Annual dinner in Alexander celebrates agriculture, recognizes conservation farm of the year
The annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner -- this year, as in the past, held at the Alexander Fire Hall -- is as much a chance for farmers and community leaders to mingle and enjoy a good meal as it is the time to honor the Soil and Water Conservation District's conservation farm of the year.
This year, the award went to Naas Farms, a 700-acre grain and vegetable farm owned and operated by Bruce and Jessica Naas in Oakfield.
"We are really honored here in Genesee County to have such a diverse, vital, robust agricultural economy in our county, and to be able to honor one of our own this evening is always just a wonderful honor for the Legislature," said Shelley Stein, co-owner of Stein Farms in Le Roy and chair of the Genesee County Legislature while presenting Bruce and Jessica Naas with a proclamation passed by the Legislature recognizing the farm's conservation efforts.
From a previous press release announcing the award:
The farm has adopted many best management practices over the years to improve its land and the environment. The farm grows crops with limited tillage or no-till equipment. Cover crops are planted after the harvest of the commodity crop to improve soil health and reduce soil erosion. The farm sells cover crop seed and occasionally lends equipment to their neighbors to promote soil health beyond their acreage. The farm recently constructed an agri-chemical storage and mixing facility to reduce the environmental risk of storing and mixing fertilizers and herbicides. The farm has also created a pollinator habitat to promote the populations of our native bees and insects.
Top photo: County Legislator and farmer Christian Yunker, Soil and Water Director Jared Elliott, Jessica Naas, Bruce, Naas, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, County Legislator Chair and farmer Shelley Stein, and State Sen. George Borello.
Photos by Howard Owens
Rep. Claudia Tenney (on right in photo above), whose NY-24 District has included Genesee County since January, took the opportunity of the ag dinner to make her first public appearance locally.
She encouraged everybody to attend a roundtable discussion at 10 a.m. on April 4 in the Old Courthouse in Batavia do discuss the upcoming renewal of the Farm Bill.
"This is the number one agricultural district in New York and the entire Northeast," Tenney said. "It's also the number one dairy district, so that's also important as well. I just wanted to encourage you all to attend on April 4. We're going to be hosting our first forum on the new farm bill that's coming up for a vote this year. We'd love to have your participation. We're going to be doing them throughout the district. So as many people as we can get there that would be great."
It's important for the district's voices to be heard on the new Farm Bill because, she indicated, people tend to forget how important agriculture is to New York.
"We have a lot of really important initiatives coming up this year," Tenney said. "I'm hoping that we can get some things that we need in the Farm Bill. They tend to forget us tend to focus more on the ethanol producers out in Iowa and some of the cotton producers."
Tenney encouraged people to visit her website and sign up for her newsletter, tenney.house.gov
"We have a newsletter that comes out every Friday, and I explain every vote that I take in the house in detail," Tenney said. "I don't just put how I voted. I tell you why. It's my attempt to try to make us understand what's going on in Washington to decode it to ensure that we're self-governing."
State Sen. George Borrello also presented a proclamation to Bruce and Jessica Naas.
"As the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and also a small business person myself, there are no greater, more resilient people than farmers, and to recognize someone who has risen to the top, there isn't a greater achievement," Borrello said.
Borrello promised to keep fighting for farmers.
"You know, the biggest threat to agriculture in New York State? It's not climate change," Borrello said. "It's not even the price of commodities or even the labor. The biggest threat to New York State agriculture is bad policy out of Albany. That's the biggest threat to agriculture. And we are going to continue to push back at the people in New York City who don't know where their food comes from, who are trying to tell us how we should feed them. And that's gonna become a bigger problem for them as we move forward. We're making progress. And I promise you, your state will continue to be one of the best states, if not the best state, to farm in as we continue to make progress."
Assemblyman Steve Hawley also congratulated the owners of Naas Farms as well as talk about his efforts to hold back what he called "the electrification of New York."
"We're fighting very, very hard against the electrification plan out of touch folks from New York City," Hawley said.
He praised both Tenney and Borrello for their efforts to represent the new parts -- including Genesee County -- of their redrawn districts and said he admires them both.
Under the leadership of Chef Tracy Burgio, left, culinary students with BOCES prepared the buffet dinner using many locally sourced ingredients.
Dave's Ice Cream in Batavia donated 400 dishes of ice cream.