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News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Summer 2021

New Report Summarizes NYS Meat Processor Needs and Perspectives

Building a resilient local food system requires sufficient meat processing capacity. The COVID pandemic revealed that NYS did not have the ability to absorb shocks, including increased consumer meat demand, leaving farmers and consumers frustrated and meat processors overwhelmed.

In Fall 2020, a team of Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, Cornell Animal Science Dept faculty, and Cornell Small Farms Program staff embarked on an effort to interview all 300 meat processing facilities that provide services to farmers in NYS. The team sought to gain an understanding of these businesses’ interest in expanding or upgrading to a higher level of inspection, barriers to sustainability and growth, and what types of support they needed.

The results and conclusions of these interviews are now available to read and download on the new CCE Livestock Program Work Team website. A longer version with complete literature review and more in-depth statistical analysis will be available at the same link by May 31, 2021.

The team concluded that there is no single, easy solution to the meat processing bottleneck, but there are several areas where investment is needed and would ease the situation for farmers and processors. Availability of grant funding for capacity expansion of all 3 types of meat processing facilities would help. While some new facilities are needed, investing first in expansion of existing facilities will accomplish more with fewer resources. Additionally, funding for full-time staff positions to provide technical support and succession planning to meat processors, as well as meat cutting training and food safety assistance, would provide some relief. There is enormous need for leadership and expertise in this area but currently almost no staff is funded to provide this support.

Additional areas of need are outlined in the white paper, which can be found on page TK.


Agroforestry Webinar Series Will Showcase New Research, Techniques and More

Agroforestry describes a wide range of practices that integrate trees, forests, and agricultural production. These systems preserve and enhance woodland and tree landscapes and are an important solution to climate change and in developing healthy farm economics. Agroforestry is rooted in both indigenous knowledge from around the world and in the work of numerous individuals who have conducted research and engaged as practitioners over centuries. 

New York and the Northeast U.S. are primed for agroforestry, given that a wide diversity of tree species and forest types are found within the region. Cornell researchers and educators have been involved with identifying several specific agroforestry practices that offer ecological, economical, and social benefits including mushroom cultivation, ginseng, nut production, maple syrup, and silvopasture. 

Join our Agroforestry project and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Agroforestry Program Work Team for a series of webinars starting in June to highlight the latest information and materials available. Read on below for full descriptions of each event. 

In early summer, there will also be a release of a survey for New York farmers and forest owners to capture their interest and priorities for research and education efforts in the future. The Agroforestry program work team is co-chaired by Steve Gabriel of the Cornell Small Farms Program and Tracey Testo of the Green County Agroforestry Center.

Register now for this free series, open to the general public, at https://forms.gle/9p2q5LtHWZw8vqJp9 

Each webinar will be recorded and posted to the Cornell Agroforestry website alongside our current video, print, and web resources.

 

Getting Started with Ginseng

Wednesday, July 21, at 3 p.m.

Join us to learn about domestic ginseng production and marketing opportunities in NYS. Hear from large and small scale growers, practitioners seeking this local product and get a refresher on navigating state regulations established to protect this plant. 

With Tracey Testo, Cornell Cooperative Extension Agroforestry Resource Center

 

Past, Present, and Future Nut Production

Wednesday, September 15, at 3 p.m.

Temperate nut trees have been raining food in the forests of what is today NYS for thousands of years, yet today they are only just emerging as a viable crop in NYS agriculture. Join us in a webinar exploring the past, present, and future of these multifunctional perennial crops and how their local production can help meet climate resilience and social justice goals.

With Samantha Bosco, PhD Candidate Horticulture Section, School of Integrated Plant Science 

 

Sustaining production and profits: research update from the Cornell Maple Program

Wednesday, November 17, at 3 p.m.

The Cornell Maple Program is a research and extension program with a mission to support the sustainable growth of the maple products industry. This presentation will discuss new strategies for maintaining sap production from tubing systems including line washing, 3/16″ tubing treatments, and tap timing based on the latest research from the Uihlein Maple Research Forest in Lake Placid, NY and the Arnot Research Forest in Van Etten, NY. This talk will also cover new product development efforts spearheaded by the maple program and other strategies for diversifying the product line from maple businesses.

With Aaron Wightman, NY statewide maple specialist and co-director of the Cornell Maple Program. He oversees research and operations at Cornell’s 7,500 research sugarbush and maple laboratory at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest in Van Etten, NY. His work encompasses all aspects of maple production including forest management, sap collection systems, syrup processing, and new product development.

 


Webinar Gatherings to Explore Intersection of Fungi and Community

Join our network of Community Mushroom Educators for a series of events this summer where we will collectively explore and discuss elements of fungi and their past, present, and future impacts on a wide range of communities in society. As this growing industry develops, it is critical that we ensure that everyone has access to the knowledge, materials, and skills necessary to cultivate fungi for food, medicine, and other uses. 

Access to these events is free and open to anyone interested in engaging in these conversations in a respectful, supportive, constructive, and co-creative way. 

Register now to receive a link to attend at https://forms.gle/YfNhRaypdnQXBAW47 

 

Panel & Discussion: Increasing Access to Mushroom Cultivation & Use

Wednesday, July 14, at 6 p.m. ET

Specialty mushrooms offer many opportunities to provide communities with nutritious food and medicine, recycle local waste streams, provide a source of income, and address local environmental issues. While these opportunities exist, some individuals and communities have an easier time getting started and sustaining projects and enterprises than others. 

In order to provide access to mushroom growing for anyone who wants to engage with it, we must first identify barriers to entry and work to change systems and relationships. Join this dialogue, beginning with panelists sharing about barriers to access including cost and materials, knowledge and skills, and cultural relevance of fungi cultivation and use. Bring your experiences and ideas to the table and help us form a better understanding of what it will take to increase access for everyone.

 

Discussion with Doug Bierend, Author of “In Search of Mycotopia”

Wednesday, August 18, at 6 p.m. ET

” ‘In Search of Mycotopia’ introduces us to an incredible, essential, and oft-overlooked kingdom of life — fungi  — and all the potential it holds for our future, through the work and research being done by an unforgettable community of mushroom-mad citizen scientists and microbe devotees. This entertaining and mind-expanding book will captivate readers who are curious about the hidden worlds and networks that make up our planet,” according to the publishers’ website.

During this event, Doug and some of the folks featured in the book will discuss the larger fungal community and its evolution in modern times. Through pictures and storytelling, the group will share the current state of the decentralized mushroom world in the US and discuss the following questions as well as those from participants:

  • What are the lessons learned from the wide range of ways people are engaged with fungi as growers, ecologists, community leaders, activists? 
  • How can the collective movement continue to strengthen and ensure that access to knowledge, strains, materials, and cultivation remains open and decentralized? 
  • What are the open niches in the community? Where do we need folks to step up and help?

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Cornell Small Farms Program’s communications specialist. 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.