As a member of a team of people who helped organize and coordinate an agriculture talk given by Dr. Temple Grandin in late October at Beekmantown High School, I set up a Miner Institute display along with other displays showcasing student projects and the other partners who had collaborated on the event. A young woman holding a Miner Institute annual report caught my eye and I struck up a conversation with her. She indicated that she was a student at UVM and had traveled from Burlington to see Dr. Grandin. She told me that Dr. Grandin’s story had inspired her to study wildlife and fisheries biology in college. She choked back tears, as did I, as she told me that as an autistic woman Dr. Grandin has been an idol to her.
Dr. Grandin is a world-renowned autism advocate, best-selling author, animal welfare and behavior expert and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is well known for relating her personal experience as someone with autism to provide an interesting perspective on how thinking differently can provide opportunities. She has been able to utilize her specialized thinking to help her better understand animal behavior and has designed livestock handling facilities that are used widely around the globe because they are less stressful for animals.
Dr. Grandin arrived on a Tuesday evening. She travels with two assistants who also take care of book sales for her. Dr. Grandin stayed at the Lundy Guest House at Miner Institute. Her day on Wednesday included an autism talk at the Rainbow Banquet Hall with 900 people followed by lunch and a book signing. She then came for a quick tour of Miner Institute’s barns before heading to dinner with folks from the Autism Alliance of Northeastern NY – who funded her trip to the North Country – followed by the evening agriculture-focused talk at Beekmantown High School. On Thursday morning before heading to Rhode Island for her next event, Dr. Grandin visited with some Miner Institute staff, local farmers, and animal science students from Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont.
I worked with Sara Bull from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County; Anja Bouchard from the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System; and Veronique Krohn, Agricultural Education Teacher & FFA Advisor at Beekmantown High School. We worked on the logistics and details for the talk at Beekmantown High School, although Anja also coordinated travel plans and scheduling with Dr. Grandin’s team.
Veronique and the entire Beekmantown Central School community – students and faculty alike – pulled out all the stops to showcase their school and their programs. It was truly incredible to see such teamwork and camaraderie on display as everything came together for a really great event.
"Many of my students were completely blown away by the experience. They said they couldn't believe how well spoken she was and that she seemed very grounded and true to her roots. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that they will remember for years to come," Veronique said adding that $300 was raised to benefit the FFA program at Beekmantown through the sale of raffle tickets at the event.
When I first sat down in fall 2017 to start discussing plans to bring Dr. Grandin to the North Country, I was excited to be a part of making it happen. I had no idea that I was embarking on something that would be truly transformative.
- Rachel Dutil
For nearly 40 years, the vision and leadership of Dr. Joseph C. Burke helped shape Miner Institute into the organization it is today. Dr. Burke spent years tirelessly researching and then writing a comprehensive biography of William Miner, bringing Miner’s incredible story to the North Country that has so greatly benefitted from his generosity. Dr. Burke was passionate about preserving the legacy of William and Alice Miner and ensuring that their vision for the North Country continues to live on. Dr. Burke passed away at his home in Albany on Aug. 3, 2018. A celebration of his life was organized by his family and held at Miner Institute on Oct. 6.
Expressing exactly what Dr. Burke has meant for Miner Institute is difficult to put into words. Dr. Burke was an unusually involved and engaged chair of the board, spending countless hours walking around the Miner grounds interacting with employees and visitors and was genuinely interested in getting to know the staff and students who were helping to carry out William Miner’s vision.
The Heart’s Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit opened in 2003 – 100 years after William and Alice Miner started building Heart’s Delight Farm. The exhibit pays tribute to William and Alice Miner and the development of their expansive farm in the early 1900s. The exhibit attracts nearly 2000 visitors annually, providing Miner Institute with an opportunity to showcase all that William Miner has done for the North Country and also helping to familiarize the general public with agriculture – past and present as our horse and dairy barns are also open to visitors. The exhibit’s existence is due in large part to Dr. Burke’s insistence that William Miner’s story be preserved and shared and his vision for how that could be accomplished.
On October 9, 2012 Miner Institute dedicated its main education building as the Joseph C. Burke Education and Research Center. In remarks he gave at the dedication ceremony, Dr. Burke said “My name on this building really stands for all who have labored for over half a century to make William Miner’s dream a reality.” Dr. Burke said that he was honored to have a Miner Institute building bear his name, but added that it was really about the Spirit of Heart’s Delight Farm and the people who work at Miner Institute. “You’re part of a larger thing that’s gone on and on,” Dr. Burke said to the staff in attendance. “The trees and the fields are beautiful, but they’ve always been there. It’s really the people working together that makes all the difference in the world.”
Dr. Burke would undoubtedly count strategic planning as his proudest accomplishment for Miner Institute. In 2012, Dr. Burke remarked that strategic planning was the contribution he was most proud of for Miner Institute, because he recognized how important it was for any organization to measure and achieve its goals. “He was so passionate about understanding and ensuring that William Miner’s vision for the Institute endured. He constantly pushed us to consider our mission – research, education, and demonstration – and how we could achieve the next milestone. He was never satisfied with the status quo – no matter how successful it might be. He would ask: ‘What’s next? How can we do a better job of pushing forward Miner’s legacy?’ He constantly encouraged us to keep moving forward,” Dr. Rick Grant said.
