee County 4-H Program, please contact the 4-H Office at or (585) 343-3040 ext. 101. Enrollment information is also available on our website at

Four locals place at harvest classic cattle show in Erie County

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Erie County Agricultural Society hosted the Harvest Classic Cattle Show on the Erie County Fairground this past weekend. In its third year, the event hosted nearly 200 cattle and competitors and prize premiums totaled over $8,000. Exhibitors came from New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.


Charolais Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Charolais Heifer – Evie Groom, Lyons
  • Reserve Champion, Charolais Heifer – Lisa Compton, Ovid

Hereford Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Hereford Heifer – McKenna Broughton, Attica
  • Reserve Champion, Hereford Heifer – McKalynne Helmke, Philadelphia, OH

Maine-Anjou Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Maine-Anjou Heifer – Lincoln Giebner, Canton, PA
  • Reserve Champion, Maine-Anjou Heifer – Simon Spoth, Lewisburg, PA

Maintainer Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Maintainer Heifer – Kalya Lippert, Sinclairville
  • Reserve Champion, Maintainer Heifer – Lana Miles, Jasper

Shorthorn Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Shorthorn Heifer – Makayla Sugg, Alden
  • Reserve Champion, Shorthorn Heifer – Jenna Weixlmann, Arcade

Shorthorn Plus Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Shorthorn Plus Heifer – Broughton Cattle Company, Springs
  • Reserve Champion, Shorthorn Plus Heifer – Chelsea Lippert, Alexander

Simmental Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Simmental Heifer – Addy Rae Bozeman, Naples
  • Reserve Champion, Simmental Heifer – McKalynne Helmke, New Philadelphia, OH

Sim-Solution Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Sim-Solution Heifer – Chase Gerhardt, East Aurora
  • Reserve Champion, Sim-Solution Heifer – Gavin Palmer, Springboro, PA

AOB Heifers

  • Grand Champion, AOB Heifer – Evie Groom, Lyons
  • Reserve Champion, AOB Heifer – Emily Smith, Marion

Crossbred Heifers

  • Grand Champion, Crossbred Heifer – Gavin Palmer, Springboro
  • Reserve Champion, Crossbred Heifer – Tyler Strub, East Concord

Supreme Champion Females

  • Supreme Champion Female – Gavin Palmer, Springboro, PA
  • Reserve Supreme Champion Female – Kayla Lippert, Sinclairville
  • Third Overall Champion Female – Chase Gerhardt, East Aurora
  • Fourth Overall Champion Female – Addy Rae Bozeman, Naples
  • Fifth Overall Champion Female – McKalynne Helmke, New Philadelphia, OH

Market Heifer

  • Grand Champion, Market Heifer – Lincoln Giebner, Canton, PA
  • Reserve Champion, Market Heifer – Sarah Wilson, Dansville

Shorthorn Plus Steer

  • Grand Champion, Shorthorn Plus Steer – Kayla Lippert, Sinclairville
  • Reserve Champion, Shorthorn Plus Steer – Maddilyn Durfee, Attica

AOB Steer

  • Grand Champion, AOB Steer – Payson Southers, Millmont, PA
  • Reserve Champion, AOB Steer – Molly Decker, Scenery Hill, PA

Light Weight

  • Champion, Light Weight – Carson Wojciechowski, Springville
  • Reserve Champion, Light Weight – Gavin Palmer, Springboro, PA
  • Honorable Mention, Light Weight – Jenna Weixlmann, Arcade

Medium Weight

  • Champion, Medium Weight – Amelia Hintz-Strub, Springville
  • Reserve Champion, Medium Weight – Cody Carlson, Byron
  • Honorable Mention, Medium Weight – Romey Slick, Edinburg, PA

Heavy Weight

  • Champion, Heavy Weight – Shelby Schrader, Ghent
  • Reserve Champion, Heavy Weight – Lydia Covert, Lakewood
  • Honorable Mention, Heavy Weight – Savannah Palmer, New Castle, PA

Supreme Champion Market Animals

  • Supreme Champion Market Animal – Payson Southers, Millmont, PA
  • Reserve Supreme Champion Market Animal – Lincoln Giebner, Canton, PA
  • Third Overall Champion Market Animal – Shelby Schrader, Ghent
  • Fourth Overall Champion Market Animal – Molly Decker, Scenery Hill, PA
  • Fifth Overall Champion Market Animal – Sarah Wilson, Dansville

A complete list of results can also be found online: The Harvest Classic (

The show is presented by the Erie County Agricultural Society. Since its founding in 1819, the mission of the Erie County Agricultural Society has been to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State.

Casper Farm holds open house to introduce community to 'farm-to-plate goodness'

By Howard B. Owens
casper farms fall open house 2023
The Casper family.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Crystal Casper said she and her family love what they do -- farming, raising cattle and hogs ethically and providing customers with healthy, natural foods.

"When you come here, what you're getting is true farm-to-plate goodness," Casper said. "You are meeting the farmers who are raising it. It's right here. I mean, it's my husband and myself. That's my daughter-in-law, my son. And then we have my other three sons and my daughter, who are all part of what we're doing here. So when you come here, you see us. This is the face of what you're getting. And if we tell you, you know, that this is what it is, then this is exactly what it is."

