Small Farmers: Shape Your Future! 2012 Small Farms Summit Scheduled for February 29th

Please 'save the date' for the 2012 NYS Small Farms Summit scheduled for Wednesday, February 29th, from 9:30am - 3pm. The Summit is an interactive meeting with an opportunity for all participants to take part in lively discussion and provide important feedback, both locally, and across the state. We will be gathering in Ithaca, NY and at 4 other locations around New York State: Voorheesville (Albany County), Canton (St Lawrence County), Warsaw (Wyoming County) and Riverhead (Suffolk County). A video connection will allow us to communicate across sites.

Previous Small Farm Summits generated valuable feedback regarding opportunities and barriers affecting the success of small farms in NY. In response, the Cornell Small Farms Program has initiated key projects such as the award-winning "Guide to Direct Marketing Livestock and Poultry", sustainable farm energy field days, and a series of interviews with NYS food distributers that work with small farms, to name a few.

The Summit is free to attend and lunch will be provided. Farmer participation is especially encouraged and welcome. Registration details to follow in January, 2012.


Congratulations to the 2011 USDA BFRDP Award Winners in the Northeast!

For a list of all award winners, please visit

University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $659,784 – This project will support the Vermont New Farmer Network, which will provide education, technical assistance, coaching and mentoring to beginning farmers.
The Rhode Island Association of Conservation Districts, Johnston, R.I., $148,853 – This development grant will help the program develop an incubator farm to provide beginning farmers with access to land, equipment and mentoring while they hone their skills and establish their businesses.
Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., $342,080 – This project will develop a safety and health best practices resource manual for new and beginning farmers and ranchers and develop hands-on workshops for teaching safety and health best practices to beginning farmers and ranchers.
Southern New Hampshire Services, Manchester, N.H., $78,889 – This development grant will assist the program in helping new Americans build sustainable farm enterprises that are consistent with their culture and lifestyle and that strengthen regional, sustainable food systems as a whole.
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey, Hillsborough, N.J., $564,840 – This program will restructure how farming is done in New Jersey and make it a viable, affordable profession, increasing the number of farmers while bringing more farmland into agricultural production.
Glynwood Center, Inc., Cold Spring, N.Y., $90,768 – This development grant will assist the Glynwood Center in training beginning farmers focusing on production, business management, marketing and legal strategies.
Stone Barns Restoration Corporation, Pocantico Hills, N.Y., $735,130 – This training program aims to provide workshops, conferences, apprenticeships, online resources and mentoring services for more than 1,200 beginning farmers by 2014.
Empire State Honey Producers Association, Rochester, N.Y., $57,925 – This project will develop a “train-the-trainer” program to educate at least 800 beginning beekeepers over the next three years.
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Rochester, N.Y., $747,263 – This project will provide apprenticeships, formal mentoring, workshops and conferences to beginning farmers in the Northeast.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Unity, Maine, $742,464 – This project offers a 2-year package of education and financial support to new farmers in Maine, including mentorship, business training and scholarship support.
Farm Credit Council, Washington, D.C., $675,109 – This educational enhancement team project will work to improve beginning farmer and rancher training programs’ ability to provide financial education and enhance their success.

Call for Seed Farm Apprentices – Deadline Dec. 15!

The Seed Farm

Lehigh County, PA

The Seed Farm is a new farmer training program and agricultural business incubator project supported by the County of Lehigh in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The mission of the Seed Farm is to start and grow new sustainable farms and farmers in the Lehigh Valley and to support the growth of our local food system.

The Seed Farm apprenticeship program trains new farmers in all aspects of managing a diversified vegetable farm. Graduates of the apprenticeship are eligible to farm at the Seed Farm, leasing land and equipment at reduced rates and receiving additional mentorship.

Who should apply: Apprentices/farm workers with 1-3 years of experience who are ready to make serious steps toward starting their own farms.

What the program offers:

Year 1

  • 600 hours of on farm training in key areas such as equipment use and production planning.
  • 100 hours of coursework in business planning; organic management of pests, weeds and diseases; marketing; crop and rotation planning.

Year 2

  • Land, equipment, cooler and greenhouse space available at reduced rates while you start your new farm.
  • Mentors to consult as you work through the first two years of your business.
  • A community of farmers.

For program details go to our website at Note year one is a part-time, un-paid apprenticeship. A limited number of part-time paid positions may be available with partnering farms to complement the intensive learning of the Seed Farm. Please contact the Sara Runkel, Farm Manager/ Executive Director for details.

