Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adirondack Hotel Wins DEC Environment Award

An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.

“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”

Summaries of this year’s winners are below:

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid, Essex County

Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brewster School District, Putnam County

Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.

Union College, Schenectady County

Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Chemung County

These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.

Aslan Environmental and City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ulster County

The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County

The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Adirondack Harvest Fall Events Announced

Adirondack Harvest, the community-based farm and food development and promotion program, has provided funds to groups throughout the region for celebrations of the bountiful fall season farm harvest. The effort is made possible by a $50,000 grant to Adirondack Harvest from the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation, which supports agricultural development and ecological preservation.

According to Adirondack Harvest Coordinator Laurie Davis, “This season-long Adirondack Harvest celebration provides consumers with opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, taste products and become Adirondack Harvest members. Members receive special mailings, dinner invitations, and various premiums from an Adirondack Harvest apron to our Three Farms DVD, gift baskets and the Adirondack Harvest Cookbook with lots of great ideas for serving local foods.”

Adirondack Harvest Activities Set for NNY Region:

Clinton County
Sunday, September 14, 1pm – Adirondack Harvest Farms Tour and Dinner – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County has organized a farms tour that includes Campbell’s Greenhouse in Saranac (1pm), Everett’s Orchard Store in Plattsburgh (2pm), Black Sheep Barn and Garden in West Chazy (3pm) and Conroy’s Organics in West Chazy (4pm tour and dinner). Call 518-561-7450 for transportation and dinner reservations or drive-it-yourself for tours.

September 6-14 – New I Love Local Food reusable shopping bags for sale – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County will have the new I Love Local Food reusable shopping bag for sale at cost at the Extension office at 6064 State Route 22 in Plattsburgh and at September 13 Adirondack Harvest Farms Tour sites. Info: 518-561-7450

Essex County
Saturday, September 6-Sunday, September 14 – Adirondack Agricultural exhibits at Adirondack Historical Society Museum, Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sundays 1-5pm. Mention Adirondack Harvest to get 2 admissions for price of 1; Court Street, Elizabethtown. Info: 518-873-6466.

Thursday, September 11, 5-9:00pm – Oil paintings & monumental sculpture exhibits, Crooked Brook Studios Art Farm, early 20th century farm with “bio-organic eruptions” of art appearing across farm landscape, RD2 Box 2364, Wadhams-Whallonsburg Rd., Westport (aka Sayre Rd./Cty. Rte. 55). Info: 518-962-4386.

Thursday, September 11, 11:30am to evening – Turtle Island Café Trail Farm-to-Restaurant Tour For each farm you visit your name will be entered into drawing for $30 gift certificate to Turtle Island Café. Make reservations by September 8 with 518-962-4810×404.

Friday, September 12, 9:00am to 1:00pm, Elizabethtown Farmers’ Market – Free samples of seasonal fruits & vegetables and dip for dunking at one of the oldest Essex County markets. Peruse selections of vegetables, flowers, baked goods, crafts, Elizabethtown. Info: 518-293-7877

Friday, September 12, 10-11:30am Cornell E.V.Baker Research Farm Tour – Farm connects Cornell University faculty with important agricultural issues facing Northern NY farmers, including best management practices for perennial forages, tillage and soil health interactions, wine grape variety evaluations, small grain variety trials and season extension using high tunnels… 38 Farrell Road, Willsboro. Info: 518-963-7492.

Saturday, September 13, 11:30am to evening, Deers Head Inn Trail Farm-to-Restaurant Tour – For each farm you visit your name will be entered into drawing for $30 gift certificate to The Deers Head Inn. Make reservations by September 10 with 518-962-4810×404. Tour schedule is as follows:

Sunday, September 14, 9:30am-2pm, Keene Farmers’ Market – 6th Annual Pie Baking Contest benefits Keene Food Pantry, open to pie donations, contest pies should arrive no later than 9am. Awards in three categories, donate to food pantry to receive a slices of the pies; Marcy Field in Keene Valley. Info: 518-561-7167.

