SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) confirmed two new board members at its August meeting: Mary Jeanne Packer, an eastern NY maple producer was nominated by the Council of Agricultural Organizations, and western NY apple grower Jill MacKenzie was nominated by the New York State Horticultural Society. The board elected grape grower Mike Jordan to serve as chair, Livingston County dairy farmer Rob Noble to serve as vice chair and Seneca county beef producer Jim Fravil to continue as secretary-treasurer.
Long-term NYFVI chair Jim Bittner and past vice chair Steve Griffen have stepped down due to term limits adopted by NYFVI in 2014. Bittner, a Niagara county tree fruit grower, and Griffen, a Saratoga county sod farmer served on the NYFVI board since it was created as a stand-alone organization in 2005.
“New York farmers have benefited tremendously from the years of service that Jim and Steve have so generously given to NYFVI. Because of their efforts, New York has an enduring organization that connects research and education funding directly to the challenges and opportunities that growers are seeing with their farms,” said Mike Jordan, newly elected chair.
“I feel good about the strength of the Farm Viability organization, and I am confident that the board, under Mike’s leadership, will continue to evolve the organization to meet the needs of the New York agriculture community,” said outgoing chair Jim Bittner.
“Having grown up in an ag extension family, I inherited the family passion for research.” said Jordan, “Over the last few years I’ve been able to better understand the Farm Viability organization, and I am honored to be its chair.”
Jordan has deep expertise in the wine and juice grape industry. He is co-owner of Olde Chautauqua Farms in Western New York and currently manages over 230 acres of grapes, which include approximately 15 varieties. He is also a partner in 21 Brix Winery.
“For several years, Jill MacKenzie has provided input on fruit proposals as part of our farmer review process. Her comments have been thoughtful and strategic, New York growers are fortunate to have her as their representative on the board,” said David Grusenmeyer, Executive Director.
MacKenzie and her husband Mark Russell work at his family’s business, the Whittier Fruit Farm. On the farm, MacKenzie, who has a Master’s degree in Horticulture, is a hands-on manager, overseeing the harvest as well as ongoing health of the orchards.
Mary Jeanne Packer brings a wide array of expertise and insight to the NYFVI board. Packer is the national sales manager for the family maple syrup business Mapleland Farms LLC, based in Washington County, the owner of Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill, and the Executive Director for the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of NY.
“Not only have I experienced the benefits of Farm Viability-funded applied research projects as a maple producer, but I’ve also experienced the rigor and discipline of the Farm Viability project proposal review process firsthand with the Christmas Tree Farmers Association’s Turkish fir research project. I’m excited to serve on the board of an organization that continues to create so much value for farmers.” said Packer.
“I’ve seen firsthand the impact of the projects Farm Viability has supported in the dairy industry,” said Rob Noble, new NYFVI vice chair. “I’m pleased to be able to step up and represent the dairy industry on the board.”
Noble is a part owner of Noblehurst Farms, Inc. a multi-family corporation located in Western New York milking 1,600 cows and cropping 2,500 acres of corn, wheat, and alfalfa. The farm encompasses a variety of businesses, which include a methane digester with a food waste collection enterprise, a commodity business, an embryo recipient business, a management business, and partnership in a milk plant located on the farm.
“Farm Viability is supporting good work for New York’s farmers. I really like the structure we bring to grant management, and I’m pleased to support the organization,” said Jim Fravil, secretary-treasurer.
Jim Fravil is the co-owner of Just Serendipity Farms in Lodi New York. He is also a former banker, an accountant, and serves on the board of directors of Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca.
New York Farm Viability’s board includes ten members. Seven are nominated by some of the state’s leading agricultural organizations, the other three roles are “at-large” and the individuals are identified by the board of directors.
- Chairman, Mike Jordan, at-large member, wine and grape grower
- Vice Chair, Rob Noble, serving for the NYFVI Dairy Committee
- Secretary-Treasurer, Jim Fravil, at-large member, beef producer
- Peter Ferrante, at-large member, greenhouse grower
- Mary Jeanne Packer, serving for the Empire State Council of Agricultural Organizations
- Shannon Kyle, serving for the NYS Vegetable Growers Association
- Jill MacKenzie, serving for the NYS Horticulture Society
- Eric Ooms, serving for the NY Farm Bureau
- Amos Smith, serving for the NYS Corn and Soybean Growers Association
- Bob Smith, serving for the NYS Nursery & Landscape Association
Farm Viability’s board is all farmers and all volunteers. To learn more about the work they do visit www.nyfvi.org.
The New York Farm Viability Institute is a farmer-led nonprofit. The organization runs a competitive grant program funding research and education projects that create and share knowledge to help New York farmers become more economically viable. Its funding comes primarily from New York State.
—New York Farm Viability Institute
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