January 28, 2008

Rosalind Cook, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Jefferson County, 315-788-8450
Laurie Davis, Adirondack Harvest, CCE of Essex County, 518-962-4810
Bernadette Logozar, CCE of Franklin County, 518-483-7403

State Specialist to Speak on Going Organic on Farms in NNY February 25-27

When New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker announced the hiring of Organic Agriculture Specialist Sarah Johnston, he said her job is to help farmers statewide �take advantage of the expanding consumer demand for organic foods.� Johnston will keynote �Going Organic in the North Country� presentations to be held in Essex County on February 25, in Franklin County February 26, and in Jefferson County February 27.

Johnston, who formerly served as executive director of Northeast Organic Faming Association of New York and an environmental policy assistant with State Attorney Robert Abrams (1987-1996), will speak on the unique opportunities and challenges for organic producers and the factors driving consumer interest in organic products.

Local farmers producing vegetables, fruits, maple syrup, and poultry, and those working toward certification, will share their experiences as certified and �almost� organic farmers as part of the free programs organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension. They will share production, packaging and marketing tips.

Johnston says the number of certified organic producers in New York State nearly doubled from 374 at the end of 2004 to 736 at the end of 2007, based on information provided to the state by Northeast Organic Faming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) and other certifying organizations.

The NOFA NY website states that �the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides are prohibited in certified organic production.� It further notes that �plant disease and pests are controlled through the use of crop rotations, resistant varieties, cultivation, biological pest controls and botanical controls, and that Animal health is maintained with wholesome food, adequate shelter, access to the outdoors and preventive health plans.�

The Current State of Organic Farming in NNY
�Efforts across the North Country and statewide from organic crop trials at the Cornell E. V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro to on-farm organic corn and soybean trials are all building a foundation that will reduce the risk and make organic production a more certain agricultural business opportunity,� Johnston says.

One example of the potential for organic production is with small grains. Johnston says the Green Market organizers in New York City had to postpone asking their breadmaking vendors to source their grains from organic growers in New York State, because a large enough supply does not yet exist. Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY (Essex County) purchases and processes winter wheat organically grown in the region and buys in grains from outside New York State to make flours.

�Hay, corn and small grains may be viable options for farmers who are interested in selling directly to certified organic dairy, poultry and livestock farmers, who must feed their animals a strict organic diet and are currently purchasing product from outside the area,� Johnston says.

Johnston will also speak about the various markets open to organic producers, including food manufacturers already sourcing New York products, and the organic marketing initiatives of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. There will also be time for Q&A.

The February 25th program in Essex County will be held from 6-9 pm at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Westport. The February 26th program in Franklin County will be held from 6-9 pm at North Country Community College, Room 111, in Malone. The February 27th program in Jefferson County will be held from 1-4 pm at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Watertown.

For more information on the free programs, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex (518-962-4810), Franklin (518-483-7403) or Jefferson County (315-788-8450). These meetings are made possible by Cornell Cooperative Extension with support from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (nnyagdev.org). # # #