Cornell Small Farms Program Update

s-gabriel-profile-pic-rmvk4l-199x300-rtsz3n-199x300From the Editor
After a long dry season, many farmers will relish the cooler and (hopefully) wetter weeks ahead. Even through we are still in a drought, I can’t help but feel some relief seeing dew on the pasture grasses and fog rising from the fields each morning. It’s a start.
The 2016 growing season tested the spirits, innovation, and will of the regions farmers. Stories of heartbreak and triumph abound. Farmers always talk about the weather – but this year it really affected us in a deep and profound way. The slower time of year invites us all to reassess and evaluate how we can be better prepared for an uncertain future.
We are please to announce a new column in the paper, called “Lessons from the Land.” Each issue, we will publish stories from farmers, on a variety of topics, so that we may all learn from each other. Please read the wonderful pieces this issue, and consider sending in your own story.
— Steve Gabriel
Registration for Online Small Farm Courses Open
Our 2016-2017 season of Small Farm Online Courses offers over 20 different courses to build the technical and business skills of farmers. Expert farmers and extension educators guide students through the latest research-based information to help improve efficiency and increase profit on small farms.
Students connect with other farmers, work on farm plans, and gain practical tips without leaving their home. Course content can be accessed anywhere with a high-speed internet connection.
Most courses are six weeks long. Each week features an evening webinar and follow-up readings, videos, and activities. Students and their instructors connect through online forums and live chat. If you aren’t able to attend the webinars in real-time, they are always recorded for later viewing.
See a list of all our courses and watch a video about them:
Reduced Tuition to Online Courses for NY Veterans
We are pleased to offer partial scholarships for military veterans to take online courses as part of the Farm Ops initiative. The courses, normally $250, will be offered to veterans for $125. In order to be eligible a person must be a veteran or active duty military, a resident of New York State, and have plans to begin selling farm products (filing a Schedule F) in 2016 or 2017.
If you are eligible and would like to apply head over to our website:
Registration is limited and will be offered first come, first served. Participants will be asked to complete a targeted survey at the end of the course as well as 6 months from completion, to determine the effect on their operation.
New Curriculum for Whole Sale Marketing
Are you a farmer seeking wholesale markets?  If you’ve been following the ‘Baskets to Pallets’ project, you’ve probably heard that we’ve just completed a new curriculum to prepare small and mid-scale farmers to enter food hubs, groceries, restaurants and cooperatives.  We trained about 40 agricultural educators to teach the Curriculum in April, and now we’re looking forward to bringing it on the road to farmers in New York State this fall and winter. If you’d like to learn more about the project, visit
Educator Network Meeting in November
The Northeast Beginning Farmer Learning Network is a loose network of professionals who serve beginning farmers in any capacity: providing trainings, consultations, loans, land access, and more. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Raising the Bar on Beginning Farmer Trainings.” It will be held Thurs. Nov 10 from 9a to 5pm at the Hilton Hotel in Hartford, CT. Our session is a pre-conference workshop, part of the larger “It Takes a Region” conference organized by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. To view details or register, please visit:
Cornell Small Farms Program Announces the Launch of “FARM OPS”.
Our efforts towards assisting military veterans transitioning into farming careers is being branded under the name: Farm OPS.  The efforts has partnered with several local CCE offices, the Farmer Veterans Coalition, Heroic Foods, as well as a group of veteran-focused groups, to provide a clearer path from the military life, to life on the farm.
The 2014 Farm Bill included language specific towards supporting the increasing number of veterans leaving the military to help fill a need as more farmers retire, as the average age of US farmers passes 57 years old. Our team held several training sessions with CCE partners targeted toward veterans across the state, including at Ft Drum.  The team helped host the National Center of Appropriate Technology’s second NYS Armed to Farm event. For a week in August, 25 veterans, and their partners, were able to take focused training classes, farm tours, and network with fellow veteran farmers at the White Eagle Conference center in Hamilton, NY. The 2015 event was held in Western NY, and the 2017 event will be held somewhere to the East.
Farm OPS is also anticipating approval this fall of the first NYS Division of Veteran Affairs approved OJT training program on a farm. Similar to OJT programs for plumbers, electricians, and other trades, a farm-based OJT program has to be approved by the DVA for a veteran to use their GI bill funds while they learn to farm. The team has been working with two pilot farms to navigate the approval process and we’ll be posting instructions on how other farms may participate in the OJT program soon. Watch the Farm OPS page for updates, and while you’re there, if you are a veteran, sign up for the NYS Veterans in Agriculture Network Listserve for future announcements.
Reduced Tillage Field Day Brings Together Organic Vegetable Growers
How can reduced tillage (RT) practices help vegetable growers build soil health, use labor efficiently, and boost productivity? In mid-August, the Cornell SFP Reduced Tillage Team hosted over 50 farmers, educators, and others in a field day highlighting RT research in organic vegetables. The twilight tour led attendees through trials at the HC Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, NY where research looks at different approaches to reduce tillage while integrating cover crops, managing fertility, and controlling weeds.
Research spoke to growers at multiple farm scales. The tour dug into RT practices for permanent beds and how to use strip-till to target tillage to the planting row. The event also brought in the expertise of Cornell Cooperative Extension partners. An in-field soil health demonstration showed how cover crops and mulches can improve water use and limit soil erosion. A focus on swede midge provided insights into how production practices may impact this emerging organic brassica pest. For more details on the RT project, visit

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Claire Cekander

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