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Field and Forest, by Richard Gast

The ladies of the orchard

New York is the nation’s second-largest apple producing state. With more than 10 million trees, our roughly 600 commercial apple growers produce, on average, 29.5 million bushels of apples annually. And they grow more varieties than producers in any other state. Among them: McIntosh ...

Gleaning can help feed our hungry neighbors 

According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, 37,227,000 Americans, of which 11,174,000 are children, are currently grappling with hunger. In other words, more than 11% of Americans are, at this moment, food insecure (lacking reliable access to a ...

Webs in the trees? They’re relatively harmless 

It’s starting to feel very much like fall around here. Days are getting shorter, leaves are changing color, temperatures are cooler (some of us have already seen a frost or two, even a freeze), air conditioners are silent, pumpkin-spiced food and beverages are available at several coffee ...

In pursuit of giant puffballs 

Puffball is the generic name for a large group of mushrooms with similar characteristics. They come in many sizes and are usually spherical or globular in shape.  Puffballs are distinguished from other mushroom groups by the fact that they lack many of the features or characteristics that ...

Plants make me sneeze

I love the summer. It’s the time of year when animals are most active; when the sun is warm and plants of all kinds are thriving; and when the first harvests start to ripen. I was talking with a friend of mine recently and asked his young grandson if he liked the flowers in my garden. His ...

An alternative to a food system in flux

In March, when Governor Cuomo signed the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order, which mandated that all non-essential businesses in New York State had to close, farmer’s markets were exempted as essential retail businesses and, as such, allowed to open or remain open. But, as ...

4-H brings Franklin County Fair to the farm

I’ve heard it said that "You can’t call yourself a local until you’ve been to the Franklin County Fair." It’s the area’s longest-running tradition and one of the oldest county fairs in New York state. Unfortunately, there won’t be a Franklin County Fair this year. In fact, there ...

You can help monitor European cherry fruit fly

I love cherries! Especially sweet cherries. They’re delicious fresh, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins, minerals and beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may lower your risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and/or ...

Protecting berry crops

The spotted wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, is a vinegar or fruit fly native to Southeast Asia. It’s been in Hawaii since the 1980s and was first detected in North America in 2008, in California. In 2010, it was discovered in Florida, the Carolinas, Michigan, and Utah; eventually turning ...

Composting: good for trash, good for garden

America’s municipal solid waste by the numbers --- According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of municipal solid waste generated in this country in 2017 (the most recent information available) was 267.8 million tons. That’s the equivalent of just over 4.5 pounds ...

Rethinking meat — from farm to table

The food supply chain system is vulnerable. America’s meatpacking plants endure some of the highest rates of workplace injury of any U.S. job sector, and COVID-19 has introduced yet another occupational hazard. These crowded facilities have become frighteningly successful vectors for COVID-19 ...

Dandelions: landscape weed or beneficial backyard herb?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are probably the most recognized of all broadleaf “weeds.” Many people consider them a curse — a plant that can establish quickly, by seed, in a well-kept lawn and become extremely difficult to eradicate. Homeowners and groundskeepers spend tremendous ...

Victory gardens — an old idea is new again

Grow-it-yourself food. During this time of pandemic, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Especially if you’re, like me, extremely apprehensive about the possibility of becoming exposed to COVID-19 while grocery shopping. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to avoid going out in ...

Earth Day, 50 years on

I came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a turbulent time in American history, marked by the rise of the antiwar movement (Vietnam, nuclear weapons) and the expansion of movements promoting equality for groups of marginalized people including women, African Americans, Native ...

COVID-19 affects maple sugaring season

As I start to write this, it’s raining and 50 degrees outside. Several days of above-freezing nighttime temperatures are in the forecast as well. It appears that the maple sugaring season is quickly coming to an end. Most of the producers that I’ve talked with are saying it’s been an ...

An introduction to viruses

I’ve heard it said that there are 10 million times more viruses on Earth than there are stars in the universe, maybe more. And that scientists estimate that, at any given moment, there are more than a billion viruses present on Earth. Viruses are smaller than bacteria. For example, at 45 ...

Planning your first vegetable garden

Growing your own vegetables, at least some of them, is a great way to provide fresh, tasty, nutritious food for your kitchen table. Homegrown vegetables are much fresher and taste better than industrially grown, supermarket-purchased produce. And vegetable gardening can be a fun, family ...

Public speaking, 4-H style

4-H is the youth development program of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System. It’s almost certainly the most highly recognized of all Cooperative Extension programs and, without question, one of the leading youth organizations in the United States and Canada. In fact, 4-H is the ...

Caring for Valentine’s Day cut flowers

February is generally the coldest month of the year, the heart of winter, a time that finds many of us patiently waiting, if not longing, for spring. Perhaps that’s why the preferred gift for a cold, wintry Valentine’s Day is a fresh bouquet of colorful, fragrant cut flowers. Valentine’s ...

Ruffed grouse — a close (and very unusual) encounter

Close encounters with wildlife have always fascinated me. But the behavior of wild animals can be, at best, difficult to understand and, at times, totally unpredictable. I once grappled with a robin who returned year after year, only to spend the entire summer flying into my office window in ...