Application Deadline: December 15, 2011

Groundswell Center, Cooperative Extension and Alternatives Federal Credit Union join forces to support local small farm businesses

In collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and Alternatives Federal Credit Union’s Business CENTS Program, the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming in Ithaca will be offering an intensive Farm Business Planning course this winter. The class will cover all major aspects of the farm business start-up process including assessing your land, infrastructure and equipment needs; legal and regulatory issues; production planning; marketing; financial feasibility, budgets and recordkeeping; and more.

The course is designed for those who:

  • Have at least a year of hands-on experience in farming, OR have completed Groundswell’s New Farmer Training Program, and…
  • Expect to get their farm enterprise off the ground within three years, OR are in the early stages of a farm business and need help, and…
  • Have a clear idea of the kind of farm enterprise they would like to operate, and…
  • Can fully commit to an intensive fourteen-week course with substantial outside research and homework

The class will run for fourteen weeks, meeting every other Thursday evening from 6-9pm from January 5 through April 12. Instructors are Monika Roth, Agriculture Program Leader and Matt LeRoux, Agriculture Marketing Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County; and Leslie Ackerman, Director of the Business CENTS Program of Alternatives Federal Credit Union, along with area farmers whose stories illustrate the benefits of business planning and financial management skills.

"This is a rigorous course for the serious farming entrepreneur,” says Joanna Green, Director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming. “We are really pleased to be working with Monika, Matt and Leslie. They’re skilled teachers with a lot of practical knowledge to offer.”

Groundswell is committed to supporting a new generation of farmers that reflects the diversity of culture, color, and class in our community.  Tuition for the class is on a sliding scale, from $80 – $300 depending on household income. It is NOT a requirement that you own land or have the financial resources to own land. This course will examine opportunities to lease land for farming in the Tompkins County area, and to secure financing through ag and commercial lenders or local “Slow Money” investors.

Registration is limited, so please apply early! An online application form is available at Click on Programs/Business Planning. For more information send an email to  or call . This Business Planning Course is supported in part by the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, NIFA Grant #2010-49400-21799.

Class schedule and topics:

  • Jan 5: Central NY ag industry overview; Business planning overview; Planning a farm business; Clarifying your vision, goals and timeline.
  • Jan 19:  Assessing your resources: land, infrastructure, labor, etc; Land tenure options; Legalities and logistics of getting started; Selecting your enterprise; Resources for farming.
  • Feb 2: Enterprise Planning Basics: Land evaluation, improvements and preparation; Infrastructure & equipment needs; Production plan and timeline.
  • Feb 16: Finance I: Understanding financial statements & accounting concepts; Recordkeeping basics and taxes; Savings, loans and other sources of financing.
  • Mar 2:  Finance II: Gross profit & cash flow projections; Start up budget; Operating budget.
  • Mar 15: Marketing I: Marketing basics; Comparing market channels; Projecting sales.
  • Mar 29: Marketing II: Drafting your marketing plan; Understanding your competition.
  • Apr 12:  Final Presentations and feedback from peers, instructors and advisors

The Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming is an initiative of the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education/Center for Transformative Action.  Support for Groundswell comes from individuals and businesses who believe in the importance of strong local food systems, the Park Foundation and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture-USDA, Grant #2010-49400-21799. For more information visit

NOFA-NY Offering Scholarships to Annual NOFA NY Organic Farming Education Conference

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is offering farmer-education scholarships to cover registration costs to its annual winter conference.  The NOFA-NY Winter Conference will be held from January 20th-22nd in Saratoga Springs, NY Through funding from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, USDA, #2009-49400-05878 and #2011-49400-30510, from the Risk Management Agency of the USDA and NOFA-NY’s Farmer Education Fund, NOFA-NY is pleased to be able to offer scholarships to aspiring, new and experienced farmers as well as to teachers and student groups.

Additional scholarships may be available on a limited basis to agricultural student groups and groups of farm apprentices from one farm.  These scholarships are available through funding from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, USDA #2010-49400-21847 and require an earlier application deadline of November 21st.  These applications will be considered on a rolling basis until all funds are utilized.

Applicants for individual scholarships must apply by December 1st.  Notifications will be sent December 7th, with a wait-list decision sent on December 21st.  All applicants should use the online application form located at; paper-based forms can be requested by contacting NOFA-NY.  Applicants in other Northeast states (New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts) are encouraged to contact their state’s NOFA chapter for information on their winter conference and scholarship opportunities.