February 19, 2008
Use by February 24, 2008
Contacts: Laurie Davis, Westport, 518-962-4810; Bernadette Logozar, Malone, 518-483-7403; Roz Cook, Watertown, 315-788-8450; for photos: karalynn@gisco.net

Going Organic Workshops Feature NY State Specialist, Local Farmers Feb. 25-27

A series of three Going Organic in the North Country workshops will feature Organic Agriculture Specialist Sarah Johnston of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and local organic and �almost organic� farmers. The workshops are set for 6-9 pm February 25 at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County in Westport, 6-9 pm February 26 at North Country Community College in Malone, and 1-4 pm February 27 at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County in Watertown.

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, who formerly served as executive director of Northeast Organic Faming Association of New York, will speak on the unique opportunities and challenges for organic producers and the factors driving consumer interest in organic products.

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.

Johnston says, �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.�

State Specialist, local farmers, processor to speak in Westport
Locally-based speakers will join Johnston in Westport on February 25. Sam Sherman, owner-operator of Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY, will talk about the opportunity for crop producers to produce and sell grains to his mill, the necessary production standards and on-farm storage of food-grade grains.

�We could use 6,000 or more acres� worth of winter and spring wheat grown in Northern New York,� says Sherman, who is actively seeking regional farmers to supply grains for processing into flours for the commercial and home baking of breads, pastries, cookies and cakes. �I am interested in specific varieties of wheat grown to specific production standards.�

Also on the Westport agenda is Beth Spaugh of Rehoboth Homestead of Peru, NY, who will speak about marketing her produce, poultry and flowers with and without official organic certification. Spaugh raises chickens, and sells eggs, broilers, 50-plus kinds of vegetables, cut flowers, medicinal herbs, hay and ornamentals. She will about how consumer attitude presents both a hurdle and hope for growing the organically-produced products markets in Northern New York.

Also at the Westport program, E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm Michael Davis will share his experiences with the organic certification process, the production of several different crops, and how organic and non-organic crop production compare at the Willsboro farm. In 1994, 20 acres at the Baker Farm were set aside for organic crop trials with six acres dedicated to certified organic production. With funding support from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, crops are evaluated for seeding rates and depth, row spacing, starter and sidedress fertilizer needs, weed and pest control, equipment, post-harvest handling and processing, and production costs vs. returns.

Johnston and �almost organic� farmers speak in Malone February 26
Jo Ellen Saumier of Kirbside Gardens in Chateaugay, NY, grows vegetables on two acres. She markets gourmet varieties, �patriotic potatoes,� and fresh-picked produce packaged with recipes. Beginning farmers Roseanne and Tom Gallagher of Magic Earth Farm in Malone, NY, have taken the Farmer�s Pledge of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY). The Gallaghers are reclaiming abandoned farmland and are raising their livestock and vegetables using organic farming methods.

Saumier and the Gallaghers will speak about their different �almost organic� production and marketing practices as part of the �Going Organic in the North Country� 6-9 pm workshop February 26 at North County Community College in Malone. Organic Agriculture Specialist Sarah Johnston of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will keynote that program.

Watertown program features 20-year organic grower, new poultry producer, Island growers
At the February 27 Going Organic in the North Country workshop in Watertown, Dick de Graff of Grindstone Farm, Pulaski, will share his experiences as a 20-year certified organic grower and operator of a Community Supported Agriculture farm business, selling locally in Oswego and Jefferson counties, to about 160 families in the Syracuse, and through an 11,000-member co-op in Brooklyn. De Graff sells organic fruits, vegetables and flowers direct from the farm and at farmers markets, and offers special days for u-pick blueberries on the 150-acre farm he operates with his wife Victoria, son Lucas, farm employees and CSA volunteers.

After one year as a NOFA-certified poultry and egg producer, Holly Sakowich is increasing from two breeds to five, and from 50 to 150 chickens at her Theresa, NY, farm. Sakowich will share her experiences as a start-up farm enterprise owner at the February 27 workshop. She will talk about start-up costs; the feeding, housing and healthcare of her chickens; and the unique challenges and opportunities of organic production.

Sakowich says, �We have reclaimed land that had not been used for thirty years and began our small family farming enterprise in 2007. Our markets have quickly expanded so we are increasing our size to meet the demand for organic poultry, hay, and produce.�

David Belding and Dani Baker of Cross Island Farms are the only certified organic farmers on Wellesley Island. In fact, they are the Island�s only farmers. Belding and Baker will speak at the Watertown workshop about organically growing vegetables on five-sixteenths of an acre. They sell produce, honey, and maple products to island residents, to campers who visit nearby Wellesley Island State Park, and to area restaurant and private chefs. They operate a CSA (community-supported agriculture) in the Clayton area, and have recently added livestock � a pair of pigs, planted a small vineyard, and applied for a certified organic greenhouse license.

The free programs were organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension with support from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. 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).