Harsh Northeastern storms damage farmers’ crops, livestock, supplies and income this winter season

HARTFORD, Conn. — For Northeastern farmers long used to coping with all sorts of cold-weather problems, this winter presents a new one: snow and ice that's bringing down outbuildings, requiring costly repairs, killing livestock and destroying supplies. Farmers in Connecticut alone have lost at least 136 barns, greenhouses, sheds and other structures as snow measured in feet, not inches, accumulated while January passed without a thaw. "We've had other challenges," said Joe Greenbacker, a partner at Brookfield Farm in Durham, where a fabric-covered "hoop house" caved in and killed a calf. "But this is the most snow I can remember on the ground and the biggest problem with roof issues I can remember." Losses still are being totaled by the state Agriculture Department. Commissioner Steven Reviczky says no one can remember a more destructive winter. The Northeast is suffering through one of its most brutal winters in years, with cities all along the seaboard reporting snow piling up at a record-setting pace. Connecticut has been especially hard-hit, with Hartford reporting 81 inches since Dec. 1, compared with an average of 46 inches, according to the National Weather Service. A huge storm that swept in from the Plains this week proved to be a tipping point, dropping heavy ice and sopping rain that coated or soaked into snow piled on rooftops. Houses and commercial buildings crumbled, along with farm buildings, which tend be older or less sturdy. In the Northeast's short season for growing, winter woes are no stranger to farmers. They're used to having to, say, turn on sprinklers to beat back a late frost on their strawberries. Greenbacker said back-to-back snowstorms and a recent ice storm have brought down the roofs of more than 130 barns, greenhouses, equipment buildings and other farm buildings. (Hill/AP) "That happens every now and again," Reviczky said. "But this is a situation where buildings are coming down. This is way outside the box Continue Reading

Fabulous farmer

John Peterson would be the first to tell you he's no ordinary farmer. He's a third-generation grower who spent most of his life in rural Caledonia, Ill. (pop. 200). But he's also the star of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," an award-winning, highly regarded documentary that finally opens nationally today. "I have this other side," says Peterson, 55, as he's shown tramping around his tractor in an orange feather boa. "I love glitz, I love glitter, I love glamour." In part, that's what makes his story (with decades of footage from filmmaker Taggart Siegel, a life-long friend) a captivating tale of an unconventional man finding his place. It begins with Peterson's 1960s childhood on a 300-acre commercial farm near Chicago, and quickly follows him to college. By then, he's running the farm - and a full-fledged hippie art commune. "We had wild parties," he admits. By the 1980s, however, he can't pay his bills with what he earns for his crops, and has to sell off all but 25 acres. He loses his girlfriend, his way and the respect of his community, which considers him a devil worshiper and a druggie, not a farmer. "I was a dying man," narrates the ever-dramatic Peterson, over 20-year-old footage of himself lying forlornly in bed, "with too much time to live." But there's a rebirth on the way, one that's made the film, shown at dozens of festivals, a touchstone for local foodies and green advocates like Al Gore. After some soul-searching years in Mexico, Peterson eventually comes back to farming. Unlike most American growers - who, the film teaches us, are losing land to low crop prices and suburban development - he's going to do it organically. Without the help of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it's grueling work at first, and Peterson does it with only the help of his 80-year-old mother, who sells his crops at their struggling roadside stand.But by the end of the 1990s, he stumbles onto the idea of selling his higher-priced, Continue Reading

Farmer wins L.I. corn-test in courtroom

A Long Island judge yesterday plowed under a plan to bulldoze a cornfield for a golf driving range.Vegetable grower Jeffrey Rottkamp, who had a year-long, $3,000 lease on the 52-acre field in Calverton, testified that property owner Barry Beil never mentioned the driving range plan.Beil, who also owns the adjacent Fox Hill Golf and Country Club, acknowledged as much under cross-examination, court records showed."I was annoyed," Rottkamp, 52, told the Daily News. "I gave him money, and we had a verbal agreement. I just can't get off [the land]. I have to get my crop harvested."Rottkamp, whose family has farmed on Long Island since the mid-1800s, said Beil "changed direction midstream" once his construction plans were approved.After getting an earful from both sides, Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Molia teed off on Beil, ordering him to keep off the cornfields until Rottkamp had harvested his crop."Judge Molia did the right thing," the victorious farmer said.Beil could not be reached for comment. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Primer on Uptown Farmers Market in Phoenix, from food to family fun to easy parking

