It was a stunning loss that came out of nowhere for officials in Seneca County. Empire Farm Days had been hosted by Rodman Lott & Sons Farm in Seneca Falls for more than three decades, but new owners, Lee Newspapers Inc., announced last week that the annual three-day farm and agriculture show would be moving to Onondaga County.
Empire Farm Days will move to Palladino & Carley Farms in Pompey, which is located near Syracuse. Lee Newspapers, who did not mention Seneca County, or the longtime site at all in their announcement of the move, says the new site features an onsite farm store and cafe, brewhouse, petting zoo, and event center.
The announcement came in a farm publication owned by Lee Newspapers, who bought the show from the Potato Growers in 2019. According to Ralph Lott, of Rodman Lott & Sons Farm, the news came out of nowhere.
Lott also serves on the Board of Supervisors in an at-large seat in the town of Seneca Falls. “I’m not exactly sure what to say,” he said after the news broke that his family farm would no longer host the event. “We found out last week by a phone call. We had no idea they would not continue at our site.”
He said they were set to meet with show-runners in September to make plans for next year, but that the meeting didn’t happen. The timing also posed a significant challenge for the farm, as they are in the midst of harvest.
“Lee Newspapers’ objective with all of its trade shows is to make them as exhibitor and attendee friendly as possible,” said Bruce Button, vice president of Lee Newspapers in the Country Folks story. No one from Lee Newspapers responded to a request for comment after the announcement. “Summer farm shows are always a challenge because of the weather and often the location. The weather can be hot and dry or hot and wet and accommodations can be miles away. With choosing Palladino Farms as a location for the next several years, we are able to offer many conveniences that are not normally associated with a summer farm show.”
The economic loss of Empire Farm Days for Seneca County is significant. Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Shipley says Seneca County in all accounts for approximately $65 million in annual tourism activity. That’s the economic impact tourism in Seneca County has as a total output. Empire Farm Days accounted for upwards of $1.25 million of it.
“Based on past attendance numbers – from show management – and ancillary economic data, I would estimate the show produced an annual average attendance of between 12,000 and 16,00 over the three-day format,” Shipley told FingerLakes1.com on Tuesday. “Included in that number are hundreds of show vendors. It is widely regarded as the largest agricultural show in the Northeast. Given the tourism multiplier effect on visitor spending – accommodations, food & beverage, fuel, etc. – the event likely contributed between $500,000 to $1,250,000 in economic impact to the local economy,” Shipley explained.
“This event, like all large-scale outdoor events, was heavily impacted by weather conditions. That said, the relocation of the Empire Farm Days Event is a massive loss for Seneca County and the local economy,” Shipley continued. “The event had a direct impact on mid-week room bookings, restaurant business and gas/convenience sales. In addition, numerous charities and educational organizations benefited from local relationships. We are disappointed in the announcement and sad to see Empire Farm Days moved.”
As for what’s next - Lott wasn’t exactly sure. “We haven’t had much time to put a plan of action together,” he explained. “Not sure what the future holds as far as another farm show here.”