And it is meat raised in pasture, hay, and additive-free feed. That's what the Capsers mean by "All-Natural," which is part of their logo.

"I truly believe that our cows -- we've got cows out here in our pasture that are 15 years old -- so we firmly believe that as we raise our animals as stress-free as possible. We raise them natural. The cows have their calves out in the pasture. We raise the calves on the moms and through November, and then we wean them off their moms where we put them in our feedlot, and then we feed on choice feed. We have fans on them in the summertime. We do everything we can to keep cows comfort to a high point."

The Caspers hosted an open house on Saturday to help introduce the community to what they offer in their retail shop right on the property, which is at 6671 East Main Street Road, Stafford.  Regular hours are Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with availability the rest of the week by appointment.

"Last year, we opened up in June, and we really didn't have an open house or a grand opening, so we wanted to do something special since we won the GLOW award for the best farm in the GLOW region and we got third for the fresh meat," Casper said. "We wanted to do an open house to showcase our farm and let everybody see what we have available."

The event featured vendors that serve Casper Farm meat -- such as the Carve'n Curbside food truck -- or that the Caspers carry in their retail shop. That included Blue Groove Coffee, Petals & Flour, and Black Creed Cidery.

"This is a grand opening for people who don't know we're here," Casper said.

The focus is clearly on the meat the Caspers sell, which isn't just beef, but also pork and chicken, all with the goal of raising animals in stress-free environments.

With pork, especially, stress affects the flavor and tenderness of meat.  Stress lowers the PH levels in the animals' muscles. Higher PH levels are desirable, so the pork sold by Casper farms is raised close to the meat processor in Penn Yan so the animals need not be trucked to another location, which increases a hog's stress level.

All of the meat sold by Casper is processed in Penn Yan and Romulus, where the processors are USDA-certified and inspected.

"Everything here has to be USDA inspected," Casper said.

Their meat is also hormone-free.

"When you have your animal processed, if people are using hormones, the internal organs are usually no good," Casper said. "There are a lot of people who want to buy liver, kidney heart, those products -- if our animals were being fed hormones, those products would not be good. We've never had a kidney or a liver refused or come back to our processor."

Because it's a family operation, Casper said, customers can be sure about the quality of what they're buying.

"You know exactly what you're getting," Casper said. "It's coming right from here, right from the processor's freezer right to our freezer. There are some people who have a fresh case. When it's in that fresh case, and it's not frozen, you don't know, you, the consumer, how fresh it is.  With our meat, it goes, like, boom, boom, boom. You know exactly what you're getting. If you pull it out of our freezer, then it's going to be right."

casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
casper farms fall open house 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.

Randy Starr, fifth-generation farmer in Pavilion, passes away at age 73

By Howard B. Owens
randy starr
Randy Starr, a fifth-generation family farmer, bailing hay on his farm in Pavlion in 2011.
Photo by Howard Owens.

J. Randolf "Randy" Starr, 73, a fifth-generation farmer in Pavilion with an affection for running his family farm in some old-time ways, using older equipment, passed away on Sunday.

The Batavian wrote about Starr in 2011, and he explained his preference for older equipment (not that he rejected everything new) and taking a common-sense approach to farming.

"I always thought the old-timers knew what they were doing, Starr said. "Work hard, keep your nose clean, and you’ll be all right. This is just the way we go. It’s the way we do it. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody else in the world, but it seems to work for us all right.”

Starr was born in Batavia in 1949, the son of George and Isabelle Rudgers Starr.

The Starr Farm on Starr Road in Pavilion celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.

The farm was started by Noah Starr, Randy's great-great-great grandfather, a Dutch immigrant who bought 270 acres in Pavilion from the Holland Land Office in 1818.  He built a log cabin on the property when he first settled it.  His son started construction on the first part of the current Starr home in 1890.

Randy was born to be a farmer.  

After graduating from Pavilion High School, as did his wife, Cindy, he attended Alfred College in order to earn a degree in agriculture.

"For some foolish reason, I wanted to be a farmer all my life, and now here I am." Starr said in 2011. "I’m 61 years old. Was that the right move or not? Who knows?"

At the time of the article in 2011, Starr farmed 125 acres, growing wheat, barley, hay, oats and black beans. He also raised about 80 head of cattle.

Starr said he found the older equipment less of a hassle than a lot of modern equipment farmers use.

"My tractor breaks down, and their tractor breaks down; theirs is maybe a $50,000 fix, and mine is a piece of baling wire and something I can keep it going with."

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Cindy Wellman Starr; his children, Christopher Starr and Sarah (Timothy) Kingdon; grandchildren, Evan and Collin Kingdon; sisters-in-law, Debbie Starr, Ann (Duane) Stehlar; special friends, Judd (Janet) Ewell, along with many nieces, nephews and dear friends.