Franklin County
Saturday-Sunday, September 6-7, 1-3 pm – Adirondack Alps Cooking Classes at Hohmeyers’ Lodge on Lake Clear, 6319 State Route 30, Lake Clear, NY. Info: www.lodgeonlakeclear.com , 518-891-1489.

Wednesday-Sunday, September 10-14 – 6-6:30 pm free harvest cooking demonstrations prior to dinner service at Hohmeyers’ Lodge on Lake Clear, 6319 State Route 30, Lake Clear, NY – Chef Cathy Hohmeyer will serve a special Old World Style Harvest Dinner Menu complete with local beef, pork, and lamb; potatoes; salads, and strudel with organic apples and peaches – a whole, 100-mile menu of local products. Everything from stroganoff and soups to sauerbraten will be prepared with organic and local foods. Info: 518-891-1489, www.lodgeonlakeclear.com

Hamilton County
August 28, 3-6pm, Long Lake Farmers’ Market, Long Lake Pavilion, Long Lake, NY – display of Adirondack Harvest materials with photos of local members such as Neil McGovern of the Inn at Speculator, maple producer Dave McComb, and Ann Miller of Indian Lake Restaurant. Info: 518-548-6191

September 9, 8:30am, Indian Lake, NY – Roll out for Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce will provide an explanation of Adirondack Harvest and what it has the potential to do for the local tourist-based economy. Info: 518-548-6191

September 9, 6pm, Speculator, NY – Roll out for Speculator Region Chamber of Commerce will provide an explanation of Adirondack Harvest and what it has the potential to do for the local tourist-based economy. Info: 518-548-6191

September 11, 3-6pm, Speculator Farmers’ Market, Speculator Farmers’ Market, Speculator Pavilion, Speculator, NY – display of Adirondack Harvest materials with photos of local members, such as Neil McGovern of the Inn at Speculator, maple producer Dave McComb, and Ann Miller of Indian Lake Restaurant. Info: 518-548-6191

October 4, 10am-4pm Fall Fest, Speculator Pavilion, Speculator, NY Adirondack Harvest display booth and solicitation of members. Info: 518-548-6191

Jefferson County
Monday, September 15, 3:30pm, Monday Neighborhood Farmers’ Market, 203 N. Hamilton Street, Watertown – Celebrity chef Lori Wells of Café Mira in Adams will offer a cooking demonstration using the freshest fall produce and with the assistance of her 10-year-old daughter Madison Wells. Info: 315-788-8450

Lewis County
September Mondays, 2-6pm; Saturdays, 8:30am-2pm; October Saturdays, 9am-1pm – Lowville Farmers Market – Mondays are Mini-Market days; the first Saturday of the month is Customer Appreciation Day with free beverages and door prizes donated by vendors with produce, meats, maple, baked goods…The market accepts WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program food coupons; Lewis County Fairgrounds Forest Park Pavilion, Lowville. Info: 315-376-5270

September 20, 4th Annual Cream Cheese Festival, Lowville downtown – World’s largest cheesecake, contests, entertainment, artists, Children’s Discovery Park, raffles…benefits local churches’ food pantries. Kraft Foods in Lowville is the largest cream cheese manufacturing plan in the world. Info: 315-376-8688

September 29-October 5 – NY Harvest for NY Kids Week activities at county schools Info: 315-376-5270

October 4, 11am-4pm, Lowville Dairy Producers Cooperative, 7396 Utica Blvd. (Route 12), Lowville, next to the giant cow! This stop is part of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce Fall Foliage Tour and you know at the farmer-owned and operated Lowville Dairy Producers retail store they’ve “got good cheese” and cheese curd made with local milk, maple products, Croghan bologna, and many locally made goodies. Watch for details on a local restaurant serving a meal with local products. Info: 315-376-5270, 376-3921

St. Lawrence County
Saturday, September 27, 10:30am-5pm – Harvest Festival, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm, Canton – Farmers’ market, foods, activities, pet the farm animals: sheep, goats, pig, beef calve; tractor safety, hay rides, sorghum sudangrass maze, pick & paint pumpkins, dog agility class, NY State Police Child Safe, fire safety house, Dairy Princess and Maple Queen. Info: 315-379-9192

