Cornell Small Farms Program Update- Summer 2012

Message from the Managing Editor
Happy Summer!  I’m always surprised by the speed of lush growth this time of year, especially with the rain and bouts of early warm weather we had in the Northeast.  Before I know it, I’ll be humming the lyrics to my favorite song from the musical, Oklahoma: “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, an’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky.”

As I think back on the articles featured this summer, the theme of ‘invention’ stands out.  As we are well aware, farmers are a resourceful bunch, and it is part of the job description to think creatively when it comes to craftsmanship.  In the article “The Right Tool for the Job”, apprentice Brad Helm describes the quirky materials his farmer mentor sourced to make new tools: “My favorite chore is digging burdock roots using the “Kentifer” weeding tool that Roy made for me in his shop from a piece of old truck spring steel”.  In “New Uses for Old Barns”, Martha Herbert Izzi takes us on a tour of farmers that are reinventing the traditional dairy barn into spaces for nursery production, mushrooms, and even a hardware store!  And finally, in “Working Oxen on the Farm Today”, Jake Czaja describes a modern vegetable farm re-using a traditional practice: Oxen.  He writes “The truth is that oxen are an amazing asset to a farm and are as useful today as they were yesterday”.

Each issue, I’m filled with gratitude for the farmers and educators that take time to share their stories and advice with our reading audience.  Thank you to our contributors and thank you to our readers!  By the time this issue arrives in your mailbox, I hope your corn, or whatever else is growing in your garden or field, is climbing clear up to the sky!
Best wishes,

New Resources for Small Dairy Farms!
With funding from the Small Farms Program, the Cornell Small Dairy Team, a group of Cooperative Extension Educators and farmers, has released 6 new resources for small dairy farmers. The project aims to provide resources to dairy farmers in the constantly adapting market. The new tools and resources include:

  • Financial Bench Marks for Small Dairies: Helps dairies identify the strengths and weaknesses of their farms compared to other farms of similar size in New York State
  • Off-Farm Processing Start-Up Fact Sheet: Suggests first steps for dairy farmers considering adding direct sales of value-added dairy products to their business mix
  • Web based Geo-Map: Shows all the small dairy processing plants in New York state
  • Small Dairy Case Studies: Highlights unique solutions of how four small dairy operators made decisions to keep their farms profitable
  • Production Record-Keeping Book for Grazing Dairies: Formatted and distributed to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices statewide by Cornell Small Farms Program Small Dairy Team; printing funded by New York Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative; books are available to grazing dairies at no cost through local CCE office.
  • Organic Dairy Forage and Grain Survey: Due to fluctuating precipitation in 2011, many farms were short of forage and grain. This is particularly stressful to organic dairies since they have limited options for buying replacement feed.

To access these new resources visit the Small Farms Program site.

Small Farms Program Website Restored!
Many of you noticed that we were experiencing serious website problems earlier this Spring.  We are happy to report that our website has been restored.  Did you know that the Small Farm Quarterly magazine is also available online?  Search for your favorite articles in our “Search by Column” feature or by clicking through past issues!  If you’d like to remark on anything in the magazine, feel welcome to leave a comment online!

Small Dairy Field Day Series
This summer, the Cornell Small Farms Program teamed up with educators around NY to host a series of small dairy field days.  The field days highlighted creative strategies to improve profitability, sustainability, and quality of life on farms milking 35 to 75 head.  If you are in the Groton, NY area on July 11th, the final field day of the season showcasesOn Farm Energy Production” (Oilseed Press/ Grass Pellet Demonstration). Ed & Eileen Scheffler will be demonstrating the oilseed press they purchased through Organic Valley. Also, John Stoker, an organic dairy farmer from Cazenovia NY, will talk about his business pressing oilseeds for human consumption.

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.


  1. john on September 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Nice issue.
    I realized that I was no longer getting the printed issue.
    But it’s online and very nicely done :).
    p.s.- Are paper books dead yet?
    I bet you would get some real interest by reprinting as pdf some of the older classic ag. books. Bread from stones, Albrecht, etc.

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