By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE March 7, 2003 Farming isnt dead not yet anyway.
The 21st annual Dairy Day attracted more than 150 people to the Jeffersonville Inn Tuesday a number thats been steady for at least the past five years.
True, the agendas have changed a little bit over the years. Along with talks about new insemination techniques for cows, there are folks on hand to guide farmers in selling out of the business.
There are bankers on hand to talk shop considering the finances of turning grazing fields into a better money maker.
But most of the farmers at Dairy Day were there to learn more about farming.
Eileen Reimer of North Branch has been farming with husband Ernie for more than 30 years, and she still has some stuff to learn.
She stopped by the Jeff Inn to check out the displays and businesses, and the free lunch, Reimer said with a laugh.
The free lunch consisted of a hearty meal topped off, of course, with ice cream from Yasgurs Farm and cartons of Crowleys milk.
Reimer uses the annual event as a chance to visit with friends and neighbors folks she doesnt get to see every day and talk to the suppliers face to face.
If she has a question, its easier to stop by a booth than track down someone on the phone, she explained.
And price comparison is a lot more simple when you can walk from booth to booth rather than taking the drive from Callicoon to Honesdale, Pa., then up to Middletown.
The men and women who set up booths are usually familiar faces. Most of them show up at Dairy Day at every county in the region, and set up shop at every agriculture event there is just to get their name out there.
John Fitzpatrick has been coming to Sullivan Countys event for as long he can remember hoping to sign folks up for his services at Farm Credit in Middletown.
Times have changed, he said. There arent as many faces walking in the door as there once were, but the main changes revolve around the market.
The dairy industry has cycles, Fitzgerald noted. Prices were good for awhile, and right now, theyre pretty low.
Its more cyclical rather than a gradual change.
But Joe Walsh, an extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County, which runs the farming event, has seen more of the long-time farmers go to part-time, working another job to help pay the bills.
And a lot more of the booths opened up and folks coming in are focused on cattle production, raising the cows for meat.
But even those who are moving away from tradition feel the pull of Dairy Day.
Lenny Bauer of Hankins was born on a farm. He joined forces with his brother on their own farm in 1960. Today hes sort of retired.
But he wanted to know whats new.
The educational portion is really pretty interesting, Bauer said. And as an area representative to the Farm Service Commission, hes able to use the event to network with other farmers and gather ideas and problems to present to the state agencies that can make things happen.
The changing times tell the usual story, he said.
The small farmer just cant compete with the big farms, Bauer added.
But people like Bauer are still plugging away. Theyre developing new ideas. Theyre merging agri-business with the farming traditions that the county was founded on.
And Dairy Day will be bringing them all together for years to come.