Niagara Gazette

Features

October 4, 2012

LEADERSHIP CHRONICLES: Pay dirt

The struggles and success stories of Niagara farmers

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

Agriculture Day took us to a number of farms in Niagara County, including Niagara Landings Winery where we spoke with the owner about grapes and wine. Then we moved on to Gasport View Dairy Farm, home of hundreds of cows tended with amazing care and scientific precision; we had an delicious lunch at Becker Farms where the owners have cut their dependency on crops by opening a winery, a brewery, and a wedding location and much more; we visited a farm market which grew from a young teen's hobby of growing really great corn; and we toured a cold storage facility and learned of a process which keeps apples crisp long after they are picked.

As almost everyone knows it hasn't been a great year for farmers. Between the our mild winter, fake spring, and the dry summer, crops outputs are way down. But, every farmer we talked to was optimistic about next year. And in the Niagara Region they can bank on the rich, soft soil of the escarpment to fortify their crops.

The images that will long stay in my mind are from the dairy farm, Gasport View. We toured the facility and watched as the family owners and small staff cared for about 700 black and white dairy cows. Owner Roger White told us his motto is "if we are good to the cows, they'll be good to us." And he and his wife, Beth and his son, Scott, unabashedly showed care and concern for each and every one of their cows. 

Now, for me, I'd rather see cows frolicking in green pastures, nuzzling their newborn calves and mooing happily. But, that's not a logical concept for farming in the year 2012 where you have to have massive output to stay in business. These days there are mechanical milking machines and cows are artificial inseminated, because you have to have precision to produce some 5,000 gallons of milk a day. But Beth calls the newborns, who arrive nearly everyday, her babies. Son Scott, 35, told me he never really wanted to do anything else. "Even since I was a kid I wanted to be out in the barn."

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