News of Otsego County

Jim Barber

Barber Would Bring 143-Year Farming Heritage To Albany

Barber Would Bring 143-Year

Farming Heritage To Albany

Democratic Senate candidate Jim Barber
discusses the bumper pumpkin crop with wife Cindy at Barber’s Farm in Middleburgh. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to


There’s no doubting folks in the Schoharie Valley know Jim Barber, simply judging from the political
signs that line Route 30 from Middleburgh to Fultonham and well beyond.

The family has lived on Barber’s Farm for 163 years, since two brothers bought 38 acres of some of the richest soil in the world.

Today, the family owns 450 acres of cropland, and another 100 of hillside.

And what a family – Jim Barber, 62, Democratic candidate to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has five sisters. He and wife Cindy have three children. Add the sister’s children, and there are 22 cousins in that cadre. The next generation, the brother and sisters’ grandchildren – have so far produced 17 offspring.

And, given the grandchildren’s ages, there are more to come, the candidate added, walking past a haywagon full of three generations of Barbers, out Oct. 18 on a sunny Sunday afternoon pumpkin-picking excursion.

At least in Jim Barber’s generation, the siblings stayed, he said. Except for one of the sisters, that is: She moved to Cobleskill, 15 minutes away.

Barbers have been in the U.S. since the 1639. His wife’s family – Carloughs, Palatine Germans – have been here since the early 1700s.

If elected, Jim Barber would be the only farmer in the 63-Senator upper chamber in Albany, where the majority Democrats would benefit from his advice. For instance, the Farm Bill passed last year only addresses the “social justice” piece: limiting work weeks and helping farm labor to unionize.

“Farms are struggling – struggling to survive,” he said. “It (the Farm Bill) only addresses one side of the equation.” The other side is, “How do we help farms be more profitable? If you don’t have the revenue, you can’t pay the expenses.”

“In order to have any impact, you need to be at the table with the Senate leadership.” As a Democrat as well as the rare farmer, he said, he would be there.

New York City’s “tremendous financial activity” needs to be further tapped to generate revenue statewide, he said: For instance, the stock transfer tax – it can now be rebated on application – should be enforced. It would generate an estimated $16 billion.

In an interview, Barber – a Cornell grad; he met wife Cindy there – related how his family’s recent history has paralleled the history of farming in Upstate in the last half-century.

“In high school,” the candidate said, “I knew I was staying,” adding, “I had a farm mortgage” – on a tenant farmer’s plot that went on the market – “before I had a driver’s license.”

His father, J. Roger Barber, Ag & Markets commissioner in the Carey Administration of the 1980s, was particularly interested in improving Holsteins’ milk output, through genetic research and other means.

Still, by the time the Northeast Dairy Compact – it supported milk prices in New York State and New England – expired in 2001, the Barbers were looking beyond dairying.

When Roger Barber died in 2002, “we were the only dairy farm between Middleburgh and Gilboa” – 15 miles, said the son. The family sold the dairy herd in 2006.

By then, 50 years of diversification, beginning with sweet-corn routes in the 1960s – to Amsterdam, Gloversville, Stamford, Oneonta and small-town, family-owned supermarkets – was paying dividends.

In the 1990s, the Barbers set up their first greenhouse. Before long, Cindy was putting together flowers in 1,100 hanging baskets, to sell in the expanding Barber’s Farm roadside market. Before long, “we were growing 100 different vegetable crops,” he said.

The next innovation was “high tunnels,” also known as “hoop houses,” unheated greenhouses that allow even Central New York farms to grow vegetables year ’round – spinach, Swiss chard and kale in the coldest months. Covered, the tunnels keep the plants dry, which minimizes insects, and damage from insects.

When the Oneonta Farmers’ Market opened in the city’s parking deck, the Barbers were there, and joined other farmers’ markets that popped up. They also sell fresh produce from trucks set up in Cobleskill and Albany.

“From the COVID crisis,” Barber added, “people realized how important a local food supply can be.”
The decline of dairying may cloud the picture, but the man who would be the sole farmer in the state Senate is optimistic about farming’s future in New York State.

“We have good soil and plenty of water,” he said. In other parts of the country, “the aquifers are going
to run out.”