Warren County
Saturday-Sunday-Monday, October 11-13 – 1st Annual Thurman Farm Tour and Harvest Dinner at The Grist Mill on Schroon Lake – On Saturday and Sunday learn about local agriculture at farms throughout the Town of Thurman. On Monday, enjoy dinner a event organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the local Adirondack Harvest Committee at The Grist Mill on The Schroon, 100 River Street, Warrensburg. The mill dates to 1824; the dinner at this landmark restaurant will feature freshly harvested produce and other farm products from Warren County farms. Info: 518-623-3291, 518-668-4881


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival

The First Annual Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival, sponsored by Adirondack Harvest and the Adirondack Farmers Market Cooperative, will be held at Marcy Field in Keene from 10 AM until 2 PM on Sunday, August 31st, 2008.

The rutabaga comes to us from Sweden where the climate is comparable to the Adirondacks. This hardy, tasty and adaptable vegetable thrives in our sometimes harsh climate. Part turnip, part cabbage, this versatile vegetable can be served in salads, as an ingredient in desserts and breads, as rutabaga chips or fries, mashed alone or with a variety of potatoes or as a component in entrees. With culinary imagination, the results are endless.

On August 31st several chefs will prepare their favorite rutabaga dish which will be sampled by attendees. Other rutabaga delicacies will be available for sampling. There will be prizes for the largest, best decorated and most unique rutabaga grown in the Adirondack Park. In addition, there will be music, games and other festivities including the coronation of the Rutabaga King and Queen. During the week prior to and after the Great Adirondack Festival look for restaurants featuring rutabaga specialties.


Monday, August 11, 2008

OPINION: Going Local in The Adirondacks

There was an interesting story in Sunday’s Press Republican about Gordon Oil in AuSable Forks. The company was founded by Clifford Gordon in 1921 and is now in it’s third generation. Part of the story was a tiny detail at the end that says a lot about our current economic environment:

“Starting out as Standard Oil of New York — or SOCONY, as the sign on top of the display [at Gordon’s main office] states — in the 1920s it became Mobiloil and then, in 1931, Socony-Vacuum.

Following 1955, every decade or so the parent company underwent business transformations, which included Socony Mobil Oil Co., Mobil Oil Corp., Mobil Corp. and, in 1999, ExxonMobil…

Lewis [Gordon, who operated the business with his brother Waxy for 50 years) recalled the big tanks they used to have, which were cut down for steel during World War II.

“There used to be storage in Plattsburgh,” he said. “Big barges would come through Whitehall and unload up there, and we would go get it.

“Now it all has to be trucked in. All the big companies had their tanks there in Plattsburgh. It’s kind of too bad.”

When the company switched to electrically operated pumps years ago it gave it’s older pumps to a local farmer who used them for many years. That’s the kind of localism we’ve lost and it’s to our detriment.

Localism – involvement in local politics, local economies, an understanding of local culture and the environment, underlies much of the Green movement. It’s not just politics and the environment, it’s about supportive communities of neighbors working together to protect each other from the sometimes ravenous capitalist economy (seen most recently in energy and food costs). It’s what was happening when Gordon Oil gave over those pumps to that farmer. It’s what was destroyed when those tanks were taken down and not replaced.

Localism is also the future we face. I was recently talking with a local hardware store owner, part of the True Value chain. He sells lumber, paint, the usual goods (plus his simply built furniture). He was telling me that he needed a special piece of lumber that he didn’t stock. He took his truck to pick it up at the Home Depot in Queensbury; they were out of stock, so he went to the Lowe’s and found what he was looking for. The piece of lumber cost him an additional $30 in gas for the truck, plus about two hours of time away from his shop. That piece of lumber could have been boughten for a fraction of the price not a quarter-mile away – albeit at a competing lumber store.

The story of the fuel oil storage facilities and the local hardware store owner are revealing for local businesses. They once stocked nearly everything a household needed. As corporations took over our world, local supplies (seen on store shelfs and those Plattsburgh tanks) have had to pared down their stocks as consumers have opted to drive long miles to shop at big box stores (or shippers have turned to trucking and on-demand wharehousing).

