News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Fall 2020

Recommendations for Agritourism Farms During COVID-19 

Autumn is an important time for agritourism farms, hosting activities that provide customers with a unique outdoor opportunity for farm-based entertainment and food system education, as well the ability to purchase fresh produce grown close to home.  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have reported higher numbers at their U-Pick farms, as customers yearn for time outdoors with their families and friends. As we gear up for this 2020 agritourism season of hay rides, apple and pumpkin picking, corn mazes, and more: what do you need to do to be ready to host customers on your farm?  

In light of what we understand about the spread of COVID-19, new management and communication strategies will be needed. We have created a set of best management practices (BMPs) for operating an agritourism farm during COVID-19: document provides management and communication strategies for agritourism activities for the 2020 season to support your farms as you navigate the COVID-19 outbreak.   

Encouraging Farm and Food System Educators to Reconnect with Purpose 

As farm and food system educators or change agents working alongside rural and urban farm communities, we face enormous challenges to our efforts to support improved livelihoods of those we serve. While we may design focused educational programs or convene groups to work towards change, our work can become daunting. Over time, we may find our energy, commitment and spirit depleted. 

The “Reconnecting with Purpose – A Retreat Program for NY Farm and Food System Educators and Change Makers” is a 5-month program is designed for those working across the New York farm and food system. The program aims to create a welcoming and trustworthy space for farm and food system educators to explore challenges, to re-engage with personal strengths and capacities to address them, and to renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. 

Our first cohort of 24 will meet for an opening retreat on October 21-23 followed by monthly peer learning circles. To learn more about the Cohort and the project, visit: 

Materials Continuing to be Developed to Support Farms in Labor Readiness 

The creation of videos, articles, and other resources encouraging efficient on-farm labor management practices has been an important area of focus for the Labor Ready project since its initiation. Current world circumstances have made access to resources even more essential.  Farm business owners and farm managers alike need reliable and remote educational resources to ensure their personal safety, as well as the safety of their workforce while continuing to operate as designated essential businesses.  The new work environment brings along added stressors and detailed safety protocols, furthering the need for skilled managers.  The labor ready project, as part of the Small Farms program, has aimed to provide farmers with succinct and relevant information that promotes stronger, more resilient businesses, while striving to create positive and efficient work environments.  

A larger goal of the labor ready project is to create a virtual library of management resources that any farmer can assess, adapt, and utilize for their business. The labor ready project intentionally creates programs and resources to serve both Spanish and English-speaking farm managers as they advance up the agricultural career ladder. To that end, 25% of the SFT pairs have worked entirely in Spanish, producing resources specific to Spanish-speaking farmers.  Labor readiness (defined as the ability of a farm management team, or individual to successfully manage their workforce) is an essential piece of long-term farm viability. Through the SFT initiative, the establishment of a valuable resource library is now underway.  In the coming year the resources will be adapted and posted on the Small Farms Program website.  While the library will remain a tangible benefit of the project, perhaps the greater success story is that of the growing awareness and appreciation for labor management skill-sets among NYS farmers.  

To  learn more about the project, visit  

Specialty Mushrooms Project Focuses on Growing and Educating 

The Specialty Mushroom project has been able to resume its research project comparing yields and quality of mushrooms produced in differing temperatures and collecting data to help us quantify the labor, energy, and material costs of production. The results from this study aim to help growers make better decisions for indoor enterprises. Preliminary results will be shared in early 2021 but we are already seeing some interesting results! 

We recently released five new videos about cultivating oyster mushrooms indoors, which can be viewed on the Small Farms YouTube channel or at: These videos, along with our guides and other learning tools are embedded on the project website. 

Finally, we are wrapping up the first offering of the Community Mushroom Educator program which aims to increase the ability of educators around the Northeast to teach the basics of growing and selling mushrooms to their communities using popular education as a method. We have developed template workshops and activities that will be freely published to the website by the end of the year. For more details about the project, visit: 


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.