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July 24, 2021 - 1:17pm


The day-to-day operations manager at Porter Farms in the Town of Elba is determined to make all of Western New York aware of the substantial benefits of local farm markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

“I think that we all know that after COVID, we can’t rely on big box stores for everything that we need,” Kathy Riggs-Allen, a longtime Elba resident said today at the retail store and CSA processing site at 4911 Edgerton Road.

 “You’ve got something like this right in your backyard. Whether it’s us, or Torrey’s Farm Market on (Route) 98 and Underhill's in Elba or Harrington’s in Batavia. You have these awesome things right in our area.”

Today was CSA pickup day at Porter Farms, which, for 25 years, has forged relationships with consumers who support the farm by purchasing memberships and, in return, receiving a bag of produce each week during the 22-week or so growing season.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Library, CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm -- with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

Per the USDA, through these memberships the farmer receives advance working capital, gains financial security, earns better crop prices, and benefits from the direct marketing plan.

Riggs-Allen reported that membership in the CSA at Porter Farms currently is at approximately 450 members, with around 250 from the Buffalo area, 100 from the Rochester area and another 100 local residents.

She said that a full share costs around $20 a week while a half share (a little more than half of what is in the bag for a full share) costs around $15 a week, with memberships paid in advance.

All of the produce in the bag is organic, grown on the more than 500 acres owned by the Porter family.

“Every Saturday morning, we bag and retrieve produce for our members,” Riggs-Allen said. “For the Buffalo area members, we have divided them into about 17 different groups – with letters on the wall that indicate the (street or town) location. If there’s 13 people in your group, you take turns and you can drive out here – usually twice a season – and pick up the bags for everyone in that group. From there, you would take it to a pickup site where everyone in that group would come to that pickup site to get their bag.”

The Rochester area members are divided into five pickup sites, she said.

“For them, we load a truck first thing every Saturday morning, and the truck drops off the produce at those five sites, and the people in those groups go to their sites to pick up,” she explained. “Anybody can come to the farm and pick their share up. If you want to come every week, that’s great. If you don’t, you can be assigned to a group.”

Riggs-Allen said the farm is looking to grow the CSA, which at one time had more than 1,000 members.

She said samples of the vegetables that are being picked that particular week are available at the retail store.

This week’s bag contains potted oregano, white onions, baby romaine lettuce, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini and purple kohlrabi (the name kohlrabi is German for “cabbage turnip”).

Ruth Miller, of West Barre, part of a family of retired dairy farmers, said she has been a CSA member for five years and appreciates “the food and the fellowship.”

“(I support) the idea of group, community farming. We’re farmers as well, so we understand the business and kudos to these people who are doing this,” she said, adding that the fact that the vegetables are organic is important.

“There’s a process that farms have to go through to be certified organic – and it is quite a process. No use of chemicals or contaminated seeds. No herbicides or pesticides,” she noted.

Riggs-Allen said another key factor in the organic process for vegetables is crop rotation.

“We can’t fertilize and put nutrients back into the soil with fertilizers so we have to use additional crops that put those nutrients back in,” she advised. “Crops such as beans and peas take a lot of nitrates out of the ground, so wherever you plant those one year, you want to be put a cover crop that’s going to repopulate those nitrates into the ground.”

Elba resident Bill Kauffman, a 20-year CSA member, said the program has given him a new appreciation of produce.

“I was somewhat vegetable averse,” he said, but over time he indicated that he has grown to love zucchini.

“I’m the world’s worst baker, but last night I made zucchini cake – and it was edible. This has expanded my vegetable horizons, but there still are certain ‘no go’ areas like kohlrabi,” he joked.

Kauffman added that the Porters “are a wonderful family and they have created something beautiful and enduring here; I’m happy to be a little part of it.”

The family also owns a certified organic orchard of Asian pears and apples on Route 262 and rents additional farmland in the area.

Vegetables grown include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, Swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, varieties of lettuce, onion, leek, winter squash, beets, peas and other greens.

At the recently opened retail store, the Porters sell all-natural Angus ground beef and lamb, produced from the livestock raised on their farm, as well as herbs, local honey and syrup, baked goods and other items.

The farm was started in 1956 by the late Carlton “Jack” Porter Jr. and carried on by his sons, Steve and Mike, who also have passed away.

Currently, Debbie Porter owns the farm, with Katie Porter-Metzler and Emily Porter-Swarner as key contributors to the operation and CSA program.

The retail store is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. An open house, featuring activities for families, is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 7.





