Ag Commissioner, In Cooperstown, Hopes To Connect NY Products, Customers

Ag Commissioner, In Cooperstown, Hopes

To Connect NY Products, Customers

By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal/HOMETOWN ONEONTA

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Nov. 13-14 2014

 

Richard Ball, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, wants to make sure everyone in the state has access to Upstate’s bounty. “We have a great resource here in central New York,” he said. “And we want more farmers to have New York State as a customer.”

Ball, who is from neighboring Schoharie County, will be the keynote speaker at the first-time “Celebration of Our Agricultural Community” conference Saturday, Nov. 15, at The Farmers’ Museum.

Since he took office in January, Ball, also the owner of the Carrot Barn in Schoharie, has worked to rally government departments and funding to encourage agencies – including the Office for the Aging, Mental Health Services and SUNY – to use New York produce, dairy and farm products. “I want to connect the dots between farmers and new markets opening to them.”

In addition to Ball, Jason Evans, assistant professor of Agriculture at SUNY Cobleskill will discuss food systems, and Doug Thompson, G&T Farm will lead an address on the impact farming has on local communities.

Though The Farmers’ Museum is known for showcasing historical farming techniques, education director Danielle Henrici wanted to “shake the dust off the crop.”

“We’ve been looking at programs that would connect with today’s audience,” she said. “We usually speak about history, but agriculture is a driving force in our local economy, and this conference will speak to that directly.”

Painted Goat, Chobani, Brewery Ommegang, Council Rock Brewery and others will also be on hand to lead discussions on central New York’s premier agricultural products. “Even people who aren’t necessarily interested in farming might want to come,” said Henrici. “We’ll address concerns about health of communities and sustainability. It’s been a key issue in the last few years, and agriculture is a crucial part of that.”

At the conclusion of the talks, participants will then form breakout groups based in their interests for the afternoon.

“We’ll have one on cheese making, one on craft brewing and hops production, one on dairy and meat,” she said. “We want people to get down to the nitty-gritty and make connection in the industry.”

There will also be a section for information booths and samplings of local farm products.

And the evening before the event, participants can go to The Fenimore Art Museum for a screening of the documentary

“The Great American Wheat Harvest” at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14.

“This conference is a chance to let farmers know of the opportunities available to them,” said Henrici.  “Our hope is that everyone – from farmers to lawyers to teachers and doctors – will be able to understand where there food is coming from and support the local economy,” she said. “We want everyone to be able to take something away with them.”