WATERLOO, NY — “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” This quote embodied the inaugural 2015 Food and Farm Experience where members of print, web and television media came to Seneca County to learn about the many facets of New York Agriculture.
“We were very excited to be able to put together the Food and Farm Experience,” said NYFB Foundation Director, Sandra Prokop. “The funding from the American Agriculturist Foundation, Inc. allows us to plan and launch the program during its inaugural year.”
The goal of the Food & Farm Experience was to increase the attendees’ understanding of agriculture, so they will be in a position to accurately share agricultural facts and knowledge with their audiences. Participants were selected through a nomination/application process.
The two-day event exposed nominated journalists to the issues, practices and misconceptions that farmers work through every day. As expected, bridging technology with agriculture, meat processing, animal welfare issues, farm labor and fear mongering were hot topics. Science explains a lot but consumer’s emotions play a considerable part in their buying choices.
Betty Wolanyk, CEO of Ag Literacy Works and former National Director of Ag in the Classroom at the USDA, took participants through a hands-on demonstration of what products were actually made in New York. She facilitated panel discussions on GMOs, meat science and plant breeding, in addition to presenting some provocative food myths and how the media can play an important role in presenting all the facts to consumers.
The all-star media cast toured the Geneva Experiment Station where they learned more about viticulture and plant breeding. They visited the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship to learn how the laboratory works with would-be food businesses to test products on how well they’ll do on the market. The guests also got a birds-eye view of the station’s 20 foot high shrub willow bioenergy crop and learned about the growing and harvesting procedure.
No tour highlighting New York agriculture would be complete without a stop to a dairy farm. The Murray family kindly opened up their tidy “Dairy of Distinction” operation to showcase their award winning Holsteins, environmental stewardship and 15 amazing raw cheeses, all aged, cut and wrapped at their farmstead Muranda Cheese Company.
Day one’s final stop landed the group at the Glenora Winery in Dundee. Journalists were treated to an in-depth look at the farm’s history and into the wine making process from grapes to bottling. A reception and fabulous dinner was held at the winery’s Veraisons Restaurant with agricultural dignitaries and presentations by NYS Ag & Mkts. Deputy Commissioner, Phil Giltner and University of Georgia’s Robert Beckstead.
Day two’s adventure in agriculture brought guests to Red Jacket Orchards to taste the many kinds of apples and a visit to the Rodman Lott and Sons Farm to learn about no-till crop production, GPS farming systems and the marketing and logistics of moving their corn and soybeans to customers. The afternoon panel sessions gave the media folks a dose of reality as dairy, beef, fruit and vegetable farmers described their operations and daily challenges to earn a living in the face of regulations, labor issues and all trying to be good neighbors in their community. The perspectives culminated with the struggle to find the right balance between family life, making a profit, land stewardship and feeding a savvy consumer.
Armed with knowledge and a renewed appreciation for New York agriculture, media professionals stated they had a more balanced plate of information in addressing the issues and answers that effect farmers, the businesses that support them and the communities that thrive from a strong agricultural base. In the end, the consumer is the winner because they have choice in the marketplace.
The New York Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education, Inc. is a charitable education foundation, with a mission of informing and educating all New Yorkers regarding agriculture and to increase understanding of agriculture between the farm and non-farm public.
For more information contact Sandra Prokop at 518-431-5633 or Sprokop@nyfb.org .