Another year is coming to a close and it has been a busy one!! Reflecting back on the year, we thought we’d share some of our favorite moments! We laughed with local comedy group Completely Stranded back in January, and most importantly, we raised $1100 for the United Way of the Adirondack Region. We will be bringing them back for a show on February 9.
Dr. Dave Barbano hosted an incredible cheese tasting for staff in early 2017 in our cafeteria annex. He had a wide variety of cheeses from around the world and thorough explanations of each. It was a real treat!
In 2017, we visited Peru Central School four times as part of their Lunchtime Grill series for students to learn about different careers. Each time we represented a different career. We talked about animal care with yearlong dairy and equine interns Victoria Vendetta and Samantha Dobbins; agricultural research with Ph.D. student Mac Campbell and Research Technician Laura Klaiber; agricultural librarian with Librarian Amy Bedard; public relations and marketing with PR Coordinator Rachel Dutil.
After realizing that many of our Miner Morgans were deficient in vitamin E, we began a research study to look at the best delivery method of vitamin E to horses. The research attracted donations to help sponsor the research from individuals and organizations such as the Champlain Valley Morgan Horse Association.
Clinton County Dairy Princess Katarina Emerich – daughter of Miner Institute’s Dairy Outreach Coordinator Wanda Emerich – attended several events at Miner Institute as an ambassador for the local dairy industry. She handed out cheese, helped kids make crafts, and helped pick winners for door prizes at our annual Dairy Day seminar.
We toured multiple school groups and celebrated 30 years of the Summer Experience in Equine Management program with an early-August reunion. Later in the fall, we had a mini-reunion when students from 2016 returned for a long weekend.
For the second year in a row as part of the annual Battle of Plattsburgh weekend events, we participated in the Rotary Club’s bed race in downtown Plattsburgh. We made it through several rounds and had a great time!
At the 2017 Applied Environmental Science Program graduation ceremony in December, we were pleased that Cheryl Donah could join us and accept her honorary certificate. Cheryl was the longtime secretary in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh who retired at the end of 2017.
One of Miner Institute’s most valuable “products” is our alumni. They move on from Miner Institute to (hopefully) successful careers in agriculture-related fields. They help to broaden Miner Institute’s network and, in some cases, become collaborators for our research and education programs. Several of our Summer Experience in Equine Management alumni have ultimately become Miner Morgan owners! One of the most notable career choices for alumni is Miner Institute employee. Of our roughly 50 full-time employees, 11 are alumni from one of our education programs. It is a strong testament to the culture and atmosphere of Miner as a workplace and also of the caliber of our education programs and thus, the students that we attract.
“I recall the day I got a call from Katie(Ballard), who was looking for someone to fill a technician position. From the moment I heard the message, I had already decided I would take the job. I was ready and eager to come back to Miner in any fashion. When I moved all of my stuff from Pennsylvania, I never would have dreamed that I would still be here today… looking back it was not a case of moving on to the next stage of my life, it was actually more like coming home,” said Heather Gauthier, a research technician and Summer Experience in Equine Management alumnus. Heather has been employed at Miner Institute since 2000.
Katie Ballard has been the director of Miner Institute’s research program since the program started in 1992. She fondly remembers being crowned the first-ever “Miner Moron” as a Summer Experience in Farm Management student in 1983 for putting a tractor in the ditch. From that point on, someone was given the award weekly on Fridays at lunch. Most notably, she recalls that Ev Thomas (then agronomist at Miner Institute) earned a Miner Moron Award for his driving skills on the way to Empire Farm Days that summer. Katie participated in the graduate program following her summer as a student and was hired full time in 1987.
Equine Manager Karen Lassell says that she feels “blessed to enjoy my job as much as I do – the horses, the students and fellow employees.” Karen participated in the Summer Experience in Equine Management program in 1989 and then came back as the year-long intern in 1991 and has been employed at Miner ever since.
“I’ve always felt that whether you are a student or employee, Miner Institute provides many opportunities…you just have to have initiative and be willing to work hard to make the most of your time here,” Katie said. “It’s helpful to take a walk through the Heritage Exhibit every once in a while to become re-inspired by Mr. Miner’s vision for Hearts Delight Farm. I think we are doing a pretty good job and following his planned purpose of the farm.”
Alumni turned employees:
Wanda Emerich: Dairy Outreach Coordinator and alum of the Summer Experience in Farm Management program.
Katie Ballard: Director of Research and alum of the Summer Experience in Farm Management program.
