National Grange President Ed Luttrell was the guest of honor at the 141st session of the New York State Grange, Oct. 17-22, Albany, NY. The message of his address to the delegates was “Courage”. We need to have the courage to listen to others especially those with whom we do not agree. We must also be civil enough to remain friends even after disagreements. A lesson that public officials may take to heart.
Patrick Hooker, Deputy Secretary for Food and Agriculture at the Governor’s Office was the highlighted speaker for our legislative issues. He is a Grange member from Miller’s Mills Grange. Hooker said his Grange was having a successful year with Community Service Projects. He hoped that they would have a successful “Ice Harvest” in February. The past two years it was too warm for the project that uses old methods of harvesting ice for preservation of food during the summer.
“Agriculture has come full circle. Many years ago agriculture in New York was very diversified. Over the years agriculture became focused on a few areas and is now moving back to varied and value added commodities.”
A major part of his work for state government is to develop relationships between consumers and producers. For example at a recent event in New York City, about 60 chefs pledged to use more New York produced products at their restaurants. Taste NY events were held at “Farm Aid” and at the PGA Tournament in Rochester. These events were well attended and there was a large presence of Wines, Beers and Spirits that are produced in New York. The vendors sold out at both events. The state has developed a database of “Pride of NY” members, where information about locations of products can be found by individuals, institutions and restaurants. This makes it easier to find and use New York produced products. New York product stores are being developed at Grand Central Station in NYC, at the New Baltimore Service Plaza on the Thruway and at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. Millions of people will see these venues each year.
The Greek yogurt industry has grown dramatically in New York in recent years. We have the supply of milk and the consumer base to support the industry. Other industry is also growing around the yogurt industry. Fruit processing for yogurt and use of by products to fuel energy producing digesters to name a few.
The brewing industry has spurred the revitalization of hops and barley growing in the state.
Hooker is optimistic about economic growth in New York.
The New York State Fair is another venue for agriculture in New York. One area was the “Trail” that began at the “Pride Of NY” exhibit at the main entrance to the grounds. People could start there and travel around the grounds to many areas that featured made in New York products. Vendors at these locations indicated an increase in business.
The cattle birthing center was also a big hit. Many questions were answered about the birth of calves. Many children attended the area. This new venue also brought more people to an “under-visited” area of the grounds.
Steve McLaughlin assemblyman from the Albany area was the keynote speaker at the opening banquet of the session. He has read about the Grange and is familiar with Grange policies. He is especially impressed with the Grange ethics embodied in the “American Values, Hometown Roots” concept. He commented on the value that agriculture brings to the state and the need for a stronger voice for the upstate area.
Celia Tkaczyk, capitol area state Senator addressed the delegates. She grew up on a dairy farm in New Jersey and was glad for her agriculture roots. Although not a Grange member she was active in 4H. She stressed that Grange should be “proud of its voice for rural schools” and its “connection to children in rural areas.”
Donald and Susan Drake were the winners of the coveted Gerald Eastman Award. The award is presented annually to and individual or couple who exemplify Christian principles and influence others in a positive way.
Don’s professional career including teaching, being a school administrator and involvement with Pathfinder Village, a school for individuals with Downs Syndrome. Sue has dedicated herself to service especially at the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home. She has attended to spiritual needs as well as physical needs. Both are active in their community through the Grange having served as officers at the local, county and state levels.
This years’ top Grange in Community Service is the Butternut Valley Grange. Butternut Valley Grange is one of the largest in the state. Some projects include a Halloween Party for area children, Benefit direr for local food pantries, flood disaster workers for a neighboring county, Christmas Party for people that they knew would be alone for the holiday including entertainment and a gift, roadside clean-up, graduation awards and dictionary donation for three local schools. Their Grange Hall is on the historic register and along with the rest of the community did $30,000 worth of restoration to the building. Their Grange also has an historic “painted curtain” which was restored.
Anna Ritchey also of Butternut Valley Grange was the recipient of the “Sally Benson” award for outstanding public meeting presentation.