Editor’s Letter – 2021 Fall Small Farms Quarterly

Anniversaries, whether for births, commitments or achievements, bring an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and where we want to go next. August 4, 2021, was just such a milestone for me — 25 years ago that day I started my position at Cornell. It is so hard to believe that much time has passed! I am deeply grateful to all those I have had the privilege of collaborating with over this time. Here I share a few buckets of work that I have relished.


Growing vegetables: I joined Cornell as a State Vegetable Production Specialist in 1996 to support farmers in adapting practices that protect soil, air, water and income. My research has ranged from fine-tuning transplant production, growing cabbage under 50 different conditions, and more recently exploring reduced tillage strategies for vegetable crops. I admire the creativity, ingenuity, and openness of growers as they continuously improve their strategies. I am never happier than when I am out standing in a field. 


Fostering critical conversations: When I first arrived at Cornell, there was a rift between the university and the organic farming community. I and a few colleagues started the Cornell Organic Advisory Council to highlight ways for Cornell to support the viability of the NY organic community. That working group has continued to grow and evolve and today, Cornell is a national leader in organic ag research. Today, we are turning our attention to build more equitable and just farming and food systems. How can we better support the aspirations of underrepresented people of color, LGBTQ+ identifying folks, and women, who seek to build their dream through farming? 


Cultivating farmer social networks: When we think about social networks, online platforms like Facebook and Instagram may come to mind first. Yet, there is a long history of deep and important social networks that are critical to farmers’ ability to adapt to opportunities and challenges. In addition, these networks overcome the social isolation that confront many farmers living in rural places. Over the years, the Cornell Small Farms Program has supported many farmer to farmer learning circles. Today, we are leaning in again, to reinvigorate these farmer learning circles for personal, farm and financial wellbeing. Stay tuned for more opportunities over the next several years. 


It has been an amazing 25 years! And while I don’t plan to be here for another 25, I do plan to continue to build more programs that support the viability of small farms in NY and beyond. 


Thank you again for all that you do.


Anu Rangarajan


Editor-in-Chief, Small Farms Quarterly

Director, Cornell Small Farms Program

Anu Rangarajan

Anu was appointed director the Cornell Small Farms Program in 2004. At the same time, she opened a U-pick strawberry farm in Freeville, NY. The experience of operating a small farm changed her entire approach to research and extension, and deepened her commitment to NY farms and local food systems.