News from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Spring 2023
Welcoming a New Team Members to the Small Farms Program
The Cornell Small Farms Program team continues to grow, and we recently welcomed our newest team members, Sarah Bassman and Tim W. Shenk. Sarah and Tim introduce themselves below, and share more about what they’ll be working on.
I joined the Small Farms Program at the end of 2022 as an Extension Aide tasked with providing administrative, logistical and overall support of the program’s expanding needs. Sometimes having an extra hand to help get a job done makes all of the difference, and I am here to be that extra set of hands for the Small Farms Program team and the farmers we serve.
I am very excited to join the Cornell Small Farms program in the new role of Extension/Program Aide. Before applying for this position, I spent a good amount of time learning about the program and immediately felt a deep connection to its purpose and motivation to contribute my skills toward its mission. My immediate goal is to expand upon the initial learning, develop an in-depth knowledge of the projects, and build new relationships to be able to anticipate needs and support growth. I look forward to helping with events both virtual and in person.
Originally from Ohio, I lived abroad in Germany after high school, moved to Las Vegas, NV for a few years, and ultimately landed in New York state in 2007. Choosing to move to New York was largely inspired by a wonderful experience my husband had visiting a friend’s small farm in Watkins Glen, NY. The inspiration turned into reality and this area has become where we truly feel at home. That “at home” feeling comes from an authentic connection and shared commitment for the land and community that surrounds us. Sourcing our meat, fruits, vegetables, and other staples from a wide selection of local small farms quickly became an exciting aspect of our lives that we had not before experienced.
I grew up in small-town Indiana helping my mom pick tomatoes and green beans in our small backyard garden. When I was eight years old and wanted a bicycle, my parents asked me how I proposed to earn the money for it. I decided to grow sweet corn. It was a drought year, so we made weekly trips to my small plot to water the rows of beleaguered corn with jugs of water I filled at home with the garden hose. I sold the runty ears to sympathetic friends at church and made $55 — enough to buy a prized second-hand bike.
Now at the Small Farms Program, I’ve returned to my family’s roots in agriculture, though I may not get to have my hands in the dirt as much as I’d like! I’ll be responsible for the multifaceted communications strategy at Futuro en Ag and will support the project’s Spanish language online and in-person education.
As Futuro en Ag’s bilingual communications specialist, I bring expertise in Spanish language communication, journalism, research, popular education, curriculum development and classroom pedagogy. I look forward to nurturing a growing network of Spanish-speaking farmers in New York State and beyond.
RT Project Uses Long-Term Research to Show Legacy Effects of Tarping on Soils and
Over the last eight years, our Reduced Tillage project has managed a long-term permanent bed research trial to provide some answers to the growing number of questions about tarping and no-till organic vegetable production. We managed a sequence of vegetable crops – cabbage, squash, lettuce, broccoli, beets – and used different tarping and tillage practices side-by-side. We may have lacked the crop diversity of a CSA farm, but we tried to make up for with a complexity of soil management practices. It was a complicated management matrix with 18 different experimental methods. They represented the tillage extremes and strategies in-
Tarps are plastic, not a source of organic matter, so we added mulches to the mix to see how they work together. Trends are emerging out of the piles of data we collected and we still working to share results as the experiment has come to an end. We are learning from more and more farmers how tarps can support the transition to using less tillage. Now we’re trying to bring to light what is happening under them and how they work best. On our website, you’ll find a link to a new comprehensive publication, Tarping in the Northeast: A Guide for Small Farms. This is a practical guide to understanding how tarps can be applied in different applications on the farm. It summarizes results from research trials and highlights farmer experiences across multiple states in the Northeast region.
In this edition of the Small Farms Quarterly, we speak to new research that investigated the legacy effects of no-till and tarping practices on weeds through the lens of the weed seedbank on page TK. It provided another insight into how tarps and mulch can fill a niche for better soil and weed management in organic vegetables.