Great Food Finds is an occasional series where we explore the markets that give the Valley character. This time, we're at Uptown Farmers Market in Phoenix.You can take your pick of farmers markets around metro Phoenix and find tents flush with fresh vegetables, reputable food makers and good vibes.Uptown Farmers Market is one that has an abundance of something special: parking spaces.Those asphalt stalls are equally as important to shoppers as they are to vendors, Uptown manager Bo Mostow said.“We have zero parking issues,” she said of the twice weekly market, held at North Phoenix Baptist Church. “Every other market is difficult to park at. They reach a point of saturation where they have to turn people away.”That means disappointment for customers and lost business for vendors.Mostow knows about these things. Not only is she a protégé of Cindy Gentry, who started the original Phoenix Public Market, Mostow is a mother of four who had trouble finding parking for her Chevrolet Suburban when she went to local markets.“My kids hated it,” she said of those shopping trips.MORE GREAT FOOD FINDS:  Baiz's 99-cent bags of pita in Phoenix, Mesa | Best pretzels you’ve never had at Old Heidelberg BakeryMostow, 40, built a market she would want to visit in Uptown Farmers Market, in its second year at Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road.The Wednesday market has about 80 vendors and the Saturday market around 140. Some vendors come both days, while others move to another local market. Wednesdays tend to be more relaxed with a smaller crowd, while Saturdays are more boisterous and attract more families.The market caters to different perspectives of what local food means. Vendors run the gamut from those selling peppers, mustard greens and other vegetables grown in their backyards right here in the Valley to those who farm on dozens of acres across the state.On Saturdays, shoppers get help with their Continue Reading

27 farmers markets to pick up fresh, local ingredients in metro Phoenix

Sure there are a few farmers markets that brave Arizona summers, but now is when most are gearing up for another season of wholesome outdoor shopping. Check with your favorite market to learn when it closes for the year, or for changes in hours for those that remain year-round, and remember: Offerings are subject to change. Here's this season's list of Valley markets.RELATED:  Primer on Uptown Farmers Market in Phoenix | 3 healthful recipes from Joy Bus Diner in Phoenix | Eat well, live well with these 4 healthy recipes | Shop smarter: Arizona spring/summer produce guideJames Beard Award-winning chef Vincent Guerithault's influence touches every corner of this European-style market. Shop for buttery croissants, imported olive oil, local honey, mustard, artisan breads and local produce.  After browsing, dine on made-to-order omelets and crepes, tacos, paella, pizzas, pastas, panini and chocolate desserts. Wine and champagne are sold by the glass, bottle and case. Items imported from France include lavender soaps and tablecloths.Details: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays starting Oct. 22 to early May. 3930 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix. vincentsoncamelback.com.This urban market offers downtown Phoenix residents and workers a place to grocery shop. The market showcases seasonal produce from top local growers and artisan foods including grass-fed beef, quail eggs, cheese curds, all-natural horseradish, homemade caramels, shrimp ceviche, vegan and gluten-free foods, cheeses, French breads, pastries, pasta, garlic pickles, local pork, salsas and relishes. Artisans also sell wares as diverse as goat-milk soap and watercolors.Details: 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays May-Sep, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays Oct.-Apr. 721 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. phoenixpublicmarket.com.The state’s oldest farmers market offers one of the largest selections of produce, including locally grown Asian produce, Continue Reading

