July 7, 2013

Editorial: Local landmark welcomes visitors


---- — The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute is on a mission — three of them actually.

Leaders at the sprawling educational complex in Chazy want more people to know what goes on at Miner and how it achieves its threefold mission: research, education and demonstration.

If you grew up around here, you have probably been to Miner Institute at one time or another, either as a student on a field trip — who can forget putting a hand inside the stomach of a live cow? — or for a horse show.

But many people aren’t familiar with the thousands of acres and numerous buildings that make up the education dream of William and Alice Miner, probably the most prominent philanthropists our area has ever known. With the bounty earned from his railroad mechanical inventions, the Miners left a legacy tied to CVPH Medical Center, Chazy Central Rural School, the Alice T. Miner Museum, Kent-Delord House Museum and Miner Institute.

The research, education and demonstration goals at Miner Institute are entwined in its working Heart’s Delight farm, where about 350 milking cows chow down on feed, 28 horses graze and train and expansive fields of crops are cultivated. (By the way, the buffalo that many locals remember from years past have been gone since the late 1990s.)

As examples of how Miner Institute contributes to education, consider the environmental science program held each fall in conjunction with SUNY Plattsburgh; the spring dairy courses for University of Vermont students; the people from all over the country doing internships there in summer; the hundreds of local fifth-grade students who pour into Miner each year for Farm Days; and the 3,000-plus farmers who attend dairy and crop conferences there each year.

Miner Institute is home to respected research programs looking at important issues, like harvest management, improving the nutritional content of feed, animal welfare and reducing farming costs and environmental impact.

But learners aren’t the only people welcome at Miner. In fact, officials there want more members of the general public to tour the Miner historic exhibit and farm.

To achieve that, they are trying to get Miner Institute’s name out more. This year, the farm hosted its first Kentucky Derby-linked event, which drew hundreds. An open house is planned for Aug. 10, with wagon rides, interactive displays, equine demonstrations and local food. And a new series of talks will premiere this fall.

The institute doesn’t need the public for fundraising purposes. It is self-funded, with about 65 percent of operating costs coming from Miner Foundation investments and another 30 percent through research grants and milk sales.

What Miner President Dr. Rick Grant; the Board of Directors, headed by Dr. Joseph Burke; and Marketing Coordinator Rachel Dutil want is more people to know that Miner is a member of the community, with an open-armed welcome drawing people in to its Heart’s Delight.