For his full obituary, click here.

randy starr
randy starr

Hawley tours Upstate Niagara, supports local farmers

By Press Release
Hawley upstate niagara
Submitted photo of Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) outside Upstate Niagara’s Facilities

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) toured the Upstate Niagara Cooperative’s O-AT-KA Milk Product facilities in Genesee County on August 17. 

Upstate Niagara is a farmer-owned dairy cooperative that owns eight manufacturing facilities making products such as milk, cream, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, evaporated milk, and specialty beverages, along with employing more than 1,500 people in New York. Hawley is proud to see local businesses helping to support the region and state’s number one industry, agriculture. 

Hawley took the time to meet with management and staff at Upstate Niagara’s facilities including Director of O-AT-KA Operations, Joe Steinocher.

“We were honored to host Assemblyman Hawley at our plant here in Batavia. O-AT-KA Milk, a subsidiary of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, employs about 450 people and receives milk from many of its 260 local farmer-owners,” said Steinocher about Hawley’s visit. 

“On our tour, we had the pleasure of showcasing the many great things our team continues to accomplish each day. We also highlighted the areas in the plant where we have grown through investment and discussed many of the challenges facing us in the future. We hope Assemblyman Hawley found the tour enlightening and will think of the economic impact O-AT-KA and Upstate Niagara have on Batavia and surrounding communities when he returns to Albany for the next legislative session.”

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy and cooperatives like Upstate Niagara are leading the charge,” said Hawley. “It is always great to see local businesses making an impact in our community and throughout our state. I will always support our local businesses, farmers, and agricultural industry in Albany.”

Fielding tasty lessons at Elba Central School

By Joanne Beck
Elba girl in cafeteria
Elba Central School has been bringing a farm-to-school program to life, from local farms to the school district campus cafeteria, as a "real-world scenario" in which school leaders are hopefully teaching their kids to make healthy choices as they learn and grow, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.
Submitted photo.

It may be summertime, but there’s no break from working on Elba Central School’s farm-to-school program, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.

In fact, much of the program’s produce is planted, harvested, and sold — via a farmers market added onto the campus this year — right now. Thanks to state and federal grants from the Department of Agriculture and Governor Hochul's office, Elba students have been able to plant, harvest, learn about, prepare, cook, and most deliciously, enjoy their own healthy foods.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Elba, of Genesee County, our state, and the nation.  This is a great way to see our interconnectedness as a community and as a whole,” Rosales said to The Batavian.  “Elba is a culturally rich community, and I am certain that as we embark upon this project, we will learn so much more from each other.”

Elba first began working with Katie Metzler and Kathy Allen from Porter's Farm last year, when students visited the Elba farm weekly to harvest, wash and prep items for the school's salad bar.

Elba kids at Porter Farms
Elba Central students get hands-on lessons about selecting, planting and harvesting their own produce at Porter Farms.
Submitted photo

“Some items they picked included tomatoes, peppers, onions, melons, lettuce, and spinach. We also sent them with apples, pears, and green beans. At Thanksgiving, we donated some winter squashes and other seasonal items for their Thanksgiving feast,” Metzler said Monday. “We’re not sure of specifics yet for this year, but we are planning on doing something equivalent to meet their needs. Our hope is to have the students get as much hands-on time at the farm as possible. We are happy to collaborate with faculty and admin at Elba to provide such a hands-on experience for these students. Hopefully, our partnership will continue to grow each year and potentially with other districts in the area as well.” 

After their selections were made, the students would work with Elba’s agriculture teacher, Tracey Dahlhaus, to wash and prep the produce.  They also brought their own egg-laying chickens onto campus so that students could collect the eggs and sell them.  

“We would like to use them in our food options in the cafeteria as well,” Rosales said. “Planning focused around growing our own food. Building a greenhouse is part of this plan.”

Next came the funding. The district applied for a USDA Farm to School grant and was awarded $100,000 this year to "support planning, developing, and implementing farm-to-school programs that connect students to the sources of their food through education, taste tests, school gardens, field trips, and local food sourcing for school meals,” Rosales said.

The school district plans to use the funds to continue the work that it began last year in its food science course.  Applying for the grant was the chance to look at what a true farm-to-school could  look like if there were no limitations on funding,” she said.  “Our agriculture students and Mrs. Dahlhaus have talked about wanting a greenhouse since our program started four years ago.  Personally, I have always valued the community connection that naturally comes from harvesting one's own produce.  The shared responsibility of a community garden came to mind.”

And community it is. Students, staff, faculty, local farmers and customers have come together to plant fruits and vegetables, grow their own produce, harvest, cook, support local businesses, supply healthy food sources, and come together to actually “break bread” as a community, Rosales said.

Elba kids in cafeteria
Submitted photo

The nice part about the grant, she said, is that lessons are for all students — in grades UPK through 12.  Little ones will be learning how to make their own healthy snack choices and then how to cut foods safely to make those snacks, while older kids will learn more advanced skills and nutritional components of meals, plant science and international cooking.

One facet seems to springboard onto another, and they're evolving the offerings all the time, Rosales said.

“We would like to produce our own maple syrup. Our students can expect to try many new foods in the cafeteria,” she said.  “Mrs. Walcazk (the new nutrition coordinator who just took over for retiring Lisa Crnkovich) has been busy working on new recipe ideas for the students, including hot breakfast choices, expanded salad buffet options, soups, and pasta.”  

