Over a century ago, William Miner wrote that “agriculture is the fundamental occupation,” a statement that rings true today. Agriculture provides the foundation of the North Country’s economic and social infrastructure. This month we celebrate our region’s largest agricultural enterprise - dairy farming.
New York is the fifth largest milk producing state in the country and also the fifth largest producer of corn silage to feed the 630,000 dairy cows that call New York home. The value of milk produced in New York totals nearly 3 billion dollars, or about two-thirds of our state’s agricultural income. Even more astoundingly, about 10% of New York state’s total employment is linked, directly or indirectly, with the food sector.
New York state ranks first in the US in yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream production. So, when we enjoy a baked potato with sour cream, or yogurt for breakfast, we surely should be thanking a New York dairy farmer.
In our own backyard, three of the top-100 dairy counties in the country are in northern New York: St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis. Clinton County ranks 14th in New York state and 124th out of 1,892 counties in the US with significant dairy farming. According to the 2021 census, Clinton County had 78 dairy farms and nearly 17,000 cows.
A 2019 study by Cornell University estimated a strong economic multiplier, or ripple effect, through the state’s economy for the dairy sector of 2.7. This multiplier compares favorably with those of manufacturing, service, or retail. Other studies confirm that regions across the US with more dairy farms enjoy a healthier economy and a more congenial social fabric.
We celebrate June as Dairy Month and recognize that dairying underpins our state’s rural economy, provides healthy food locally produced, and contributes to our region’s growing agritourism focus. Though the dairy industry is buffeted by economic challenges, the fundamental strengths of our region endure: sufficient water, high-quality forage production, moderate climate, and a large northeastern dairy market.
William Miner believed that farming is fundamental. With that belief in mind, we celebrate the dairy industry that has been so fundamentally vital to the identity and success of the North Country.
-- Rick Grant
For the second consecutive year, Miner Institute teamed up with science departments at SUNY Plattsburgh and invited local middle and high school students to the Institute for a Science Saturday event on April 1. Students were able to interact with faculty and students from chemistry, physics, earth and environmental science, and biology. Staff and students from the North Country Planetarium on campus were also on site with some equipment and activities. The event provides students an opportunity to learn about careers in science and in particular what science programs are offered at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Around 20 students from area schools such as Beekmantown, Peru, Saranac, and Chazy attended the event. Dr. Meg Pearson, Dean of the School for Arts and Sciences at Plattsburgh welcomed the group and was on hand to answer questions participants had. Mallory Carpenter, an admissions advisor, was also at the event and talked with students about SUNY Plattsburgh, financial aid opportunities, and handed out cool Cardinal swag!
Students were also given the opportunity to head upstairs to the lab with Miner Institute Director of Lab Studies Steve Kramer and Dr. Ewa Pater, chair of the chemistry department at SUNY Plattsburgh to do some hands-on activities.
We are already looking forward to the third annual event in 2024!
Check out the Press Republican article on the event: https://www.pressrepublican.com/news/miner-institute-hosts-science-saturday/article_3b1988fe-d285-11ed-9cae-57e299828007.html
As has become a bit of a tradition, the Miner Institute dairy barn hosted a cow kissing event on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. Alice is a 6-year-old registered Holstein in the Miner Institute dairy herd and is a veteran kisser -- this year marked her third cow kissing event!
This year, the event raised $6,200 for domestic violence services in our region. United Way of the Adirondacks President and CEO John Bernardi recognized this as a need in the region and the outpouring of support from the community is truly remarkable. The cow kissing total brought the 2023 United Way campaign tally to $665,000.
Miner Institute was pleased to host a group that included the United Way staff, members of their board and campaign team, and the cow kissers themselves for lunch after the event.
We look forward to this annual event and are humbled each year by the incredible generosity that exists in the North Country!
For the second year, Miner Institute was the host site for The Alice T. Miner Museum's popular ornament workshop on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.