Dr. Burke’s leadership and insight will be dearly missed but never forgotten.
Here at Miner Institute, we all love a good competition, especially if it is also raising money for charity, so in September we put together a team of athletic trash talkers to represent Miner Institute at the third annual ETS Corporate Kickball Challenge. The Miner Threat was one of 18 teams that played in the tournament on a warm, sunny Saturday at the US Oval. The tournament raised $1900 -- half of the funds went to the United Way of the Adirondack Region, the other half went to the winning team's charity of choice. WB Mason's team won the tournament and directed $950 to the FitzPatrick Cancer Center. The Miner Threat put up a good fight, had fun, and are already looking forward to the 2019 tourney!
The New York State Agricultural Society was organized in 1832 to “foster, promote and improve the New York State food and agricultural industry through education, leadership development and recognition programs.” With less than 2% of the United States population involved in agriculture, agricultural advocacy is important to help educate consumers about how their food is grown. In 2014, the society launched an ambassador program to help young people pursuing a career in agriculture to develop leadership skills and broaden their awareness of issues within the industry.
Miner Institute Research Technician Amber Bornt is an alumni of the Ambassador Scholars program at Cornell University and participated in a full-day program on Aug. 24 at the NY State Fair in Syracuse. The theme for the day was “agvocacy” and was supported by Bayer CropScience. “This opportunity allowed my peers and I to see just how diverse NY agriculture is,” said Amber. “It also showed us how the NYS Fair bridges the gap from farm to consumers allowing the public to get an insider perspective of how farms actually work. Where else can you see a cow give birth, and then enjoy a glass of NYS milk for just 25 cents?”
The day was set up with a number of different stations that Ambassadors visited, Amber said. They visited the Dairy Cow Birthing Center, which is one of the most well-attended exhibits at the fair; they visited the NY State Beef Council; the Future Farmers of America; and they watched an equine show. At each station, the ambassadors learned how that group was advocating for their sector of NY agriculture. The most consistent message from everyone, Amber said, was to keep your information consumer friendly. Essentially, make the message easy to understand for folks outside of agriculture and don’t use terms that are not commonly known outside of the industry.
Amber said that the experience was excellent and it energized her about advocating for agriculture.
Nine Ambassador Scholars attended the NYS Fair August 24, 2018 to polish their leadership and advocacy skills with the assistance of LEAD NY, NY Animal Agriculture Coalition, NY Beef Industry Council, NY FFA, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Daniel Parrish Witter Agricultural Museum, and equine organizations located at the NYS Fair Coliseum. The event was sponsored by the NYS Agricultural Society Foundation. From L to R: Christina Hall, Jacob Ernst, Amber Bornt, Emily Hiller, Sarah Peavey, Lucy Shephard, Sayvanna SFabian, Ashley Howlett, Megan Clancy.
Dairy Herdsperson Anna Pape says that Clinton County Fair week is always "a fun but exhausting week." One of her favorite parts, she says, is showing off the genetics of the herd. "Every year we seem to bring a better and better group of animals ... even if they don't win first place against other farms, we know that we've improved the herd over the last year and that is very satisfying!"
The picnic tables near the Miner cows in the dairy barn at the fair is a great place to catch up and socialize with some of the other farmers exhibiting at the fair. Miner Institute provides coffee and donuts for dairy exhibitors every morning of fair week.
Here is a summary of how our "girls" did:
Research Scientist Heather Dann's son, Jake Perkins showed a March calf with 4-H and she placed 8th out of 12 animals. It was his first time showing and he did a great job training his animal and taking care of her at the fair. Heather says that Jake nicknamed 3385 "Houdini" since she was good at untying the halter slip knot. Jake learned a lot and had lots of help from Miner staff. Bethann Caston and the calf feeders helped care for the calf while he was training her on the calf hill; Victoria Vendetta provided clipping and fitting advice; Steve Couture provided general support and transported the animals to and from the farm to the fair.
In 1918, as World War I was winding down, there was a national effort to support the American Red Cross. A successful weeklong drive in Chazy raised $1,410 in support of soldiers and their families. To celebrate this accomplishment, William and Alice Miner hosted a community event at Heart’s Delight Farm in May 1918. The 1918 event hosted at Heart’s Delight Farm inspired the recent Centennial Summer Fair co-hosted by The Alice T. Miner Museum and Miner Institute and held at Miner Institute in Chazy. The 2018 Summer Fair featured wagon rides provided by Country Dreams Farm; an equine demonstration by Miner Morgans; a dance demonstration by Dance Plattsburgh; a World War I exhibit with artifacts from the Clinton County Historical Association, the Lyon Mountain Mining and Railroad Museum and The Alice T. Miner Museum. Parker Family Maple Farm offered maple ice cream to attendees and popcorn provided by Ballard Acres Farm was available. Rick Laurin, a board member and volunteer at The Alice T Miner Museum and his wife, Priscilla, churned butter and offered it to visiters on bread or crackers. In keeping with the generous spirit that prompted the 1918 event, we accepted donations for the United Way of the Adirondack Region, raising just over $400.