Future goals are to build the school district’s own greenhouse and to have cooking classes and shared meals in the evenings, she said. Another grant, this time for $150,000 from a Healthy Eating initiative, will go toward those expenses. 

Another big component of this effort has been the use of surveys, asking students about their food preferences to determine which fruits and veggies to incorporate. Berries and watermelon? A big yay. Cauliflower? Not so much, she said. Kids definitely preferred fresh raw vegetables more so than cooked. The response rate over the summer has been about 60 percent so far. 

Elba boy with apple
Submitted photo

And what would an agriculture program be without a farmers market? It seemed a natural fit, and one that fits nicely onto the school campus once a week throughout summer and into fall. 

“The school is the center of the community, so holding it at ECS just makes sense.  We have invited all of our farming students and entrepreneurs to sell their goods.  Students have expressed an interest in selling flowers, eggs, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, maple syrup, and honey.  We are starting small and will see how it goes,” Rosales said.  “It is important for Elba to have a farmers market, and we hope to provide a great service to our community.  Mrs. William's civic readiness class and Lauryn Hawkins (middle schooler) Full Hearts Club have started an Elba food pantry. So again, more connections are being made. I am hopeful that we can include fresh produce in the pantry as well.”

The Elba Betterment Committee will also be involved with the pantry, so that's yet another community member participating, she said. 

The district’s agriculture program, with Dalhaus and the Future Farmers of America students, has accomplished a great deal the last four years from the farming perspective, Rosales said, plus new hire Hanna Erion as a Family and Consumer Science teacher to further expand programming. 

“Food production and food science is a booming industry in our area, which is natural considering that so much food is sourced right here,” Rosales said.  “Schools have an obligation to teach students about these industries and to prepare them for the future.  Although agriculture plays an important part, there are so many facets involved.  There is a production component, but also a business and finance part, as well as a culinary perspective.  It is also about showing our students the process of seeing something through from start to finish, about trial and error and looking at how to best solve a problem from different sides.

“Farming and production are collaborative in nature: our students have to learn to communicate and problem solve as a team.  That is why this grant is so important to us; it is not just the funding. The funding provides critical learning opportunities.”

Alleghany Farm Services celebrates 40 years of hard work, family, and good customers

By Howard B. Owens
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Thursday's Ribbon Cutting at Alleghany Farm Services. From left, Brian Cousins, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Chad Klotzbach, Dianne Klotzbach, Drew Klotzbach, Harriett Klotzbach, Morgan Wagner, and Craig Wagner.
Photo by Howard Owens.

"Hard work and a good wife" is the answer that quickly came to mind to Drew Klotzbach when asked why a company he founded 40 years ago with a backhoe and a bulldozer is still going into its second generation of ownership.

Now Alleghany Farm Services uses the most advanced equipment in the business to precisely install farm field drainage systems, laying more than five million feet of pipe a year, and now employing more than 30 people in the Town of Alabama and in Delaware.

Located at 7342 Alleghany Road in Basom, Alleghany Farm Services celebrated its four decades in business with a party, equipment and history displays, a back-hoe "certification" practice for kids, and an adult backhoe competition, along with a catered lunch and ice cream.

The company remains a family venture.

"We bring my 94-year-old grandmother out," said Chad Kotzbach, Drew's son and now the managing partner. "She does a lot of our mailers, and that keeps us busy."

The other big secret to success, Drew said, is the customers.

"The customer base too, and especially agricultural customers, are great people to work with," Drew said. "Yep, that's really what's made us grow is a great customer base," Chad added, "It's about relationships. This is a relationships business."



Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Chad Klotzbach with some of the historical artifacts related to Alleghany Farm Service and drainage tiles.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Chad Klotzbach shows off an old drainage tile.  Drainage tiles were introduced to the U.S. from Scotland at a farm in Seneca County in 1838.  They were once made from fired clay, with the pipes shaped around a worker's calf (which Klotzbach is explaining).  Installing clay, and later concrete, drainage tiles, was labor intensive. Nearly 60 years ago, plastic, corrugated pipe was introduced, which can be laid in long layers, and now are placed precisely in farm fields with GPS technology.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Children who visited Alleghany Farm Services on Thursday could operate a backhoe with the assistance of an experienced adult.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
The adult backhoe competition involved removing basketballs from the top of traffic cones, dumping them in a bucket, and then trying to place the balls back on top of the cones. 
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia butter arrives in Syracuse for annual State Fair sculpture

By Press Release
batavia butter
Photo courtesy the American Dairy Association North East.

Press release:

More than 800 pounds of butter has arrived at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y., as construction of one of Central New York’s best-kept secrets and most beloved attractions gets underway – the 55th Annual American Dairy Association North East Butter Sculpture, sponsored by Wegmans.

Over the weekend, sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton began to create the annual sculpture, a process that will take approximately 11 days on-site to complete.