Your groceries may be cheaper, but farmers and supermarkets feel the pain

If you’re just a little irked that gasoline prices have edged up recently, maybe this will cheer you up: Groceries are a bargain.Average supermarket prices fell 2.2% in September from a year ago, the most since late 2009, and they’ve been down on an annual basis for 10 straight months, the longest such streak since 1959-60, Labor Department figures this week showed.But while that breakfast of eggs, toast and bacon may not be putting as big of a dent in your wallet, falling prices at the checkout are spreading hardship across the nation’s farm belt and hammering the earnings of grocery chains.“It’s a very positive thing for the middle-class and low-income households,” says Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global insight. “If they can save a bit here or there, they can spend it elsewhere. That’s what we need to keep the economy growing.”Deals abound. A pound of ground beef cost $3.66 last month, down from $4.13 a year ago. Sliced bacon was $5.48 a pound, down from $5.73. A dozen eggs was $1.47, half the $2.97 year-ago price. And a gallon of milk cost $3.23, compared to $3.40 last year and $3.73 two years ago.Christopher says many shoppers are using the savings to buy more groceries.Michelle Morris, 45, of Canton, Mich., estimates her family is saving $10 to $20 a week at the grocery store. As a result, they’re eating out less frequently and Morris is cooking new dishes, including tacos, lasagna and casseroles. “It has increased our family time together,” she says.Consumers are benefiting from oversupplies of beef, pork, poultry and grains — such as corn, wheat and soybeans — now that farmers have responded to years of skimpy supplies and high prices by ramping up production.That’s reversing an upward price spiral that began in the late 2000s after the  government mandated that refiners blend ethanol into the gasoline supply. Demand and prices for corn — used Continue Reading

Trump’s combative trade stances make U.S. farmers nervous

WASHINGTON - A sizable majority of rural Americans backed Donald Trump’s presidential bid, drawn to his calls to slash environmental rules, strengthen law enforcement and replace the federal health care law.But last month, many of them struck a sour note after White House aides signaled that Trump would deliver on another signature vow by edging toward abandoning the North American Free Trade Agreement.Farm Country suddenly went on red alert.Trump’s message that NAFTA was a job-killing disaster had never resonated much in rural America. NAFTA had widened access to Mexican and Canadian markets, boosting U.S. farm exports and benefiting many farmers.“Mr. President, America’s corn farmers helped elect you,” Wesley Spurlock of the National Corn Growers Association warned in a statement. “Withdrawing from NAFTA would be disastrous for American agriculture.”Within hours, Trump softened his stance. He wouldn’t actually dump NAFTA, he said. He’d first try to forge a more advantageous deal with Mexico and Canada — a move that formally began Thursday when his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, announced the administration’s intent to renegotiate NAFTA.Farmers have been relieved that NAFTA has survived so far. Yet many remain nervous about where Trump’s trade policy will lead.As a candidate, Trump defined his “America First” stance as a means to fight unfair foreign competition. He blamed unjust deals for swelling U.S. trade gaps and stealing factory jobs.But NAFTA and other deals have been good for American farmers, who stand to lose if Trump ditches the pact or ignites a trade war. The United States has enjoyed a trade surplus in farm products since at least 1967, government data show. Last year, farm exports exceeded imports by $20.5 billion.“You don’t start off trade negotiations … by picking fights with your trade partners that are completely unnecessary,” Continue Reading

SPRINGTIME AT THE MOVIES Here’s a preview of the latest crop of thrillers, comedies and dramas – along with a Who’s Who lineup of stars – heading to the big screen

March 24 'INSIDE MAN' Crime thriller Pulling off the perfect heist is the contemporary equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail. In ­director Spike Lee's cops-and-robbers ­thriller, brooding British actor Clive Owen plays a crafty thief whose perfect caper goes wrong. Denzel Washington is the NYPD detective who tries to defuse the resulting hostage situation. With Jodie Foster as a powerbroker. Jami Bernard 'LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR' Comedy Dan Whitney, the former Nebraska pig farmer who has become a red state sensation as a blue-collar comedian, takes his act to the big screen playing an uncouth health inspector assigned to investigate a kitchen scandal in some of Orlando's finest restaurants. With Joanna Cassidy and Kid Rock. Jack Mathews 'LONESOME JIM' Drama Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can't go home again, but Casey Affleck tries anyway in "Lonesome Jim," the third feature for indie acting darling Steve Buscemi. In this mourn- ful but also funny story, the rootless Jim (Affleck) flunks out as a dog walker in New York and returns with tail between his legs to sponge off his dysfunctional family in Indiana. With luscious Liv Tyler in the cast, maybe Jim won't end up so lonesome after all. J. B. 'STAY ALIVE' Horror A group of video game players gets more than they bargained for when they begin playing a game based on the infamous Blood Countess of 17th century Hungary. Each time one of the player's character dies, so does the player - and in the same horrific way. With "Malcolm in the Middle's" Frankie Muniz, "The O. C. 's" Samaire Armstrong, and "One Tree Hill's" Sophia Bush. Filmed in New Orleans before Katrina. J. M. March 31 'ATL' Comedy drama Four high-school buddies from the wrong side of the tracks in Atlanta find there's more to life after graduation than booty and bling. A roller rink named Jellybeans is to this Continue Reading

