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NCPR News Staff: Zach Hirsch

Reporter and Producer

Zach Hirsch has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Vermont. He got his radio training at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, MA.
 
As a senior at UVM, Zach carried out a yearlong, ethnographic investigation on the handling of so-called street people in downtown Burlington. He won honors for his thesis, but he felt that the final report was too academic. So he made the paper more accessible by translating it into stories and interviews. Those were his first radio pieces.

Zach left Burlington after college for the Transom program. In Woods Hole, he was among an elite group of nine, learning the ropes from award-winning journalists and documentarians. While at the program, he reported on the psychological aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. His profile of two survivors was at the center of an hour-long discussion on WCAI's The Point. Zach's work has also aired on NPR's Weekend Edition, Public Radio Remix, the HowSound podcast, WFUV, and New Hampshire Public Radio.

Stories filed by Zach Hirsch

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"I like when I look in the mirror. I like who's looking back," says Kelly Metzgar. Photo: Zach Hirsch
"I like when I look in the mirror. I like who's looking back," says Kelly Metzgar. Photo: Zach Hirsch

For Kelly Metzgar, being a woman is a work in progress

As the New York legislative session came to an end, the LGBT community waited to see how lawmakers would handle the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered people.

There are laws in New York State protecting people on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity, but not gender expression. For the seventh time, Republican leaders blocked GENDA from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

"We're not asking for more rights. We're not asking for special rights. As I say in all my columns, we are only asking for equal rights, and equal protections as every other person enjoys," says Kelly Metzgar, an activist from Saranac Lake and a transgendered woman herself.

Kelly says she's been doing advocacy for a couple of years on the state, national, and even international levels - but she says the toughest battles have always been right at home: two divorces, depression, and hiding her true identity from her employer.

We first met Kelly last fall, not long after she first came out to her sister. Here's an update on her search for acceptance.  Go to full article
Rooftop solar panels in Poughkeepsie, NY. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_New_York#mediaviewer/File:Rooftop_Photovoltaic_Array.jpg">Lucas Braun</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Rooftop solar panels in Poughkeepsie, NY. Photo: Lucas Braun, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

California solar company eyes land at Plattsburgh Airport

Solar energy is on the rise in New York State, thanks in part to a company from California, and state incentives that make it more attractive to do business here. SolarCity already has plans for developing solar farms in Glens Falls, Queensbury, and Schenectady. The Plattsburgh International Airport may be next.  Go to full article
One of Tri-Town's products--sausage. Photo: Sarah Harris
One of Tri-Town's products--sausage. Photo: Sarah Harris

Update: Tri-Town in negotiations with USDA

Correction, Friday, 12:00 p.m.: This story previously said that Jeff Liberty was "doubtful that he and his father will be able to convince the USDA to relax the rules." This mischaracterized Liberty's statement. His actual statement was as follows: "We're not going to change the rules and regulations for the USDA, and that's not what our intention is. But the way that they've been enforced, and the amount of personnel that have been devoted to our plant, in our opinion, is unfair."

The error has been corrected below.

***

Earlier this week, we reported that Tri-Town Processing in Brasher Falls - one of St. Lawrence County's biggest slaughterhouses - is no longer processing USDA-inspected meats for retail customers. That has the North Country farmers who raised those animals worried. Yesterday we checked in with co-owners Tom and Jeff Liberty. We were also in touch with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Go to full article
Green groups are hoping the new water levels plan improves wetlands along the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Jenni Werndorf
Green groups are hoping the new water levels plan improves wetlands along the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Jenni Werndorf

After decades, major breakthrough on water levels for Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence

Standing between Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is a dam that a lot of people say operates under outdated rules.

The regulations for the Moses-Saunders Dam between Cornwall and Massena haven't changed since the 1950s. For over a decade, lawmakers and activists have said that the rules on water levels have harmed wetlands, fish and wildlife, and even the tourism economy.

They've tried and failed to find a way of reversing that damage. Last year, officials came up with a new concept, called Plan 2014. Yesterday the International Joint Commission unanimously endorsed it.  Go to full article
A driverless tractor. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driverless_tractor#mediaviewer/File:Case_IH_745_XL,_Claas-M%C3%A4hdrescher.jpg">Lifetec18</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A driverless tractor. Photo: Lifetec18, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Robots are coming to North Country farms

A Potsdam-based startup company called Agbotic is working on machines that can till soil, plant seeds, and even kill pests without a human operator. The company plans on testing the devices on St. Lawrence and Jefferson county farms this summer.  Go to full article
The abandoned machine shop at the former Jones and Laughlin Steel plant. Photo: Zach Hirsch
The abandoned machine shop at the former Jones and Laughlin Steel plant. Photo: Zach Hirsch

New deal may mean a new beginning for J&L site

For decades, the former Jones and Laughlin Steel plant in southern St. Lawrence County has been a symbol of the region's manufacturing decline. J&L Steel went out of business in the late 1970s, and since then, it was unclear who would clean up the toxic waste the company left behind. Parts of the property are listed as a state Superfund site.

Yesterday, local officials, including state's top environment official, met to celebrate what they believe is going to be a new beginning.  Go to full article
Bounty at the Canton Farmers' Market, summer 2010. Photo by David Sommerstein
Bounty at the Canton Farmers' Market, summer 2010. Photo by David Sommerstein

Two ways SNAP recipients can save at farmers' markets

There's more and more to buy at farmers' markets this time of year. For many shoppers, it's exciting to watch the growers' stands fill up with new fruits and vegetables. But many others feel priced out of the market.

This week, GardenShare, an anti-hunger group in Canton is reminding people in need about ways they can stretch their dollar at farmers' markets in St. Lawrence County.  Go to full article
Water's Edge owners Tom and Leslie Knoll. Photo: Zach Hirsch
Water's Edge owners Tom and Leslie Knoll. Photo: Zach Hirsch

Why people keep coming back to the Adirondacks

It's almost summertime, and already seasonal tourists are making their way back to the Adirondacks. Tom and Leslie Knoll are a couple of the people who offer to put them up. They've owned Water's Edge Cottages in Long Lake since 1982, and they say their place has 40 feet of beach and beautiful views of the sunset.

Zach Hirsch dropped in for a visit last week and asked them, What makes the Adirondacks so unique?  Go to full article
Americade bikers get ready to ride through the Adirondacks on Tuesday morning. Photo: Zach Hirsch
Americade bikers get ready to ride through the Adirondacks on Tuesday morning. Photo: Zach Hirsch

Harleys to Hondas: bikers take over Lake George

Lake George is one of those North Country towns that's calm and quiet in the winter, but explodes with tourism in the summer. Right at the top of tourism season is a motorcycle rally called Americade.

Every year, thousands of bikers from all over the northeast gather in tiny Lake George. Riders tour the Adirondacks, peruse new gear, watch stunt shows, and meet one another. Zach Hirsch spent a day at the bike festival earlier this week, and produced this audio postcard.  Go to full article
Photo: David Sommerstein
Photo: David Sommerstein

NY dairy farms will get surprise inspections from OSHA

Workplace safety rules are about to get a little stricter on New York dairy farms. There's an ongoing, national debate about workplace safety on farms, which are exempt from many federal regulations.

In 2012, the Department of Labor proposed rules that would protect children from the most dangerous farm tasks. The Labor Department ended up withdrawing that proposal. About a year later, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, announced plans for a program of surprise inspections for New York dairies. The random visits are set to begin in July, in response to an alarming trend of frequent accidents in the industry.  Go to full article

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