Cornell Small Farms Program Serving small farmers in NY and the Northeast Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:15:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Orchard Management Video Fri, 15 Aug 2014 19:14:12 +0000 The Small Farms Program has released its first orchard management video! Ian Merwin, professor emeritus in Cornell University’s Dept of Horticulture and owner of Black Diamond Farm, demonstrates the art and science of shaping the form of apple trees in “Black Diamond Farm – Pruning and Training Apple Trees.” Watch here:

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Barn Foundation Problems? Mon, 11 Aug 2014 21:16:18 +0000 Read More]]> Are you the owner of an old empty dairy barn? Have you noticed some deterioration on the hill side of the foundation? When the cows left they took their heat with them, making room for freeze-thaw cycles that can wreak havoc on an old building. Learn what you can do about it with “Barn Foundation Problems?” in the Small Farm Quarterly:

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Landowner Guide to Pollinator-Friendly Practices Released Fri, 08 Aug 2014 18:00:11 +0000 Read More]]> The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has released Farmer and Landowner Guide to Pollinators and Neonicotinoids in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network. This guide provides current research on causes of pollinator declines and gives landowners and farmers information on ways they can directly help pollinators survive and thrive on their land and beyond. The full guide is available online at

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Save the Cheese! Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:35:49 +0000 The Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help get the business through a very difficult and tight financial spot, all related to an FDA regulatory issue involving the use of wooden shelving which effectively shut them down and froze their assets. If you are interested in knowing more, please visit

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Sustainable Pest Management in Greenhouses and High Tunnels Wed, 06 Aug 2014 13:29:45 +0000 Read More]]> Having trouble with pests in your greenhouses and high tunnels? Interested in learning more about using biological control to manage them? Read SARE’s new fact sheet, Sustainable Pest Management in Greenhouses and High Tunnels, to learn how beneficial insects can protect crops in season-extending structures and enhance the sustainability of your operation. The fact sheet can be found here.

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Market Your Products on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:49:05 +0000 Read More]]> was started this spring to assist local farmers and producers with marketing their products online to their own local community. The website is a central posting board where farmers and producers are able to post, update and control their own advertisements, giving even the smallest producer a presence on the internet and allowing them to reach the largest number of customers possible right in their own community. Customers are able to find what is available in their area, when it is available, and where to find the local products they are seeking. For more information, visit

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Profitable Broiler Enterprises in New England Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:45:14 +0000 Read More]]> By Sam Anderson


Slow and fast-growing varieties of broilers raised together in a mobile coop.

It has been many decades since broilers (chickens bred and raised specifically for meat) were a big business in New England. Broiler enterprises have started making a comeback in the region in recent years, but they tend to look very different from the standard broiler operations you’d find in Maryland or Georgia. Scale is the most obvious difference: A typical broiler producer in New England might market somewhere between 500 and 5,000 chickens per year, whereas a middle-of-the-road Southern broiler operation may grow upwards of half a million birds. Large-scale Southern and Midwestern operations raise batches of thousands of broilers in long metal broiler houses, while in the Northeast you’re more likely to find farmers moving groups of 50 to 100 broilers across fields in open-bottomed mobile coops or “chicken tractors.”

Despite these differences – or, perhaps more accurately, because of them – it is possible for a Massachusetts farmer to make more money raising 1,000 broilers on pasture than what a conventional broiler grower nets for 50,000 broilers. There is a strong market in New England for locally raised meat, and pasture-raised broilers commonly demand $4 to $7 per pound at farmers markets. While very few producers are able to grow and market enough pasture-raised broilers to make a full-time living at it, with niche marketing and smart management, a few pens of broilers can be a profitable enterprise with minimal startup cost as part of a diversified farm operation or as a supplement for off-farm income.

So, why isn’t everyone already doing this? With support from a Northeast SARE Partnership Grant, we worked with several small-scale poultry growers to track best practices and build enterprise budgets for alternative poultry enterprises in New England. Compiled from producer experiences, here are some of the common challenges for small-scale broiler enterprises in New England:


Profitable- bagging birds

Bagging and weighing the final product, whole roasting chickens.

This could be a whole article in itself, but in short, the recommendation is: Before you start sinking too much money and time into starting a small-scale broiler enterprise, figure out how you’re going to get the birds processed. Legal, affordable slaughter and processing options are limited for many New England producers. There are a few USDA-inspected poultry processors in the region, and for those living within driving distance of one of these, it is probably the simplest option: Schedule with the slaughterhouse, drop off the birds, and pick up bagged, ready-to-sell product. However, the cost of processing can be an issue – the going rate is around $5 per chicken, not including the cost of making two trips to the slaughterhouse – and for some growers, hauling live birds to the nearest USDA-inspected facility just isn’t feasible. For those growers, and for those looking to reduce processing expenses and to have more control over the quality of their final product, there are special USDA exemptions that allow farmers to process their own poultry using a mobile poultry processing unit or by building their own licensed on-farm facility. This can save the producer a significant amount of money, and can even be a great marketing tool, but it can also open a regulatory can of worms (depending in large part on your state’s laws). It also means quite a bit of additional work, especially in the first year. Understanding the available processing options and which one is the best fit for you is an essential part – according to some of the producers we spoke with, the most essential part – of running a successful small-scale broiler enterprise in New England.

