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HVADC On the Road: Mary Ann Johnson

May 31, 2019

Even through the sketchy month of March, most days, HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann was on the road, traveling throughout the seven counties covered by HVADC initiatives

Even through the sketchy month of March, most days, HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann was on the road, traveling throughout the seven counties covered by HVADC initiatives: Dutchess, Columbia, Rensselaer, Washington, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster. Meeting with farms, agribusinesses, committees, boards, businesses, municipalities, initiatives, and state and county governments is an integral part of HVADC’s regional outreach, to lend expertise and to collaborate with other groups.  Such interactions with other key stakeholders and like-minded organizations throughout the region and across the country have facilitated the sharing of information, resources, program development, and fostered creative thinking and problem solving.


Those interactions and key stakeholders aren’t limited to adults….   March 18-22 was the 15th annual New York Agricultural Literacy Week in conjunction with New York Agriculture in the Classroom and Johnson participated by reading to second and third grade classrooms in Red Hook. The book was On the Farm, At the Market, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.


According to State Agriculture New York State has one of the longest running and largest Agricultural Literacy Week programs in the country.  This year, more than 65,000 students across 61 counties participated in Agricultural Literacy Week, more than ever before.  Each year, thousands of volunteers visit schools throughout the state to read an agricultural-themed book to first through third graders.  Students also benefit from an interactive lesson with volunteers sharing their experiences in agriculture.  Teachers are provided with follow up activities to continue these important educational opportunities throughout the school year. All follow up lessons, activities and supplementary materials are aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards.


On two separate days in March, Johnson and HVADC Program Associate Jennifer Bock toured the farms and food businesses of HVADC’s Farm Food and Funding Accelerator (FFFA) peers.  An integral part of the FFFA program is the networking among peers and the sharing of ideas. Each farm or business in the program is unique and distinct, and the tours allowed the FFFA peers opportunities to become better acquainted with other’s operations, offer feedback or suggestions, and engage in peer-to-peer networking. 


One day began at Phoencia Honey’s processing facility in Kingston where owner Rebecca Shim explained her process for creating their specialized flavor infused honey blends. The group continued onto Gopal Farm in New Paltz to learn about owner Nimai Gupta’s A2 dairy cows and exotic heirloom Indian vegetables. A2 milk products are produced by older cow breeds, and are touted as having several health benefits and easier for people with milk intolerance to digest. Next stop was Farmer & Baker in Middletown to see Carlos and Christina Garcia’s new bakery location and hear about how they will grow and harvest their own farm product to use in their food market. The day ended at Gray Family Farm in New Windsor where Shelley Gray took the group through their pastures where they raise organic meat and poultry in addition to selling eggs, syrup, and running a CSA which includes vegetables, grass-fed meats, pasture raised poultry and eggs, as well as other specialty items from the farm such as maple syrup and fresh flowers. New to the CSA this year is seafood. It was exciting to see the maple sap boiling and to taste the end product.


On a separate day, the tours headed north to Washington and Rensselear counties. First stop was at Battenkill Valley Farms in Cambridge where Ted Berndt described his vision for an agri-tourism destination that will be inclusive of farm food and other maker products. This day ended at Berle Farm in Hoosick Falls. Beatrice Berle walked her fellow peers through her CSA, maple and dairy operations including cheese and yogurt making. Finally, Karianna Haasch of Local Artisan Bakery did an outstanding presentation on the renovation progress of her new location on Broadway in Kingston which is opening in May.


“In addition to the professional mentoring provided by HVADC, the peers sustain support from each other,” said Johnson.  “These site visits provide invaluable insights into the operations of each business and intimate conversations about successes and challenges allow for information sharing and creative solutions from fellow business owners.”


On March 19, Johnson joined other Dutchess county stakeholders at a presentation of a research report and strategic initiatives by Dutchess Tourism. Tourism-related businesses and other interested parties attended this informative presentation to gain valuable insights to benefit their businesses and organizations. Held at Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie, the Charting the Course presentation included findings from the tourism board’s 2018 research which was developed to help the organization better position Dutchess County in the crowded travel marketplace. Dutchess Tourism President & CEO Mary Kay Vrba presented the findings of that research followed by Dutchess Tourism Board Vice Chair Angela LoBianco-Barone, who unveiled the organization’s strategic plan for the future designed to support the tourism industry here in Dutchess County. Travel spending, lodging preferences, visitor profiles including demographics, interests, planning characteristics and satisfaction levels were included in the research. To read the Charting the Course presentation, visit

 Johnson was both well-nourished and well-networked at the 23rd annual Dutchess County National Agriculture Day Breakfast at Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County, on March 20.  Tractor Awards were presented to Will Vincent of Brookby Dairy Farm; Andy Imperati, President and CEO of the Dutchess County Agriculture Society and Assistant County Executive for Planning and Development, Ron Hicks.  Vincent is a member of two local agriculture boards—Dutchess Putnam Westchester Farm Bureau and Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance.  Imperati has worked for the Dutchess County Agriculture Society since 1994 and is the driving force behind the Dutchess County Fair that welcomes over 300,000 people each year.


Johnson commented “HVADC congratulates all the Tractor winners and for being honored. Through the years Will, Andy, and Ron have all made such significant contributions to the economic viability of agriculture in Dutchess County.”  The event was co-sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County, Dutchess County Dairy Committee, Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District, Dutchess Putnam Westchester Farm Bureau, Dutchess County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and the Dutchess County Agricultural Society.



Photo Source: HVADC

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