The museum hosted the event for several years pre-pandemic, but the event outgrew the museum space. In 2022, more than 70 people came out for some festive crafts, hot cocoa and treats.
Participants painted gnomes, tried their hand at origami, made pomanders -- a fragrant orange with cloves, and paper chains.
This event truly is a great way to kick off the holiday season.
by Sophia Griffiths
On October 14, Dr. Ken Adams came to SUNY Plattsburgh to give a talk on the history of the Applied Environmental Science Program at Miner Institute. I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Adams one-on-one the day before about his time teaching at Miner as part of the AESP. It is so interesting how the history of Miner Institute programs with SUNY Plattsburgh students intersects with his life and career.
Adams got his undergraduate degree in biology from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. Upon graduating, he was immediately drafted into the air force during the Vietnam War. Adams had such interesting stories to tell me about his time stationed in Thailand. His unit even helped teach Thai people English for a short time. When he was brought back to the U.S., he was assigned to the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and started taking graduate courses at SUNY Plattsburgh while he finished the last two years of his assignment. He immediately took an interest in the collaboration between Miner Institute and SUNY Plattsburgh. In the early 1970s, the collaboration was known as Institute for Man and Environment (IME). Adams talked about the differences between IME and the current AESP program. IME was a 15-credit one semester residential program offered in the fall and spring. Students took a 9 credit Environmental Analysis class and a 6 credit Research Project. The Environmental Analysis course was interdisciplinary and according to Adams’ talk “the overarching framework for this course was to answer three basic questions: ‘Is the environmental project socially acceptable; is it economically feasible; and is it scientifically possible?’” For the research project, students had to submit a research proposal, conduct research and write a final report. They had access to a lot of natural resources on Miner property. Many students did work researching small watersheds by utilizing Corbeau Creek. In 1976 IME was modified into the Residential Research Semester. This program included several classes dedicated to each step of the research process.
During this time, the graduate student Ken Adams was advising undergraduate research projects and teaching courses in field biology. He loved working with students but knew if he wanted to continue teaching full time as a professor he would have to get a PhD. So in 1978, Adams left Plattsburgh to pursue his doctorate degree at SUNY ESF. And as fate would have it, once he finished his PhD, there was an opening for an ecology professor at SUNY Plattsburgh. Adams would go on to teach at Plattsburgh from 1982-2012.
The Man and Environment program and the Residential Research semester were much less structured than typical college courses. They were highly focused on individual research projects and required highly motivated, organized students. Some thrived in this setting, and some were not ready for this level of work. In 1982, Adams and some other professors created a new format for the collaboration with Miner. This is when the Applied Environmental Science Program was born. The full-day class format allows for intense focus on one subject each day. Students usually attend lectures in the morning then do field work for the rest of the day. This gives them a chance to see and understand the theory they learned in the classroom in real life. The AESP offers students choice in which courses to take and provides more structure, which students are more familiar with.
I loved talking to Dr. Adams because he is so enthusiastic about Miner and what it has to offer Plattsburgh students. When I asked him the value of AESP for students he said “I think it’s important for students to do something special while they’re undergraduates”. This program is so unique and offers something that you can’t get at the thousands of other environmental science programs across the country. If students are interested and inclined to do research, Miner gives them the opportunity to do so. Students can get real research experience that not only looks good on a resume but gives them the skill to succeed in an environmental science related field.
October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and so a very fitting date to host a fundraiser for an organization that supports families who have suffered the death of an infant during pregnancy and within the first year of life. Cultivating Hope: A Fundraiser to Benefit Healing Grace was held at The Alice T. Miner Museum on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. The event brought in $1550 for Healing Grace. It was the start of what we hope will be a lasting partnership.
