We have never been so pleased to see a year in the rearview mirror. 2020 was a year full of challenges, but it demonstrated to us that our team is one of a kind as they rose to the challenge and were able to carry on the important work that makes Miner Institute what it is. Cheers to 2021 and THANK YOU endlessly to the incredible Miner team. We certainly hope that a return to things in a more usual fashion is in store at some point this year.
For the past decade Research team member Maggie Carter and her husband, Mike Carter have organized and run an auction at the Miner Institute staff Christmas party to raise funds to benefit the JCEO. With no staff Christmas party this year due to the pandemic, we opted to try a virtual auction where we would accept auction donations and set them up in our auditorium and then sell tickets to staff over a two week period. We received nearly 60 donations for the auction, including dozens of hand knit and crocheted items from Jane Boulerice, whose items are highly coveted every year!
On December 11, we held our auction via Zoom. Mike Carter came in to help Maggie with the auctioneering. We are so pleased that we raised $1,078!! Big thanks to Maggie and Mike and to all of the staff who donated items and who purchased tickets to help support this great cause! We are so grateful to have been able to carry out this annual event and hope to be able to bring it back in person in 2021!
Cari Reynolds did not follow a typical path to Miner Institute’s research program, but she is so pleased she arrived here. “I found where I fit in,” she said of Miner Institute.
Cari grew up in Lenoxville, PA – between Binghamton, NY and Scranton, PA. She studied biology at the University of Scranton with the intention of becoming a physician, but then realized that wasn’t truly what she wanted to do. After earning her bachelor's degree in 2008, she got a job at a large pharmaceutical company doing cleaning validation on stainless steel equipment. It was a four-month contract and then she was hired by the company to help manufacture the bacterial meningitis vaccine.
“I need to find meaning in what I do for work,” Cari said. “I need to feel accomplished.” The manufacturing work was too methodic and didn’t suit her well, she said. In 2014, she moved to Boston. There, she spent a year and a half working as a quality specialist in drug manufacturing for rare diseases while working toward her masters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned a master’s degree in public health with a focus on epidemiology in 2015. She then worked managing a clinical trial for a national vascular surgery study with 150 study sites across the U.S. That job gave her good project management experience and the opportunity to travel.
But “at my very core, I was not happy,” Cari recalled. In fall 2017, Cari returned home to figure out what to do next. She said that her attitude improved once she was back home, and she realized that “you have to be happy at work.” Despite not knowing what it was she wanted to do, Cari did recognize that a positive workplace environment and meaningful work were two traits she valued.
Cari realized that she “wanted to come back to agriculture.” She grew up with dairy farms in her family and started thinking about job opportunities in agricultural public health. In September 2018, Cari said she “found Miner by accident” when the yearlong research internship job posting showed up in a search. “At a time in my life where I felt like I had nothing else to lose, I emailed Katie Ballard,” Cari remembered.
“Cari’s overall resume was certainly unique from her background and work experience to the menu-styled CV she initially sent us,” Katie said. Although the selection committee had some reservations about Cari as a candidate, they decided to do a phone interview. “What was evident from that phone conversation was Cari’s maturity, thoughtfulness in terms of what she knew she didn’t want to do and knowing that she felt drawn to ag in some form or another,” Katie recalled. “Her sense of humor was another plus and we felt she was worth an in-person visit.”
Cari was hired as the yearlong research intern in December 2018 and recently made the decision to stay on at Miner by accepting a graduate assistantship position to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Vermont. Cari is taking courses online and working on a program that focuses on improving management strategies to prevent disease in calves, and help them develop healthy, strong immune systems. This educational track “bridges the gap” between Cari’s human health interests and her interests in agriculture, as many of the diseases that affect animals can also affect humans. She hopes to focus on preventative management strategies that could help to reduce antibiotic use.
“Miner showed up in my life when I needed it most,” Cari said. “The culture here is incomparable. The people are unbelievably kind. That’s rare.” Cari said that it didn’t take her long after she first arrived at Miner to feel comfortable and like she’d found the right place for her.
Ultimately, she hopes to stay working in research because she really enjoys it. She also really enjoys writing and hopes to be a scientific writer. “Cari has a gift for writing in an engaging and humor-based style that certainly has benefitted our Farm Report readership,” Katie said. “This gift has opened doors for her to be asked to write in other ag journals that has given her a national and international audience. From the science standpoint, her background in public health has provided her a springboard for the Ph.D. program she is pursuing at UVM,” Katie said. “We’re glad to have her on our team.”
