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Labor Ready Project Shares Farmers’ Stories

Our Labor Ready project seeks to enhance the efficiency and overall success of NYS fruit and vegetable farm businesses through professional development for Ag managers, with a special emphasis on creating opportunities for growth and career development for aspiring Latinx farm employees. In a new video series, we highlight the experience of two NYS farmers as part of Labor Ready project initiatives. Specifically, the Smart Farming Teams and the Master Class for Bilingual Orchard Managers.

  • Smart Farming Teams: NYS fruit and vegetable growers collaborate with a team of agricultural consultants to address and solve existing labor-related issues on their farm.
  • Master Class for Bilingual Orchard Crew Members: a one-of-a-kind professional development experience that builds upon the knowledge that developing leadership skills among key Spanish-speaking employees is an investment in a farm business’s ultimate success.

The Smart Farming Team initiative has become one of the most impactful elements of the Labor Ready Project. Offering farm business owners the time and space necessary to address specific challenges facing their farm businesses, New York State producers worked in teams to build critical labor management, human resource, and financial management skill-sets. While the project offered an individualized approach to problem-solving, broad community impact has developed in tandem. Owing thanks to the dedicated Smart Farming Team producers and consultants alike, a budding network of skilled and successful farmers and businesses have been established in communities throughout the state.

Learn about the power of community skill-building by watching the videos described below.


In the Orchard I am Free (English)/(Spanish Version): Silvia and Sergio enrolled in a Cornell Small Farms professional development series for Spanish-speaking farm owners and managers. Upon graduating from the course, the couple sought to expand their knowledge through the Smart Farming Team program, working alongside Miguel Saviroff, bilingual Ag Consultant. In the video, Sergio’s presence and skill as a storyteller allow his determination, grit, and his optimism to shine through.

Managing Labor on Feather Bed Lane Farm: Tim Biello is the owner and operator of Feather Bed Lane Farm, a bucolic vegetable CSA that relies on horse power to till the soil. Tim possesses a keen understanding of what it means to balance the idyllic dream of owning a farm with the reality of running a business. At Feather Bed Lane – farm employees carefully grow fresh produce, while being treated fairly, and being paid a living wage. Watch Tim discuss the importance of a farmer’s most valuable asset and how he strikes the balance between books and benevolence.

Labor Ready Explained: Liz Higgins, a business management specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, is one of the visionaries of the Labor Ready Project. She explains how she saw a need for business and managerial training in the agricultural sector and partnered with the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) to create the Labor Ready Project. Nicole Waters, the CSFP’s Beginning Farmer Coordinator, explains the goals of the Labor Ready Project and its two programs: the Smart Farming Teams and the Master Class. To learn more about these programs watch two testimonials from participants: Featherbed Lane and Rosario brother’s Farms.

The Labor Ready Farmer – Spanish language: This series features four Latino farmers who have climbed the ladder from farm laborer to farm manager.  Each story highlights the individuals’ pathway to success, as well as personal advice for future Latino/Latina agricultural leaders. The goal of this video series is to introduce the NYS farming community to successful Latino farmers.

Nicole Waters

Nicole Waters

Nicole is the Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. Her work focuses on the human side of farming, with the day-to-day operations of the Labor Ready Project as her main priority. Trained in organizational communication, leadership, and English as a Second Language (ESL); Nicole’s work aims to foster healthy and positive working environments through professional development programs.