AALP Class 16 started Day 4 of our North American Study Tour in the New York State capital of Albany with a breakfast speaker. Jackie Lendrum from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation shared her experiences with water quality regulations and issues primarily with dairy farms in the state. Dairy is the largest agriculture sector in New York State and the largest dairy farm in the state, Willet Farms, has over 9,000 dairy cows.
With our minds (and bellies) full, we loaded back onto the bus for a full day of farm tours around the Saratoga, NY area.
Our first stop was the Tiashoke Farm where they milk 1,100 cows and crop 2,200 acres. The name of the farm comes from the Iroquois native that means "meeting of the waters." Brian, Stuart and Eric are brothers that work on the farm together and they toured us through the barns.
As with Canadian farmers, public perception is very important to them so they host farm tours, like Sundays on the Farm, to promote ag education. Stuart's wife, Jessica, also plays an important role in Ag education on and off the farm as the Executive Director of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition and is a past LEAD NY grad, which is a sister organization to AALP.
Our next stop was at Saratoga Sod Farms where they have 600 acres of turf and 500 acres cash crop. Their season is driven by customers and weather – they can operate almost year round as long as there is no frost or snow on the ground. They seed once per year in Aug/Sept then harvest 18-24 months later. They may rotate with corn and beans, or continuous crop sod. All harvesting and transportation is done by their own staff and equipment.
We continued down the road to Hand Melons where John Hand told us the story of how his grandpa started the business and gained brand recognition with the "rich and famous" at the Saratoga horse races. John has since diversified and also grows 6 acres of pick your own strawberries and 2 acres of blueberries, a variety of vegetables, a mail-order melon business, as well as operating a farm market.
Our final stop of the day was at Tim Biello's farm. Tim is also the NY Project Manager & Hudson Valley Farmlink Network Coordinator for the American Farmland Trust. Tim's goal is to make a living off of his farm, on which he has a lease-to-own contract. He wants to start with 6 acres of vegetables and, as he is passionate about horses, uses heavy horses for much of the field work.
We finished off the day in Saratoga Springs with the local Farmers Market and then we all enjoyed the local restaurants Cantina and Max London and we highly recommend the food and drinks (see margaritas, left!) if you're ever in the area. The area is famous for battlefields from the Revolutionary war, so there are many sites to see, farms to tour and food to enjoy!