As if moving alone isn’t stressful enough, try moving with your wife and two young children thousands of miles from Japan to NY during a global pandemic! That is exactly what Hiroyuki Uchihori and his family did, when they moved to Chazy in early August.
Hiroyuki – Hiro – has just begun a two-year position here at Miner as the on-site research scientist for Zen-Noh, an agricultural cooperative in Japan. Miner Institute and Zen-Noh have had a collaborative research relationship for more than 20 years. Over that time, Zen-Noh has supported research in many areas of dairy cattle production with a focus on nutrition. Hiro said that he is looking forward to continuing the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) research that Kyohei Ishida and Akihiro Obata began while they were here at Miner.
The Uchihori family – Hiroyuki (Hiro); his wife, Yu; daughter, Misaki, 6; and son, Haruto, 3 – “are very comfortable” here, Hiro said. Yu agreed. She said she likes the space and the country atmosphere and the “nice view” out the windows of the family’s apartment at Miner Institute.
Hiro has been employed with ZenNoh for 10 years and worked as a sales consultant for the company prior to coming to Chazy. He said that he is interested in research that contributes to dairy farmers directly. He said that it is important to understand the cow, and he is specifically interested in “how to best utilize dairy science on the farm to benefit dairy farmers.”
Hiro and Yu met in college in Hokkaido where they both studied animal science. Yu worked in animal vaccine research for three years before the two were married seven years ago. Yu now keeps very busy taking care of her children and helping them to adapt to life in America. Yu said that she enjoys spending time outside, and also watching movies, reading, and watching baseball games. She also enjoys watching cooking shows and This Old House. Yu said that she is looking forward to cooking a turkey, which is something she has never done before.
Misaki and Haruto both attend Chazy Central Rural School. Misaki is in Mrs. Thume’s kindergarten class and Haruto is in pre-school. Misaki misses Japan and feels homesick for her friends and family. Both children were overjoyed when they were able to trick or treat around the Miner residential complex on Halloween. Big kudos to Steve Kramer who helped organize and to the residents who passed out candy. Hiro and Yu felt it was such a kind, welcoming gesture and their kids were really happy with their haul!
We are so pleased to have the Uchihori family here at Miner and they are looking forward to their time here and are excited to see some snow!
The Altona Flat Rock property is most famous locally for the abundance of wild blueberries that have grown there for generations. The blueberries were so plentiful that local families would camp on the property during the six-week blueberry season and sell berries to help provide for their families. The property is also well-known because of the prevalence of jack pine there. Jack pine is a species whose cones remain rock-hard until the heat of a forest fire opens them, facilitating regeneration. Both blueberries and jack pine benefit from the re-growth that occurs after a fire.
In July 2018, a fire burned 550 acres of the 15-square-mile Flat Rock property. It was the first “meaningful” fire in 60 years. For scientists and students at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Earth and Environmental Science, it was a once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity.
“I’ve been awaiting an ecologically significant fire at Flat Rock since my introduction to the pine barren in 1974,” Dr. Ken Adams, a retired SUNY Plattsburgh professor of forest ecology said in a December 2018 interview with Adirondack Explorer. “Forests are more than trees, so it’s important to understand the effects of fire on all components of a forest ecosystem, including soils, vegetation, and wildlife habitat,” Adams said. Adams was a professor in the Applied Environmental Science Program (AESP) – a collaboration between Miner Institute and SUNY Plattsburgh – for decades.
Michala Hendrick was an AESP student in 2019. Under the direction of Dr. Danielle Garneau, a wildlife ecologist at SUNY Plattsburgh, Hendrick conducted a study focusing on the small mammal community composition, abundance, and foraging patterns in the burned and unburned portions of the Flat Rock State Forest. Data were collected in fall 2018 and fall 2019. “My data collection consisted of preparing and setting Sherman live traps in the evening and retrieving them in the early morning,” Hendrick explained. “This gave us a look at differences in abundance in the burned and control area.” Hendrick said that she used Giving Up Density (GUD) surveys to learn about foraging patterns across the two sites. Seeds mixed with sand were placed in an enclosed box with a tube for animal access. After 48 hours, the seeds were weighed to determine density loss to evaluate consumption vs. potentially high risk (predator/open) habitat.