“For 55 years, the butter sculpture has been an iconic, can’t-miss attraction that has entertained millions of fairgoers,” says John Chrisman, CEO of the American Dairy Association North East. “This unique tradition pays tribute to our hardworking dairy farm families who work 365 days a year to sustainably and responsibly produce milk.”

The butter used for the sculpture comes from Batavia-based producer O-AT-KA Milk Products and is out of specification for retail sale for a variety of reasons, so American Dairy Association North East works with the sculptors to put it to good use by creating a beautiful piece of art.

Following its 13-day stint at The Fair, the butter will return to Western New York, where it will be recycled into renewable energy at Noblehurst Farms, a dairy farm in Pavilion, N.Y. Noblehurst Farm’s vast recycling program turns over 500 tons of food waste from supermarkets, universities and schools each month into enough energy to power the farm and over 300 local homes. The recycling program not only reduces the farm’s carbon footprint, it diverts all of that food waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last year’s butter sculpture was “Refuel Her Greatness,” and it celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Title IX.

American Dairy Association North East will unveil the 55th Annual Butter Sculpture to the media on Tuesday, August 22nd, the day before The Fair officially opens.

Tenney unveils three-pillar ag and tax plans to boost 'potential of rural communities'

By Press Release

Press Release:

File photo of 
Claudia Tenney

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) unveiled her agriculture plan and tax plan that work to support small and locally owned businesses and family farms across New York’s 24th District.

Earlier this month, Tenney visited multiple family farms and local businesses in Cayuga County and Wayne County to discuss their concerns and the Congresswoman’s efforts in Congress to support our farming and business community. To outline her work to support our NY-24 producers and employers, Tenney unveiled her three-pillar agriculture plan and tax plan. 

Her agriculture plan focuses on supporting NY-24 specialty crops, bolstering New York’s dairy industry, and protecting American farmland from foreign interests. Her tax plan centers around her work on the House Ways and Means Committee to build on the successes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, revitalize our communities, support our families, and ensure essential taxpayer protections.

“Small businesses and family-owned farms will always be the backbone of NY-24’s economy,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “I’ve toured numerous small businesses and farms across the district to learn more about their daily operations and the challenges they face. It is imperative that we put forward policies in Congress that address these concerns and deliver lasting results for our community. Today, I released my agriculture plan and tax plan to highlight my efforts to unleash the potential of our rural communities and to give farmers, producers, and small business owners the certainty and opportunities they need to succeed.”

To view Tenney’s full Agriculture plan, click here.

To view Tenney’s full Tax plan, click here.

Protecting birds and bees shouldn't have to cost farmers, consumers: local farmer speaks up

By Joanne Beck
seed maggot
Textbook photo of a seed corn maggot.

The Birds and Bees Protection Act is a seemingly simple enough and all-natural sounding title that most anyone would be for it, wouldn’t they?

Well, not everyone. Shelley Stein, CEO of Stein Farms in Le Roy, said she had to speak up as a farmer and "a person who understands the ramifications of policy on our farmers, and our consumers, and what this is going to mean to the economy of Genesee County."

Stein has stood up against the act, now approved by the state Senate and Assembly and is awaiting signature by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

What it is
The county legislature chairwoman has her work cut out for her, not only going against a bill meant to protect nature’s precious wildlife, but also against a purported expert extolling the virtues of a Cornell University study to back up the move to prohibit the “sale, distribution or purchase by any person within the state of corn, soybean or wheat seeds coated or treated with pesticides with the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, or acetamiprid,” as of Jan. 1, 2027.

In the simplest layman’s terms, Stein’s position is for coating the seeds in the ground with chemicals to kill maggots that wreak havoc with the crops and allow farmers to continue with their current soil management practices that encourage earthworm activity. Once the crop emerges from the ground, she says, the chemical does not harm the birds and bees in the air waiting to pollinate and feed.

If they did not treat the seeds and maggots were allowed to grow, farmers would have to more aggressively till the soil, destroying the earthworms and related best soil management practices they’ve had in place, she said, and more pesticides would potentially be used in the air to save the crops.

What does all this mean for the end result — the crop and the consumer? Potentially less harvest and more expensive produce.

Stein wrote a rebuttal to the "Times Union" after it endorsed the act and urged the governor’s approval.

Why it's important for NYS and specifically Genesee County

Shelley Stein 2023

"New York farmers have only one shot each year to grow a crop of corn or soybeans, and waiting under the soil are insects like the seed corn maggot that love to gobble up seedlings before they emerge," she said in her opinion piece. "Coating minute amounts of neonic pesticides on corn and soybean seeds is a proven practice to keep the maggots away and assure a successful crop — but legislation passed this year would take this tool out of New York farmers’ toolbox."

Things to consider with this bill: it’s being touted as a “first-in-the-nation” measure, one that hasn’t passed in any other state. Why is that? Stein believes she has at least part of the answer. And it isn’t that the other 49 other states have less knowledge about “neonics” being used on the crop seeds. The same senator who was involved with this measure on the West Coast is now leading the charge in the East. 

