And the ‘Aggie’ goes to…

Melissa Stagnaro

In my year and a half or so with The Evening Sun, I’ve had the opportunity (read: been required) to attend annual dinners for a number of different agencies and organizations. Most of these events feature some kind of award presentation, where the group honors an individual or group of individuals for their contributions, commitment, dedication, etc.

The Chenango County Farm Bureau annual dinner, held last night at the Silo Restaurant, was no different. Except for the fact that, as it turns out, I was the person they had chosen to recognize.

Each year the farm advocacy group gives out an Advocate of Agriculture Award, honoring someone who they feel has been “extremely active” in promoting the local ag industry and the CCFB. This year, they have selected me for this honor.

It was entirely unexpected, and I was truly stunned, floored, flabbergasted, astonished, shocked – and any other word you can think of to describe being “filled with sudden and great surprise.”

In retrospect, I probably should have been clued in when Rainy Collins-Vickers, wife of CCFB President Bradd Vickers, demanded I hand over my copy of the bound edition which served as the event’s agenda and program. But I wasn’t.

When Rainy announced that I was the recipient of the award, I was more than a little verklempt. I was also incredibly flattered.

When I first started at The Evening Sun all those months ago, I took over much of the “beat” previously covered by Mike McGuire. Mike was, and is, held in very high regard by many. The shoes he left behind were tough to fill. (And not just because they weren’t my style or size.)

When I first started attending ag-related functions hosted by the CCFB and other organizations, people often came up to me to tell me what a great job Mike had done and that they had been worried when he’d left. It wasn’t all ego shattering, though, since they were quick to add that the fears inspired by his departure had been at least partially assuaged by the fact that I could write coherently. At least for the most part.

Even I could recognize, however, that my knowledge of agriculture was sadly lacking. Luckily, there were plenty of people like Bradd, Rainy, Ken Dibbell, Harvey Fletcher, Sue Evans, Bob Shaw, Andrew Kross, Janet Pfromm, Terry Ives and a host of others who were willing to help educate me on the issues faced in this diverse industry which is oh so important to our local area and to our state.

I’ve come to look at all of the above men and women as a great resource on many ag-related topics. They’ve showed me a side of agriculture I’d never seen before by dragging me to events, introducing me to the movers and shakers in the industry, bringing me to Albany to witness lobbying Farm Bureau style, taking me on tours of local farms and encouraging me to learn all I can about our state’s largest industry.

I’ve welcomed every one of those opportunities, with what I’d like to think of as minimal kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to lie: There’s been a learning curve. It feels like every time I feel like I’ve got a handle on one topic, five or ten more pop up. And despite my degree in economics, I’m still trying to decipher all the intricacies of how milk prices are determined. Thankfully, until I do, I know who to call when I have urgent questions 10 minutes before deadline.

Over the last year, I’ve tried my best to cover Chenango County’s agricultural industry in a way which helps bring issues faced by our local ag producers to the forefront. And it is truly an honor to know that my work has been appreciated and recognized by those so committed to the same cause.

Thank you to Bradd, Rainy and the Chenango County Farm Bureau for selecting me to receive this year’s Advocate of Agriculture Award.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunmelissa.