By John Clark, NEAFA President
With each season, and especially as you get another year older, your thoughts easily turn to those seasons in years gone by you’ve experienced. For me, this was magnified recently by our Golf for Good Works Tournament that was held at the Shenendoah Golf Course at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY on June 27th and 28th – a sure sign summer has arrived. Each year generous sponsors and enthusiastic golfers come together to raise funds that will be given primarily to youth and agricultural entities that relate to NEAFA’s core mission and the businesses run by our members. That represents the next generation of young people in agriculture.
What will life be like for them? It makes me reflect on when I started in the feed business, and every major, as well as many minor towns in each county had at least 1 Agway store. And each county had multiple independent feed dealers. At a recent dinner, one regional manufacturer recounted how there were 4 feed businesses sharing the same railroad siding, years ago. Many of those businesses had made the transition from a mobile miller to a permanent spot working with brick & mortar stores. Some would simply truck feed from a national company’s regional mill back to their customers, or bring back feed to be mixed at their dealership. The exceptions to that would manufacture feed from the ground up. Those days are mostly gone, and with it the culture as well. I am not suggesting that today is better or vice versa, just that we have seen a change to the very fabric of rural New York and New England.
Throughout the years those businesses have either changed, grown, or gone out of business due to the rapidly changing business landscape. Farmers required more services, including forage testing, and ration balancing. Feed went from burlap sacks to bulk deliveries and now full tractor trailer loads. Dairy teams made up of veterinarians, extension agents, lenders, nutritionists, independent consultants and others started to appear. In addition to local extensions, regional teams were formed, and out of this grew Pro-Dairy to support the industry. The best in the feed business continually “sharpened their sword.” They sought out cutting edge technology and the knowledge of how to use it. See how I wove the importance of our land grants in there? Those nutritionists strived to keep educated and apprised of what services were needed, how they could offer feed at competitive prices and off the services required.
This all brings me back to the point of the next generation. Summer has arrived and with it a multitude of college and high school graduations. What will their generation face as the industry continues to advance technological, mature, and likely further consolidate? What will their feed business of the future look like as laboratory grown protein is on the horizon?
NEAFA, through your efforts, does its part. NEAFA has given away well over $100,000 in the 15 years of the Golf for Good Works Tournament. Where does it go? Well I won’t attempt to duplicate the entire list here, but if you watch for it, you’ll be able to see the signs of it. For the first time in 2019, 4 high school Seniors heading off to college to study a field of agriculture received $500 each. The NYAAC Birthing Center at NYS Fair, the Junior Dairy Leader Program, the Spring Carousel, Open Houses on the farm, LEAD NY were some of the other organizations receiving these funds. Be on watch for the NEAFA banner and or folks wearing NEAFA attire at the next event you attend! You never know where support may come up.
New this year was a donation to the Alliance for Science. Their director, Dr. Sarah Evanega, spoke at the well-attended Golf for Good Works reception Thursday, June 27. She captivated the audience describing her work that takes place literally around the world, and how it is making a difference in educating third world countries, and really all of us, can benefit from the use of sound, science-based agricultural technology. There were powerful video clips illustrating firsthand experiences from individuals in areas desperate for food and how modern agriculture can benefit them. I encourage you to check out this very positive organization and the work that they’re doing.
In closing, while we know future generations will face technological changes and other challenges, as one of my first ever bosses used to say, “the only thing that really changes is the rate of change.” We wish them well, and we will continue to give them all that we can to make a better tomorrow.
Enjoy your summer, see you again in the fall.
John’s jottings over and out.