That is something that we’re going to see come to an end, although it make take a while for our neighbors to break their old habits. Even if the price of oil goes down before the election (as we argued it would), the damage has been done, and Adirondackers have started turning local out of necessity. That necessity is something local greens have been vociferously saying was bound to happen since the late 1980s, even as they argued for serious political efforts toward locally sustained communities.

The trend toward localism has already begun in a number of segments of Adirondack society – especially among small farmers and local wood products producers – but now we are going to see a much more general trend. Already Chestertown, North Creek, Schroon Lake, and surrounding areas have taxis – that’s right, cabs, right here in the North Country above Warrensburg. Not just a single car either, several companies that range widely through the mountains. You don’t need a taxi unless you are going someplace local.

James Kunstler (recently interviewed locally here) has been the most public area voice for localism. His books are a must-read for people interested in what future local economies could look like:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (1994)

Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century (1998)

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2006)

One thing Kunstler makes clear, is that it’s not just about energy – food is as important, and there are several ways to get informed about going local.

NCPR recently celebrated 10 years of the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers’ Market, and new markets have been established around the region in recent years. Local Harvest does a good job online showing where you can find local farmers and farmers markets in our region, but eating local means more than local farmer’s markets. It means connecting with a local CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) farm, it means growing your own food (alone and in cooperation with your neighbors), and it means shopping locally for locally produced goods.

Speaking of growing your own, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program for beginning framers that has recently expanded on the web. According to NCPR who recently reported the news, the new site:

…guides new farmers, and farmers changing crops or marketing strategy, step by step through starting a farm business: from setting goals and writing a business plan, to evaluating land, to taxes and permits. There’s a frequently asked questions section, worksheets to download, and an ongoing forum. The website is the latest offering from the New York Beginning Farmers Resource Center. The center is based at Cornell, but its roots are in the North Country.

We need to get to know our local farmers. The Wild Center is holding two more “Farmer Market Days 2008” on September 11th, and October 2nd “in celebration and promotion of the wonderful local food producers in the Adirondack Region.” Naturally we can’t live on the mostly fancy foods the Wild Center’s program seems to focus on, but their effort is a good start to introducing local farm operations to the Adirodnack community at large.

Adirondack Harvest is a buy local food group that was started 7 years ago. They recently received a $50,000 grant to expand their program, which they describe on their site:

Since its inception in 2001, Adirondack Harvest has grown to encompass Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties in northeastern New York. These counties contain major sections of the Adirondack Park and the Champlain Valley. Our focus has been on expanding markets for local farm products so that consumers have more choice of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets.

A more direct path to lessening food costs and supporting local farms comes from Adirondack Pork, aka Yellow House Farm and a member of Adirondack Harvest, where you can buy a whole or half locally raised pig (or go in on one with another family). A whole pig serves a family of four for about 6-9 months, depending on your eating habits. They raise a pig for you until it weighs about 200-225 pounds. Your pork is prepared for you by a local butcher – you tell them any special cuts, wrapping, etc., you want. Your meat comes to you wrapped, labeled and frozen. It takes a lot less freezer space then you would imagine, and its cheaper.

The bottom line is the economy is changing and the sooner we accept that it true and end our reliance on the big box stores filled with products from half a world away and their corporate partners. They have a stranglehold on our local economy and it’s time we fought back.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Weather in the Adirondacks Isn’t Looking Good

This summer’s weather has been great but now we are apparently going to pay for it. Hopefully the rivers will not rise and if they do, it won’t be catastrophic like in was back in the day.

NYCO offers the latest on this winter’s chances for a big, big, big, snow and Baloghblog is taking steps toward that end. And now “AccuWeather.com meteorologist Ken Reeves is predicts “a very cold winter” for New York – after average winter temperatures last year – contributing to an estimated 50% increase in winter heating oil charges.” Storm Digest has some not so friendly things to say about our coming weather situation. The Post Star, as usual, waffles.

We ordered a new exterior door, are closing up our drafts, and buying some extra socks.

It’s worth planning for the inevitable winter power outage and hoping we don’t have another year without summer.

It looks like it’s a good time to buy more Zone 4 Hardy Perennials.