By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
---- — It’s an axiom in business that a seller can have the highest quality products but if no one knows about them they will stay on the shelf.
Farmers are in business as well, and, in the view of officials at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service, what is grown, produced and harvested at Otsego County’s 583 agricultural operations is second to none.
To put a spotlight on those products, the Extension Service is reaching out to farmers and asking them to provide samples of what they grow or raise for the opening parade at this year’s Otsego County Fair.
The parade will kick off at 7:30 p.m. July 30 at the county fairgrounds in Morris.
The products, depending on which part of the county they hail from, will end up in one of 14 wagons that will be assigned to the 14 members of the county Board of Representatives. All 14 representatives are planning to participate in this celebration of Otsego County agriculture, said Patti Zellmer, resource educator for the Extension office in Cooperstown.
“This is going to be a way for Otsego County residents to see the value of agriculture in their districts,” said Zellmer.
All told, she said, agriculture in Otsego County is responsible for an estimated $60 million a year in economic activity.
Bill Gibson, a a Cornell Cooperative contractor, she noted, has been crisscrossing the county in recent months to tabulate the number of farming operations that are running here. To date, he has documented 583 agricultural operations in the county’s 24 towns and one city, Oneonta.
“I don’t know if anyone realized how many agricultural endeavors exist in Otsego County before Bill started this survey,” Zellmer said. “It really is a major part of our county.”
While Otsego is most noted for its dairy farms, agriculture here has become increasingly diverse as farmers respond to consumer demand by offering such products as grass-fed beef, elk, goat cheese and organic berries and vegetables. There is even a fish hatchery in Edmeston, she noted.
The town with the greatest number of farms is Burlington, with 51, according to Gibson. Edmeston has an estimated 43 farms, while Springfield has 41. Other towns with at least 25 farms are: Middlefield (36), Butternuts (31), Otsego (30), Morris (30), Richfield (29) and New Lisbon (26).
Youth from local 4-H Clubs will assist county lawmakers in wheeling around the wagons during the parade. For the county districts in the city of Oneonta that have few if any farms, the wagons will be supplemented by products from districts that have an abundance of farms. Perishable items such as cheese or meat will be represented in the carts by a gift certificate or something that symbolizes the item.
Zellmer said the items that are donated will remain on display for the duration of the fair at Martin Hall. The products will be sold at auction on the final day of the fair, Aug. 4.
Farmers interested in participating in the fair promotion may contact Zellmer at her Cooperstown office at 547-2536.