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News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Spring 2019

New Events Series for Veterans

Now that the Northeast is beginning to warm from the winter months, the Cornell Small Farms Program team is preparing for an exciting series of events to support veterans in agriculture. Farm OPS, a project of the Cornell Small Farms Program, will be providing series of training workshops for veterans interested in agriculture. Opportunities include two week-long intensives that cover a wide range of agricultural enterprises, single-day focused classes, as well as connecting participating veterans to additional regional training opportunities, print material, and online resources tailored to each individual’s interests.

Specific topics in this series will include: mushroom production, high tunnel growing, soil health, pasture management, greenhouse management, maple syrup production. There will be additional 5-day intensive sessions for those preparing, or beginning, to launch a farm business enterprise. The events will begin this Spring and run through the year. Events will be held at the EquiCenter Farm in Mendon, NY, unless otherwise specified.

Veterans interested in these programs can visit the FarmOPS project page for more information, including eligibility requirements and event registration: www.smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/farm-ops/events/.


Mushroom Program Expands

Since 2010, the Cornell Small Farms Program has been offering research and extension support to those interested in cultivation specialty mushrooms. While the focus has been primarily on outdoor methods of production, recent funding has opened the door for the program to expand and incorporate indoor growing methods as well.

The project, led by extension educators Steve Gabriel and Yolanda Gonzalez, is working with a number of collaborating organizations including Fungi Ally, Harvest NY, GrowNYC, Just Food, and FarmSchool NYC, to develop resources and training for both rural and urban mushroom growers.

Over the next few years, team members will prototype production systems and develop economic models based on a 40ft shipping container, simulating a small-scale production facility and collecting quantitative and qualitative data to optimize mushroom yields and economic potential, minimize time and energy expenses, and resolve management and labor constraints. In tandem, local market assessments at multiple scales will articulate the market potential through new enterprise budget tools for farmers. Finally, the project aims to develop curriculum and train service providers to grow a network of support for growers as the industry grows.

Updates on the project and suite of resources including guidebooks and videos can be found at www.CornellMushrooms.org.


Local and Regional Food Systems Initiative

The Cornell Local and Regional Food System (LRFS), is a complementary initiative lead by staff from SFP that is university wide, given that a vibrant local food system engages individuals beyond agriculture, with interests such as culinary science, rural development, arts, humanities and the law.

LRFS is dedicated to elevating the visibility of research, extension and practice on campus and in New York communities. The initiative also works to support collaboration within this work, with the express goal of increasing the impact of these efforts for individuals and communities.

One recent achievement of LRFS is the launch of a new Farm to School (F2S) Program Work Team. Hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension, Program Work Teams are “groups of faculty and staff, extension educators, and external stakeholders who collaborate to identify issues, study needs, and create educational materials.” This new F2S work team will help to connect and support those working to advance farm to school in New York through research and education, shared learning, collaboration and peer support. The work team recently made available a list of F2S support service providers, compiled to serve as a public resource to anyone that needs assistance.

An ongoing project of LRFS is the monthly newsletter, which shares the initiative’s work, related news, recent publications, job opportunities, and upcoming events. A feature of this newsletter is profiles of researchers and educators focused on local and regional food systems. The LRFS website features more than 50 profiles, and further highlights existing efforts.

Learn more about the initiative at www.localfood.cornell.edu and subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates.


Farm Management Master Classes

The Cornell Small Farms Program’s “Labor Ready Farmer” project works to ensure that new farmers and advancing employees in our region can access high-quality information, supportive networks and proven tactics essential to effective management of labor. These efforts support new farmers scaling up and Latino agricultural employees to move up the ladder of management on existing farms.

In March, the project hosted two hands-on “Farm Management Master Classes” in Eastern and Western NY. These two-day intensive workshops gave farm owners and managers the skills they need to effectively hire, train and supervise farm employees.

Included in the two-day workshops were sessions on:

  • Moving from Individual Performer to Supervisor, which helped attendees identify the skills needed to be a great supervisor of people, and how to develop and apply those skills on their farm.
  • Overview of Labor Laws Affecting Farm Managers, which covered the key programs and identify resources to help stay in compliance.
  • Onboarding New Employees, where attendees learned to create an employee onboarding program with clearly assigned responsibilities, designed training experiences, full regulatory compliance, and basic evaluation.
  • Performance Management, which covered effective communication, developing training and assessment programs that get employees off to a good start.

The workshops were led by Richard Stup, director of the Cornell University Ag Workforce Development Program. Richard focuses on human resource management, enhancing employee engagement, regulatory compliance, and leadership development at the farm level.


A Discussion of African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice

Recently the Cornell Small Farms Program welcomed Leah Penniman to campus to lead a seminar describing her work, as well as her newly published book, “Farming While Black.”

Farmer, educator, food justice activist, and now writer, Leah is well known in the New York farming community as the co-founding of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. Soul Fire Farm was established in 2011 with a powerful mission to end racism in the food system and reclaim ancestral connection to the earth. Soul Fire Farm has acted as a hub for learning and farm training, offers sliding cost CSA, and supports youth food justice leadership. Soul Fire Farm works in collaboration with a large-scale movement to take back Afro-Indigenous land stewardship knowledge and promote equality within the food system.

“Farming While Black, extends that work by offering the first comprehensive manual for African-heritage people ready to reclaim our rightful place of dignified agency in the food system,” Leah said of her new book.

During the seminar, Leah talked about her book and the intersectionality between race and food issues. There was also a panel discussion addressing questions about racial inequality in the food system as well as more general food justice topics. The panel was composed of Cornell Small Farms Program director Anu Rangarajan, Development Sociology Professor Scott Peters, Natural Resources Professor Shorna Allred, and local farmer and advocate Raphael Aponte.

This seminar was jointly sponsored by the Cornell Small Farms Program, Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources, and Related Science, School of Integrative Plant Science, Center for Conservation Social Sciences, and Cornell Community Food Systems Minor.

You can learn more by watching the seminar online at http://bit.ly/2Tz23zF.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Cornell Small Farms Program’s communications specialist. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.

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