Photo at top: Kathy Riggs-Allen and Emily Porter-Swarner display the contents of this week's CSA bag of produce at Porter Farms in Elba; photos at bottom: Porter Farms location on Edgerton Road; picture at the retail store of founder Jack Porter with children, Mike and Beatrice "Bess"; hats, T-shirts and tote bags for sale at the store; Katie Porter-Metzler with children Georgia, Cora and Suzanna; Riggs-Allen, and Debbie Porter. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

June 16, 2021 - 10:32am

luna.jpgA representative of the company looking to build the largest solar project ever in New York State says that building relationships with Town of Elba and Oakfield officials and residents are the keys to finding a path to a finished product that benefits everyone.

Speaking by telephone from his Chicago office last week, Harrison Luna (photo at right), development manager for Hecate (pronounced Heck-A-Tee) Energy, said things are progressing smoothly more than a year after the solar company announced its intention to place a 500-megawatt solar farm on what is now 2,452 acres of farmland in the north portion of the adjoining towns.

On June 3, Hecate Energy filed an application with the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to construct the solar system, which Luna said represents a $500 million-plus investment that will create more than 500 construction jobs – and about 12 permanent full-time jobs -- and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per year.

Luna said he has been impressed with the feedback from governmental leaders in both towns, who have interacted with him through three open houses and numerous other meetings – virtually and in person. He said that he places a high priority on understanding the views and concerns of the local citizens.

“Just from my perspective, the only way these projects really work is when they come with a respect of the communities they deal with – by building relationships in the community,” he said. “You can’t do that without having a conversation, early and often. That’s how we’ve been doing it the whole time.”


Luna said he has been in constant contact with town officials, landowners and neighbors, noting that there have been three virtual open houses with hundreds of people participating.

He also holds Zoom calls outside of his office hours for people to speak to him, and has set up a dedicated phone number and email address for people to call with questions or concerns. He said he returns those calls and emails as soon as possible.

A press release from Hecate Energy included comments from the Oakfield and Elba town supervisors, with both Matt Martin and Donna Hynes, respectively, giving the company high marks for keeping them informed “every step of the way” and offering a project that will result in significant financial benefits to both municipalities.

When contacted by The Batavian, Martin said that in his town, things are progressing without controversy.

“I had one resident ask about if the town wanted it or didn’t want it and I said, basically, that we have no choice,” he said. “The state dictates what they do with the solar panels; the state is running the show, not us.”

Martin acknowledged that the economic benefits will be significant – likely in the millions for both towns, the Oakfield and Elba school districts and other taxing entities – but said those, too, “are beyond our control.”

“We can publish what those benefits are but I don’t think they’ve got those numbers outlined yet,” he said. “As things progress, we’ll have some more information. Nothing like this moves really fast.”

A call to Hynes has not been returned.


As far as the timetable is concerned, Luna said that ORES -- the state agency that has replaced the Article 10 permitting process for large-scale renewable projects -- has 60 days to determine whether Hecate Energy’s application is complete. The Cider Solar Farm is the first application submitted under ORES.

“They are set up sort of as a one-stop shop and a point of contact for everybody to work through the permitting items together,” Luna said. “I think the difference there is that in Article 10, interaction with agencies was hectic – you would talk to individual agencies – while here it’s more of a clearinghouse for all of those interactions with the state.”

Once ORES deems the application is complete, there’s a one-year clock it has to work through the various items in order to issue or deny a permit, Luna said. It could stretch beyond that (or move faster) depending upon the application checking all of the boxes.

Luna said once the permit is received, the company would be ready to start construction, hopefully by next summer. Construction is expected to take 18 months.

He said he projects that about 500 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during construction and around a dozen permanent jobs afterward.

“Once it is built, it is relatively low maintenance,” he said, adding that workers will be paid prevailing wage and “that you would expect a concentrated labor force of local residents.”


What began as a 4,000-acre proposition has decreased to 2,452 acres, and that’s all by design, Luna said.

Currently, 31 landowning entities (controlling 67 parcels) have options to lease their land to Hecate Energy, with a few of them being different entities controlled by the same family.

The major landowners are Call Farms Inc., with more than 1,000 acres, along with Norton Farms (approximately 600 acres), Offhaus Farms Inc. (approximately 500 acres), and Eugene Bezon (approximately 300 acres).

Others with around 100 acres are Big O Realty LLC; CY Properties; Gene H. Sharp; David Shuknecht; and Lynn Shuknecht.

CLICK HERE for a complete list of landowners of record. Note that the acreage totals may have changed due to the “honing” process.

“The way that works is originally we went and sought options and lease agreements for 4,000 acres of land,” Luna said. “The reason we start that big is to give us enough room to move with the desires of the community and hone that project to the best possible version it could be. Over time, as we’ve listened to the community on certain things – how far it sets back from the road and various other concerns – we start pulling back and honing it to something much smaller.”

He called it a “useful exercise” -- one that considers protected wetlands and endangered species.

In the case of the Cider Solar Farm, less than 2/10ths of an acre of state-regulated wetlands has been permanently impacted, he said.


genesee_bruce_nass_1.jpgBruce Naas (photo at right), president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, has signed an option to lease 60 acres of land on Naas Farms LLC on Lockport Road in Oakfield for the solar project.

“My opinion has always been, if you own the property, it’s not like I am going to tell somebody else what do to with it,” Naas said. “If it is something that benefits you and your family in the long-term plan, then it’s something … it’s a decision that you have to make.”

Naas said the land that he is leasing is a small portion of the family farm, which grows vegetables, soybeans, corn and wheat.

“We here at our farm, elected to put the poorer ground into solar. It would not generate the income that we have been offered by the solar company – growing row crops. So, for us, it’s strictly a business decision.”

He said he hopes that solar works out in the long run.

“My biggest fear with solar is that it is something I would assume as time goes on would become more efficient … I hope as we move forward, that these things don’t become obsolete before their lifespan,” he said. “I guess from the sounds of it, it is an objective that the governor and political leaders want us to meet, and either you say ‘Yes’ or the train passes you by.”

Naas mentioned the economic advantages for the community, but added that his “biggest concern was that I have to look it at for the rest of my career.”

The farm bureau has no official position on solar, Naas said, reiterating his stance that it is the property owners’ choice “unless it directly affects someone else.”

A call to Call Farms for comment from one of the owners was not returned.


Just as the public has seen with the Excelsior Energy Project in the Town of Byron, where the taxing jurisdictions stand to gain millions over the 20-year term of the agreement, the towns of Elba and Oakfield, their school districts, special fire districts, Genesee County and the Haxton Memorial Library will reap financial rewards.

The landowners receive direct compensation through their lease agreements (which generally are believed to pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre per year).

“Our goal is to try to make sure everyone benefits; everyone in the community as well as the company as well as the State of New York as well as landowners,” Luna said. “We want it to be positive for everybody involved.”

Towns and other interested parties also have access to $500,000 in intervener funds – money made available to help towns and groups/individuals evaluate the impact of the project.

“Local people have a voice in this and they will coordinate with ORES as it makes funding available over the next two month to the towns and other interveners,” Luna said. “The towns can use that to get their heads around what exactly is going on. Towns request the amount they need or want, ORES takes a look at every intervener funding request and allocates that funding to the towns and other pertinent entities – with the towns having first place in line.”

Luna did not speak to whether Hecate Energy would be applying for tax incentives or payment in lieu of taxes through the Genesee County Economic Development Center, stating that the process has yet to reach that stage.


He did point out that every resident of Elba and Oakfield will receive a direct utility bill reduction in connection with the project.

“We will send money to the utility that they must take off people’s monthly utility bills … for the first 10 years,” he said. “We pay a fixed amount per year to be distributed to town residents. It will probably about $100 per year for each resident, but that will be determined.”

Luna, responding to a question about the flow of electricity from the system, said power generated on the grid flows to the nearest user of electricity.

“It will be used as close to as it is generated as there is demand for it,” he said, adding that the system would produce enough electricity to power all of Genesee County “and then a little bit more.”

Hecate Energy has entered into a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) contract with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Luna said.

“We sell environmental benefits of the project, which are tracked using these objects called RECs,” he said. “We’ll sell those under contract to the state, or NYSERDA, where they get to retire them and take credit for the ‘green’ goals that the state has – which are quite ambitious.”

He said his company seeks to demonstrate that it is meeting the state’s goals.

“It’s not a contract to sell the power. We’re not selling power; we’re capacity to the state,” he added. “We can sell the power under this contract to the open market so that any user of electricity that is eligible to buy electricity, we can sell it flexibly.”


maureen-torrey_2.jpgLuna said he has encountered no organized opposition – “I’m knocking on wood as I’m saying that,” he noted – and attributes that to the level of interaction thus far.

“I think it’s a real difference when you’re generally putting these communities first in your mind when you doing anything. I think people can tell. I think it’s really important if people really care about communities when they do these things as it really makes everything a lot better,” he said.