Karen Lassell: Equine Manager and alum of the Summer Experience in Equine Management program.
Heather Gauthier: Research Technician and alum of the Summer Experience in Equine Management program.
Andrew Whitney: Research Technician and alum of the Advanced Dairy Management program.
Jeff Darrah: Agricultural Lab Manager and alum of the cell biology program.
Laura Klaiber: Research Technician and alum of the Applied Environmental Science program and the graduate program.
Lisa Klaiber: Research Technician and alum of the Applied Environmental Science program.
Anna Pape: Dairy Herdsperson and alum of the Summer Experience in Farm Management program.
Charlie Hacker: Research Technician and alum of the Applied Environmental Science Program.
Eric Young: Soil Scientist/Agronomist and alum of the Applied Environmental Science Program.
The weather was spectacular – 65 degrees and sunny – for the October 28 Day of the Morgan at Miner Institute. The event was a national celebration of the Morgan horse breed, organized by the American Morgan Horse Association. Dozens of barns around the country opened their doors to the public to inform and educate about Morgan horses.
Our event featured a barn-full of Miner Morgans; a scavenger hunt; crafts for kids and delicious fall refreshments – apple cider, McIntosh apples, cider donuts, and Cabot cheddar cheese! We welcomed more than 100 visitors into our historic horse barn, some of whom were visiting Miner Institute for the first time.
Eileen Barnes of Plattsburgh was visiting with two Egyptian women who are studying at SUNY Plattsburgh this semester from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Cairo. They are taking classes in the communications department at Plattsburgh. Hager and Wesam are from different regions of Egypt but met three years ago and came to Plattsburgh together. They are both media majors, with a translation minor. Their primary language is Arabic, but they are studying English and Spanish translation. Hager and Wesam took countless photographs as everything was so new to them – including the cider and donuts!! They gave two thumbs up for both. They were fascinated to learn about William Miner and Heart’s Delight Farm on a tour through the Heart’s Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit and planned to visit The Alice T Miner Museum on their way back to Plattsburgh. Eileen is a volunteer with the PICL (Partners in Cross Cultural Learning) program at SUNY Plattsburgh. The PICL program creates friendships between international students and volunteers in the community. The goal of the program is to help international students acclimate to Plattsburgh and the community, while providing the volunteers with an opportunity to learn about other cultures. Eileen said that she has met students from around the world since she started volunteering with the program.
Carrie Ostrowski spent the summer of 2008 at Miner Institute as a Summer Experience in Equine Management student and then returned in late summer 2009 as the year-long equine intern. She returned again to Miner in early August to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Summer Experience in Equine Management program with about a dozen or so other alumni for the first-ever reunion. “It’s like coming home,” Carrie said.
Carrie lives in Kentucky where she works for AFLAC, and also trains, competes, and gives lessons for Combined Driving Events and carriage driving. Ashley McCallion also visited Miner from Kentucky for the reunion. Ashley was a summer student in 2014 and now works as a broodmare groomer at a Thoroughbred breeding farm. Her summer at Miner, she said, was “such a great experience.”
The Summer Experience in Equine Management program is one of three paid internship programs for undergraduate students offered at Miner Institute. The Summer Experience in Farm Management program was launched in 1982 and the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program began in 2006. Each program is a 13-week hands-on skill building experience that prepares students for careers in agriculture and/or graduate or vet school.
For Lauren Offutt, the ability to do some reproduction work this summer has piqued her interest in working on a breeding farm. She said that she also really enjoyed training her project pony, HD Jefferson. She experienced a “strange colliding of worlds” when one of her Colorado State University instructors came to Miner as part of the 30-year reunion. Ryan Brooks teaches in the equine science department at Colorado State. Ryan spent the summer of 2006 at Miner Institute as a summer experience student and then returned in fall 2007 for the yearlong internship after earning his Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech. Ryan said that he had “so much fun” at Miner Institute. He fondly remembers when his project horse, HD Essex was sold to a farm in England.
The most notable graduate of the program now oversees it; she has educated and inspired dozens of equine program alumni. Karen Lassell was a student at the University of New Hampshire when she first came to Miner Institute in 1989 as a Summer Experience in Equine Management student. After graduation, she returned to Miner Institute as a year-long equine intern working with Katie Ballard, who was managing the equine program. “She had the best hair ever,” Katie recalls about Karen. In 1992, then-president Charlie Sniffen asked Katie if she would become the director of the research program. Katie took on the task of building a research program and Karen took over the equine program, which she has managed since.