Back Row L to R: Cassie Magdziarz, Summer Experience in Equine Management from West Texas A&M University; Katrina Klobucher, Summer Experience in Farm Management from University of Massachusetts Amherst; Laura Livingston, Summer Experience in Farm Management from Michigan State University; Lynn Olthof, Summer Experience in Farm Management from Michigan State University; Alexandra Banks, Summer Experience in Farm Management from the University of Maine; Maddie Bennett, Summer Experience in Equine Management from the University of Idaho; Catie Ott, Summer Experience in Equine Management from Pennsylvania State University. Front Row L to R: Emily Fread, Summer Experience in Agricultural Research from North Carolina State University; Anna Zhigareva, Summer Experience in Equine Management from the University of Edinburgh; Alyssa Pobocik, Summer Experience in Equine Management from SUNY Cobleskill; Jazmin Markey, Summer Experience in Agricultural Research from Delaware Valley University; Tori Daniels, Summer Experience in Agricultural Research from the University of Illinois; and Dominique D'Huyvetter, Summer Experience in Agricultural Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Harry Randy served as president of Miner Institute from 1988 until his unexpected death in 1991. Harry was passionate about dairy cows and working with dairy producers. To honor Harry’s memory and the mission of Miner Institute, we decided to use money from the Harry Randy Education Fund (established in the early 1990s after Harry’s death) to annually support an attendee from Dairy Day with a free trip to the western United States with our Advanced Dairy Management students.
“Each year, the trip out west offers a unique educational opportunity for our dairy management students. Students enjoy having producers join them on the trip and it benefits both the producer and the students in a variety of ways,” said Dairy Outreach Coordinator Wanda Emerich.
Michael Duncan owns and operates a 50-cow dairy farm in Ormstown, Quebec. He is in the process of transferring the farm to his son, who will be the fourth generation in his family to farm there. Michael has been an attendee at Miner Institute’s Dairy Day event for decades, and it’s where Michael met Harry in the 1980s. Michael was the inaugural winner of the Harry Randy Memorial Award; Michael and his daughter Melissa accompanied Wanda, Dairy Farm Manager Steve Couture and our five Advanced Dairy Management students on a trip to California in February. The group visited several farms in the Central Valley, toured San Francisco, and attended the World Ag Expo. Michael called it “the trip of a lifetime” and also noted that it was his first time on an airplane in 32 years!
Visiting California has been on Michael's bucket list, he said, adding that the water situation there was surprising. “I always knew CA was dry, but nothing prepared me for the extent to which the Central Valley is essentially a desert with irrigation. There are almost no trees. We can stay here in the Northeast, thank you very much. I would much rather deal with too much rain than in-house fighting over irrigation water,” Michael said. He was excited to visit an almond orchard and see a dairy larger than any other he’d visited previously. Michael also enjoyed discussing irrigation and the associated politics with a farm owner.
“This trip in honor of Harry was very special to me having known him so well,” Michael said. “My last hope is that Harry is smiling down on us all. He would have been standing first in line for the bus beside me!”
The winner for the 2019 trip will be chosen at Dairy Day in December 2018.
The Adirondack Coast was deliciously-well represented at the annual New York Farm Bureau Taste NY reception in Albany on March 5. Our region's spread included hard cider, wine, beer, cheese, maple syrup, maple candy, and cider doughnuts. Rachel Dutil helped to represent Miner Institute and the region, urging folks to visit the Adirondack Coast, while passing out food samples and Miner Institute stress relief -- horse and cow squeezies. The Taste NY event featured about 200 farmers from around the state showcasing their products and interacting with state lawmakers and their staff. The event precedes the Farm Bureau Lobby Day, which took place on March 6.
The packed house at our recent Comedy for a Cause event reinforced the notion that the United Way of the Adirondack Region is a trusted resource for countless people in our community. More than 140 people turned out on Feb. 9 to laugh along with the incredibly funny and talented Completely Stranded comedy group and helped us to raise nearly $900, which all went to the United Way of the Adirondack Region. That $900 combined with employee payroll deductions and money raised at an auction at the Miner employee Christmas party brought the Miner Institute 2018 contribution to $4,787. We are proud of that contribution and are so grateful for the wonderful work that the United Way does for the North Country.
"We are so grateful for the generous support that the Miner Institute provides to our organization. The employees exemplify the true spirit of kindness, generosity and compassion. It is a privilege to be a vehicle of their community spirit and it is a relationship that we value greatly on many different levels."
-- John Bernardi, CEO, United Way of the Adirondack Region
Learn more about the United Way of the Adirondack Region