Local legislator, business owner discuss impact of NYS on Pause on North Country attractions


JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. (WWTI) – Jefferson County Legislator Robert Cantwell III and Julia Robbins of Old McDonald’s Farm joined ABC50’s Alex Hazard for a discussion regarding how NYS on Pause is affecting the tourism industry in Northern New York.

NYS on Pause currently remains in effect through May 15. Cantwell explained that the state will begin to reopen in phases at that point, with the first phase including construction and manufacturing businesses resuming. He said businesses will be asked to continue practicing social distancing while reopening.

Old McDonald’s Farm is a seasonal business and this is the time when they are typically gearing up for their busy season ahead. Julia said their tourist season usually begins Memorial Day and lasts through Labor Day, but the farm remains open into the fall for those who visit to purchases pumpkins.

They are keeping their employees informed, but there’s no clear date as to when the farm will be able to open for the season. Julia said it’s difficult to afford paying the small staff that is currently working to take care of the animals while they are closed for business. Their six-month stretch of business is their opportunity to make enough revenue to take care of the animals and support their family year-round.

In January, Julia and her family began discussing the process of bottling their own milk. They visited friends in Florida who have their own dairy farm and make their own ice cream, which led the Robbins family to the idea of doing the same thing here locally.

Old McDonald’s Farm is going to work with a processor in Lewis County to pasteurize the farm’s milk for the farm to sell locally. They will also have an ice cream mix made so the farm can make its own ice cream to sell. Within the next few weeks, Old McDonald’s Farm will have beef boxes available for customers to purchase local beef also.

Alex spoke to a local restaurant owner about their take on the future possibility of opening back up and operating at 50% capacity.  The restaurant owner explained that they wouldn’t even be able to break even financially if they were to operate at 50%.

Cantwell said it’s going to be a struggle for local restaurants and other businesses that are in the food service industry.  He is hoping that by having these discussions, the guidelines will be altered at the state level.  He was very pleased that Governor Cuomo recognized the North Country is different from Downstate.  He said Governor Cuomo has been listening to Upstate NY and hopes he continues to hear these arguments.


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