Samantha Dobbins was a Summer Experience in Equine Management student in 2014 and is currently wrapping up her time as the yearlong equine intern. She said that as a teacher Karen “instills a lot of trust” in her students and manages to stay calm in tense situations. Karen’s style is great for building confidence, Sam said. Even if you doubt your own abilities, she said, Karen will assure you that you can do it. “It’s a little bit of a tough love style,” she said. But it works.
Jess Hoffman spent the summer of 2000 at Miner as a summer student. She came back as the yearlong intern in 2001-02. “The program is awesome. You learn so much about yourself and about horses,” she said. Jess is a senior technician at Vermont Integrated Genomics. In 2016, she became the proud owner of a Miner Morgan when she purchased HD Mexico.
Karen encourages students to always be willing to learn new things and have open minds about new ways of doing things, Katie said. She doesn’t pretend to know everything and is always learning herself, Katie said. Karen’s involvement in the Champlain Valley Morgan Horse Association and the NY State Horse Council helps to increase awareness of Miner Institute and its equine program. “Genuinely she’s interested in the mission of Miner Institute,” Katie said. “It goes beyond the horses. She’s a real advocate for William Miner’s vision.”
As much as I would prefer to bury my head under my pillow and pretend that ticks don’t exist and don’t present a risk to my family, I know that awareness is powerful and I have already pulled a tick off my 5-year-old daughter’s scalp, so I have vowed to arm myself with information.
On June 15, we were fortunate to welcome Melissa Stone, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at SUNY Albany for a talk. Melissa is enthusiastic about ticks and I am grateful for that. Personally, I am repulsed by them, but am pleased that someone is willing to study them and tell the rest of us how to be safe. Melissa’s research focuses on the ecology of Lyme disease and the evolution of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease.
Ticks are parasitic arachnids and feed on the blood of small mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles. There are four types of ticks that have been found in New York State that can transmit diseases to humans – the deer tick; the American dog tick; the Lone star tick; and the woodchuck tick. The deer tick is the only tick that carries the bacteria that transmits Lyme disease and is prevalent in most areas of the state. There are at least a dozen other diseases that can be transmitted by ticks, though Lyme disease is the most common in NY State. If Lyme disease is caught early, it is typically treated successfully with antibiotics.
Ticks do not fly or jump, but some ticks, like the Lone star tick, actually crawl toward their host when they sense them in the vicinity. For example, Melissa says, “if you were to go for a walk in the woods and stop to tie your shoe and take a drink, these ticks could catch up to you from many meters away. But, if you were to walk away from them before they got too close, they probably wouldn't be able to catch up.” Most ticks quest – cling to leaves or grass with their first set of legs outstretched and wait for their host to pass. Ticks are “vectors” which can transmit diseases from animals to humans. They can transmit bacteria and infections that they’ve picked up from any previous hosts they have fed on. Ticks tend to live in shady, grassy areas but also in lawns and gardens and at the edge of woods and around old stone walls. They like dark, moist protected areas and will seek out those areas once they find a host. Ticks will crawl into belly buttons, the base of the neck and scalp, behind ears, armpits, etc.
Ticks are most active in the spring, summer, and fall. It certainly is not practical to avoid being outside during the most desirable times of the year for outdoor activities! To help protect yourself, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to spot. Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants, to give ticks less access to your exposed skin. Do daily tick checks on yourself, your children and pets. Stay on marked trails when hiking and try to walk in the center of the trail. Tie back long hair when gardening and doing activities outdoors that would allow ticks to crawl up your hair and onto your scalp. Take a bath or shower after spending time outside to help wash off any ticks that haven’t yet attached and to more easily find any other ticks.
Use EPA-registered insect repellent. Repellents with 20% or more of DEET can be applied to skin and clothing. Picaridin can also be applied to both skin and clothing and is nearly odorless, so may be a good choice for someone who is sensitive to strong smells. Permethrin can be applied to clothes, shoes and camping gear, but should not be applied to skin. The New York State Health Department advises that repellents should be stored out of the reach of children and children should not apply repellents to themselves.
Ticks are incredibly tiny, which makes finding them more challenging. Young deer ticks are about the size of a poppy seed and adult deer ticks are roughly the size of a sesame seed. Engorged ticks can weigh 200-300 times more than they did before they started feeding. An engorged tick is much easier to see, but has had more time to potentially transmit disease while feeding.