Jim and Cindy’s three children are in related fields: Grace in an environmental consultant in Montana; Ford is the Farm Service Agency’s Orange County executive director, and Elias is distiller at 1857 Spirits, an on-farm distillery.

A nephew, Jacob Hooper, is managing the farm.

The father is particularly proud of his younger son’s success in this “value-added” venture. 1857 Potato Vodka – 1857 is the year the Barber brothers arrived here – won a gold medal at international competition in San Francisco. The gin won a triple-gold medal.

And his outlook is reflected in the son’s distillery promotions: “We grow the highest-quality, best tasting potatoes in nine feet of rich ‘Barbour Basher’ alluvial soils of the bottomlands. Our spring water comes from the aquifer directly beneath this soil. From the heart of the Barber Family Farm in the Schoharie Valley to you, 1857 is a naturally gluten-free, farm-to-bottle vodka.”

ASHWOOD: Barber’s Farm Skills Helpful To 51st


Jim Barber’s Farm Shows Skills

Helpful To 51st Senate District

To the Editor:

No one could argue that we aren’t living in interesting times. And in interesting times, we need representatives to our government who will help us through.

In just a few short weeks, the 51st District will choose its state senator, a position that has been held by Jim Seward for the last 34 years. And Jim Barber is who I want to represent us.

One only need visit Jim Barber’s family farm to know that a person who can keep a farm like this afloat and growing in these economic times is someone who could help our 51st District to do the same.

And like his farm, his well-designed website also reveals a truth about who he is: he clearly lays out his ideas and plans about taxes, the environment, the opioid crisis, the health care system, education, and as you can imagine—small businesses.

Jim’s proposed plans make sense for where we are now. They are realistic ones that would help everyone wherever they lie on the political spectrum.

He is a man who knows how to listen, knows how to look at his district around him, knows how to bridge gaps. This is what we need to move forward.

Cherry Valley

Let Business Know When It Can Open, Oberacker Declares

Let Business Know

When It Can Open,

Oberacker Declares

With Phase Two Arriving Friday,

Governor Yet To Provide Details

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to


SCHENEVUS – In the face of uncertainly among local business people, Republican State Senate candidate Peter Oberacker issued a statement this afternoon calling on Governor Cuomo to “immediately release” more detailed information about Phase 2 of the plan to un-PAUSE New York State.

“We have been receiving many calls and messages asking where to find details regarding Phase 2 and sadly, there are none,” said Oberacker, who is running succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who is retiring.  He is running against Jim Barber, the Schoharie farmer who works for Cooperative Extension of Otsego & Schoharie Counties.

Barber: Leave Decision On Reopening County To ‘Medical Experts’

Barber: Leave Decision

On Reopening County

To ‘Medical Experts’

He Criticizes Oberacker Call

To Plan ‘un-PAUSE’ Locally

SCHOHARIE – Democrat Jim Barber this evening issued a statement saying he “profoundly disagrees” with his Republican opponent Peter Oberacker‘s idea of developing a local plan to reopen Otsego County instead of waiting for Governor Cuomo to do so.

Both men are  running to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.

Barber Announces Run For NY Senate

Barber Announces

Run For NY Senate

Schoharie Farmer Challenges Seward

Schoharie County farmer Jim Barber, left, was joined by Congressman Paul Tonko at Barber’s announcement Saturday that he’s running for state Senate. In the center is Barber’s wife Cindy.

MIDDLEBURGH – A fifth-generation farmer and son of a former state Ag & Markets commissioner announced here Saturday he’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run for state Senate in the 10-county 51st District, which includes Otsego County.

In he wins the nomination, Jim Barber would challenge state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, next fall.

Middleburgh Farmer Runs For State Senate

Middleburgh Farmer

Runs For State Senate

Jim Barber

MIDDLEBURGH – Democrat Jim Barber, a farmer from Middleburgh, Schoharie County, announced today he’s running for state Senate  in the 51st District, which includes Otsego County.

“For generations, my family has been proud to live in this region, to run our family farm, and to invest in our communities,” Barber said in a press release.  “I am going to bring that work ethic, love of community, and ability to get results to Albany as this region’s next state senator.”

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