Did you know that New York is one of the top agricultural states in the country? Or that New York State agriculture generates more than $5 billion in revenue a year? Or that according to the latest data available, when you count across all sectors of agriculture, including processing and support businesses that provide feed, supplies, machinery and services, the industry provides jobs for nearly 200,000 New Yorkers?
Our farmers are world-class dairy producers. We rank first nationally in the production of yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream, third in the production of Italian milk and cheese, and fourth in total cheese production.
We are the second largest producer of maple syrup, apples, cabbage and snow peas; third in grapes (and recognized worldwide for its often distinguished and famous great wines and vineyards); and fifth in the production of tart cherries and squash. Honey and other fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes and sweet corn, are also of considerable economic importance.
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) has long recognized how important these economic contributions can be, especially to our local communities. And the CCE also recognizes the environmental and cultural contributions of agriculture.
Extension’s Upstate New York Agriculture Program serves farmers and rural landowners with part-time business and agricultural businesses in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence, with a focus on farm sustainability and resilience, including improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Regional teams of extension agriculture specialists and county educators provide resources and programs related to dairy farming, livestock management, agronomy, agricultural economic development and more . They draw on world-class cutting-edge research and employ proven research-based practices and innovative solutions to help growers and producers achieve and maintain economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. , for example, the modernization of agricultural holdings. and the workforce developing tools, techniques to control pests and diseases and facilitating access to emerging markets.
But the CCE is not content to support the major producers of agricultural and horticultural products. They also help small growers, organic farmers, community gardeners and hobbyists. They know that all of their customers want their businesses or gardens to be sustainable and profitable, but everyone is unique and everyone has different needs.
The landscape is constantly changing, both locally and across the state, which is why extension offices in each of New York’s 57 counties and five New York boroughs offer programs, information and services designed to keep the clientele they serve up to date on the latest advances in human and animal health and safety, food safety, environmental quality, integrated pest management and the use of best management practices , as well as techniques for improving productivity and profitability through increased business skills, assessing risks and benefits, and transforming agricultural raw materials into value-added products.
The CCE system encourages agricultural entrepreneurship by offering educational programs in business planning and provides guidance for those seeking start-up assistance, access to capital and networking options. Cornell researchers face the challenge of developing systems that enable producers at all levels to produce and sell nutritious food products at competitive prices. And community educators are constantly looking for ways to improve public understanding of agricultural and food production systems, while building public and official support for the farming community.
In Northeast New York, direct marketing has become an important strategy for connecting producers to local communities, as well as regional, state, national and international markets. The number of farmers’ markets in the region has increased significantly in recent years. Extension advocacy campaigns and initiatives like Adirondack Harvest (www.adirondackharvest.com) have created international recognition for regional agricultural products while giving our farmers greater bargaining power.
CCE educators realize that there is huge potential in wholesale markets as well. They recognize that the goal of improving agricultural and community economic development is best served when all stakeholders in the food system—producers, processors, retailers, restaurateurs, chefs, food service companies, schools, institutions and consumers—come together .
A food system includes growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food. It can be local, regional or global. A successful food system is one that improves economic, social and nutritional health, while addressing issues such as food security and safety. CCE educators believe this is best accomplished within a local or regional community and that a successful community food system will place economic, environmental and social sustainability among its priorities.
CEC is a recognized leader in assisting agricultural producers and processors, rural business owners, local government officials and individual citizens interested in becoming part of the agricultural community. You can contact your local CCE office to learn more about agriculture and food systems in your community and across New York. And while you’re there, be sure to find out about upcoming programs, workshops, classes, and outreach activities.
Let Cornell Cooperative Extension put its research experience and knowledge to work for you.
Richard L. Gast, Extension Program II Educator: Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; Agricultural Programs Assistant (retired); Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County. 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.