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The Labor Ready Farmer

About the Labor Readiness Project

Being prepared to hire, manage and retain skilled employees is crucial for farmers across New York.  A new project, the “Labor Ready Farmer” (LRF), will offer a team-based approach to address this challenge by building skills of advanced beginning farmers and Latino/Latina agricultural employees wanting to climb the ladder from labor to management.

The project’s long-term goal is to ensure that farmer business owners and advancing agricultural employees in our region can access high-quality information, supportive networks and proven tactics essential to effective management of labor.  These efforts will support farmers scaling up and Latino/Latina agricultural employees to move up the ladder of management on existing farms.  For advanced beginning farmers (operating less than 10 years), effective management of labor is core to scaling up produce businesses. By investing in the skills of valuable employees, we aim to create pathways for advancement and long term retention of these individuals in the NY fruit and vegetable industry.  The curriculum developed by the project will feature online materials and videos, Spanish plain language guides and visual resources, cell-phone based English classes, regional face to face training programs (ENY and WNY) and new HR consultant teams that will coach 25 selected participants.

Improving Agriculture Labor Management Workshops & Programs

Your employees are your most valuable resource. Wages, salaries, and contract labor expenses represent more than 40 percent of the cost of production in labor intensive crops like fruits,  vegetables, and nursery products. This winter, staff at Cornell Cooperative Extension will be hosting a series of four workshops across New York related to hiring, training, retaining, and working with employees within a farm business. Take a look at the workshop descriptions and schedule here.

Smart Farming Teams

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm’s processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a “Smart Farming Team” of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.


The application for the Smart Farming Team program is currently closed and may reopen during fall 2019!

Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters – Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-7115


Want to receive news about upcoming programs and resources in our Labor Ready project?

Click here to sign up for enews, and keeping checking back below for announcements, workshops, and new resources and opportunities within the Labor Ready Farmer project. Additional resources may also be found on the Ag Labor Management Facebook page.

Partnerships for the Project

Collaborators on the project currently include: Cornell Small Farms Program (that’s us!), Cornell Cooperative Extension – Lake Ontario Fruit Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension – Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture, GrowNYC’s FARMroots, ESL Works, the Cornell Farmworker Program, and Cornell Agriculture Workforce Development. This work is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant no. 2017-70017-26837, from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Additional funding and technical support for this project comes from the NYS Office of New Americans and the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets.

For more information on our partners, please visit the websites listed below.

Project Partner Partner Contact
The Cornell Small Farms Program

Anu Rangarajan, Director –

Nicole Waters, Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator –

GrowNYC – FARMroots

Christopher Wayne, Director –

Gabriela Pereyra, Beginning Farmer Project Manager –

ESL Works Rachael Nemeth, Founder –

Cornell Cooperative Extension –

Lake Ontario Fruit Program

Mario Miranda Sazo, Cultural Practices Specialist –

Cornell Cooperative Extension –

Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture

Elizabeth Higgins, Business Management Specialist –

Ethan Grundberg, Vegetable Specialist –

Cornell Farmworker Program Mary Jo Dudley, Director –
Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development Richard Stup, Director –