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NCPR News Staff: David Sommerstein

Reporter/ Producer
David Sommerstein, NCPR's roving St. Lawrence Valley/Fort Drum/Tug Hill reporter, began his career in radio, strangely enough, as a high school Spanish teacher in Buffalo. While drilling verb conjugations and teaching a love for Latino culture during the day, he sat in as a late night jazz and Latin DJ at Buffalo's NPR affiliate, WBFO. The radio bug bit, and David found his way to southern Colorado/northern New Mexico (the Taos/Santa Fe area) where he was Program Director, Music Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and "Just About Anything Else You Can Think Of" Director at NPR affiliate KRZA.

Since joining NCPR's news department, David has reported from the chilly deck of a St. Lawrence icebreaker, the power-chord filled stage of the High School Rock Band Festival, and the tense Albanian street market of post-war Kosovo with soldiers from Fort Drum. David also gets to fulfill his passion for music of all kinds when he spins world dance and groove music on editions of The Beat Authority. E-mail

Stories filed by David Sommerstein

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Democratic candidate for Congress Aaron Woolf. Photo: Martha Foley
Democratic candidate for Congress Aaron Woolf. Photo: Martha Foley

Democrat Aaron Woolf: media silence is not inaction

The elusive Democrat who's running for Bill Owens' seat is meeting privately with local leaders across the 21st Congressional District. Documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf met with Warren County Democrats in Lake George Wednesday night after visiting the St. Lawrence County chamber of commerce in Canton.

It's been more than three weeks since party leaders endorsed Woolf. Even though he's barely spoken with the media, Woolf says he's been busy.  Go to full article
Gary Lee records hundreds of banded birds in his log every year. He recently re-caught a chickadee he had banded in 2009. Photo: David Sommerstein
Gary Lee records hundreds of banded birds in his log every year. He recently re-caught a chickadee he had banded in 2009. Photo: David Sommerstein

Listen: How do you catch and band a chickadee?

The cold doesn't stop a good share of birds from thriving in the North Country, and it's a good time for birders to get to know their local birds... one...you can see them without all those leaves in the way. And two...they probably get to know you, too, through your bird feeders.

Retired New York State Forest Ranger Gary Lee is one of northern New York's expert birders, and he takes it a step further. He spends much of his winters banding birds - chickadees, in particular - at his home in Inlet. A dozen bird feeders are scattered around the yard of his home in Inlet, NY.

Lee stretches what looks like a fine-meshed volleyball net to snag the birds. David Sommerstein stopped by to see bird banding up close and sent this Heard Up North, which first aired in May 2013.  Go to full article
Erin Hamlin celebrates with her brother, mother, and father in the Remsen high school gym Thursday night. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Erin Hamlin celebrates with her brother, mother, and father in the Remsen high school gym Thursday night. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Olympian Erin Hamlin comes home to a town shining like bronze

America's first athlete to win a medal in singles luge was treated to a homecoming fit for a hero last night. Erin Hamlin's thrilling runs on the luge track in Sochi earned her the bronze.

After interviews, celebrity appearances, and photo shoots in New York City this week, Hamlin touched down at the Syracuse airport. A police escort and fire trucks guided her past miles of cheering crowds to the tiny town of Remsen in the foothills of the southern Adirondacks.  Go to full article
Darrel Aubertine as NYS Commissioner of Agriculture in 2012. Photo: NYS
Darrel Aubertine as NYS Commissioner of Agriculture in 2012. Photo: NYS

Aubertine not running for Congress

One of the most prominent Democrats in the North Country confirmed yesterday he's not running for Bill Owens' seat in Congress. Longtime Assemblyman and State Senator Darrel Aubertine of Cape Vincent said in a press release he would remain in his current position as a special assistant in the state comptroller's office.  Go to full article
Megan and Dan Kent, the barrel washer, and squeaky clean celeriac. Photo: David Sommerstein
Megan and Dan Kent, the barrel washer, and squeaky clean celeriac. Photo: David Sommerstein

Lisbon organic farm looks to grow while staying local

Agriculture is changing quickly in New York. Greek yogurt is reshaping the dairy industry. Maple syrup is becoming big business. And microbrewers, distillers, and hop-growers are some of the new stars in the "buy local" movement.

But perhaps the biggest change is the attention to diversified, sometimes organic, fruit, vegetable, and meat growers. The number of farmers markets and CSAs has more than doubled in about five years. Food hubs are popping up across the state to help small farms reach larger markets. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised a first-ever summit to link upstate farmers with New York City consumers. There's never been more attention to the "farm-to-table" movement.

This year, David Sommerstein will make several visits to one organic, diversified farm, Kent Family Growers in St. Lawrence County. He'll follow the seasons, the crops, the labor, and the business of making a living being an "eat local" farmer. Dan and Megan Kent started farming on just five acres of land. A dozen years later, they're priming for big-time growth.  Go to full article
One of Battaglia's iconic images from 2014 will be Erin Hamlin's moment of victory in Sochi.  Photo:  Nancie Battaglia
One of Battaglia's iconic images from 2014 will be Erin Hamlin's moment of victory in Sochi. Photo: Nancie Battaglia

Hamlin celebration set for Thursday in Remsen

A tiny town on the southern tip of the Tug Hill Plateau is getting ready for an Olympic-scale celebration. Luger Erin Hamlin, who won a Bronze medal in the Sochi Olympic Games, is scheduled to return home to the town of Remsen Thursday around 7 pm.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30849327@N00/2685012125/">Henry M. Diaz</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Henry M. Diaz, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Small farms continue to struggle in New York

New York has lost 2 percent of its farms since 2007, 814 in all. That's according to the first glimpse of new agricultural census data released Thursday.

Small farms continue to struggle the most.

New York had 35,538 farms in 2012, when the US Department of Agriculture conducted its census, which it does every five years.  Go to full article
Watertown businessman Matt Doheny as he gave his concession speech in 2012. Photo: David Sommerstein
Watertown businessman Matt Doheny as he gave his concession speech in 2012. Photo: David Sommerstein

Doheny hopes fourth time's a charm in NY-21 run

The plot twists keep coming in the effort to win the 21st District Congressional seat that Bill Owens currently occupies. Yesterday morning, Republican Matt Doheny upended the race by announcing his fourth run in the district. Doheny narrowly lost to Owens in 2010 and 2012, and lost a primary bid in 2009.

He joins a crowded GOP field that includes the party's endorsed candidate, Elise Stefanik, and several lesser known candidates. The Alexandria Bay native's decision riled some North Country Republican leaders.  Go to full article
A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release
A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release

Gillibrand: "Risk is high" with dangerous train cargo

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is joining the chorus of lawmakers calling for tougher safety rules for railroads carrying dangerous cargo.

Speaking in Plattsburgh Tuesday, the Democrat said the growing shipments of crude oil from North Dakota and other hazardous chemicals through North Country towns is dangerous.  Go to full article

Green party voters may get primary race in NY-21

It's been just about a week since the Democratic Party announced documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf as its candidate for the 21st District congressional seat Bill Owens currently holds, but Woolf has yet to make a public appearance or return emails since then. A brief statement last week said an official campaign announcement would be made "in the coming days."

But there has been news among Greens in the 21st District. The Green Party is heading towards a rare primary as St. Lawrence County anti-cancer activist Donald Hassig and Glens Falls baker and businessman Matt Funicello have both said they're running as Green Party candidates.  Go to full article

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