Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

August 06, 2008

Commissioner Announces Ag Environmental Management Award

Cayuga County Farm Family Honored for Environmental Leadership & Stewardship

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced the recipients of the 2008 Agricultural Environmental Management Award, which honors farm families and their county Soil and Water Conservation District for exceptional stewardship efforts.

The Fessenden Family of Fessenden Dairy in Genoa and the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District received this year’s Agricultural Environmental Management Award. The award presentation was made by Commissioner Hooker at the 75th Annual Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls.

"New York is fortunate to have professional farmers like the Fessendens, who strategically combine traditional conservation techniques with cutting-edge technology to maximize their farm’s benefits to the environment," the Commissioner said. "Their work in partnership with the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District is more important than ever in safeguarding our natural resources, contributing to the local economy and ensuring a wholesome and local food supply."

The Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award is presented annually to a farm family that practices sound agricultural stewardship by incorporating AEM into the operation of their farm business. The county Soil and Water Conservation District is also recognized for their important role in providing necessary technical assistance and resources.

Fessenden Dairy is owned by Tim and Ronda Fessenden. This sixth-generation family farm, established in 1863, now milks more than 650 cows. Recently the Fessendens implemented an innovative waste management system for which animal manure solids are recycled into heat-treated bedding for the cows, or composted and marketed as certified organic Tender Loving Compost.  The Fessendens have also engineered a system to manage the liquid nutrients and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31 times.  

"Our goal is to provide for future generations, just as we have been provided for in the past," Tim Fessenden said, "by bringing together all of the elements necessary to maintain a profitable farming operation including quality employees, capable management, productive land, healthy animals, friendly neighbors and a clean environment."

Fessenden Dairy also raises 1,200 acres of corn silage and alfalfa for feed on carefully designed contours, terraces and strips.  With guidance from the AEM program, delivered through the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Fessendens have dedicated nearly 53 acres to non-crop buffer strips and grass waterways to protect critical areas along Paines Creek.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee Chairman Dennis Hill said, "Farmers have always been stewards of the land, carefully conserving the natural resources that they rely on to earn a living. New environmental technology is allowing many farms to become community-level ecologists – managing air, soil and water quality issues. The Fessenden Dairy is an exemplary model of this new generation of farms."

John Vogel, Editor of the American Agriculturist said, "The Fessenden family has a keen sense of community awareness, of being good neighbors. They’ve invested heavily in both innovative mindsets and technologies to keep their neighbors and their cows content. It’s also a superb model of preserving water and air quality in New York State."

Melanie Wickham, Executive Secretary for Empire State Potato Growers said, "The Fessendens are true leaders, forging the way for other farms by modeling new conservation practices. It is exciting for the Empire State Potato Growers to be a part of honoring them and the four award nominees from around the state for their long-standing and innovative conservation efforts."

The Commissioner also commended four AEM Award nominees for their environmental stewardship. They were:

· Birch Creek Farm of Woodville, sponsored by Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District

· Emerling Farms of Perry, sponsored by Wyoming County Soil & Water Conservation District

· Stanton Farms of Coeymans Hollow, sponsored by Albany County Soil & Water Conservation District

· Trinder Farm of Fabius, sponsored by Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District.

With nearly 12,000 farms participating, New York’s AEM program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach can successfully protect the State's natural resources, while meeting the economic needs of our diverse agricultural community. The AEM partnership of local, state and federal agencies, environmental groups, businesses and farmers, provides the technical, educational and financial assistance to develop and implement sound farm conservation plans.

The 15th Annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award is jointly sponsored by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Agriculturist Magazine and the Empire State Potato Growers.

2008 Press Releases