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  Seems to me the weather has been cooperating nicely with gardening goals: a fairly balanced mix of sun and rain. And, it shows in your photographs of gardens from across the region. The collection today takes us from a school garden in Long...
This corn was nicely mounded and will recover from the wind. Last summer, a severe storm drove through my garden when the corn was about 10 days out from picking. We lost some but salvaged 75% by building a stick and rope lattice system down each...
Several converging experiences over the last week got me to thinking about the role predators play in the food chain and even, it turns out, on the shape of our landscape. It began with my hen house, led to the ridge at the top of my hay field, and...
News flash out of Seattle: the minimum wage has just been raised to $15/hour, by far the highest in the country. Indeed, it’s double or more the rate in Arkansas ($6.25) and about half the states,  almost triple the rate in Georgia and...
We’ve all seen the various charts floating around the interwebz showing which mega-corporations own which food brands. The one posted below came to me via Alex Hillsberg’s blog post which I highly recommend. The gist of his analysis:...


Agriculture
Jul 31, 2014 — China has been a big and growing market for U.S. corn. But then farmers started planting a kind of genetically engineered corn that's not yet approved in China, and the Chinese government struck back.
Jul 14, 2014 — Some rookie farmers in northern Michigan are growing saskatoon, a shrub that looks like blueberry. They're also experimenting with it in the kitchen — in jams and pies.
Jul 1, 2014 — The University of California, Davis is the source of most commercial strawberries. Now, the university's strawberry breeders are going into business for themselves, and farmers are worried.
Jun 20, 2014 — Breweries have been providing farmers with free or discounted grain to feed their animals for centuries. But a proposed FDA rule intended to make food safer could disrupt that relationship.
Jun 9, 2014 — Water is scarce in California, and prices are all over the map. Some farmers are paying almost 100 times more than others. Should water flow to the highest bidder?
 

Special Reports

Audio Series
Farm to Farm, Family to Family: David Sommerstein travels with NC dairy farmers to a Mexican village many of their migrant workers call home.
Audio Series
A Year on the Farm
In this monthly feature series, David Sommerstein follows life in the barn, on the fields, and in the farmhouse through the changing seasons on the Andrews dairy farm near Gouverneur NY. This series won the 2006 "Cap" Creal Journalism Award from the New York Agricultural Society.
Audio Series
Hispanic Workers on North Country Farms
Five years ago, just a handful of farmers in the North Country employed Hispanic workers. Now many use workers from Latin America. The transition can be a bumpy one, for farmers and for the people they hire. David Sommerstein tells their stories in this ongoing series.
Beekeeper
Audio Slideshow:
Beekeepers facing new challenges
Lucy Martin visits with Ontario beekeeper Terry McEvoy and talks about colony collapse disorder and other apiary ailments that raise concerns about the food supply.
Audio Slideshow
Sights & Sounds of the Dairy Princess Parade
We go to the sidelines of one of the big events on the annual dairy calendar, the St. Lawrence County Dairy Princess Parade in Canton. Fire engines, tractors, and floats rolled down Main Street on Saturday.
Audio Series
Diversifying North Country Farms
NCPR reporter David Sommestein's series on diversifying North Country farming won the 2003 “Cap” Creal Journalism Award from the New York State Agricultural Society.
Photo Audio Essay
Dairy Farming in the North Country
The time seemed right to look at the challenges facing dairy in the North Country. In part 1 we look at the price of milk, as seen through the eyes of one mid-size dairy farmer. In part 2 we visit a cheese manufacturer proposing drastic changes in the way North Country farmers do business. David Sommerstein reports.
Audio Slideshow
A Barn-Raising in Upper Jay (Real 6:23)
These days, most new barns are built quickly with steel frames and sheet-metal siding. But some landowners are taking a little more time, using methods and materials passed down over hundreds of years.
Photo Audio Essay
Saving New York's Historic Barns
Some of New York's oldest barns are getting facelifts. Todd Moe visited a Canton family's 1820 English threshing barn slated for restoration.
Susan Chan explains the specialized pollination performed by squash bees. Photo: Lucy Martin
Susan Chan explains the specialized pollination performed by squash bees. Photo: Lucy Martin

What farmers and landowners can to to sustain bees

For years we've been hearing different reporting on a basic theme: A third of our food supply depends on bees and pollinating insects are in a serious state of decline. Most of that attention has been focused on domesticated honey bees. But there are hundreds of species of wild pollinating insects and they play key roles too.

That may be why a seminar called "Bringing back the Bees" held in Perth, Ontario last September, generated a strong response. Lucy Martin attended the day of talks, plus a field tour of a berry and vegetable farm, as experts shared simple ways to help pollinators right now.  Go to full article
Tri-Town Processing co-owner Tom Liberty. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein

Tri-Town Processing will close "short term" to USDA-inspected slaughter

For newer updates on this story see: Tri-Town in negotiations with USDA

Update, 6/20/14, 10:30Tri-Town and the USDA plan to talk today about the situation. The USDA declined to comment on the situation yesterday.

