Home » Posts » Is Farming Right for You?

Is Farming Right for You?

4H teens learn about the hard work and creativity needed to run a successful small farm during Career Exploration Days on the Cornell University Campus.

A “Fruitful” Adventure

apple tree

One of 75 varieties of unique apples grown on Black Diamond Orchard. Courtesy of Black Diamond Orchard.

Through the 4-H program, I have been able to travel to Cornell University and choose a career class. I chose “A small Farm Dream!”  Living on a farm with different things like cattle, sheep, crops, and horses, I thought that I knew almost everything about farming, how it works, and what jobs are available through farming. I can certainly tell you I was wrong.  There is so much more to farming than I can imagine and “Small Farm Dream” helped me understand that.

Throughout the three day class, we visited many interesting places, both on campus and also off.  Our first visit was to the MacDaniel’s Nut Grove, which was located in a part of woods on campus.  Mr. Ken Mudge showed us a few projects he and his graduate students are working on, and new experimental ways to make a profit.  One of their main projects in mushroom production, and we even got to inoculate our own logs with mushroom spawn.  We drilled holes about four inches apart in a straight line, and made four rows around the log.  We filled these holes with a sawdust mixture that will start the growth of the mushrooms. Next we painted a thin coat of wax on each of the holes. This helps to keep the moisture in the log to create the right environment for mushroom spawn.  We all took a log home, and if we soak our logs, next summer we should get about two crops of mushrooms.

Our second day consisted of visits to Dilmun Hill Farm, Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese and Black Diamond Orchard.  Dilmun Hill was on campus, and run by different student managers. They showed us their organic produce farm, and the methods in which they grow their crops.  We got to learn about the different vegetable families and how they have similar characteristics.  We also learned how important it is to have your farm on a crop rotation, and the different ways to rotate your farm. If crop rotation is not done, your produce can be more susceptible to disease.

Our next visit was to Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese.  For many of us this was the most interesting, since it is not a common field trip for most people. Ms. Nancy Richards explained the process of making cheese and how crucial it is to keep harmful bacteria out of the processing rooms. She then took us into the Cheese cave, where all of the aging cheese is kept in a humid, chilled room. We ended the tour with a taste of the amazing cheese from the creamery.

Our last stop was at Black Diamond Orchard, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Ian and Jackie Merwin.  We met them in their cherry orchard picking ripe cherries, which were very delicious!  They gave us a full tour of the entire farm; they grow many different types of fruit. We also got to see the different stages of fruit planted and the various growing methods that Ian uses to produce better quality. He also showed us many alternatives for keeping pests under control.  One of my favorites was the Pheromone Trap, which is a trap that uses female scents to attract males.  There are animal pests, too. Ian says that “when it comes to fruit, the best pest repellent is fencing and netting.”  We then finished our day with helping Ian and Jackie pick cherries, which was rewarding in many different ways!

All three of the farms explained an aspect of farming which many people don’t think about, the marketing. All three of the farms said that they sell most of their produce and cheese to local farm markets. Some also said that they sold through special orders or wholesale delivery. All in all, all three farms were an example of how small farms can be beneficial, rewarding, and career oriented in many ways.

The “Small Farms Dream” was a great experience for me and many others also. It showed the many different career options within farming, one’s that never even knew existed!  We got to meet new people, see the scenic Ithaca area, and get hands on experience with farming materials.   Small farms can be dreams, hobbies, careers, and lifestyles for many people, and “small Farms Dream” helped me understand that!

Not the Computer Job!

By Natalia Panzironi
Remember when you were a young kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up? I do! I always wanted to have an animal rescue farm!  This summer a bunch of 4-h teens gathered together from all over New York to learn about careers.  I learned that farming isn’t just putting a seed in the ground and watering the seed till it grows. Farming is actually a lot of hard work and you have to have creativity.

The first place we went to was MacDaniel’s Nut Grove. This farm is located on the Cornell campus. This was very interesting because I never heard of forest farming before. The people who worked there explained how to grow mushrooms and then let us take a log home so we can start our own mushroom growing. Growing mushrooms is simple but they take at least a year to harvest.

People in a farm field

Enthusiastic student Farm Managers at Dilmun Hill offered inspiration to the teen Career Explorers. Courtesy of Dilmun Hill.

The next place we went to was Dilmun Hill Farm which is also located on the Cornell campus. The people who worked there were also students at Cornell University, so it was good to get a view point from a younger generation of people. It was exciting to see the expressions on their face when they were showing off part of their section of the farm. It showed that there are people out there who actually have pride in what they do; they are not just farming because they need a job. I think that is very important, you have to find a career that you love and you’re not doing for the money.

The next place we visited was a cheese making farm. Nancy Richards has about 40 cows that her brother milks every day. Then she turns that milk into cheese. Hard cheese isn’t a food that you can eat an hour after you make it. It must go into a cooling cave to age. Some of the cheese stays in the cooling cave for years, depending on the type of cheese and how big the cheese wheel is. It’s not as simple as putting the cheese in the cooling cave and coming back in a few years so you can eat it. The cheese has to be flipped once in a while so the rind on the cheese can get hardened.  Cheese produced in larger batches commercially always tastes different from the cheese you buy on a farm.

The last place we went to was an orchard. I found the orchard very interesting even though I live next to one at home. Ian Merwin had over seventy five different types of apples. He also had cherries, apricots, blueberries, prunes, and grapes. We got to learn about how he takes care of his farm and what type of pests they have in their farm.

The past few days I learned that there is more to life than just sitting around at a computer working! There are jobs that allow you to go outside and get dirty! This experience opened my eyes and showed me that maybe animals aren’t going to be the only farm pursuit in my life.

Natalia Panzironi is from Orange County, NY and may be reached at natasha.panzironi@gmail.com.


Rachel Whiteheart

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Laurie on August 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Count me in. I’m not a farmer (well coerifmnd by my depressing little veggie patch) but I’ve read So Shall We Reap’ and I’m on a sharp learning curve. I want a future where my son can afford to feed his family good, healthy, clean food, sustainably/humanely produced, so I’d be very pleased to join you in this campaign.

Leave a Comment