Niagara Gazette

July 31, 2013

Duo champion farming renaissance as Niagara County Fair kicks off

By Bill Wolcott
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The "country girl" and "city girl" spoke at the Farm-City Breakfast to open the Niagara County Fair Wednesday morning and made a back-to-back practical pitches for the renaissance of farming in the western frontier.

Julie Blackman, whose family has been farming in Niagara County since 1862, and Lisa Tucker, the publisher of Edible Buffalo, shared the podium at the tent that was filled with agricultural stake holders.

Blackman and Tucker also have a shared vision.

Tucker spoke of the small farms which make up the majority agricultural business in the county. The plan would to create a food hub and connect small farms to large outlets, like Wegman's and Tops. Bring back the food processing plants which are once available in the area.

Blackman, a sixth generation farmer on the Blackman Homestead Farm in Cambria, said, "I'm the reality check" and spoke of the challenges the county challenges the county faces in agriculture.

• There is an inconsistent labor force.

• The cost of doing business in New York state.

• The state has an abundance of regulations and codes. "They are important but can be obstacles for us. We need to get though those," Blackman said.

• Weather is an issue every year farmers must mold their businesses seasonal shifts.

Blackman, the daughter of Cambria councilman Robert Blackman, works on retail sales in the U-Pick business, harvesting and bookwork.

Tucker is working on the initiative for the distribution. Blackman is doing that on a small scale, doing the running herself. Farms will take produce to other farms to make things more efficient.

• Today's schedule begins at 9 a.m. with the 4-H Western Horse Show. The Hula Hoop contest kicks off the afternoon at the 4-H training center at 1:30 p.m. The disc dogs perform at 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

• The Firefighter's Parade, which returns after a 20-year break, goes through the fairgrounds at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The parade, sponsored by the Niagara County Fire Chief's Association, will feature about 40 pieces of apparatus and volunteer firefighter.s

Jeff Baez, president of Terry's Corners Fire Co., and Jeff Dewart, assistant chief of Barker Fire Co. are in charge. They attended the last parade 20 years ago as volunteers for their respective companies.

They are close to getting 100 percent participation from the 33 fire companies in the district. Some districts will parade with more than one piece of equipment and some will show antique trucks.

"It's looking good," Baez said.