Managing Production Risks

The process of actually raising the birds isn’t a cakewalk, but the learning curve isn’t particularly steep – at least in terms of keeping most of the birds alive and bringing them to market at a reasonable size in a reasonable amount of time (depending on genetics, preferences, and production approach, usually somewhere between 4 to 7 pounds in 6 to 11 weeks). The most-cited production challenges relate to preventing catastrophe, particularly in the form of predators and disease losses. For non-vaccinated birds, coccidiosis was the most noticeable disease problem. Growers also observed a general tendency for fast-growing “Cornish Cross” broilers to have health problems as they approached a market weight of 7 pounds – or, especially, if they surpassed it – including a higher rate of mortality compared to slower-growing broiler varieties (e.g. “Freedom Rangers”). However, all growers agreed that the Cornish Cross birds lived up to their billing as efficient converters of feed to meat, dwarfing other varieties (literally, in some cases). Which brings us to the next challenge…

Feed Costs


Two types of “chicken tractor” for pasture-raised poultry, part of a pilot project at New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s training farms.

For all of the broiler enterprises in this project, feed was the biggest cost. For those buying organic grain, feed costs are especially steep. Depending on a wide range of factors, producers purchased 3 to 6 lbs of feed for every 1 lb of meat marketed. Some feed was lost to spillage around feeders, and nutritional value can be lost when feed is kept for too long or not stored properly, but a large part of reducing feed costs appears to revolve around improving feed conversion rates – that is, the efficiency at which the birds convert feed into meat. Genetics plays a large role in feed efficiency; for example, a Cornish Cross and a slower-growing broiler can both be raised to produce a 5 lb roasting bird, but the slower-growing broiler will probably need an additional 1-4 weeks – and, in the process, several more pounds of feed – to get there. Management factors also play an important role; for example, in cold temperatures, feed efficiency may be reduced because more feed is being used for body heat rather than growth.

These certainly aren’t the only challenges, of course, just the ones we heard most often. Keep an eye out later in June for a guide which will cover the results of this Northeast SARE grant, including more keys to small-scale poultry profitability. The guide will be published, among other places, on New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s website (

Sam Anderson is the Livestock Program Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator at New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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Where to Sell: CSA, Farmer’s Markets, or Wholesale? Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:21:25 +0000 Read More]]> On July 31st at 8 pm Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County (CCE) will host the second discussion in a series of new farmer workshops.  If you are a beginning farmer, come join us to learn about marketing options for your new farm business. CCE Erie Farm Business Management Educator, and beginning farmer, Megan Burley, along with Dennis Brawdy, owner of D&J Brawdy Farms, Karyn Agle, owner of Agle’s Farm Market, and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer,  will be on hand for a discussion and question and answer session about where and how to sell your farm product.

The discussion group is informal and will meet in the CCE Erie Auditorium

For more information go to  or contact Megan Burley, Farm Business Management Educator at (716) 652-5400 x138 or

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Ovines in the Vines? Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:05:45 +0000 Read More]]> A New Idea for the Finger Lakes Region of New York

By Nancy Glazier

Grazing sheep in vineyards has been an idea we have tossed around for a while. This spring Hans Walter-Peterson and Mike Colizzi with the Finger Lakes Grape Program and I sat down to actually talk about it. This practice is done on the West Coast with baby doll sheep, but none of us has ever heard of it in the Finger Lakes region or New York. We had an interesting discussion mingling grape and grass lingo.

Since this was a new idea to the region, we needed a guinea pig vineyard to test the idea. It needed to be someone that had their vineyard fenced in, or partially fenced and lots of temporary fencing. The next step was locating someone that had sheep, ideally with no lambs, to keep it simple.

5-12-14 Ovines Vines

Sheep grazing in the vineyard

Mike volunteered his own vineyard, Kashong Glen Vineyards in Bellona, Yates County. He has energized deer fence on three sides with temporary fence along the road. The sheep came from some of his wife’s aunt flock. They were a group of ten ewes that had lambed early for Easter. Water tubs were set out on the headlands near the road for easy filling.

The ideal time to start spring grazing of sheep in the vineyards is prior to bud break. We had concerns about the sheep biting off the tender buds and leaves, especially after the hard winter we had just finished. The vines couldn’t withstand any further damage from bud loss. I had estimated there was plenty of ‘pasture’ available for the ewes for more than a month on the small acreage. We were hesitant to get too many sheep since we didn’t know if they would destroy the vines.