Update, 6/19/14, 3 PM: We're continuing to report on this story and have this information as of this afternoon. The USDA did not shut down Tri-Town Processing. The USDA did suspend Tri-Town on Tuesday, but the plant was allowed to resume operations on Wednesday. Of their own accord, co-owners Tom and Jeff Liberty decided to suspend the part of their processing facility that allowed Tri-Town to put the USDA-inspected stamp on its products. The Libertys say they are frustrated with USDA inspectors, and are prepared to do only "custom" processing - or processing meats that are not for resale. Tri-Town and the USDA are still in negotiations. We'll have more later today.

***
It looks like one of the North Country's only slaughterhouses will be closing its doors to much of its business: Tri-Town Processing, a family-owned plant in Brasher Falls has been open for 37 years. But as of yesterday, its owners say that while they'll still be taking on custom animals, they will no longer be able place that USDA-inspected stamp on their product.

Jeff Liberty owns the Tri-Town Plant with his father Tom. "Over the last few months, the current staff from the USDA has made it so difficult to operate that we've decided in the short term to forgo any federally inspected slaughter."

Yesterday morning, Liberty and his father had to call many of their customers, local farmers, who have relied on them to process their animals, that for now, they'll have to bring their animals somewhere else. "This is the first day that I woke up and I didn't really want to come to work."  Go to full article
Igor Cordeiro, Brazil, and Dan Kent take a break outside the cucumbers high tunnel. Photo: David Sommerstein.

A mini United Nations on a St. Lawrence County farm

The last time we checked in with organic vegetable farmer, Dan Kent, it was April, and there was still three feet of snow on the ground. Dan predicted he'd have to plant two weeks to a month late, and he was spot on.

"Even our highest and driest fields were muddy weeks beyond the time when we expected them to be in a condition that we could work and plant,"Dan says. "So, for some crops we were only two weeks late. For others, we were a month late."

It's finally full-on summer. And this week is a big one for Kent Family Growers. They're shipping out the first produce to their approximately 120 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. The deliveries start with spinach, zucchini, and strawberries. "That's always a really, really nice way to kick off the harvesting, with those really sweet red orbs."

Another thing came late this year. The Kent's three foreign workers had to change their flights a week later because of the late start.

This year, David Sommerstein is reporting regularly from Dan and Megan Kent's in the town of Lisbon. In today's episode of A Year on the Farm, this little organic vegetable farm in St. Lawrence County becomes a mini United Nations.  Go to full article
Some of the 19th century graffiti on the walls of the schoolhouse under restoration in Madrid, NY.  Photo: Todd Moe

Madrid: If old schoolhouse walls could talk

Traditional farming will be on display in Madrid this weekend. Antique farm implements, an old sawmill, draft horses and steam power are all part of the annual Antique Gas...  Go to full article
Ubu Ale: an artisan brew from Lake Placid Craft Brewing. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sabine01/3875859563/">Tricia G.</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

NY announces boost for hops research, wine tasting

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York is giving sales tax exemptions for winery tastings and funding for hops and malting barley research.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday...  Go to full article
Corn field. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/planmygreen/2675568751/">Rastoney</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

New York is central in genetically modified-food label debate

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Agricultural, food and beverage companies are spending millions of dollars to defeat legislation to require labels on food containing genetically modified...  Go to full article
A driverless tractor. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driverless_tractor#mediaviewer/File:Case_IH_745_XL,_Claas-M%C3%A4hdrescher.jpg">Lifetec18</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Robots are coming to North Country farms

A Potsdam-based startup company called Agbotic is working on machines that can till soil, plant seeds, and even kill pests without a human operator. The company plans on...  Go to full article
The 2014 Dairy Princess Jennifer King and her court. Photo: Natalie Dignam

What dairy princesses love about their work

People from all over St. Lawrence County gathered in Canton last weekend to celebrate the 50th annual Dairy Festival.

On Saturday, the village park filled up with...  Go to full article
Governor Cuomo at the new Taste NY store. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/14382217604/">Office of the Governor</a>

Cuomo cuts ribbon on new Taste NY Market

LAGRANGE, N.Y. (AP) There's a new market on the Taconic State Parkway that features products from around the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the new Taste NY...  Go to full article
Some of the action at Friday night's Dairy Princess block dance. Photo: Nora Flaherty

Were you at the Dairy Princess block dance? We were!

This year St. Lawrence County celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Dairy Princess tradition. Traditionally, the parade and festival are on Saturday, but by Friday noon...  Go to full article

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