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Thursday, March 03, 2005 ISSUE #358

New York farmers learn from Cornell and Mr. Miner

# 358, March 3, 2005

CHAZY, NY: I'm up here today on the west bank of Lake Champlain at the Miner Agricultural Institute. This week I've kinda skirted around the foothills of the Adirondacks, flying into Syracuse ahead of the snow, then on up to Lowville where Kraft makes their cream cheese, on to Carthage and Madrid, located near the St. Lawrence River, and over to Chazy.

One of the highlights was getting to stay at the historic farm house, Shadow Lawn Cottage (which is to most cottages what The Greenbrier is to most hotels). I slept in a bed built special for Diamond Jim Brady. In case you don't know, Mr. Brady was a big man, maybe 6-6 and 300 pounds, so I was confident my toes wouldn't dangle over the end. The mattress and springs were rated industrial grade Firm, and mighty comfortable.

William H. Miner worked for the railroads and studied engineering at the University of Minnesota where he learned enough to design, patent and manufacture improved components for railcars, and became one of the richest men in America. Jim Brady was his top salesman, worked on commission, and often came to see Mr. Ziegfeld's "Midnight Frolic". (See historic quote)

After making his fortune, Mr. Miner returned to his grandfather's Chazy farm and expanded it to over 12,000 acres with 800 employees. He was successful at farming, which any farmer today will tell you is easier when you start out rich. But Mr. Miner was more than rich, he was smart. He said, "No other occupation is so vital to the human race as farming. It has to do with our very existence – the production of food and conservation of soil." You notice he said farming is vital. He didn't mention railroads, although Miner Enterprises is still prospering in the railroad business, what's left of it. This Institute still has most of the acres, but only a fraction of the employees, and their Holstein cows produce more milk and meat products than ever.

At all these stops across North New York, Cornell professors and I have been kinda preaching Mr. Miner's philosophy on conserving soil by making the soil healthier. Soil health ain't much different than our own health. When soil's healthy it's got more life in it, and lives longer. The farmer takes care of the soil, and the soil takes care of the farmer.

Later I'm flying out of Burlington, Vermont, down to LaGuardia and home to Columbus in time to see Arnold at his annual Fitness Convention. They say it will attract a couple thousand participants and 100,000 gawkers, the largest crowd ever to pay to see a Governor.

Speaking of flying, Steve Fossett finished that historic flight, around the world non-stop solo in three days, without refueling. That puts him in the record books up there pretty close to Lindbergh and Wiley Post. Wiley, with navigator Harold Gatty, made it around the world in nine days in 1931.

Martha Stewart is getting out of jail tonight. West Virginia kinda hates to see her go. The Chamber of Commerce is working on a plan to bring in more of these popular incarcerated attractions. They offered to finance construction of an extra wing just for Men if they can be assured of getting a crack at Robert Blake or Bernie Ebbers. They'll even take Scott Peterson on short-term loan from California, but West Virginia draws the line at Michael Jackson.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on Diamond Jim Brady)

"Picking out and talking about distinguished people in the audience I use quite a little, but never unless I know them personally and know that they will take a joke as it is meant. The late Diamond Jim Brady I always spoke of, as I knew him and he always seemed to take an interest in my little act. Once at a big banquet Mr. Brady recited a little poem which he had written himself. I learned the piece and shortly afterwards one night when he was in the audience I did his poem. This made a great hit with Mr. Brady. My best one on him was: "I always get to go to all the (opening) nights, yes I do. I go with Mr. Brady. He sits in the first row and I stand at the back and if anybody cops a diamond I am supposed to rope 'em before they get away with it." He was certainly a wonderfully fine man." How To Be Funny, July 1917

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