"It's an important topic for farmers in New York State to win because we're the only state that these neonics will be taken away from in the U.S.," she said. "And I will just say this, it's really an alluring title of this bill. You know, Saving the Birds and Bees Protection Act. Yeah. Everybody would say well, that's a great idea. Sure, a really great idea. And we believe, as farmers and as an agricultural community, that we can absolutely do that and still be able to mitigate losses of crops and do this to the seed corn maggot. And it's the same maggot that takes its bite out of soybeans as well.

"And so this is the senator who brought this forward; he represents a portion out of Manhattan. And I believe that he thinks, according to the title, I think he thinks it's a great idea. He doesn't have any committee assignments that have to do with food and agriculture. And when the  Natural Resources Defense Council tried to do the same thing in California, California got wise and they turned him down. And so he becomes this champion, even though his district doesn't grow any corn or soybeans."

Background study #1
What about that in-depth Cornell University study that showed no economic benefits to users or provided safer, effective alternatives rather than the neonic coatings (pesticides) on corn, soybean and wheat seeds?

This assessment is based on averages, Stein said, and not on individual farm risk assessments.  

"A catastrophic loss on one farm means everything to that farm business, yet statistically, it gets lost in the shuffle when averaged over all farms," she said.

She used her own dairy farm as an example of items to be assessed, and that cannot be "averaged away" with risk factors "and expect to have sufficient feed for my herd."

Those considerations include relative seed corn maggot threat level in each of her fields, the date of planting and field soil temperatures, and the market price of feed -- corn grain and silage, and soybean meal -- to replace potential loss of crops.

Who's involved
There is quite a list of advocates for the ban, including the Sierra Club, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Clean + Healthy, the New York League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, the Bee Conservancy and Physicians for Social Responsibility of New York.

New York beekeepers claim they have lost more than 40 percent of their bee colonies largely due to neonic pesticides. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Brad Holman-Sigal, represents the 47th district in Manhattan and is a staunch supporter of banning the seed pesticide use in a string of platforms he has run on and endorsed for rights pertaining to the environment, civil liberties, LGBTQ, child victims, housing, transportation, public education and seniors.

The New York Farm Bureau has led a coalition of opponents in urging lawmakers to reject the bird and bees proposal, as it is counter to New York's sustainability goals within the New York Climate Action Council and will force farmers to use less environmentally friendly means of pest control, as Stein said, including increased tillage and airborne pesticides.

Treating the seeds, however, is environmentally superior to aggressively tilling the soil -- making more trips across the field -- to destroy maggot habitats, Stein said, which requires fossil fuels and releases carbon to the atmosphere. Best soil management practices "help make soil more fertile, more robust, if you allow earthworms to do their jobs," she said.

Pollinator experts have also identified other issues impacting pollinators, she said, such as bee parasites, malnutrition, declining habitat and diseases, "that are far more significant than judicious pesticide use."

Background study #2
Stein also pointed out that there is another Cornell study that has been ignored by politicians. The first one was done "only on economics, and it used averages. The second study that was done by Elson Shields, who's an entomologist, so he's the Bug Guy ... it is the study that's actually practical in the field," she said.

That field study, related to the seed corn maggot, corn crop and economic viability of using untreated seeds, was performed in 2021.

Research data collected in controlled studies during 2021 at the Cornell Musgrave Farm located in Aurora showed that in corn production following a cover crop, seed corn maggot economically damaged 54 percent of the non-insecticide seed-treated plots ranging from 11 to 62 percent stand losses.

These losses would be economically devastating to a farmer, where the farm loses yield on 54 percent of their acreage, ranging from $40 to $400 per acre.  Since predicting which fields will be attacked by seed corn maggot prior to planting is difficult and imprecise, the prevention of yield losses ranging from $40 to $400 per acre on a third of the acreage "easily compensates and is economically justified for the $5 per acre cost of the insecticide seed treatment for all acres," the study stated.

"Given that conservation practices such as reduced tillage and planting cover crops to reduce erosion and runoff are not only encouraged but also incentivized in New York State, it is important to understand that in the absence of these seed protectants, farmers may revert to planting fewer cover crops to avoid losses to seed corn maggot," it stated.

Go HERE for the full study. 

Final word
The Batavian asked Stein if politicians -- Gov. Kathy Hochul at this point in time -- are equipped to be making this type of decision for farmers and those that depend on them.

"The (Environmental Protection Agency) allows this practice in every other state in the nation, except for the actions of New York State, and there are those that would tell you that New York State doesn't want any agriculture anymore on our lands, which doesn't make any sense, because agriculture is New York State's number one industry as far as the economy goes, and land use goes. There's a push for high-quality local affordable food. This bill takes that away from us as well," Stein said. "Do I believe that Governor Hochul is well equipped to be making this final vote? Here's what I know. The governor represented our area as a congressperson. She is well aware of what our economy in the center of the state is based on. And she knows the negative impacts of the policies of the Democratic Party and the toll that it's taken on agriculture. I find it hard to believe that she would put one more nail in our coffin."

Photo: Smoke 'n' meat

By Howard B. Owens
smoke 'n' beef

Photo by Alison Lang, on Goodman Road, Alexander, who noticed the juxtaposition of dense smoke hanging over Genesee County from Canadian wildfires and beef cattle in a field.

Schumer: Affordable dairy products, jobs depend on passage of Farm Bill

By Howard B. Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer addresses the press about the Dairy Margin Coverage program and the 2023 Farm Bill at Har-Go Farms in Pavilion on Monday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Sen. Charles Schumer traveled to Har-Go Dairy in Pavilion on Monday to warn that without passage of a 2023 Farm Bill, a program that helps dairy farms stay in business could expire in September.

Dairy Margin Coverage, a kind of insurance program that is taxpayer-subsidized but also funded by fees paid by dairy farmers, helps keep milk and cheese prices stable for consumers.

“Loss of the program,” Schumer said, "would cause huge supply chain disruption and market panic, which means less available milk. The price of milk would go way up. So even if you don't even have a farmer in your family, even if you don't even know a single farmer, you will be hurt if this program goes out because the price of milk will go up and all the other things that milk is used in would go up as well. The cost of milk could potentially double."

DMC is a voluntary risk management program for dairy farmers. It pays producers the difference in the price of milk, which is regulated by the federal government, and the cost of feed. It helps ensure that dairy farmers don't suffer catastrophic losses if feed prices rise unexpectedly.  Feed for dairy cows is a commodity with prices set by global markets.  Any sort of international crisis, whether political or environmental, can cause prices to spike.

"We don't want these small farmers to be buffeted about and actually put out of business by international forces that are beyond their control," Schumer said.

Schumer noted that employers such as HP Hood and O-AT-KA Milk Products, along with other businesses in Genesee County that are dependent on the dairy industry, employ more than 1,000 people locally.

"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation," Schumer said.

The Farm Bill, which is renewed by Congress every five years, is in jeopardy because of greater partisanship, with harder lines being drawn, in Washington, Schumer said.

"There's a group of people who just want to just cut all the spending across the board," Schumer said. "Instead of just looking at where the waste is, and keeping good programs like this one. Usually, we prevail. But this year, things are pretty hot in Washington. That's why I'm here. I'm making a big push to make sure this program is sustained."

Shelley Stein, a dairy farmer in Le Roy and chair of the Genesee County Legislature, said maintaining the DMC is critical to the survival of the area's dairy farms, and the cost of the program is just a sliver of the overall spending authorized by the Farm Bill.

"Ninety-eight percent of the Farm Bill is used and directed to programs that feed people in America, and only two percent of that entire bill goes into farm programs,” she said. “So, only two percent of the spending goes to make sure that we can feed the rest of America."

Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
John T. Gould, President and Chairman of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. Board of Directors and Owner of Har-Go Farm.
Har-Go is a 250-head dairy operation on South Street Road in Pavilion.
He said, "The critically important Dairy Margin Coverage which provides an effective safety net for New York dairy farmers.  Over the last several months, farmers have struggled to make ends meet, and the Dairy Margin Coverage program has helped to bridge that gap.  An on-time farm bill will ensure that this vital program does not lapse and can continue to help dairy farmers when they need it most.”
Photo by Howard Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer shakes the hand of Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and says, "Shelley's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. You hear about a lot of the partisan stuff in Washington. But this is a metaphor. We're not going to let partisanship get in the way of supporting our farmers." Stein responds, "You're right."
Photo by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer posses with the Gould family following his press conference in Pavilion on Monday. Har-Go Farms is a fifth-generation dairy farm.
Photos by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation." -- Sen. Charles Schumer
Photo by Howard Owens.

Oxbo of Byron announces expansion in Wisconsin

By Press Release
Oxbo acquires H&S: Oxbo CEO Roel Zeevat and Chris Heikenen

Press Release:

Oxbo is expanding its presence and product portfolio in the hay and forage industry, through acquiring H&S Manufacturing in Marshfield and Clintonville, Wisconsin. The acquisition is designed to foster high-quality, customer-focused product innovation, to ensure customer service, and to strengthen the Oxbo and H&S position in the global hay and forage market.

“H&S products complement Oxbo’s industry-leading hay and forage merger product line; adding H&S to Oxbo’s hay and forage business allows us to better serve our mutual customers now, and in the future,” commented Joe Perzia, COO of Oxbo.

“The H&S high quality products, dealer network, manufacturing facilities, and dedicated management and employees supplement our existing hay and forage business and will help us grow in this critical market
segment,” stated Roel Zeevat, Oxbo’s CEO.

“We knew an acquisition by Oxbo would deliver enhanced value for our customers. Oxbo’s commitment to reliability, innovation, and customer service are a perfect fit for H&S products and customers,” commented Chris Heikenen, former owner of H&S Manufacturing.

Over the last 30 years, Oxbo has continued to grow through acquiring manufacturers in specialty agricultural markets. With each acquisition comes Oxbo’s commitment to drive customer value through innovative products and industry-leading customer service. 

“The acquisition by Oxbo is an exciting next step for the H&S brand; I’m confident Oxbo’s customer-focused mindset will benefit our customers as we grow the business together,” said Craig Harthoorn, president of
H&S, who will remain onboard and manage the newly expanded hay and forage business unit for Oxbo.

