Officials, Lott Farm stunned by Lee’s decision to move Empire Farm Days out of Seneca County

Hours after the announcement that Empire Farm Days would be leaving Seneca Falls — officials with the host site say they were taken by surprise at

The announcement came suddenly in a farm publication – taking residents of Seneca County by surprise.

After more than 30 years of hosting Empire Farm Days, Rodman Lott & Sons Farm – located in Seneca Falls – would not play host to the event in 2021.

Lee Newspapers Inc. announced in a farm publication this week that the agricultural trade show would be moved to Palladino & Carley Farms in Onondaga County. The company touted the new site’s upgrades, which included an onsite farm store and cafe, brewhouse, petting zoo and event center.

“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. “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.”

There was no mention of the Seneca Falls site, or reasoning for moving the expo, which was canceled in 2020 due to concerns around the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Lee Newspapers voiced frustration with local officials, who would not give their blessing to hold the event – even though there were questions around New York State mandates would allow such a gathering to take place.

To make matters worse around the announcement itself – Ralph Lott of Rodman Lott & Sons Farm, who also serves on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, said the entire ordeal took him by surprise.

“[I’m] not exactly sure what to say,” Lott said in an email. “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.

“We haven’t had much time to put a plan of action together. Not sure what the future holds as far as another farm show here,” Lott added.

As for economic impact, Seneca County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jeff Shipley says the loss of the event is a major blow to local tourism and the greater economy.

“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.”

The tourism industry in Seneca County accounts for more than $65 million in total annual visitor spending.

“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 benefitted for local relationships. We are disappointed in the announcement and sad to see Empire Farm Days moved.”

Lee Newspapers has not responded to FingerLakes1.com’s request for comment.

UPDATE: Supervisors double-down on Empire Farm Days cancellation, says decision was overwhelmingly supported among board


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