Diversity in crops, production, marketing holds key to surviving in unpredictable times

by Pat Malin

LIVERPOOL, NY — Peter Martens could be described as an agricultural entrepreneur.

Owner of Peter Martens Farm in Dresden, NY, in the Finger Lakes region, the 30-year-old is a bit of an unconventional farmer with his penchant for “custom” farming and unusual crops. Even before he graduated from college, he was attracting attention for his techniques and new ideas.

Martens was among the speakers who participated in a panel discussion at the 184th meeting of the New York Agricultural Society and Agricultural Forum. [Read more…]

The new American farmer

CE-MR-1-American-Farmer471by Troy Bishopp

HAMILTON, NY — Students equipped with their smartphones and tablets packed a lecture room at Colgate University to learn about, of all things: The new American farmer. Dr. Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Assistant Professor of Food Studies from Syracuse University’s Falk College gave a perspective and presented research about Latino immigrant farmworkers striving to become farm owners. According to the USDA Ag Census, this is the largest population of new farmers entering agriculture.

In her lecture: “The New American Farmer: Agrarian Questions, Race, and Immigration”, the Cornell graduate explored the significance of farmworkers and other first-generation Latino immigrants to the United States aspiring to be small-scale farmers and their agrarian contributions in changing the food system landscape. Dr. Minkoff-Zern’s field exploration embodied her extensive experience with sustainable development and agricultural biodiversity projects abroad, combined with work on migrant health issues domestically after spending many years working on farms and with agriculture and food organizations in Guatemala, New York, Virginia and California. [Read more…]

Jonas brings the unexpected

CEW-MR-3-Roof-collapse7541by Sally Colby

Throughout winter storm Jonas, which dumped snow that would be measured by the foot, Christy Stermer had a plan to care for the 14 horses stabled at her TNC Equine Center in Dillsburg, PA. Christy’s instructor/trainer Mady Schubbe stayed with Christy for the weekend, and Christy’s son and a friend who plows snow would make sure there was access to the barn. Christy and Mady knew they were in for a lot of extra work, but no amount of planning could prepare them for what happened after the snow stopped falling.

“We got up Sunday morning, fed the horses and put some of the horses in the indoor to run around and stretch their legs because they were in all day Saturday,” said Christy. “We started cleaning stalls and plowing snow. I got the gate open to put more horses outside, and turned the mares outside and the boys in the indoor arena. I was standing outside the barn and I heard an enormous crack.” [Read more…]

Inaugural fiber certification workshops

CEW-MR-2-Fiber-sorting2qby Elizabeth A. Tomlin

Once again, SUNY Cobleskill, known for their innovative programs and workshops, has led the way for the agricultural community by launching the first certificate program for Fiber Sorting, Grading and Classing offered in the United States.

Linda Serdy, Program Coordinator at SUNY Cobleskill’s Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE), explained how the program came about. “Last spring Associate Professor Jason Evans was introduced to Wini Labrecque, Certified Camelid Fiber Grader/Sorter/Classer through Olds College in Canada,” explained Serdy. “Wini was looking for an educational institution in the U.S. through which she and other fiber grading/sorting educators could establish a training program that would ultimately lead to a more effective fiber grading system in the United States. The Office of Professional and Continuing Education at SUNY Cobleskill agreed to sponsor the training and develop a Fiber Grading, Sorting, Classing certificate program.” [Read more…]

Global food security ~ Part 3

CDM-MR-45-2-Global-food-pt3-11“We can do it better than anyone else.”

by Steve Wagner

Dr. Janelle Larson is a Professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State, as well as a Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford Education. She has had a hand in sweet potato production in Ghana; and a grant received by Penn State is being used to look at the potential of horticulture for women in Honduras with both an empowerment and nutrition focus. Horticulture in Cambodia with a focus on rice production is another project on the agenda.

Larson says the problem can’t be solved without focusing on small-scale agriculture. Whereas farming in the U.S. is often conglomerate or large-scale family operations, 84 percent of family farms globally are smaller than five acres. Larson thinks that has to be the jump-off point. Noting problems in the U.S., she says they are exacerbated in the developing world: access to credit, access to market. [Read more…]