By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Farm advocates have joined politicians applauding the nomination of a Schoharie County farmer as state agriculture commissioner.
Richard A. Ball of Schoharie Valley Farms, a 200-acre family farm, was nominated Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be the next commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Ball will provide “fresh ideas and strong leadership,” Cuomo said in a media release.
“Agriculture is a vital sector of the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs, food for people around the globe, and a way of life for generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “Richard embodies the proud tradition of farming here in New York state and will be a superb addition to this administration.”
Ball has held a number of local and regional positions related to agriculture, including vice president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, president of the Schoharie Valley Association and many positions within the Farm Bureau. He is a past president of the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce and currently represents the county on the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.
Mark Henry, president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, said the organization is “proud and excited to hear about fellow vegetable farmer, Rich Ball’s nomination.”
“Rich is first and foremost a farmer _ he’s watched his land flood, worked through blizzards, and watched the first green tips push their heads above soil every spring in spite of all the challenges,” Henry said in the governor’s media release. “With the nomination of Rich Ball as commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, the New York State Vegetable Growers Association feels that 2014 is starting out on a positive note.”
Ball, who must be confirmed by the state Senate, will replace James Bays. Bays has been serving as acting agriculture commissioner since October when Darrel Aubertine stepped down from the post after more than two years.
According to SeeThroughNY, Aubertine’s pay rate as commissioner was $120,000 annually.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said in a media release that he would support Ball’s nomination.
“Richard Ball has done a great deal for Schoharie County and I am excited that he will soon be sharing his wealth of knowledge with farmers across the state,” Seward said in a prepared statement. “He has a profound understanding of what it takes to operate a farm along with a retail business and how to be successful in what is a demanding field.”
Seward said he has worked with Ball on several occasions.
“I am eager to continue to grow our relationship and to work together to improve agricultural opportunities statewide,” Seward said.
Messages left at telephone numbers and emails for Ball on Sunday afternoon weren’t immediately returned.
Ball was inspired to become a farmer by his grandparents, who were lifelong dairy farmers, according to a biography in Cuomo’s release. At 18 years old, Ball began his career in agriculture as a farm worker at a vegetable farm in Rhode Island, and later, he became operations manager of that farm.
After 20 years in Rhode Island, Ball moved back to the Empire State with an opportunity to become a farm owner. For the past 20 years, he has been the owner and operator of Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie, which consists of 200 acres and produces a wide range of vegetable crops, small fruits and greenhouse crops. The farm serves both retail and wholesale consumers through an onsite farm market, which is known as The Carrot Barn, and ships to brokers and restaurants in the local area as well as in New York City.
GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen said Ball’s nomination was well-deserved.
“Richard Ball understands the importance of building relationships between upstate agriculture and downstate consumers,” Van Ooyen said in the governor’s release. “We look forward to working with him to expand opportunities for New York agricultural producers across New York City.”