While that may be true, not everyone is thrilled that solar has become such a hot commodity at the expense of farming.

Maureen Torrey Marshall (photo at right) of Torrey Farms, a major agricultural enterprise in Elba and surrounding towns, said she thinks “it’s sad that solar panels are the most viable crop that farmers can grow.”

“Well, you can’t fault anybody because they can’t get that type of return by growing any crops, but it all goes back to New York State,” she said. “I’m on the (Elba) town board and we’re going to try to get as much (money) as we can, but you can’t fault anybody. The town and the school need to benefit as much as they can from this.”

She said that solar is going to change the look of the community – and it’s not about to stop in Elba and Oakfield.

“That is what is going to happen down in the valley along (Interstate) 390, near Mount Morris – all that beautiful farmland in that area. That’s all going to be solar,” she said. “New York has placed a priority on green energy and it has just steamrolled.”

Torrey Marshall said her operation is not leasing land to the project.

“You get letters – these companies are just coming out of the woodwork. To be honest, all of Route 98 going to the Thruway could be solar panels,” she said. “It’s our choice and our choice is to farm.

“Elba has survived on agriculture ever since it was founded. Then you have people saying that this is so great. It’s sad that this is the best viable use for your land right now.”


Eric Zuber, of Byron, part of the organized opposition to the Excelsior Energy Project, said he owns farmland on the fringes of the Cider Solar Farm but is not signed up to lease any land.

“The quality of ground they are taking in that one is not the quality of the ground here. It’s productive soil but it isn’t the soil that is being taken for the project in Byron,” he said. “Still, I think all of these projects on farmland are stupid. I think, if I had the right type of guys come in here, they could prove that it will create more carbon than it’s going to prevent.”

Hecate Energy contends that the Elba/Oakfield solar system is projected to offset more than 420,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking over 92,000 average cars off the road annually.

Zuber said he is on board with smaller solar farms on side yards or on roofs of homes, “but when they start doing these big projects, they’re taking the food out of people’s mouths.”

“Go to the grocery store and buy food. What has it done in the last six months? You need another $50 in your pocket to buy your groceries,” he said. “All they’re doing is making people hungrier and making the poor people poorer.”


Luna acknowledged that not everyone is on board with solar panels along country roads.

“There are always some people who aren’t really excited, which is natural for a project of this scale,” he said. “What we do in that case, which again I think is really positive, is try to interact directly with those people and have one-on-one conversations – because sometimes we can help. If they’re concerned that they will be looking at panels all day, we can put visual screening there that mitigates that visual impact. That can make people feel more comfortable in many cases.”

He said Hecate Energy is committed to community involvement and will be looking at opportunities as the project progresses.

The solar company is hosting a fire training for first responders in Elba and Oakfield next Monday night (June 21) at the Elba Firemen’s Recreation Hall in the village. Luna said it will be a comprehensive training in the event of solar fires or emergency situations in various applications – not just large-scale, ground-mounted systems.

So, as indicated, the clock is ticking on the Cider Solar Farm, a unique name for the project that came into Luna’s mind as he drank a glass of local apple cider.

“Funny enough, the first time I came up to town – I’m not exactly sure where it was – I was on the road looking for land that was suitable and getting prepared for meetings with landowners when I bought some apple cider at some place … and I said that this is the best cider I ever had,” he said. “I’m from Tennessee. I don’t know if it’s something about the climate or something else, but maybe our apples aren’t quite as good. But I really enjoyed the cider.”

Hence the name, Cider Solar Farm.

March 20, 2020 - 10:58am

Public Notice

Donna Hynes, Town of Elba supervisor, declared a State of Emergency at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020 and issued an Emergency Order effective today, March 20, 2020 beginning at 12 a.m.

In the Town of Elba, our physical office and highway department will be closed to the public effective March 20, 2020 for five days unless rescinded earlier or renewed in five-day increments. This is in an effort to do our part to control the coronavirus pandemic. The Town will still be available to answer your inquiries remotely through the use of phones, computers and mail, or other means.

Town Clerk -- Taxes and dog license requests with required documents should be dropped off in the box located in the vestibule of the Town Hall or mailed in. Tax payments may also be paid online. They will be processed and returned via US Post Service. Please email Town Clerk Trisha Werth to inquire about other services.

Trisha Werth, town clerk

Mark Yungfleisch, superintendent of Highways

  • 585-757-2762, ext. 5

Website: www.townofelba.com

Donna Hynes

Elba Town Supervisor

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