News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Summer 2019

Join an Upcoming Farmer Veteran Training

This year will bring two Armed to Farm (ATF) trainings to New York state, hosted by the Cornell Small Farms Program’s Farm Ops and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The ATF trainings allow veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a viable career.

This residential, five-day ATF program has been delivered by NCAT since 2013 and is available to veterans enrolled at NYS VA facilities (VISN2) at no cost as part of a project of the VA’s Office of Rural Health. The program includes classroom and on-farm learning through exercises, discussions, presentations, hands-on skill practice, and tours at host farms in the area.

Instructors include sustainable agriculture specialists from NCAT, Cornell University and Extension staff, USDA agencies, and host farmers, some of whom are veterans. According to NCAT, the peer teaching by other farmers is what sets ATF apart from many other programs.

NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will lead the training sessions, with additional contributors from Cornell University and USDA agencies, plus experienced crop and livestock producers.

The first ATF will be held in Victor, NY, from July 29 to August 2 with a special networking dinner open to all farmer veterans. The second ATF will be a “2.0 version” with more in-depth curriculum on business planning, financial management, marketing, and scaling-up production. Attendees participate in hands-on activities at area farms, visit top research facilities, and attend workshops tailored to their individual needs and focusing on more advanced production, marketing, and entrepreneurship techniques. The second ATF will be held in late October, with the application process starting in July.

Additional single-day training workshops are being offered throughout 2019 for veterans interested in agriculture. These trainings are being offered through the VA, and veterans interested in these programs must be enrolled at a VA facility in NYS (VISN2 area). These events will be held at the EquiCenter Farm in Mendon, NY, unless otherwise specified. Upcoming workshops include:

August 6: Pasture Management

August 20: Holistic Planned Grazing

September 10: High Tunnel Production (second in a series)

October 8: Value Added and Advanced Production for Mushrooms (third in a series)

For more information, and to stay up to date, visit the Farm Ops website at Here you will find the latest information on trainings and resources for farmer veterans in New York State.

Exciting Changes to Our Online Courses

This year, SFP is moving our online courses to a new, more user-friendly platform that will allow registrants to have permanent, year-round access to their courses. Also, to make access more equitable, all courses will have tiered pricing based on household size and income level.

SFP offers more than 20 online courses to help farmers improve their technical and business skills. Most courses are six weeks long, and each week features an evening webinar with follow-up readings, videos, and activities. If you aren’t able to attend the webinars in real-time, they are always recorded for later viewing. You can check out the full range of offerings at

Registration opens August 19 for courses starting in Fall 2019, with more courses rolling out as their migration to the new platform is completed. We’ll announce the opening of registration via our e-newsletter and social media channels. Be sure you are subscribed to our emails and following us on social media, so you don’t miss out!

For more information, visit our website or contact our online course manager Erica Frenay at

Baskets to Pallets Project Offers Farmers Technical Support

Now in its fifth year, SFP’s Baskets to Pallets project has offered three regional trainings to a sum of 120 farmers. The goal of our farmer trainings is to better prepare small and mid-sized farmers to successfully sell into scale-appropriate wholesale markets. While farmers usually leave trainings with a list of action items to address, the best intentions are lost in the frenzy of the growing season.

The Baskets to Pallets Educator Cohort, a group of 14 service providers across NY, are now offering one-on-one assistance to farmers who have attended regional trainings. Farmers can receive up to 10 hours of coaching to address issues like improving storage and handling facilities, planning for production, wholesale pricing, locating buyers, transportation and delivery, and food safety requirements.

Learn more about Baskets to Pallets on its project page at

Free Webinar Series Highlights Specialty Mushrooms

This spring SFP’s mushroom project launched a monthly mushroom webinar series on specialty mushroom cultivation. These webinars will be broadcast from 3:00-4:30 pm on the first Wednesday of every month through December.

Specialty mushrooms are defined by USDA as any species not belonging to the genus Agaricus (button, crimini, portabella). The most common specialty mushrooms are shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster (Pleuterous ostreatus), and demand for specialty mushrooms is rapidly rising. Specialty mushroom production systems are scalable and highly adaptable to a wide range of farms in both rural and urban settings.

The May webinar included an overview of the mushrooms project and available resources from extension specialists Steve Gabriel and Yolanda Gonzalez. Additionally, Renee Jacobson from Firefly Farm in Hornby, NY, presented results from a farmer grant she conducted trialing oyster cultivation on coffee grounds and sawdust.

In the June webinar, participants conducted production research to develop budget tools with Steve Gabriel of the Cornell Small Farms Program, and heard from Yolanda Gonzalenz from CCE Harvest NY about the Cornell Mushrooms project’s plan to train new mushroom educators. Viewers additionally heard from William Padilla-Brown of Mycosymbiotics, who forages, teaches, and grows many mushrooms in many forms, focusing on the connections to healing people and planet.

This project supports new and existing mushroom growers in all aspects of production, marketing, and sales through ongoing research and education efforts. Freely available factsheets, videos, and guidebooks, as well as a directory of suppliers and a grower network email list, can be found on the project website. This material is combined with workshops and events to train growers in both indoor and outdoor production. Partners on the project include CCE Harvest NY, FarmSchool NYC, Just Food, Grow NYC, and Fungi Ally.

Learn more and view past webinars at:

Summer Field Days to Feature Reduced Tillage Project’s Tarping Research

Join us for an Organic@Cornell field tour at the Thompson Vegetable Research Farm on July 31 in Freeville, NY, to talk about using tarps to suppress weeds with less tillage. We’ll be sharing results alongside other Cornell and CCE educators in partnership with NOFA–NY. At the “Innovations in Organic Vegetable Production” field day, you’ll tour the fields and learn about soil health, perennial cover crops, hemp production, variety trials, and vegetable breeding for organic production. Find more information at:

We’ll also be at the Empire Farm Days Soil Health Center on August 8 in Seneca Falls, NY, sharing the latest research on strip tillage and cover cropping practices. We’ve been working on adapting these systems for organic crops while avoiding the pitfalls with weeds and residue. Come to talk cover crop mixes and tillage tools and hear lessons learned. Check out the full schedule, including the soil health and cover crop demonstrations at

We’re also happy to announce that we have recently received a NE SARE Research and Education Grant to support small-scale vegetable farms in adopting tarps to reduce tillage. Collaborating with the University of Maine, we’ll continue our research in permanent bed systems, combing tarps with other soil building practices, to learn how tarps change soils, weeds, and crop yields. Stay tuned for a schedule of intensive farmer-farmer workshops this winter, where you can share your own tarping practices and learn from the experience of others transitioning to reduced and no-till systems on their farm. See our project overview here:

To learn more about our research and events, visit the Reduced Tillage project page on ur website at or contact Ryan Maher at with questions.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. 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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