SLWAP reviews 2011, looks ahead to 2012

Mark Burger, SLWAP program director, gave a year in review assessment of the program at the Dec. 8 annual meeting.

Mark Burger, SLWAP program director, gave a year in review assessment of the program at the Dec. 8 annual meeting. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— It’s been an exciting and productive year of conservation for the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agriculture Program, with numerous projects successfully accomplished, new office space acquired and renewed support from state and federal elected officials, although funding is getting tight.

A review of the SLWAP’s year, as well as information sessions on farm management, forestry management and farm safety, a hot buffet lunch consisting completely of local foods and an opportunity for networking among farmers and conservationists all occurred on Dec. 8 as part of the SLWAP’s annual meeting.

The mission of the SLWAP is to carry out a cost-effective, innovative program for the farming community that upholds the high drinking water quality standards of Skaneateles Lake. The city of Syracuse established the program in 1994 as an alternative to a costly filtration system required by the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The SLWAP is a voluntary program operated out of the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District that serves portions of Onondaga, Cortland and Cayuga Counties within the watershed.

About 50 people attended the Dec. 8 meeting, including numerous farmers from mixed specialties such as crop, dairy, beef and maple; conservation agencies and groups such as Cornell Cooperative Extension and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; and representatives of various government officials such as the City of Syracuse, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform attendees on the SLWAP’s progress in 2011 and the future outlook for 2012, and to share information and best practices.

More than 2,000 acres of farmland have been planned in 2011 and 40 of the 47 farms in the watershed area participate in the SLWAP, said Mark Burger, SLWAP program manager, during his “year in review” presentation.

One of the highlights this year includes working with Skaneateles’s two vineyards – Anyela’s and Hobbit Hollow, both on West Lake Road – on conservation practices in general and on herbicide and pesticide chemical mixing stations in particular.

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