Horses pull more than their own weight in The Big E Horse Pulling Contest

CN-MR-3-Horses pull 1by Sanne Kure-Jensen
Enthusiastic horse owners and audiences saw powerful horses pulling enormous loads at horse pulling competitions at The Big E on Sept. 16. Displaying Herculean strength, horses and their teamsters took turns pulling a stone sled with ever-increasing weights in three classes.
The teams pulled a stone boat or sled weighing about 500 lbs. loaded with additional weights. (The sled weight was not included in the weight pulled.) In the first round, the sled carried 3,000 lbs. with 1,000 lbs. added per round. After a few rounds, 500 lbs. were added per round. Teams had five minutes to make up to three hitches with a measurable forward distance. Their best distance was entered for that round. To advance to the next round, teams had to pull the sled at least 12 feet forward in one continuous motion. [Read more…]

145th Cummington Fair’s biggest hits

CN-MR-3-145th Cummington 1by Laura Rodley
One of the biggest hits the evening of Saturday Aug. 24 at the 145th Cummington Fair held in Cummington, MA was the jam-packed, bleacher-filled demolition derby, with gears grinding, bumpers falling off, and exhaust spuming. Over on the other side of the fairgrounds, a quieter hit was happening, getting a chance to hold baby chicks outside the Rabbit and Poultry Barn, which is a hands-on exhibit started last year.
“Some people say it’s the best thing of the fair. The kids like it, going through the life cycle of the chicken,” said Glenn Jameson, poultry superintendent for the last three years. It begins with the parent pair of bantams, then an incubator with 15 eggs hatching. Parents and children alike can hold newborn chicks that hatched out at the  fair.
Ella Stevens of Florence, age 11, holds a cream-colored chick close to her cheek. “It’s fun. It makes me want one,” she said as her family looked on. [Read more…]

Vermont legislators urged to keep Current Use intact

CN-MR-1-Vermont legislators 1by Bethany M. Dunbar
ORLEANS, VT — The Current Use Program costs the state of Vermont about $54 million a year, but its positive impact on the state’s economy was about $4 billion in 2007, a committee of Vermont senators heard recently at a meeting at Lake Region Union High School.
They also heard from farmers, foresters, and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) that the program is absolutely vital to keeping Vermont’s working landscape open and intact.
“If it weren’t for Current Use, we wouldn’t be there,” said Reg Chaput who owns a 2,200-acre dairy farm with his brother in Newport Center and employs 22 people.
He said his property taxes for the year would be $100,000 without it.
The Current Use Program is intended to keep land open by assessing it at its value as working land, often much lower than its fair market value. The state of Vermont pays towns the difference, and that’s where the $54 million comes in. In exchange, the landowner agrees not to develop the land.
Senator Bobby Starr of North Troy called for holding Tuesday’s hearing, and legislators participating included members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Finance Committee, and Natural Resources Committee. It was the first of three hearings around the state, with one planned for Montpelier in January. [Read more…]

Connecticut Day at the Big E

by George Looby, DVM
Every year at the Eastern States Exposition (ESE), known regionally as the Big E, each day of the 17 day event is designated to highlight a particular state, city or organization. Wednesday, Sept. 18 was Connecticut Day with the spotlight on the many components that go to make up that which is special and unique about the Nutmeg State. An event that takes place in the afternoon highlights and rewards education at the individual level for those in a variety of levels of their personal development. The Board of Directors of the ESE is made up of members from the six New England States and it is the Connecticut Delegation of that group that chooses and rewards the winners in each category. Among the distinguished guests and speakers present were Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Revizcky, Commissioner of the Dept. of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith, USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture Edward Alvoslos, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UConn Dr. Gregory Weiermann and Eleanore Provencal. Eleanore serves as the volunteer Director of the Ag in the Classroom Program for the State of Connecticut. [Read more…]

The corn is off – now what?

CEWM-MR-2-Corn is off 2by Sally Colby
It’s been an interesting season for growing corn. While some farmers are bringing in record yields, others are lamenting a season that was simply too wet and cool. Once the ground is bare, what’s next? Some fields in which silage corn was grown will be planted immediately with a winter cover crop, but it isn’t too early to consider what the field will be used for the following spring.
“Alternative cover crops offer opportunities to diversify crop rotation systems,” said Charlie White, Penn State extension associate in sustainable agriculture. “These cover crops are planted later in the season — late summer after small grain harvest.” Another option is to harvest a winter cover crop and allow a legume more time to fix nitrogen, or to have an earlier planting date for cover crops in the fall to get them well-established.
Less common species such as sorghum sudangrass, cowpeas and radish afford more diversity in a crop rotation. In many cases, seed for some of the alternative cover crops costs less so there’s a higher economic return on marginal land. These forage crops are often more heat and drought tolerant, so they’re suitable for ground where corn silage hasn’t done well. [Read more…]