On March 16, 1902, Alice and William Miner welcomed a long-awaited child. Sadly, William Henry Miner Jr. died two weeks later. The partnership between The Alice T. Miner Museum, Miner Institute, and Healing Grace Center for Hope & Healing is so meaningful. Healing Grace's mission is to provide support, guidance, love, and community to families that have suffered the death of an infant at any stage of pregnancy and within the first year of life. Healing Grace helps families to cultivate hope and provides support for the healing journey after loss with services such as professional and peer support, birth planning, funeral planning support, comfort boxes and other products to support maternal grief. Alice Miner undoubtedly had no access to services similar to those offered by Healing Grace. It seems so fitting that Alice Miner's beloved museum host a fundraising event for an organization that would have meant so much to the Miners and fits so well into their legacy of improving life and building community in the North Country.
Sarah Munn Wojtaszek is the founder and executive director of Healing Grace. Her motivation is deeply personal. In 2008, during her 20-week ultrasound for her first child, she and her husband learned that their baby had anencephaly, a fatal neural tube defect. Following this devastating news, Sarah and her husband Keith were put in touch with a perinatal hospice group in Kansas City where they were living that helped guide them through their grief. After returning to the North Country in 2010, they were shocked to learn that there were no organizations in the North Country to support families of infant loss. Sarah founded Healing Grace in 2020 and is making a tremendous impact for North Country families.
To learn more about Healing Grace or to make a donation, visit healinggraceph.org
An August 2020 open house that was planned was sidelined due to the pandemic, but two years later on Aug. 6, we welcomed around 700 people to the Institute! The day was hot and humid, but otherwise picture perfect. Visitors were able to tour our facilities; learn about William and Alice Miner and Heart's Delight Farm history; take a wagon ride around the property; enjoy a variety of dairy products including maple ice cream, Cabot cheese, and local milk from Hidden Acres Dairy; interact with our Morgan horses and watch an equine demonstration; learn about our dairy and research programs at various interactive stations around the farm; and our youngest visitors were able to take a short ride around the farm on a cow train! An event of this magnitude takes a lot of planning and organizing ahead of time and loads of volunteers day of to carry out. The Miner team excelled in every way! On Open house day, we had dozens of staff and students all in matching red shirts who were demonstrating, driving, interacting, and educating in some way. The back of the t-shirts had William Miner's quote from 1915, "No other occupation is so vitally important to the human race, nor requires such a wide range of practical and technical knowledge, as farming."
We are so grateful for everyone who came out to visit, and grateful to the local businesses who helped us to carry out such a tremendous event -- Harvest Maple; UDDER DELIGHT DAIRY SHOP; Samples Lawn & Garden LLC; Taylor Rental Plattsburgh; United Ag & Turf; Dragoon's Farm Equipment; Cabot Creamery Co-operative; and Hidden Acres Dairy LLC. Tammy's Lunch Box and The DogFather food trucks were on site and cooking up delicious food for purchase.
We will look forward to another event of this magnitude in a couple years, but stay tuned for plenty of great smaller events in the meantime!
For the second year in a row, we enjoyed the music of the Strawhatters Concert Band on the lawn behind the Farm Office on a gorgeous summer evening.
The Strawhatters are a community band that was started in the 1940s. Members are from all across Clinton County and some from just across the border in Canada as well. There are currently about 50 members of the group, though we had just over 40 members at the July 27 performance at Miner Institute. The youngest members of the group are heading into ninth grade in high school and the oldest members are nearing 80!
We had more than 85 people who came out to enjoy the music and the ambiance was wonderful! We sure hope that we can continue this fun event in future years.
A beautiful summer night at the farm.
We welcomed about 150 people for an evening of comedy with local group Completely Stranded on Friday, July 15 for an outdoor show on the lawn behind the Farm Office in the shadow of where Heart's Delight Cottage was located 100 years ago. We partnered with The United Way of the Adirondack Region and raised money to support youth mental health and wellness programs in our region.
"Mental health and wellness is an urgent need for the youth in our region. We owe it to the children to help ensure that resources are available in times of crisis or in times of need. Miner Institute and Completely Stranded have collaborated with us to provide an opportunity to support the most vulnerable young people in our region. This example of partnering is what sets our region apart and substantiates the fact that we have incredibly generous and empathetic neighbors among us," said John Bernardi, President and CEO of United Way of the Adirondack Region.
