Keynote address

CM-MR-2-PA-KEYNOTE-096by Bill and Mary Weaver

“I would like to speak today about a question that keeps me awake at night,” stated Russell Redding, Keynote Speaker at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, PA, who was recently nominated to become the next PA Secretary of Agriculture. “Our biggest challenges in agriculture today aren’t consumer preferences or a proper shelf life. What keeps me awake at night is how to bring enough human capital into agriculture,” Redding said. [Read more…]

New York crowns new state Dairy Princess

CEW-MR-5-NY princess296Stephanie McBath, from Schuylerville, NY, was crowned 2015-2016 New York State Dairy Princess during the 52nd Annual New York State Dairy Princess Coronation on Feb. 17. The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council-sponsored pageant was held at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, NY.

“I was definitely shocked! It was a surprise for me but I am extremely honored and excited to serve New York dairy farmers,” said McBath, a senior at Schuylerville High School, who has spent four years in dairy promotion as Saratoga County Dairy Princess and Saratoga County Dairy Ambassador. McBath’s coronation completes the year-long reign of Casey Porter, of Watertown, NY. [Read more…]

The road to soil health inspires farmers

CEW-MR-3-Soil health3by Troy Bishopp

STATE COLLEGE, PA — So a soil guy, tillage radish developer and an organic grain craftsman meet at a conference. If you use your rural imagination a good joke might be in the offering. When it comes to discussing the attributes of healthy soils and fertility to a packed house of farmers, it’s no laughing matter for the three Microbe-teers.

NRCS Conservation Agronomist Ray Archuleta from Greensboro, NC; cash crop/vegetable farmer and founder of Cover Crop Solutions, Steve Groff from Lancaster, PA and grain farmer and co-owner of Lakeview Organic Grain, Klaas Martens from Penn Yan, NY, led an all-day pre-conference track titled: Agroecology Principles & Biomimicry Strategies for Enhancing Soil Function at the 24th annual Farming for the Future PASA Conference. [Read more…]

Heritage pigs at Bittersweet Farm

CE-MR-3-BITTERSWEET-Brianby Sanne Kure-Jensen

Brian Bennett of Bittersweet Farm has been living with pigs for over 30 years. Each year, he raises 10-12 litters of certified organic pigs with 6-8 piglets per litter. The pigs live as families outdoors not in big barns. Bennett’s farm is in the small town of Heuvelton in northern New York close to the Canadian border. All the farm’s pigs have names. “I like to know who is coming to dinner,” said Bennett with a smile. To people offended by smelly pig barns, Bennett reminds them that he does not run a confinement operation. Farrowing huts may smell of manure and afterbirth, but it’s all connected: “Energy, passion, life process and life force.” Bennett’s favorite heritage breeds are Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spots (also known as Gloucester, Gloucestershire Old Spot or Old Spots). These breeds are known as great mothers. Bennett used to raise Yorkshire pigs but their large liters lost too many piglets, especially in extended subzero periods. Heritage pigs thrive on pasture, in woodlands and with diverse diets. Growing much of the pigs’ food on the farm, Bennett spends just over $2 on purchased feeds per pound of meat. Processing at a USDA certified facility costs about $250 per pig or another $2.00 – $2.50 per pound. Bennett and his family process culls on the farm for family consumption. Bennett shared his extensive experience at a workshop called “The Practical Pig” at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. [Read more…]

Creature comforts

CM-MR-2-Improving cow759by Steve Wagner

Concerns about cow comfort haven’t changed much in 130 years other than to diversify those concerns. “When we look at a cow’s day, 75 percent is spent eating and resting,” said Penn State’s Dan McFarland, a Capitol Region Extension Educator from York County PA. “So time away from the pen becomes pretty important.” McFarland was one of the presenters at the 2015 Lebanon Dairy & Crops Compliance Days at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center. When we think of the creature comforts, cow comfort specifically, it is often a passing thought, another one of those incidentals. Dan McFarland is different. He and a handful of ag engineering confreres who are similarly inclined not only think about it; they think about it from this angle and that. They hypothesize and theorize over creature comfort dimensions and measurements to the nth degree, putting it all under the theoretical microscope of time and motion study. Accordingly, he and his wide range of associates have produced charts and graphs to explain how to make life better for cows during every waking, and sleeping, moment. [Read more…]