THE GREEN SCENE. Move over Union Square – the five boroughs are brimming with outstanding farmers’ markets

Union Square Greenmarket, you've been warned. For most of your 30 years - which began in August 1976, along with a handful of other locations - you've been the city's hot spot for locally grown greens and other super-fresh finds. Now, even as nearly 60 farm outlets serve the city, you still have a lock on our tomato-loving hearts. Sure, we adore you more than ever - and so do all those celebrity city chefs - but it's time to play the field. While not all of the city's markets are a Union Square-sized star, many have hard-to-find ingredients, unique farm stands or an especially friendly clientele. So for those ready to expand their berry-blue horizons, here's our harvest-ready list of 10 city farmer's markets worth the trip. STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH HALL GREENMARKET Taking over a hillside lot above historic St. George, this market has at least two stands that should draw foodies from afar. One is the Staten Island Farm stand, run by Hispanic immigrants being trained by Cornell University agricultural agents on Staten Island's last working farm. After you snap up their $1 bundles of cilantro, lettuces and squash blossoms, head across the lot to the stand manned by Rabbit Run, a quirky Pennsylvania farm whose only summer city outlet is here in Staten Island. It offers pasture-raised meats like bacon for $3. 50 a pound, edible flowers and other unique veggies. Joined by nearly a dozen other vendors and a crafts fair next door, it's all an easy walk from the ferry. 8 a. m.-2 p. m. Saturdays in the parking lot at St. Mark's Pl. and Hyatt Sts. 97TH ST. GREENMARKET Thus far, residents of the upper West Side have had this nicely appointed market all to themselves. In addition to fruits, eggs, Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, Tribeca Oven breads and Sprout Creek cheeses, this market stocks some hard-to-find goodies. Pura Vida has Long Island-caught seafood (bluefish is $5. 95 a pound); former city chef Ray Bradley (he's also at Brooklyn's Grand Continue Reading

Spring brings a fresh crop of movies, like ‘The Longest Ride,’ ‘Child 44,’ ‘Beyond the Reach’ and ‘The Age of Adaline’

Spring weather may be arriving late, but there are plenty of movies to heat up the multiplex. There’s comedy from Kevin James, drama from Russell Crowe and intensity from James Franco and Kristen Stewart. Plus a kingdom of monkeys, which is always a good thing. Ex Machina (April 10) A computer programmer (Domnhall Gleeson) hires a tech programmer (Oscar Isaac) to see if a female cyborg (Alicia Vikander) has developed artificial intelligence. If she has, well, she’s just in time to pay taxes on April 15. The Longest Ride (April 10) A bull rider and a New York art student overcome obstacles to find love. Yup, it’s a Nicholas Sparks story. Weepers, unite. Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson star. Clouds of Sils Maria (April 10) An aging actress (Juliette Binoche) rediscovers her spark when she’s paired with a starlet (Kristen Stewart) out to steal her thunder. Kill Me Three Times (April 10) Simon Pegg plays an assassin gunning for the wife of a wealthy man. It turns out to be a popular assignment, as other hit men are aiming at her, too. Co-starring a new Hemsworth brother, Luke! Desert Dancer (April 10) Iranian-set drama based on a true story. During that country’s 2009 presidential election, a group of friends go against governmental rules to form an underground dance company. Freida Pinto costars. Black Souls (April 10) This violent morality tale is set in rural Calabria. Mafiosi real with their family business — including the international drug trade — as family dynamics and feuds rear up, In Italian with English subtitles.   Broken Horses (April 10) Vincent D’Onofrio and Anton Yelchin costar in this drama about a music prodigy who returns to his hometown, where his brother works for a drug gang. In order to save his sibling, the good brother has to go to the dark side.    Child 44 (April 17) An investigator must solve the serial murders of children in Stalinist Soviet Continue Reading