Dec 19, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
It’s been a tough year for local agriculture, but there were still many conservation successes in the Skaneateles Lake watershed area in 2012, attendees of the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agriculture Program annual meeting were told last week.
About 40 farmers, conservation specialists and officials and a representative from the office of State Senator John A. DeFrancisco attended the meeting Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Skaneateles Presbyterian Church. The meeting offered not only a year in the review for the SLWAP but also panel discussions on “Green practices to help your bottom line” and a talk on crop insurance from a crop insurance specialist.
“It’s been a really busy year; a challenging year with the economy, the drought and everything in between,” said SLWAP Program Manager Mark Burger.
The program’s mission 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 SLWAP is a cooperative effort between the City of Syracuse, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Cornell Cooperative Extension associations of Onondaga, Cortland and Cayuga counties, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Skaneateles Lake watershed farmers. Principal funding is provided by the City of Syracuse.
There are 48 farms that participate in the SLWAP, and during 2012 the SLWAP completed 20 Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan reviews (to evaluate all aspects of farm production and offer conservation practices that help achieve production and natural resource conservation goals) and 40 annual Whole Farm Plan reviews (to evaluate current conditions and practices on the farm, with the development of alternatives for both the business enterprise and water quality protection), Burger said.
The program also implemented numerous Best Management Practices at farms throughout the area for issues such as manure storage, gully erosion, clean rainwater collection, pasture rotation, stream bed and bank stabilization and effective cover crop planting.
The SLWAP received nearly $75,000 in grant funding from state and federal agencies during the past year, and recently submitted four grant applications to New York state that would, if approved, bring in $1.43 million and allow for the implementation of 44 Best Management Practices on 19 farms in Onondaga County, Burger said.
After the year in review, a panel of local farmers discussed four areas of ‘green’ Best Management Practices that both benefit resource conservation and help the agri-business profit.
Jim Greenfield and Eric Brayman talked about soil sampling, and how regular soil sampling of crop fields can help to establish optimum crop fertility requirements. They also discussed nutrient management and manure management plans, and how utilizing animal manure at effective rates with immediate soil incorporation best meets crop needs.
Brad Cates, of Co-Vale Holsteins in Otisco, led a lively discussion on cover crops, what types of crops work better or best, which ones can cause issues when spring comes, when to plant, how cover crops prevent soil erosion and how certain crops can be utilized in spring either as livestock feed or as fertilizer for spring planting when plowed under.
“For the amount of dollars spent, there is no other way to get as much conservation as cover cropping,” Cates said.
The final panel discussion, but also a lively discussion, was led by Greenfield and Erin Hull, who is the agriculture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Onondaga County, about pest scouting. The theme of the discussion was that having an Integrated Pest Management crop scouting plan during the growing season can reduce pesticide usage and preserve crop yields for harvest.
“Scouting is extremely important,” Hull said. “Number one, it’s free.” Scouting for pests can prevent the unnecessary spraying of chemicals on crops, or, by knowing when to spray, it can prevent the loss of crops to an infestation of bugs, Hull said. “Just by taking 15 minutes a week, it will save a ton on pesticides,” she said.
Also at the meeting, special recognition was given to two long-serving individuals in the agriculture community who retired recently: Lee Macbeth of the City of Syracuse Water Department and Ron Podolak of the Cayuga County Soil & Water Conservation District.
After a hot buffet of local foods served by Vernak Farms, Charlie Coynes of NYS Ag & Markets presented “What you need to know about crop insurance.”
For more information on the SLWAP or what was discussed at the annual meeting, contact Program Manager Mark Burger at 457-0325 or email email@example.com, or visit the new office location at 6680 Onondaga Lake Parkway, Liverpool.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.