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AALP Class 14 North American Study Tour - July 14, 2012

It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of our AALP Class 14 North American Study Tour today.

Our way home north started with a stop in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania- a small scenic town nestled in low hills along the Susquehanna River.  Here Class 14 met with Rick Vilello, the four-time mayor of Lock Haven, and also a graduate of the PA RULE program.  Rick attributed his success as mayor to his philosophy of being willing to, “try anything, knowing some things will fail and some things will succeed.”   A striking example was how he facilitated the funding of the revitalization of Main Street without tax dollars at a time when the small city was faced with high unemployment and loss of local industry.  Called the Banner Program, citizens of the city could, for a fee, have a banner hung from a lamppost that celebrated a war veteran from their family.  The program was so successful that in the first year alone 367 banners were “sold” – much higher than the anticipated 50!  In this way the infrastructure of the town was updated, families celebrated the military service of their loved ones, and through the local newspaper, city history was woven together through the stories of the veterans.

Our next and final stop of the trip was in Elba, New York.  Here we met with Jurian Bartelse (who hails from Cambridge, Ontario) of Provitello Farms and Jeanne Wormuth of CY Farms Heifer Growing Facility/CY Vegetable Farms. 

Provitello Farms, owned by the Canadian company Grober, was created in Elba, NY in 2005 as a direct result of the BSE crisis in 2003.  Here they built an innovative veal finishing facility focusing on optimizing technology as well as the comfort and care of their livestock.  Although very automated, staff visit the barns twice daily as the manager believes that, “it is important to always stay one on one with the calves.”

Jeanne Wormuth demonstrated her passion for raising heifers in a unique business structure.  CY Heifer is a subsidiary of CY Vegetable Farms.  While both divisions are operated as separate businesses, they are fully integrated.  For example, the manure generated by the cattle is used as fertilizer in the vegetable operations and the vegetable operations (which also grows cash crops) provides feed for the heifers.

As we write this we are approaching the Canada-US border with nine full and meaningful days behind us.  This study tour has given us an appreciation of the diverse types of farming that occurs in New York, Pennsylvania and the Maryland/Chesapeake Bay region.  Though the commodities produced were similar to those produced in Ontario, some differences, in particular regulatory differences, were striking to many of the members of the AALP class. 

These nine days have also given us the opportunity to really get to know our classmates and to engage in a wide range of discussions and activities - both on “official” time and off!   A special thank you to Kathie and Rick for shepherding us and sharing our experiences during these nine days – and we cannot forget a big thank you to our fearless bus driver, “brakey” Dave!

We now approach the world’s longest undefended border with a better understanding of ourselves and our neighbours, and with that a better appreciation of how much we depend on each other.

Natalie Feisthauer, Mark Hermann – Class 14

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