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GOOD NEWS!: Family Farm Day: Know where your food comes from


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Tom Della Rocco from Bee and Ewe Farm in Westerlo explains how bee hives work to Krista Blancato, center, and her daughter, Madelyn VanDusen, second from right, as Belle Marra looks on. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

COEYMANS HOLLOW — Most of us may buy our food at the local supermarket, but knowing how it gets there is important, according to organizers of this year’s Family Farm Day.

Held at the Stanton Farm in Coeymans Hollow, this year’s event brought nearly a thousand people to the Biers Road farm to check out the dairy cows and learn how farmers keep us all fed.

“We are trying to educate the public about farming in general,” said Tom Gallagher, agricultural specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County, which organized the event. “This is a dairy farm, so we are giving out a lot of information about dairy farming and there are a lot of kids here, which is great.”

Children had the chance to pet calves, see how dairy cows are milked and learn how farms are maintained. Vendors from other types of local farms sold their goods and showed how they make them, from maple syrup to honey to butter.

“The people selling the local food are also educating the public,” Gallagher said. “They are showing how to get maple syrup and how honey is made, and how you tap a tree. It is so important for people to understand farming.”

Mark Stanton, who co-owns Stanton Farm with his son, Michael Stanton, said it’s important for people to know that locally produced food is safe and nutritious.

“Family Farm Day is an opportunity for us to share with the public our farming operation and to educate people on how modern dairy farming works today,” Mark Stanton said. “We are part of the community and we just want to share what we have with the community.”

Cows enjoy their lunch during Family Farm Day in Coeymans Hollow. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Michael Stanton said farming is also an important part of the local economy.

“A farm is sustainability to help the community and the land,” he said. “In this community alone, we are probably one of the top 10 companies that employ people. We have about 25 employees. Our sister company, Sycamore Golf Course, employs another 25 part-time and full-time employees. We are trying to keep sustainability in this community in business.”

Sycamore Golf Course offered lunches at the event, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with critical illnesses.

Tom Della Rocco, owner of Bee and Ewe Farm in Westerlo, was on hand to educate visitors about bees and how honey is made.

“I am demonstrating to all the participants all things about honeybees — the life cycle of honeybees, the different kinds of bees that live in hives, like the queen, the workers and the drones, how they make their homes, how they fabricate wax to store honey and raise the baby bees,” Della Rocco said. “A lot of people would be interested to know that in the middle of summer, there will be 50,000 bees living in one hive.”

Kids play with a crib of dried corn at Stanton Farm during Family Farm Day. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Krista Blancato and her daughter, Madelyn VanDusen, checked out the bee operations.

“The kids wanted to see the baby animals, that was their main reason for coming today,” Blancato said. “My grandfather, Edward Lord from Hannacroix, used to be a beekeeper, so this brought back memories.”

Paul Stoddard and his wife traveled from Wynantskill to see how milk is produced.

“We were interested in touring a dairy farm and seeing how it’s all done,” Stoddard said. “We have been to others but they weren’t as big as this one, so we are looking to get more knowledge about the whole set-up. My wife likes seeing animals in general — it doesn’t matter what kind.”

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, who is a dairy farmer himself, said it was important that people know where their food comes from.

“You don’t just go to the grocery store and get it,” Tague said. “This shows how hard farmers work.”

Tague visited the display hosted by students in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo FFA — Future Farmers of America — and spoke of the life skills FFA students learn.

“Whether they live on a farm or not, kids in the FFA learn everything,” Tague said. “FFA teaches government at a very young age, they learn respect and how to treat people. They learn how to take care of things and where food comes from.”

Karleigh Kehrer, an award-winning student at the school’s FFA, said she has learned a lot as a member of the organization.

“I like that we get to work as a team to reach our achievements in agriculture. I achieve a lot with my team,” Karleigh said. “I have also been able to go on trips to the State Fair in Syracuse to compete and to the state convention, which was also in Syracuse.”

Family Farm Day gave the local community the chance to show off one of its valuable assets, Town Supervisor George McHugh said.

“The Stanton Farm milks 1,200 head of cows a day. They are a crown jewel right in the heart of our town,” McHugh said. “A lot of people don’t know the farm exists, but a lot of the farmers can attest that the Stanton Farm is one of the most professionally run farms in the entire area, if not the state. It is good to hear that from other people, that we’ve got such a great asset, a real crown jewel right in the middle of our town.”

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