The grounds of the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute lie across 9,000 acres within the Champlain Valley, minutes from the Vermont and Canadian borders at the most northeastern tip of New York, in the small town of Chazy. Much of the land is blanketed by forest, but also includes about 700 tillable acres, an equine research center, more than 600 dairy cattle, and a highly respected agricultural research institute. Today, Miner Institute attracts environmental science, advanced dairy management, and agricultural research students from nearby colleges and universities, but that wasn’t always the case.
“The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute operates on the land which was once Heart’s Delight Farm,” says Rachel Dutil, the Institute’s PR & Marketing Coordinator. “William Miner established Heart’s Delight in 1903 on 144 acres of farmland. By 1918, the always industrious Mr. Miner had grown the farm to 12,000 acres, and kept a full variety of animals, including beef and dairy cattle, draft horses, purebred horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and brook trout. In its heyday, Heart’s Delight employed 800 people, managing 300 buildings, including a dairy, box factory, ice house, natatorium, greenhouse, grist mill, and a 20-bedroom guesthouse with a 300-seat entertainment center named Harmony Hall.”
This sizable enterprise was made possible by Mr. Miner’s personal fortune, earned from mechanical inventions for rail transportation. In more ways than one, Mr. Miner was far ahead of his time. Heart’s Delight implemented both tile drainage and hydro electric power, and had electricity even before the Governor’s Mansion in Albany. Miner Institute was created in 1951.
Just as Heart’s Delight was in a class of its own in the early 20th century, the Miner Institute operates with its own unique approach to agricultural education. “We employ a three-part interdependent system,” continues Rachel, “with emphasis on research, education, and demonstration. Miner Institute offers a range of education programs where students conduct practical research, with faculty demonstrating the best practices in each area of those programs.” Students travel to Miner Institute for three main areas of study: Applied Environmental Science, Advanced Dairy Management, and the Summer Internships Program.
The Applied Environmental Science Program was established at Miner Institute in 1972 by SUNY Plattsburgh, and has a hands-on, onsite research focus in both indoor and outdoor labs dealing with soil, water, forestry, and agriculture. Since 2001, the Advanced Dairy Management program is offered in conjunction with the University of Vermont and Vermont Technical College, where students spend the majority of their days on Miner’s dairy farm, working with the animals and doing research.
Most students in this program come from farm families, and are preparing to manage their own dairy operations in the future. Miner Institute also offers three summer internship programs specializing in farm management, equine management, and agricultural research. The paid internships attract undergraduate students from around the country, who receive a invaluable firsthand experience, working with the animals, in the fields and forests, and on the farm.
In addition to producing so many environmental and agricultural experts, Miner Institute also produces some of the most efficient dairy cows in the state of NY. The farm’s registered Holsteins are within the top five producing herds in the state, which is not only a great boon for their dairy business, but helps attract research to the Institute. Everyday, the students and faculty milk 325 Holsteins. Their milk is used to produce award-winning Cabot and McCadam cheddar, in yet another diverse example of the Agri-Mark farm family.