“Almost nothing about this research was easy. It was labor intensive, time-consuming and the weather was frequently working against us,” Hendrick said. “Despite these challenges, I grew professionally and personally from these experiences… This work was rewarding and I’ve now captured and released over 100 small mammals which is an incredibly unique experience for an undergraduate student. In addition, the Altona Flat Rock is a valued, globally-rare habitat that amplifies the importance of the research students and staff are conducting there.”
Hendrick, along with several other students and SUNY Plattsburgh professors participated in collaborative interdisciplinary research which was showcased in a Flat Rock Fire Conference at Miner Institute in September 2019. The conference was a collaboration between Miner Institute, SUNY Plattsburgh, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and The North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange. Students were able to present posters and discuss the research conducted at Flat Rock since the fire.
Hendrick plans to begin graduate school this month. She will be working toward a Masters of Science in Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Her graduate assistantship is funded through the National Park Service and the Old Dominion University Research Foundation. Her research will focus on visitor use management in various parks in the National Capitol Parks Region.
Fred Rogers, who hosted the popular PBS children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than 30 years, is known to have said that when he was a child and saw scary things in the news, his mother would tell him to “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Finding the helpers, and more importantly, being the helpers, is certainly one way that many people are getting through the current coronavirus pandemic.
At Miner Institute, we have built an impressive community of staff and students who time and time again step up to the plate to do what needs to be done for the Institute, but also are willing to help the broader community.
A number of Miner staff are still working regular schedules caring for the animals and the facility and several staff members have had to adapt to virtual teaching schedules to continue our Advanced Dairy Management semester remotely.
Additionally, several staff members have pulled out their sewing machines and have been making masks to donate to organizations locally who need them. Residents of the Miner housing complex teamed up to pick up trash along Ridge Road while also practicing social distancing. And staff and their families are coming up with creative ways to make quarantine fun. Research Team Member Maggie Carter is hosting themed dinner nights at her house. She has done Royal dinner with maple glazed pork chops and twice baked potatoes; western dinner with chili; IHOP dinner with pancakes, crepes, bacon and sausage; fair dinner with hamburgers, fries in paper cups and milkshakes. Her family even sometimes dresses up to match the theme!
William and Alice Miner were steadfast in their support of the North Country and their philanthropic work continues to benefit the region 90 years after William Miner's death. In our efforts to carry on the Miner legacy, we are brainstorming ways to continue making a difference in both the agricultural community and the North Country community.
Be safe and well!
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that we currently find ourselves in, it seems like William Miner's words from 1915 have never been truer. "No other occupation is so vitally important to the human race, nor requires such a wide range of practical and technical knowledge, as farming."
The production of safe, healthy food is essential and even during a pandemic where people around the North Country, New York State, and the world, are being urged to stay home to slow the spread of this virus, cows still need to be milked, crops need to be harvested, animals need to be fed, and food products need to be made available to consumers.
At Miner Institute, dairy, maintenance, equine, and research staff have been carrying on their regular schedules caring for the buildings and animals and making sure that our cows continue to be milked three times a day.
Shaun Castine said that things aren’t really much different for him milking cows. He said he isn’t a big fan of crowds anyway, so the social distancing part isn’t especially hard for him. ShyAnne Koehler agreed that things aren’t vastly different for her either. She typically works mostly by herself this time of year caring for the Miner Morgans, or alongside Karen Lassell.
Dan Belrose from the maintenance department said that they are carrying on much like usual, although they are disinfecting trucks multiple times per day and doing the same in the breakroom. In addition, the team is trying to keep several feet of distance between each other and other staff members.
One of the biggest differences is that the Institute is pretty quiet. On any average weekday, staff and students congregate over lunch in the Miner cafeteria, which is currently closed. It is an epicenter of social activity, where the lunchtime conversations really run the gamut! Undoubtedly one of the most notable differences for staff still at Miner is the need to pack a lunch every day.
