Horseshoe Crabs, Photography, Upper East, WAKE Projects

UPPER EAST: Long Island Sound Horseshoe Crabs

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It’s the end of spawning season for horseshoe crabs and they were out in full force over the weekend at our spot on Cedar Beach. Usually they gather on the beach at night, but there were a few stragglers out until late morning. Horseshoe crabs are considered living fossils, having evolved over 400 million years ago. They live in Long Island waters, both in the Sound and the ocean bays. They are used by fishermen as bait and are vital to human health – their blue blood has a unique bacteria fighting ability which is used by pharmaceutical and biomedical industries for important medical research and testing (NY DEC).

I took my GoPro into the water and shot some photos and video. They are incredibly fast crawlers underwater and I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with them.   I’m also still working on my GoPro skills and trying to avoid shaky shots in the rocky waves. (Eric Seals from the Detroit Free Press has great examples of underwater GoPro shooting.)

Upper East

UPPER EAST: Cedar Beach in Detail

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I headed to Cedar Beach on the Long Island Sound again this weekend, but stayed on land and took close ups. This is my favorite time of year to go because everything’s in bloom, boats are going back in the water, and the beach isn’t crowded yet.

Upper East

UPPER EAST: Upstate New York Gorges


They don’t say Ithaca is Gorges for nothing. Much of New York State’s landscape was carved by receding glaciers forming long, narrow lakes, rivers and accompanying gorges made of limestone, sandstone, and the hotly debated Marcellus Shale. Over the last year I’ve visited a few different state parks featuring some of these unique gorges: Letchworth State Park, which is considered the “Grand Canyon of the East;” Thacher State Park, which is one of the best fossil bearing formations in the country; and Chittenango Falls State Park.

Worth Watching

Worth Watching: Does Hurricane Sandy Have a Silver Lining?

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This is a video from National Geographic featuring fisherman and scientists who work in Long Island’s Great South Bay that separates Fire Island from the south shore of the main island. Last year during Hurricane Sandy, Fire Island, a long narrow barrier island, was split in two and a new inlet was formed. Now, ocean water flowing into the bay is filtering out the polluted water and bringing declining shelfish populations back to life. The new inlet/breach in the island has been a controversial issue – local residents see the cleaner water as a positive change and a potential turning point to bring jobs back to the bay. Others think the inlet is unnatural and will eventually correct itself if not manually filled in via dredging first.

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Hopped Upstate, Uncategorized, WAKE Projects

Hopped Upstate in the Utica Observer-Dispatch

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“Leslie Von Pless believes social change is best captured on film. And one of the faster growing issues she’s latched on to? Hops, and the people who grow them…The 15-minute film mostly features Dave Pasick and his wife Kayla of Szaro Farms, who fell into hops growing when they discovered the flower-like cones used to bitter and flavor beer  creeping up the side of a barn on their Schuyler property.”

Read the full article here and check out more press from the film’s release!

Good Read, Hopped Upstate, WAKE Projects

Hopped Upstate in Utica OD’s Entree Magazine

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I was interviewed recently by the Utica Observer-Dispatch’s new food magazine, Entree. The piece came out this month as part of a feature about the growth of craft beer in Central New York.

I’ve been working on HOPPED UPSTATE for almost 8 months and the full film is close to finished. It follows the progress of new farmer, Dave Pasick, as he attempts to start a hop yard on his family farm during the first year that New York’s Farm Brewery Law has gone into effect.

Read the full interview here.


Hopped Upstate, Multimedia, WAKE Projects

Hopped Upstate: Starting from Scratch

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Last weekend I headed to Munnsville, NY to interview Steve Miller of Cornell Cooperative Extension at Foothill Farms. Steve is the resident NYS hops specialist and is doing a ton of work across the state to bring information to new hop farmers. He’s the founder of the Northeast Hop Alliance and he started the “GeoHopping” project that is tracking the varieties and locations of wild hops in New York.

Steve told me that in the last few years, we’ve gone from having just about 15 acres total of hops growing in the state to over 130 acres today. That’s still not much, but the interest is booming and new hop yards are popping up all over. Despite the heritage of hops farming in NYS, today they are basically a brand new crop and every farmer is starting from scratch to grow them.

I also stopped at Szaro Farms in Utica for an update with Dave Pasick. He strung wire on new poles he put in and told me about the research he’s been doing on funding opportunities through Empire State Development’s one-stop shop for the beverage industry. Lots of questions remain for him as far as qualifying for grants since his farm hasn’t been in production for many decades. For now, Dave is learning as he goes and doing what he can to keep expanding his hop yard.

Hopped Upstate, Multimedia, WAKE Projects

Hopped Upstate: Sustaining the Land

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This is the release of the second video in the Hopped Upstate series: Sustaining the Land. Casey and Kelly Holzworth are creating a sustainable farm that they one day hope to turn into a homestead. As part of their operation, they started a quarter acre hops yard. Almost a year since Governor Cuomo signed the Farm Brewery Act into law, a new market and demand for New York State grown hops has taken hold. Casey’s hops have already peaked the interest of area breweries and he’ll be looking to sell come fall.

Kelsey’s Quarter Acre Farm is located on land leased through Saratoga P-L-A-N’s land easement program. The goal for the farm is to put the land they need into agricultural production, while preserving the natural landscape and protecting the environment. Casey believes one idea behind the state’s legislation was to create this kind of opportunity for agricultural production and sustainability in local communities – and he’s excited to be a part of it.

Watch their story below and learn more about the project here.