News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Summer 2020

Recommendations for U-Pick Farms During COVID-19

 U-Pick is a critical direct marketing approach for many of our small farms and provides customers with a unique connection to fresh produce grown close to home. The time spent outdoors gathering one’s own produce is a chance to share in our local bounty, support our farmers, and stock up for the future.

U-Pick farms from around the country have reported an increase in customers who are hungry for all of these opportunities during this pandemic. What will it take to be ready for our U-Pick season?

In light of what we understand about the spread of COVID-19, new management practices will be needed to protect your U-Pick farm team and your customers. This will take some more planning as well as possibly adding more staff to your team.

To help you, we have created this set of best management practices (BMPs) for operating a U-Pick farm during COVID-19. The team included our director Anu Rangarajan, Marvin Pritts (Cornell Berry Specialist), Elizabeth Bihn (Produce Safety Alliance), Laura McDermott (ENY Horticulture Team Berry Specialist) and Esther Kibbe (Harvest NY Berry Specialist).

These BMPs focus on handwashing, physical distancing, and sanitation of surfaces. There are several tactics that should be implemented before the season begins. Developing a clear communication strategy with your customers will be central to making sure that everyone understands, before they arrive at the farm, that we are in this together.

The online BMPs will be updated weekly based upon any new guidance we receive from NYSDAM or NYDOH. There is also a PDF version that you can download and share with your staff, since this will take a team effort.

Find the BMPs at

Expanded Opportunities for Specialty Mushroom Growers

The Specialty Mushroom Program has been very busy, working to bring more resources to farmers and growers in the Northeastern United States. We are pleased to announce the release of two new guides, designed to assist in specialty mushroom production. Harvest to Market, and Specialty Mushroom Cultivation have been brought to life as interactive web pages, making them more accessible than the previous PDF versions. In addition to these guides, we are also moving ahead with our Community Mushroom Educators (CME) Program. Despite COVID-19, CME accepted a cohort of 82 students who are progressing through an online based training in 2020.

Both the Harvest to Market, and Specialty Mushroom Cultivation are part of an effort to digitize useful mushroom resources with more guides rolling out in the coming months. All our resources including printed guides, videos, budget tools, a supplier directory, and more can be found at

The Harvest to Market Guide is the product of a cooperative effort conducted by the Cornell Small Farms Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, consultant growers, and other supporting organizations with funding support from USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants. While previous guidebooks focused on the technical aspects of successful mushroom cultivation in different scenarios, this publication offers information to support post -harvest handling, sales, business planning, and decision making that is critical to developing a viable small enterprise.

While this guide provides technical support for thinking through the logistics of a mushroom business, the second publication, Specialty Mushroom Cultivation in the Northeastern United States, provides more general information about the basics of mycology and a snapshot of the specialty mushroom industry now and into the future.

Specialty Mushroom Cultivation in the Northeastern United States, was first written in partnership with FUNGI ALLY, and made possible through a NE-SARE grant. The Specialty Mushroom Cultivation booklet is the first half of a series intended to support any farmer, student, educator, organizer, entrepreneur or homesteader who is interested in taking specialty mushroom cultivation to the community level.

These publications are now available as interactive pages on our website or accessible as free downloadable PDFs.

We are also excited to be moving forward with our Community Mushroom Educator (CME) Training Program. In response to the overwhelming demand for workshops and education around mushroom growing, we decided to take a new route. Instead of trying to directly train people, we are training a diverse cohort of community organizers, farmers, agency people, and professionals to confidently deliver information about mushroom cultivation to their respective communities. Each trainee has an identified organization they are accountable to share what they learn. This two-year training, with support from USDA-SARE and USDA-AFRI, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell Small Farms Program, combines technical training and project-based learning grounded in Popular Education methodology and principles. CMEs will gain valuable knowledge and benefit from the collective experience of the mushroom educator cohort. We are proud of our 82 participants and look forward to continuing working with them over the next two years.

Finally, while our indoor production research has been delayed due to the pandemic, we are planning on resuming research to compare different materials and methods practical for farmers, considering the costs and benefits of decisions along the production chain. Stay tuned for future updates on these efforts.

You can learn more about our project and connect to our grower email list at

Updated Guide Provides Regulatory Information for Marketing for Livestock and Poultry Products

We are excited to announce that our “Guide to Direct Marketing Livestock and Poultry” has undergone an extensive update. The guide, first published in 2010, provides useful information on how to legally sell meat and poultry in New York State.

This resource provides guidance on everything from meat certifications to butchering cuts and everything in between. While this guide, like our other guides, is specific to New York State regulations, much of the information is pertinent to all livestock and poultry producers.

Revisions for this guide were undertaken by students and staff at the Food and Beverage Law Clinic at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Special thanks go to clinic students Maria Baratta, Nick Sioufas, and Brian Winfield, Pace-NRDC Food Law Fellow Daniel Sugar, and Professor Jonathan Brown, for such thorough research and revisions. We are grateful to the dedicated team of law students and other individuals who worked on this overhaul.

You can find this newly updated guide as a free downloadable PDF file:

We are excited to provide an updated version of this guide for livestock and poultry producers and wish you all the best with your enterprises.

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.