There are a variety of tick removal tools on the market, but the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health recommend using a pair of pointed tweezers. I used a tick key to remove the tick on my daughter and thought it worked great. When removing the tick, try to grasp the tick as close to its mouth parts (where it is attached to the skin) as possible. Pull firmly and steadily upward. Don’t squeeze or twist the tick as that may actually detach the body from the mouth parts. Clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and monitor the site for 30 days.
There are videos circulating on social media promoting the use of peppermint oil to get ticks to detach. This action will agitate the tick and cause it to salivate more, potentially releasing more bacteria before ultimately detaching. Other common, but potentially dangerous, tick removal methods include using alcohol, fire, or Vaseline. Similar to the peppermint oil, these methods cause the tick to regurgitate its gut contents, including any pathogens it might contain, which can infect the host, even if the tick had not yet been attached long enough for the usual biological transmission.
Lyme disease symptoms
Between 60 and 80% of people who have Lyme disease get a bulls-eye rash, called erythema migrans. The rash appears at or near the site of the tick bite, usually within three days to a month of the bite. The rash is a very good indicator of Lyme disease. If you get the rash or any other symptoms of Lyme which include joint pain, chills, fever, and fatigue, you should seek medical attention. As Lyme disease progresses, severe fatigue, stiff neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur. If Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection, patients usually recover fully.
For more information about ticks and Lyme disease, you can visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov or contact the state or county department of health in your area.
Kate Creutzinger will spend the coming year at Miner Institute helping to oversee a collaborative research study that will look at stocking density and the utilization of a calving blind within a commercial dairy farm setting. The study is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is a collaborative project between Miner Institute, University of Tennessee Knoxville, and The Ohio State University, where Kate is working toward a Ph.D. with Dr. Katy Proudfoot.
Kate grew up in Mason, a suburb of Cincinnati, OH. She grew up with horses and participated in 4H. She earned an animal science degree from The Ohio State University and thought she wanted to go into pharmaceutical sales. She did undergraduate research in dairy behavior with Dr. Proudfoot and started to take large animal production classes and “fell in love with the process,” she said. In 2014, Kate started a masters program in beef cattle behavior at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. There she learned about hair cortisol as a measure of stress in beef cattle. “I loved it,” Kate said of the Canadian province known as the land of the living skies. The two largest agricultural outputs in Saskatchewan are canola and flax, which are yellow and purple, respectively. The fields were beautiful, she recalled.
After completing her masters, Kate stayed on in Saskatchewan for about six months working at the Prairie Swine Center, a non-profit swine research facility as a research assistant in the ethology department. “I like pigs, they are highly intelligent animals,” she said but wishes to move forward with her career in the dairy industry. That experience though, “has given me a broader range of knowledge to apply,” she said.
Ultimately, Kate said, she’d like to work in industry. She said that she loves research and working with animals, but there is so much good research out there being conducted and that information needs to be effectively distributed to farmers so that it can be utilized. She would like to work for a company like Cargill in their welfare department helping farmers to make the best management decisions for their farm to adapt to changing regulations.
Kate moved to Chazy to start her work here at Miner in early April. She says that she likes it here. “It’s beautiful. The facilities are great to work in.” She said that she is excited to get her project underway in June. Kate said that she is interested in looking at natural behaviors and how those behaviors can be modeled in a commercial setting. “The transition period is so critical,” she said. The animals “are compromised and susceptible to disease.”
In spring 2018, Kate will return to Ohio to finish up her classes, do the data analysis and write up the report for her project. In the meantime, while not working, Kate hopes to enjoy some hiking and Cross-country skiing in the North Country.
Our 12 summer interns have spent the last few weeks getting acquainted with Miner Institute and delving into the hard work that will consume the next 10 weeks of their lives. They also survived three days of our annual Farm Days for Fifth Graders event where we hosted 500 area fifth graders, teachers, and parents on a tour of the farm, educating them about agriculture, Miner Institute and Heart's Delight Farm. In honor of June being Dairy Month, we took an impromptu poll of our interns, asking what is your favorite dairy product? The result: 6 votes for cheese, 5 votes for ice cream, and 1 vote for fluid milk! We are so pleased to have such a great group who will undoubtedly be a benefit to the industry as they continue their careers.
Back row L to R: Lauren Offutt, Colorado State University student in the Summer Experience in Equine Management program; Sam Berube, SUNY Cobleskill student in the Summer Experience in Equine Management program; Ben Henrichs, Southern Illinois University student in the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program; Breanna Watson, Mississippi State University student in the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program; Christina Markunas, Michigan State University student in the Summer Experience in Farm Management program; Megan Miller, Clemson University student in the Summer Experience in Equine Management program; Gabbie Green, University of Tennessee student in the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program; and Kyle Pimemtel, University of New Hampshire student in the Summer Experience in Equine Management.
