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Cornell Small Farms Program Update- Spring 2012

Violet Stone

Violet Stone, Managing Editor

Message from the Managing Editor
Happy Spring!  Looking out the window of the Cornell Small Farms Program office here in Ithaca, NY, the crocuses and aconites have burst into bloom, and students are luxuriating in the warm, kind breezes arriving earlier than usual.  For many, the surprise descent of warm weather is a reason to celebrate, to roll up your sleeves, and dust off that lawn chair set from the basement and relocate it in the sun.  But, volatile spring weather can also bring anxiety over trees budding prematurely or a sudden hard frost ruining a warm season planting. No wonder everyone is talking about the weather; it can make a fruitful crop, or a sparse one, and there is little we can do about it.
With so much risk involved, why do people farm?  I encourage you to take a look at Mason Donovan’s article, “Tomato Therapy”, where he explores spiritual reasons for why people are drawn to farming.  Solace, beauty, solitude, and sense of purpose are among his findings.  For additional perspectives, check out Jill Swenson’s Book Nook column featuring “Small Farm Memoirs”.  She describes one author’s reasoning: “It is discovering the wrenching pleasure of exhaustion from physical labor and that good food is the best reward”
Whether the warm Spring days are bringing you comfort, or bringing you uncertainty, I hope the growing season ahead turns out to be a fulfilling one.  As always, we would love to hear from you!  Drop us a line anytime!
Sincerely,
Violet Stone
Announcing 2012 Small Farm Grant Awards
Each year, the Cornell Small Farms Program awards grants of 3-5K to organizations in New York that present compelling projects that will serve and support small farms. This year, four proposals were selected. “Bringing the sheep goat marketing website back home” will focus on modernizing and updating the popular marketing directory located at the address www.sheepgoatmarketing.info.  The second project, “Assessing Local Foods Distribution Systems: Farmer Experiences and Models for Building Successful Farmer-Distributor Relationships” will interview farmers to identify what farmers need to do to comply with distributor purchasing requirements, how it impacts marketing practices, cost of marketing, risk management, product pricing, and overall farm viability.  The goal is to be able to better inform small farmers about how to successfully conduct wholesale sales and gather some benchmark data about impacts of wholesale sales on small farms. “Promoting Workplace CSA in the Southern Adirondacks” seeks to help work sites and community centers within the greater Glens Falls region investigate the feasibility of sponsoring a CSA. Finally, “Chenango Regional Video and Social Media Grazing Outreach Program” will provide grazing farmers with information on grazing best practices, and to serve as forums where grazing farmers can share questions or successes with other farmers or agricultural educators. We’ll be publishing resources and findings from these projects as they become available!

Small Farms Program to Host Dairy Field Days
In an effort to bring visibility to the innovations of New York’s small dairy producers, the Cornell Small Farms Program is providing financial support to Cooperative Extension Educators wishing to host small dairy field days during summer, 2012.    We plan to fund a total of six field days in regions across the state on dairy farms milking under 100 head.   Field days will take place between June 1st and September 20th and will highlight innovative production or marketing strategies that represent new opportunities to enhance small dairy viability in NY.  If you are a dairy farmer or cooperative extension educator in NY and would like to participate, please contact us!  We’ll be announcing the field day schedule on our website in late spring, www.smallfarms.cornell.edu

Small Farms Summit a Success!
On February 29th, we hosted our 3rd Small Farms Summit, an interactive meeting with an opportunity for all participants to take part in lively discussion, both locally, and across the state.  150 farmers and supporters gathered at 5 locations around New York to evaluate emerging opportunities and prioritize investments to enhance the viability of small farms.  Some of the new emerging issues from the audience included:  research and extension around agroforestry, including silvopasturing, forest products and alley cropping; enhancing online communities for farmers to exchange ideas, equipment, land; consumer education around small-scale locally produced food; Liasons/educators to convey NYS Agriculture and Markets regulations to farmers.  The Small Farms Program will spend the next two months synthesizing results from the multi-site conference and be publishing a report in early June.  It is our hope that the report will inform educators, researchers, policy makers and community organizations the major areas in which to invest support for small farms over the next 5 years.

Violet Stone

Violet Stone

Violet is the coordinator of the Reconnecting with Purpose project, which offers farm and food system educators and change makers a retreat space to explore challenges and renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. She is also a collaborator on the Be Well Farming Project. This project creates reflective spaces for farmers and food producers to connect meaningfully and explore strategies that can ameliorate challenges and bolster quality of life. Violet serves as the NY SARE Coordinator and can help farmers and educators navigate NESARE grant opportunities.

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