SYRACUSE, NY — On July 20, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball and Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter toured a Byrne Dairy processing plant and a supplying New York State dairy farm to show the growing support and strength of the recently implemented New York State Grown and Certified program. Ball stated that products labeled with New York Grown and Certified create a way for consumers to know three important aspects of the products:
1) The product is from New York.
2) The product has an audited food safety plan to assure a higher quality.
3) The farms producing the products are part of an audited environmental plan to ensure sustainability.
Together these three aspects help to build a New York State brand as well as showing the public the safety and sustainability of the products. Though the program is relatively new, seven dairy processors, which represent over 1,200 farms throughout New York State, are already part of the program. Byrne Dairy is one of the dairy processors that has already signed on to be New York State Grown and Certified. As the program gains momentum more farms and processors will likely join.
The New York Grown and Certified campaign began when Governor Andrew Cuomo asked for a new brand for New York. With many other states encouraging buying local first it seemed important to promote the same idea in New York. The concept of branding as a state should encourage New York residents to buy local as well as understand more about the products they are bringing home. While the new program is aimed toward New Yorkers it is likely that the state will also see a boost in New York State exports as well because consumers are still looking for a product they can be sure is safe and environmentally sustainable.
Before the tour, the group met with some of the Byrne Dairy staff including CEO and President at Byrne Dairy, Fred Sadeghi. Sadeghi agrees with the plan for the NYS Grown and Certified program and states that Byrne Dairy has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the industry. During the tour the group (clad in coats, overshoes and hairnets) was allowed to see the pasteurization and packaging facilities that Byrne Dairy has in place. While the processing plant is largely mechanized the human component in the facility is still crucial.
After touring the Byrne Dairy processing plant the group moved on to Silver Springs Farm in Syracuse, NY — a beautiful example of a family-operated Upstate New York farm. Here Chuck Luchsinger and his family run a 240-cow operation that supplies milk to Byrne Dairy. The family farm is comprised of Chuck, his wife Susan and their oldest son Charlie. Silver Springs Farm began working with Byrne Dairy in 2000 and has enjoyed the relationship ever since. Silver Springs recently celebrated their 100th year of farming showing that family-run farms are still an important part of New York State agriculture.
Luchsinger continues the family tradition of using only Jersey cows at his farm. Jerseys are a smaller breed but produce a higher fat and protein content than other cows, which sells higher per hundred cwt. Luchsinger does not plan to make the farm much larger. “It’s a manageable size and we have enough land to feed them. If we were going to grow we would need more land and equipment,” says Luchsinger. “We’re hoping to get more efficient rather than bigger.”
Silver Springs has recently incorporated a robotic milking system that is quickly paying for itself with the need of one less employee on the farm for milking. When speaking about the new milker Luchsinger comments that, “Those are the kinds of improvements you need to invest in. Not a giant tractor that you don’t need.” Staying up to date on current industry techniques and standards is important as technology grows and consumer needs change.
Commissioner Ball commented that the Great New York State Grown and Certified program will be highlighted at this year’s New York State Fair in Syracuse. Last year the fair set a new attendance record at 1.1 million visitors over the 12-day event. This year’s Great New York State Fair will be Aug. 23 to Sept. 4.
As the day wore on it became clear that everybody involved was excited to be part of the New York State Grown and Certified program. Not only will it offer some transparency to the consumer about where their food comes from it will also provide a way for the producers to know what they need to do to become more environmentally conscious. This program will also offer consumers the ability to feel confident that the food the put on their tables is safe and part of an environmental stewardship plan.