Front row L to R: Karen Bonhomme, Plattsburgh State University student in the Summer Experience in Equine Management program; Courtney Hoff, Cornell University student in the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program; Abby Maucieri, Virginia Tech student in the Summer Experience in Farm Management program; and Mayumi Marzolf, University of Missouri student in the Summer Experience in Farm Management program.
Miner Institute was so pleased to host the Strides for James charity event for the fourth year. 2017 marked the fifth year of the 5K/10K event which raises money for the James Wilson Memorial Scholarship at Clinton Community College. James Wilson was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2012. James was an avid runner with a generous spirit -- he was always willing to help others. The Wilson family certainly shares James' generosity and organize the annual event as a way to remember James and give back to the community that James loved so much. We are so pleased to play a small role in helping to do just that!
Kyohei Ishida has adapted well to life in the United States over the past year. Kyohei is halfway through his two-year position as the visiting researcher from the Zen-Noh agricultural Cooperative in Japan. Miner Institute and Zen-Noh have had a collaborative research relationship for more than 20 years.
Kyohei grew up in Kyoto, an area that is well known for its traditional shrines and temples and is considered one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Agriculture in the region is mostly rice and vegetable production, with some Wagyu beef, he said. Kyohei is the oldest child in his family; he has three younger sisters. His oldest and youngest sisters and his parents all still live in Kyoto. His middle sister recently started college in Korea.
Kyohei has both an undergraduate and a master’s degree from Kyoto University. He studied animal science, with an emphasis on beef cattle nutrition. He has been employed by Zen-Noh for five years. Growing up, Kyohei remembers that his family had local milk delivered daily. “I loved that milk,” he said. He always loved animals as a child and there was a beef farmer just behind his elementary school. He recalls being able to hear the cows mooing and so “it was very natural to become interested in agriculture.”
Since coming to Miner Institute in early 2016, Kyohei says that his interest in dairy cow nutrition has grown. He is especially interested in forage dynamics and ration formulation. An upcoming project this spring will focus on forage fiber digestion, he said, adding that he’s “really excited about it.”
Kyohei’s current role for Zen-Noh is to help develop new theories for improving productivity and efficiency for Japanese dairy farmers. The relationship between Miner Institute and Zen-Noh was initiated by Dr. Charlie Sniffen in the mid-1990s, when Sniffen was president of the Institute. Japan’s primary agricultural region – Hokkaido – has similar growing conditions to Chazy. That, coupled with Miner Institute’s focus on dairy nutrition and management makes the collaboration a good fit. Additionally, Kyohei visits area farms and attends conferences. He also translates and participates in Zen-Noh sponsored research projects. If he were able to request his next position at Zen-Noh, Kyohei said that he would like to do research, nutrition or extension work. He likes working with farmers and visiting farms. Ultimately, though, Zen-Noh will decide his next position when he returns to Japan in 2018.
“I really like Miner,” Kyohei says. “The people are motivated and the research is important and exciting.” Even though the area is more rural than what he is used to in Japan, Kyohei says that he likes the landscape here and enjoys snowboarding and hiking. Adapting to life in the United States was a challenge, though, he admits. “The meals here are huge!”
Joining inaugural Flanagan scholar Emma Duffy are Wyatt Smith and Victoria Vendetta, who have been named the 2017 recipients of the Stephen S. Flanagan, Frances B. Flanagan, and Stephen F. Flanagan Scholarship 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.
Emma spent a year as the dairy herdsperson intern at Miner Institute and just returned to the Boston, MA area where she grew up to work on a small dairy farm with on-farm milk bottling and ice cream and butter production. Wyatt grew up on a small dairy farm about 50 miles west of the Twin Cities in MN. He has an animal science degree from the University of Minnesota and is studying dairy nutrition, with a focus on fiber digestibility at the University of Vermont through a graduate assistantship at Miner Institute. Wyatt hopes to work in nutrition consulting, and possibly have a role back on his family farm after graduating. Victoria has an animal science degree from the University of Connecticut and is an alumnus of Miner Institute’s Advanced Dairy Management program. She will be taking over for Emma as the dairy herdsperson intern; she plans to apply to vet school after completing her year-long internship at Miner Institute.