A Ballston dairy farm that has been diversifying its business will be featured on one of the tours surrounding the Farm Aid concert next weekend.
Willow Marsh Farm, which has been in the Curtiss family for five generations, is one of three Capital Region farms that will be visited as part of Farm Aid 2013.
“I was pretty flattered when they reached out to me from out of nowhere,” said Chuck Curtiss, who owns the 130-acre farm on Hop City Road with his wife, Darlene.
At a glance
• The annual Farm Aid concert, set for Sept. 21 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, is being held in upstate New York for the first time.
• Performers will include Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Carlene Carter, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.
• The concerts raise money to support family farmers and to increase awareness of the role of small-scale agriculture.
• The SPAC event is sold out, but people can still sign up for the farm tours.
The concert will take place at the Saratoga Performed Arts Center on Saturday, Sept. 21. The farm tours will be Friday.
Curtiss has been diversifying the farm in recent years, as a way to deal with the wide month-to-month fluctuations in fluid milk prices. The family has also sold the development rights to their land to the state and town of Ballston, guaranteeing the land will never be developed.
Most of the milk from Willow Marsh’s 25 cows is sold to Stewart’s Shops, but the farm also has a permit to sell raw, unpasteurized milk. It also has its own line of yogurts and cheeses, and is making plans to establish an on-site creamery.
This past summer, the family opened a farm store that is open six days a week and sells its dairy products, local meats, farm-grown produce, and locally supplied processed foods including peanut butter, pasta sauce and baked goods.
Farm Aid singled out Willow Marsh as providing creative solutions to the problem of how to bring family farms a stable income, given the instability of milk prices, and the rising cost of fuel and feed grain.
“Chuck and Darlene are setting their farm up to be successful for generations to come through diversification and innovations,” said Jennifer Fahy, a Farm Aid spokeswoman.
Chuck Curtiss said he’ll be looking for a chance to talk to visitors about such issues as the fact that the state’s “yogurt boom,” while increasing demand for New York state milk, isn’t having an impact on how much farmers are paid for the milk.
The other farms being toured as part of Farm Aid activities are the Roxbury Farm community supported agriculture operation in Kinderhook and Pleasant Valley Farm, a small vegetable operation in Argyle.
Fahy said Farm Aid’s 2007 concert was in New York City, and that show helped develop an awareness of the connection between urban residents and upstate farmers.
“It’s been interesting to see the reaction both from people across the country and from New Yorkers — when we announced the concert in Saratoga Springs, Farm Aid fans in the Midwest complained, ‘Come back to farm country.’ And the New Yorkers responded, “This IS farm country. We’re not just New York City!’ ” Fahy said.
New York state has 36,000 farms and 7 million acres in agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — though many of those farms are part-time or hobby farms that produce little income. The USDA estimated there were 610,000 dairy cows statewide as of early 2012.
Farm Aid was started with a concert in 1985, and since then a nonprofit organization has been formed and has organized annual concerts that have raised a total of $43 million to assist farmers.
“The annual Farm Aid concert is all about shining a spotlight on family farmers: their challenges and the innovations they create to stay in business, take care of our natural resources, and build community,” Fahy said.
The cost of taking one of the tours is $25, with lunch included. Tour buses will depart from SPAC at 9 a.m., and return in the afternoon.
People who want to take the tour of Willow Marsh or one of the other farms can register at www.farmaid.org/events.