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Long Story Short: Growing up


Illustration by JP Thimot


Hemp times

New York State is allowing businesses and researchers to grow and process industrial hemp, and local farmers are jumping at the opportunity.


The details:

According to a story in the Buffalo News, Spoth farm (in Amherst) is one of several local growers that will plant a hemp crop this season—100 acres to be exact. This makes them one of New York’s largest growers of a plant that looks exactly like that other well-known cannabis varietal.


Hemp is a miracle crop, with over 25,000 known uses. The plant absorbs large amounts of CO2s and radiation from the atmosphere—even after its harvested. The Spoth’s 100 acres will neutralize the emissions of 196 cars for a year. Hemp is stronger, warmer, and more absorbent than cotton. It resists UV light and needs no pesticides to grow. It’s antimicrobial, and puts nitrogen back in the soil, while keeping weeds at bay. You can use it to make biodegradable plastic and other eco-friendly products. Hemp seeds are super-nutritious, containing nine essential amino acids, B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and Omega 3 and 6. Hemp can be made into a low-cost biofuel that burns clean and is practically carbon negative. And it’s famous for making soft, supple, and incredibly strong rope.


So why haven’t we been growing this wonder crop right along?

Hemp is a type of cannabis, but with only three tenths of one percent or less of the chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. But because of the family resemblance, the federal government banned hemp’s growth, and still considers it a controlled substance.


The 2014 federal farm bill relaxed restrictions on the plant, allowing states to develop hemp research and development programs. New York is granting growing permits to nine farms in Western New York, and more than sixty across the state.


The takeaway:

Mike Barnhart, owner of Plant Science Laboratories in Buffalo, which holds growing permits for four area farms, is quoted by the Buffalo News as saying, “It’s a mind-blowing plant,” which may not be the best choice of words if you’re trying to distinguish hemp from its stoner cousin. Three tenths of a percent of THC might sound like schwag levels, but who knows what would happen if you smoked a whole sweater. Maybe we should get it over with and legalize all cannabis so we can have our rope and smoke it too.  



Education 101: undoing bad legislation



Last week, at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Assembly held in Buffalo, a proposed bill was announced that would eliminate the use of state assessments to determine teachers and principals’ performance. The room exploded with spontaneous cheers and applause. The bill was proposed by the Democratic majority in the New York State Assembly and sponsored by Long Island Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.


The details:

A few years back legislators were clamoring to raise the bar on teacher evaluations, by holding them accountable for student success. Governor Andrew Cuomo wanted state test scores to count for as much as half of a teacher’s rating. I penned more than one article for Buffalo Spree on this topic, which I cited (along with merit pay) as among the most ill-conceived politically driven tactics for improving student achievement. The resulting injustice and morale-damage it caused educators, along with wasted classroom learning time, were driving forces behind the Opt-Out movement.  


As we enter a critical election year for Cuomo, his office is putting aside this failed policy and talking to education experts. Politicians like Senator Patrick Gallivan, an Elma Republican, now view the topic worthy of discussion. Though it’s hard to fathom why it wasn’t discussion-worthy back when lawmakers rammed the misguided legislation down the throats of New York schools in their scramble for “Race to the Top” federal education grants. The hope now is to get the new bill through the Assembly this session. “But,” Cuomo spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, is quoted as saying in the News, “it depends on the overall political environment.”


Take a moment to consider that statement.


The careers of teachers and principals, and the education of students—both of which have been demonstrably impaired by the current law—are dependent on which way political winds happen to be blowing. 


The takeaway:

Teachers and union leaders in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for the NYSUT Assembly say they will lobby state senators to pass the new bill, which returns control of staff evaluations to local districts. Politicians need to fund educational strategies supported by research, rather that pursuing politically motivated ideologies.



Black and white, and gray all over: a true story

She was in her senior year of college, with dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist. Her plan was to earn money over the summer for a trip up north, so she stopped in at the local bar and grill to apply for a waitress job.


He was a successful business owner, divorced, with children, eighteen years her senior. He happened to be in the restaurant that day with a few of his employees, and he struck up a conversation with the young woman. He handed her his business card and told her to give him a call. She called the following week and left a message, thinking that would be the end of it.


After graduation, the young woman applied for a position at a public TV station. Then out of the blue she got a call from the businessman. A couple of dates later, he offered her a job with his firm. She would work in investor relations, despite her lack of experience or training. Thinking back, the woman says she thinks he made the job up. Initially, she considered it a temporary position, but eventually her plans for a broadcast journalism career were abandoned.


Ethics issues arise when the boss dates an employee. Such relationships are widely viewed by human resources professionals as inappropriate. They can impact the culture of the company, raise questions of fairness, conflicts of interest, transparency, accountability, and the flow of information. The power imbalance throws into doubt the subordinate’s freedom to say no, or to end the relationship. The potential for lawsuits arise if the boss’s lover is promoted over others, and the possibility of sexual harassment charges occur if he or she is not. In this post-Weinstein #metoo era, businesses recognize the possible dire consequences of such a situation. “You only have to look at recent high profile cases of office relationships that have unraveled and the headline-inducing consequences,” says the Huffington Post.


The business owner and his young employee continued their interoffice romance for the next year.  “I was just so young and naïve,” she says now.


What happened next?

Terry Pegula and Kim Kerr got married. After twenty-two years and three children, the romance and the business are still going strong. As owners of the Buffalo Bills and Sabers, Kim and Terry Pegula are the most revered power couple in Western New York. 


Last week Kim Pegula took over as president of both teams after Russ Brandon’s abrupt resignation from Pegula Sports and Entertainment. According to ESPN, the former team president’s resignation occurred amid allegations Brandon had an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.


The takeaway:

You’re going to have to think about this one on your own.




Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.



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