Much of Miner Institute staff are working remotely from home, but are not lacking in gratitude for the teammates who are still making it to work everyday and keeping the Institute going. Few organizations are fortunate enough to have such a skilled, dedicated staff that believe in the mission and are willing to go the extra mile to do what needs to be done. Our staff genuinely care for the animals, the students, the research, the mission. Even when so much seems so very uncertain, we can be sure that we will make it through this.
For the second year in a row, Miner Institute and The Alice T. Miner Museum helped to ensure that area school kids weren't too bored during their winter break by offering a Beat the Boredom program. The event was held on Feb. 20 at The Alice and Feb. 21 at the Institute.
News Channel 5 Reporter Jackie Pascale came to both locations for live interviews to promote the program during the 5 am to 7 am newscast on Feb. 20.
The program at The Alice featured craft projects using silhouettes, optical illusions, and sun photography. There were more than 20 kids who attended and they all seemed to have a great time!
Those who attended the program at the Institute were able to make a bird feeder with Point Au Roche State Park Naturalist Kristin Collins; make 30-minute mozzarella cheese with Director of Lab Studies Steve Kramer; play corn hole; and do a scavenger hunt around the BERC building where they got to eat Cabot cheese, learn about dairy cow feeds, learn about how we use cannulated cows in our research program, play pin the tail on the horse, and sit on an English or Western saddle! We had around 30 kids who attended and a great time was had!! We certainly will plan a 3rd Annual Beat the Boredom program in collaboration with The Alice in 2021!
As we gear up for another Open House this summer on August 8, it is hard not to take a moment to reflect on the phenomenal team we have here at Miner. Across all departments, there is collaboration and cohesion and a genuine willingness to pitch in to help Miner Institute to thrive.
In addition to having a mission that employees feel passionate about, we have a great company culture at Miner Institute, and honestly that is almost as important as the mission. We work hard to create a workplace that is supportive and accommodating. A good company culture promotes employee morale; and happy employees are more productive and motivated, and more pleasant to work with!
Everyday we try to embody the values and vision of William Miner. Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh applies Miner’s philosophy of “uniting head, hands, and heart” to its approach to medicine; in many ways we implement a similar approach here at the Institute. Our staff and students, through research and education are able to demonstrate best management practices for agriculture and environmental stewardship. As an organization, we also endorse giving back to the community and encourage staff involvement in charitable events.
To put it simply, Miner Institute is a fantastic place to work and to visit.
Here are a few stats from the 2019 report to the Board of Trustees:
At Miner Institute, the research we do has important implications for the community as agriculture accounts for 17% of the land use in the Lake Champlain Basin. Our research has a societal benefit as we look at the intersection between agriculture and the environment, where water quality and health of the ecosystem meet agriculture production for commodities we all enjoy and consume. The research fields for my graduate research are planted with corn for silage, which is the most common source of forage for dairy cattle in the North East. The fields have poorly-drained soils, like much of the soils in the Lake Champlain Watershed, and require drainage improvements. Drainage improvements can be a combination of surface and subsurface improvements. My research focuses on two fields, one that is tile drained and another that is undrained. Tile drainage is a type of drainage that removes water from below the soil surface and can help maximize yields and improve field trafficability. The fields are monitored year-round for nutrient loading in surface and tile drainage. The nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus have important implications for water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin, so it is essential to monitor the fields. As the climate changes, we may have more intense rainfall events, and it is crucial to understand where that water is going and what nutrients are being transported.
Back in November, I presented a poster on my research at the tri-society meeting (American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America) in San Antonio, TX. The conference attracted nearly 4000 attendees, including scientists, researchers, and students. My poster concentrated on phosphorus and nitrogen exports from the fields since the study began in March 2018, which is part of my thesis. The objective of the poster was to evaluate the impacts of tile drainage on-field hydrology and edge-of-field nutrient export from fields managed as corn for silage. I really enjoyed hearing presentations from researchers' work that I have read. Information ranged from forest soils to remote sensing, wetland information, cold weather implications, and tile drainage.
Student posters at the conference were judged on quality of presentation, originality of the work, and interpretation of the experimental results. In the Soil & Water Management & Conservation Division, my poster was among 20 other posters from students around the country. It earned a first place ranking for the division! Following the completion of my master's degree in late 2020, I hope to continue working in the environmental water quality field. I would love to have a job where I am working with society and the environment, ensuring a healthy and productive ecosystem.
-- Leanna Thalmann