In the News: Koyanagi Describes Farm Ops Partnerships, Support Across NYS

With a recent expansion of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center’s “VA Farms” project, the Bath, NY VA Medical Center, will now be a second location for the project’s offerings. Our veterans project associate, Dean Koyanagi, was interviewed by WETM18 and provided insight on farmer-veteran programs. 

The Canandaigua VA contracted our Farm Ops project to deliver two of the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) five-day intensive Armed to Farm trainings as well as 12 individual workshops for veterans interested in agriculture in 2019. Partners in this project included the EquiCenter in Honeoye Falls, NY, which has created a wealth of veteran support programs and launched a class for veterans to learn the importance of healthy eating through growing food, cooking classes, and taking produce home.

dean koyanagi sitting on tractor

Dean Koyanagi joined the Cornell Small Farms Program in 2015 to work with fellow veterans interested in agriculture.
Casey Martin / Ithaca Times


The EquiCenter program was developed with the cooperation of Dr. Paul Dougherty of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center. Since then, the program has expanded, gained funding, and the Small Farms Program has been able to help by bringing various educational opportunities directly to this growing community of veterans through the Farm Ops project. 

“After the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA wanted to figure out how to support veterans getting into agriculture. And, Cornell [Small Farms Program] was one of the first recipients of a Beginning Farmer Development Grant. We promote the different training programs that are out there and then try to match veterans with different resources,” said Koyanagi to WETM18. 

Koyanagi shared that his biggest role is usually making those local connections with beginning farmer veterans. He said it is critical for new farmers to know their local tractor repairman, how to get information on soil tests, and even how to market and sell products in their communities. 

Through the connections Farm Ops makes, we help create this community of farmer veterans. He explained that the transition between wearing the uniform and having a tight-knit community to farming on your own can often be hard. But, through these connections and access to the resources that the Cornell Small Farms Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University provides, this sense of camaraderie can be found among farmer veteran communities. 

Learn more about the new VA center in Bath in part one of the feature and listen to the interviews with Dean and Dr. Dougherty in part two.

Kelsie Raucher

Kelsie is from southwest Missouri and grew up on a 150-acre farm helping her family buy and sell horses and cattle. She credits FFA for finding her passion for agriculture and food issues and desiring a career as an “agvocate.” Since coming to Cornell, she has gained interest in local production, global food issues, and environmental impacts of and on agriculture. She joined the Cornell Small Farms Program in May of 2018 and is excited to gain experience to complement coursework in the Agricultural Sciences major and Communication major.