With the addition of H&S, Oxbo continues to Optimize farming together and aims to be the clear customer choice in the hay and forage market.

H&S will continue operating at its existing facilities. Customers will continue to purchase products and parts from their existing H&S or Oxbo dealer.

Going forward, and in partnership with its dealer network, Oxbo will further optimize the offering for its customers in all regions served. “We are committed to serving our valued customers,” said Zeevat.

Oxbo operates seven additional manufacturing facilities around the globe including its global headquarters in Roosendaal, the Netherlands, and operates 13 sales and service locations.


Celebrating Dairy Month: it takes 'a lot of labor and love'

By Joanne Beck
Addison Kaberle, Maggie Winspear, back, Amelia Brewer, Ian Kaberle
Members of Elba's Future Farmers of America, front row, Addison Keberle and Maggie Winspear, and back row, Amelia Brewer and Ian Keberle, celebrate Dairy Month after a proclamation presentation during the Genesee County Legislature meeting Wednesday at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Things aren’t what they used be on the dairy farm where Ian Keberle has worked since being a kid, he says. Though just 18, the Elba student has witnessed the dawning of technological miracles.

“Everything’s robotic now, like, we just installed a 72-cell robotic rotary parlor that only requires one person to manage it,” Ian said in the lobby of the Old County Courthouse in Batavia. “So the amount of automation that has been involved in the dairy industry is just astounding. I don’t think many people realize that it’s not just a job. For many dairy farmers, it’s a lifestyle. This is what my family chose to do, and this is what we love doing.”

Ian and three fellow Elba students and members of Future Farmers of America had just been upstairs in Genesee County’s Legislative chambers for a photo and reading of a proclamation for June’s Dairy Month.

All four students are active on dairy farms, with three of them working at Oakfield Corners Dairy, a division of Lamb Farms, on Batavia-Elba Townline Road in Oakfield. 

For anyone that thinks farming is strictly a male pursuit, Ian’s peers can counter that notion. Maggie Winspear, 17, is in her third year of FFA.

“It's really important to get the attention from people that don't know a lot about dairy and get them to understand why we love farming so much and why we do what we do,” Maggie said. “And it's just a connection, you make a connection with the animals and the people. And it's always fun working and just coming to work at a farm.”

Ian, 18, and his younger sister Addison also work at Oakfield Corners, where their dad is a manager. While her brother will graduate this year and plans to study agribusiness in college, Addison, 15, is taking care of the clinical aspects of the job.

“I work at the calf facility, I mainly do vaccinations with them. I kind of held out a little bit here and there. I'm still kind of too young to do a lot of major activities,” she said. “Some days, it's easy. Some days, it's hard. It's kind of a mixture.”

The Batavian asked Ian what he’d want the public to know about the dairy industry it might not otherwise understand.

“It’s not just a way to make money; it’s wonderful to see the effects that you have in the community providing a good nutritious dairy product on the tables of everything,” he said.

In October last year, the Elba FFA Chapter competed in the National FFA Dairy Evaluation and Management Competition in Indiana, and Ian was one of two members awarded national gold individually, and Amelia Brewer was one of two members awarded national silver individually.

Amelia is also in her fifth year and has worked on her family’s Post Dairy Farm, also on Batavia Elba Townline Road, “for my entire life,” she said. She has no plans to slow down after going to college.

“It's been in my family for five generations. I'm hopefully going to be the sixth generation,” Amelia said. “So I've just grown up in the industry, and I've grown a passion and a love for it. So it's what I'm going to pursue in the future, and it's something I'm pursuing now.

“I would like to come back to our farm, but I also would like to set up a creamery on our farm and bring another ag tourist stop because I believe that it's very important to give people the opportunity to see where their products are coming from and get to experience what goes into making those products, because a lot of labor goes into the dairy industry, a lot of labor and love.”

The proclamation states:

WHEREAS, the Dairy Industry has contributed to the development and prosperity of our community since the earliest formation of Genesee County, and

WHEREAS, since 1937 the rich history of Dairy production and its producers has been recognized across our great nation in an effort to savor the natural goodness in one of the most wholesome agricultural products, and

WHEREAS, dairy farmers and farm workers strive to produce wholesome dairy milk which is used to make delicious dairy products like yogurts, cheeses, butter, sour cream and ice creams that provide health benefits and valuable nutritional     benefit to residents locally, regionally and globally, and

WHEREAS, in 2014 the fourth-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School began the push and later saw signed into law, the recognition of YOGURT as New York State’s official snack, and 

WHEREAS, the Dairy Industry in Genesee County is a significant contributor to the economy of our County, its Bread and Butter, allowing our landscape, citizens and businesses to flourish, and

WHEREAS, as of May 2021, the USDA Food Box Program sent over 176 million boxes to our hungry neighbors brimming with high quality Dairy products to fill a nutritional need nationally yet sourced locally. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature does hereby proclaim the Month of June 2023 as DAIRY MONTH and extend our thanks to the dedicated men and women who produce world-class dairy products enjoyed nationwide.

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