The sheep were delivered to the vineyard on Mother’s Day. The ewes hit the ground running since it was their first opportunity to get out on pasture this spring. Pastures had gotten off to a slow start so moving them to the vineyard was a great opportunity. Mike was hoping the ewes would graze in some targeted areas – the areas at the base of the vines, and the grassy rows in between the rows of vines, thus reducing the need for mowing. Plant growth at the vine bases can compete for water in dry years. There were some weeds but since they were flush with spring growth it was very palatable. Mike spent quite a bit of time watching the sheep that first day making sure they weren’t destructive.

Ovines- Sheep Grazing

Sheep grazing weeds at the bases of the grape vines

Some work has been done to train sheep to graze vineyard floors and not grape leaves. To deter sheep from grazing the grape leaves, they were fed grape leaves then administered a small dose of lithium chloride. The sheep got a bit of an upset stomach and associated the discomfort with the grape leaves. We couldn’t start with that practice since the vines hadn’t yet leafed out and the sheep might possibly be used for leaf pull later in the season. This practice removes a few leaves in the grape zone to allow for more air circulation. This can help reduce disease risk.

The sheep had a short stay within the vines. Bud break occurred quickly with the warm temperatures in mid-May. They were moved to the headlands where there was plenty of grazing for a few weeks. The goal is to put them back in the vineyard possibly after harvest to graze the grassy areas down before winter.

Nancy Glazier is the Small Farms Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team. Her office is in Penn Yan and can be reached at 585.536.5123 and

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Small Livestock Farm Reaches Big Market Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:04:56 +0000 Read More]]> Lucki 7 Farms in Rodman, NY

By Rachel Whiteheart

small livestock cow and calf

The Winklers sell 35 head of beef per year

With its rich loamy soil, plentiful water, and flat basin land, it’s unsurprising that Stephen Winkler and his family settled down in Jefferson County, New York. The Winklers purchased the original 100 acres, house, and barn of what would soon become Lucki 7 Farms in 1997, becoming the third family to farm the land. Their primary predecessor, the Gates family, was well known for their generosity with land and resources and their dedication to employing local farmers. Each Gates property had beautiful rustic farmhouses, several of which the Winklers have refurbished since purchasing the land.

The Winkler family started off from much humbler beginnings than their forebearers. The Winklers began with a single flock of laying hens to sustain the homestead, but in the years to come they would build the foundation for a multi-species livestock farm, adding pigs, chickens, turkeys, and beef cows.

small livestock pie chart

Graph reflects current marketing channel mix

In 2000, Lucki 7 Farms began selling to neighbors and through local farmers markets, grossing a little over $20,000 annually. The Winkler family purchased another farm the same year, adding 220 acres to their property and enabling them to keep up with the heightened demand for their products.

Then, in the mid-2000s, Stephen Winkler says consumers began to desire “farm products with a story and closer to their home.” The rising demand for locally produced food enabled Lucki 7 Farms to start selling to white tablecloth distributors in 2007. Soon after, they expanded their market channels to include direct marketing to retailers. They sold their first livestock to Whole Foods in 2008 and began selling to Wegmans just two years later.

Breakdown of the Winklers’ Expenditures

  • Feed purchases – $85,000
  • Seed/Fert – $55,000
  • Machinery upgrades – $36,000
  • Building Supplies (new barn) – $120,000
  • Livestock purchases (cows, sows, feeder pigs) – $210,000
  • Hired labor – $285,000
  • Processing – $73,000
  • Trucking – $54,000

Today Lucki 7 Farms is a full-time enterprise that grosses over $1.5 million. The Winkler family currently owns 320 acres and hopes to purchase another 280 acres, effectively doubling the size of their farm. Annually, the farm now sells 800-1000 hogs, 35 head of beef, 700 meat chickens, and 7000 dozen eggs a year and Stephen now has plans to expand into high tunnels for vegetable production. To accommodate these livestock additions, the Winklers have built 2 sustainable hog farms and a laying farm for hens. The family aims to build their own beef facility in the near future. Although the Winkler family has shifted from using local chop shops to USDA processors for the majority of their meat cutting needs, they still use local feed dealers, local equipment dealers, and even a local trucking service based out of Ithaca, NY called Regional Access. See the sidebar for a full list of Stephen’s local expenditures.

Stephen Winkler would still consider Lucki 7 Farms a small livestock farm because, in his words, “if we use only dollar amounts to define the size of farms it is misleading.” Lucki 7 Farms, despite the huge success that it has seen, is still owned and primarily operated by Stephen, his wife Lisa, and their five children. Lucki 7 Farms is a family farm that uses local inputs to feed a regional community which, to Stephen, is what really defines a small farm.

small livestock timeline

This timeline shows that transitioning to wholesale markets has enabled the Winklers to expand production and increase revenue

For information on Lucki 7 Farms, visit their website:

Rachel Whiteheart was a student intern with the Cornell Small Farms Program from 2012 – 2014. She recently graduated with an environmental engineering degree.


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