IMAGE: http://www.nycwatershed.org/images/Janiszewski_Sonia.jpg



WALTON, NY - The Watershed Agricultural Council recently added three watershed residents to its Farm to Market Program, Agricultural Program and computer mapping division, all based out of its Walton-44 West Street office.   Sonia Janiszewski joined the Council as Farm to Market Manager and new face of the Pure Catskills buy local campaign, effective September 4. Land Conservation Stewardship Specialist Rob Birdsall accepted the internal promotion to Small Farms Coordinator, effective November 26.  And John Jackson joined the Information Technology (IT) Department as GIS Coordinator in April.

 "The Council directly employs 50 people in three offices," notes Craig Cashman, Executive Director at the Watershed Agricultural Council. "Our hiring philosophy is, whenever possible, to seek candidates internally, first to recognize quality staff, and second to develop experienced leadership from within the organization." Of the three positions, two were promoted internally and the other match drawn from the watershed community.

John Jackson, GIS Coordinator 
Sonia Janiszewski, Farm to Market Manager

"Sonia brings an exceptional combination of professional experience and a passion for agricultural economic development and local food systems," continues Cashman. "Her background includes extensive marketing, communications, and public relations experience in the private sector and as an independent consultant regionally. She will continue our organizational efforts to provide production and marketing education of local farm products and regional technical assistance, and help spearhead a new economic viability initiative to enhance the Pure Catskills brand through the development of an online store."


Sonia was promoted internally from the Farmhearts Fellow position where she developed Catskills FarmLink, an online mechanism for connecting Catskills land with those interested in farming it. She also coordinated Catskills CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training), a grassroots effort providing beginning farmers opportunities to connect and learn from established farmers. Hailing from Delhi, Sonia is also involved with her family's diverse farm, Wildflower Farm in Meredith.


Rob Birdsall, Small Farms Coordinator 
Rob Birdsall,
Small Farms Coordinator
Also rising up through the ranks is Rob Birdsall. "In 2004, Rob came to the Watershed Agricultural Council as an Engineering Specialist in the Agricultural Program where he worked with small and large farm whole farm plans for four years," says Cashman. "Rob then accepted the challenges of a newly created position within the Easement Program as a Land Conservation Stewardship Specialist. Here he has been instrumental in the development and implementation of guidelines for the 123 agricultural conservation easements throughout the watershed. Rob brings to the position an excellent combination of professional experience, dedication to the organization, and the leadership capability to continue the quality programming that the Agricultural Program is accustomed to."


Prior to working with the Council, Rob was employed with Otsego County Soil and Water Conservation District where he learned the basics of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP), BMP installation, surveying and Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. Rob holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Science/Biology from SUNY-Oneonta.


John Jackson, GIS Coordinator 
John Jackson,
GIS Coordinator 
John Jackson joined the Council's IT Department as the GIS Coordinator in the Walton office in April. "John manages the Council's geospatial data used in every segment of Council activities; he's our resident map maker," notes Cashman. "He also provides staff with assistance and training on the GIS system, and integrates that data with our master database. He brings 20 years experience in software engineering and conservation planning to the technology team."

John holds a B.S. in Computer Science from SUNY Institute of Technology (Utica) and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in GIS from Penn State University. He has over 20 years experience in software engineering and is a Certified Crop Advisor. John also spent 10 years as a Conservation Technician planning and implementing agricultural BMPs for two regional Soil & Water Conservation Districts.


"Through our watershed protection programs, we apply our $18 million annual budget to projects that draw upon technical assistance and construction expertise from our immediate watershed community," adds Cashman. "We put hundreds of people to work each year, directly through staff positions and indirectly through the programs, projects and contracts which we coordinate. Keeping drinking water clean for nine million New Yorkers takes manpower. Keeping working landscapes active and profitable is a daunting task, too. But we're proud of what we accomplish with watershed landowners thanks to the staff, contractors and third parties providing those various services with, and for, the Watershed Agricultural Council." 


About the Watershed Agricultural Council

The Watershed Agricultural Council assists private landowners to improve their farms and woodlands in order to protect clean drinking water for nine million New York residents.  The Council works with nearly 1,000 property landowners in developing conservation plans and applying those practices in accordance with farm and forest management plans. Working with farmers, agribusinesses, woodland owners, forest industry professionals and others, the Council seeks to enhance both business profitability and environmental stewardship. The Council champions the working landscape model by holding over 21,000 acres in conservation easements. Landowners use a variety of best management practices, tools and approaches, such as conservation easements, to keep property viable within a working landscape. The Council also supports strong agriculture and forestry businesses through its "Buy Local" branding campaign, Pure Catskills and an online, Pure Catskills Marketplace. The Council accomplishes its work in land conservation and water quality protection within the New York City watershed region by embracing partnerships with other nonprofits organizations, government agencies and community stakeholders. The nonprofit is funded by The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and other federal and foundation sources.  The Council is an equal opportunity employer and provider.  For more information, visit www.nycwatershed.org.


About Pure Catskills
Pure Catskills buy local campaign is an economic initiative of the Watershed Agricultural Council. The Council partners with private landowners to protect both the rural, land-based economy of the watershed region and drinking water quality of over nine million people. Pure Catskills connects regional farm, food and wood businesses, retailers and restaurants with a large consumer audience though a print guide, website and direct marketing support. For more information, visit www.purecatskills.com.



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START: September 20, 2012
END: October 20, 2012

SUMMARY: Regional watershed protection organization adds three employees as Farm to Market Manager, GIS Coordinator and Small Farms Coordinator. 


Tara Collins

Communications Director

(607) 865-7790, ext. 226

(607) 643-5148 cell 

The Watershed Agricultural Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the economic viability of agriculture and forestry through the protection of water quality and the promotion of land conservation in the New York City Watershed region. The WAC is funded by The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and other federal, foundation and private sources. The WAC is an Equal Opportunity Providers and Employers.