April 13, 2019 marked the annual Day of Caring -- a day of community service organized and championed by the United Way of the Adirondack Region. This year, 714 volunteers worked on 61 projects across Clinton, Franklin, and Essex Counties.
Miner Institute teamed up with The Alice T. Miner Museum to coordinate, along with United Way, a group of volunteers including 8 folks from Johns Manville in Plattsburgh to clean up the Riverview Cemetery in Chazy. Volunteers enjoyed temperatures in the 60s, sunny skies, and delicious raspberry filled cookies, courtesy of the Miner Institute cafeteria!
Land for Riverview Cemetery was donated in 1811 by Dr. Nathan Carver. The older section of the cemetery includes stones that date back nearly 200 years. In 1926, William Miner built a chapel and then a mausoleum in 1927. The mausoleum is the final resting place for William and Alice Miner, their infant son William Jr., and Alice's three sisters. The Miner Foundation owns and maintains the chapel and mausoleum.
When Alexandra Banks arrived at Miner Institute in May 2018 to participate in the Summer Experience in Farm Management program, she planned to ultimately go to vet school. Now, though, she is a few months into her year-long dairy internship and says she has realized how much she likes working with calves. “I’ve found that I really enjoy working with calves, so much so that it’s caused me to change my mind about what I want to do after leaving here,” Alexandra said. “I was originally thinking I’d like to go to vet school, but after being here and working with cows on a daily basis, I think I want to stay working on a farm, specifically with calves/heifers and potentially become a calf manager or heifer herdsman.”
Alexandra studied animal science at the University of Maine and graduated just before arriving at Miner for the Summer Experience program. She is the 2019 Stephen S. Flanagan, Frances B. Flanagan, and Stephen F. Flanagan Scholarship recipient at Miner Institute. The scholarship fund was established in 2016 after a $1.3 million donation to Miner Institute from the late Stephen Flanagan of Plattsburgh. The scholarship was named after Mr. Flanagan and his parents. The scholarship funds up to two students annually who are pursuing careers in dairy science.
Alexandra said that she really enjoys being at Miner and has “learned a lot and is enjoying the work and the people here.” She said that over the past few months, she has “decided my new dream job is to work with calves.”
For the third year in a row, we packed the auditorium of the Joseph C. Burke Education and Research Center with around 140 people and local comedy group Completely Stranded had the crowd approaching tears with their laughs. Most importantly, though, we raised $1,028 for the United Way of the Adirondack Region. This event has truly become one of our favorite events of the year, bringing the community out to enjoy comedy and support the dozens of great agencies that the United Way partners with. Combined with the $3,116 in employee contributions and money raised at the auction held at our Christmas party, Miner Institute's total 2019 contribution is $4,144. We are also planning to take part in this year's United Way Day of Caring on April 13 with some cleanup at the Riverside Cemetery in Chazy in a collaboration with The Alice T. Miner Museum.
In collaboration with The Alice T. Miner Museum, Miner Institute held a Beat the Boredom program during the February break last week for school-age kids. We had more than 20 kids who came and had a great time!! We had crafts, Jenga, we made 30 minute mozzarella, built snowmen and had a pretty impressive snowball fight. It is fair to say that this event was a great success and our collective wheels are already turning for how to "beat the boredom" in 2020!
In September 2018, following the August 3 death of Dr. Joseph Burke who had served as chair of Miner Institute’s Board of Trustees for 30 years, Rod Giltz was appointed chair; and Dr. Fred Woodward vice-chair. The vice chair position was one that hadn’t been filled in decades.
“I grew up not far from the Institute and marveled at its agricultural presence. At one time, Miner Institute housed a host of animals that made for special trips,” Woodward said. He later became President of Morrisville College, one of the SUNY agriculture and technology schools, with a focus on dairy and equine. Woodward recalled that each year the horses from Morrisville that would compete at the county fair would stay at Miner Institute, which helped to establish and build a relationship between the two institutions. Woodward was appointed a member of the board in 1990 and became a trustee in 2010.
Giltz joined the board as a member in 1984, and became a trustee in 1990. Giltz is past president and current chairman and chief financial officer of Northern Insuring Agency, Inc. As chair of Miner Institute’s board of trustees, Giltz said he is looking forward to bringing the board into the 21st Century and working to get the board more engaged. “We want to be involved and not just hear reports,” he said. There is such a wealth of knowledge and talent on the board that could be supportive and helpful to Miner Institute management if it is tapped, Giltz said.
“Miner Institute plays a significant role in local agriculture sharing research and demonstrating agricultural initiatives local farmers can utilize to enhance their operations,” Woodward said. Ten years ago Miner Institute had no presence in the public, Giltz said. “Our outreach has come a long way. Miner Institute has become a citizen of the community. I think that’s particularly healthy, especially given the presence of agriculture in the North Country.” Giltz said.
In December, the board appointed Chazy dairy farmer Tony Lapierre as a trustee. LaPierre has been associated with Miner Institute as an advocate since 2017. He is active in 4H and Cornell Cooperative Extension and currently serves as the District 7 representative on the NY Farm Bureau Board. Additionally, four new advocates were appointed by the board. Kristy Kennedy, Vice President of Marketing and The Director of Tourism for the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau; John Fairchild, Math teacher at Westport Central Rural School and former Superintendent of Chazy Central Rural School with 34 years of experience in education; Matthew Bull, Nutrition Consultant with Holtz Nelson Dairy Consultants; and Mark McCullough, Environmental, Health and Safety Engineer currently overseeing the decontamination and redevelopment of the former Pfizer site in Rouses Point, NY. The board and the Institute will undoubtedly be served well by their varied expertise.
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.