We are so pleased to have raised more than $1500 at this fun event. It marks the fourth time we have hosted Completely Stranded in an effort to raise money to support the United Way. Historically our Comedy for a Cause events have been held indoors during the winter, and although we aren't ruling out hosting winter shows, the outdoor summer show was well-received and will likely happen again next year.
We are so grateful for all the great work the United Way of the Adirondack Region does and for the laughs that Completely Stranded provided during their incredible show, but most importantly we are so humbled by the generosity of the folks here in the North Country.
After a two-year-long hiatus, Miner Institute was once again able to host one of its most popular events – Farm Day for 5th Graders. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Farm Days for 5th Graders is a field trip where students from all across Clinton County learn how Miner Institute takes care of its animals, crops and equipment.
Students rotated between eight stations, spending 25 minutes at each station which was led by summer intern presenters. The interns first explained the details of their stations, then they showed the students their station’s interactive features, and finally, they answered any questions the students, teachers, or parent chaperones had. I was an embedded reporter shadowing a group from Mooers Elementary School during this event and the following is what I gathered from the experience.
Nearly half of the stations were dedicated to Miner Institute’s cows. One of the stations featured two calves that were less than a week old. After the interns explained how the calves are fed, tagged and taken care of, students were allowed to pet the calves in groups of two; the small groups prevented the calves from getting scared and allowed each student to have a more personal experience with them. The next station focused on how the cows are milked. Students were shown how cows move to specialized milking machines, how their udders and the machines were sanitized, and where the cows go when they’re done being milked. The cows are milked three times per day after they have their first calf (around the age of one). The last station that focused on cows showed students what fistulated cows were. These cows have a hole in their sides with a removable plug; this allows researchers to analyze the contents of their stomach without hurting the animals. Students were provided with a plastic glove that extended up to their shoulder and were allowed to feel the contents of the cows’ stomachs one by one.
The cows weren’t the only animals the students learned about; two of the eight stations were dedicated to the behavior and care of horses. The first horse station focused on how the interns take care of the horses. The students were shown several different brushes to take care of a horse’s fur, tail and mane, some of the tools used to clean the horses’ hooves and even some of the snacks the horses enjoyed.
At the end of this station, students were allowed to approach the horse and lightly bump its nose, mimicking one of the ways horses communicate with each other. The second horse station focused on horse behavior; students were shown how horses were exercised and trained. The trainer demonstrated
that the tone of her voice, the commands she gave the horse and how she pulled on the reins were all important for getting the horse to move the way she wanted it to.
The three remaining stations taught students about the farm equipment, the animal’s feed and Miner Institute’s history. Starting with the farm equipment, students learned which machines were used to prepare the soil for crops. They were shown each machine in the order they were used in the field; the students were even allowed to get up close and personal with the machines in order to see how they work.
The next station focused on what is fed to Miner Institute’s cows. The students were presented with all of the individual ingredients in the feed and asked to guess what each ingredient was. Once correctly guessed, the interns would explain what the ingredient was and why it was important for the cows to eat. After this, the students were shown where and how the feed was stored.
The final station taught students the history of Miner Institute, including the fact that it was originally called Heart’s Delight Farm and wasn’t renamed until the mid 1950s. Students were shown a model of the original Heart’s Delight Farm and the dam that powered it. After that, students were shown various other features of the original farm, including a birdhouse used to keep the mosquito population at bay and several horse-drawn vehicles used on the farm.
By showing students what they do at an early age, Miner Institute encourages students to learn more about the farms that feed them and support their community. All in all, Farm Days for 5th Graders was an incredibly enjoyable and informative experience for the teachers, the parent chaperones, and especially the students.
-- Elijah Crosbourne
SUNY Plattsburgh intern