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The Face of NY Agriculture
The thing that I enjoy most about farming is the relationship that it enables you to have with the land, animals, and the natural world.
How did you become involved in agriculture?
I grew up working on my family’s grain crop, trucking, custom harvesting and cow-calf operation. Like a lot of other farm kids I would do just about anything growing up to get some time in a tractor, truck or just about anything with a motor. And I still enjoy running equipment, taking care of animals and managing the land.
Can you describe your operation?
Agri-Venture is a diversified cropping operation growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, green beans and hay on over 2,500 acres. We also do custom harvesting for other local dairy farms and crop operations. O’Mara Farms is a Black Angus cow-calf operation consisting of 150 brood cows. We keep all of our heifer calves and finish the steer calves on barley and dry hay. The beef is marketed as natural, pasture based, non-gmo meat through the freezer trade, CSA meat sales and retail markets.
How do you incorporate technology into your operation?
We were early adopters of yield mapping technology in our combine, having over 20 years of yield maps for our farm. These maps help us determine how each farm performs on an annual basis and can help us with farm management, seed selection and agronomic decisions. We also use GPS guidance and auto-steer on key pieces of machinery that can benefit the most from the use of precision farming.
How has the agricultural industry changed since you started?
The agricultural industry has become more complex and more volatile since I started farming. Volatility in commodity markets and weather patterns has increased the risks associated with farming. In previous decades there were long stretches of time where commodities traded within a 10 to 20 cent range on an annual basis. Now if commodities trade in a range less than 10 cents on a daily basis it is considered a quiet day in the market! Likewise, shifting weather patterns have brought more risk to growing crops and made it necessary to adjust and reassess management practices and decisions from previous decades.
What is the biggest challenge facing agriculture in New York State?
With such a small percentage of our population involved in some aspect of the agricultural industry, the biggest challenge we are facing right now is keeping the connection between the consumer and those of us that are producing the food. The most important part of this connection is for the consumers to understand how and why we do what we do, day in and day out, to produce a stable, healthy and affordable source of food for a growing population.
What is the biggest opportunity?
There is a definite opportunity in agriculture to harness a renewed interest in local foods and products. Those that are able to harness this energy and differentiate themselves and their products through creative marketing and public relations, stand to gain from this opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The thing that I enjoy most about farming is the relationship that it enables you to have with the land, animals, and the natural world. When managed properly, the symbiotic relationship that is formed, although challenging, can be immensely rewarding.
With so many young people interested in farming—what advice would you give to them?
My advice to younger people interested in farming would be to foster key relationships with more seasoned and experienced members of the agricultural community. These relationships can help a beginning farmer build a solid foundation for a career of success as you glean important lessons from the success and mistakes of those who you may be fortunate enough to learn from. The farming community is a great group of families and individuals that I feel proud and humbled to be a part of.
Why is Farm Bureau important to you?
Farm Bureau plays a critical role in forming the conduit between farmers and the public officials and policymakers that oversee our state. A true grassroots organization with policy put forth first at the county level and then the state level, the policy that guides our members and the public policy staff comes directly from the bottom up. With so many responsibilities and so much work to be done on our own farms and in our local communities, it is comforting to know that farmers have a seat at the table and a true voice in public policy matters. Farm Bureau plays an important role in ensuring that our way of live and our ability to farm continues for future generations to come.