Cornell Small Farms Announces Support For Shiitake Viability Development

Cornell Small Farms Announces Support For Shiitake Viability Development

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The Cornell Small Farms Program announces a new two-year project funded through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to support the development of a new niche crop in New York state; log-grown shiitake mushrooms.

Interested farmers and service providers can learn more and sign up for updates here.

Research and development at Cornell over the past decade, along with several partnerships and research projects, has enabled greater understanding of the technical and business aspects of a log-grown shiitake enterprise. Shiitake grown on logs are a niche crop that requires a low-input investment and offers high returns that can also help offset land taxes in New York State.

Data from past research indicates that, over three seasons, a 1,000 log operation would cost $4,740 to establish and would yield 1,040 pounds of mushrooms annually and could generate $12,480 of income for the farmer each year. This rate can be perpetually sustained from year four onward and would qualify a producer for agricultural exemption in New York.

The crop is positioned for adoption by farmers who are interested in developing diversified niche crops on their farm. Over the next two years, the grant will focus on developing the following opportunities for farmers in New York:

– A printable planning tool and several online self-directed training modules will include enterprise budget worksheets, and cover important topics such as proper mushroom identification, forest management, production safety & sanitation measures, and strategic marketing. Available Spring 2017.

– A series of one-day workshops titled, “Log-Grown Shiitake: Viability for Small Farms” in five counties around New York State. Anyone who is growing commercially, starting up, or considering commercial production is welcome to attend. The workshop content will cover all the aspects of production from harvest to market.

Participants should be versed in the basics of how to produce log-grown mushrooms prior to attending the workshop. Take a class, or view our free online resources.

On the day following the workshop, current and prospective farmers can schedule FREE one-on-one consultations with extension educators to review their farm goals, resources, and discuss challenges and opportunities for their own production.

Sunday, January 29 – Franklin County CCE (Consultations on Jan 30)

Sunday, February 5 – Wyoming County CCE (Consultations on Feb 6)

Sunday, February 26 – Schuyler County CCE (Consultations on Feb 27)

Friday, March 3 – Greene County CCE (Consultations on March 4)

Friday, March 10 – Putnam County CCE (Consultations on March 11)

Cost: $30/person              TO REGISTER CLICK HERE
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
http://blogs.cornell.edu/mushrooms/VIABILITY/

Farmer Interview : Evangeline Sarat talks Living Wages

56bb8d40a0c1d.imageSweetland Farm, in Trumansburg, NY has been in operation for 10 years. In 2015 owner/farmer Evangeline Sarat decided to start paying  her employees a living wage. Groundswell Director Elizabeth Gabriel sat down with Evangeline to talk about how she came to the decision to offer living wages, and how she is making it work on her farm.

 

EG: How did your decision to pay a living wage come about?

ES: In 2014 I began running the farm as a sole proprietor. In that year we offered normal pay. Being an only manager, I was able to make a decent salary (around a living wage), pay my loans and build equity. Plus, being a single mom, I prioritized my relationship with my kids over the farm. So I would stop farming when the kids got off the bus, the workers would still be working. That was all possible because of the farm workers.
I’ve been going to meditation retreats and developing spirituality practice. As a result, I started being very aware of this fact, that I was living this way, and my employees were not. One day the idea came to me (to pay living wages) and I couldn’t see anyway not to do it, even though I knew it was very risky.

EG: I’m sure many farmers in our area have thought about how to pay their employees living wages. How did you make it work, financially? 

ES: First, I raised the price of our CSA (2 person share) by $60-100 (sliding scale). Then, I decreased the season by 3 weeks. That was healthier for everyone. For me, my employees, the farmland. I felt like this was a reasonable request of the CSA members – asking them to support a fair community food system. I didn’t run the exact numbers, but with the new wage in place, I figured I would need 300 CSA members paying about $675 per share to make the farm run as it was. I also wrote a letter to CSA members explaining the goal of providing a living wage for my employees. I first offered it to the employees who worked here for a year (2 workers) and then by November everyone got a living wage (4 workers). It was terrifying. I didn’t know if we would run out of money or not.

EG: So what was the response? How did everyone take it?

ES: We lost some of our CSA Membership, though nobody said it was because of the price increase. (Many stated it was our location.) Members seemed to understand the concept, but some also thought that because the cost of the share increased so would the value of what was included. 

For my employees, I can see a significant change in their lifestyle and ability to live comfortably from month to month. It is definitely impacting their quality of life. And I think this opens the farm work to being an option for people with less privilege.

EG: Since you have done it, what would you say to other farmers contemplating increasing wages for their employees? 

ES: It’s a risk. So is farming. I don’t feel like it’s something that if you don’t do, you’re not being moral. I get why people can’t do it. But I was willing to take the consequences of leaving the farm if I couldn’t make it work.  I do think it would be really cool to see other CSA’s jump to Living Wage and all CSA’s increase their prices.  Everybody might lose a few members, but it could be an overall success for the CSA model.

From the Director April 2016: Living Wages & Sustainable Outcomes

Greetings Groundswell friends, farmers and supporters,

The minimum wage increase signed into law this week by Governor Cuomo is big news for all New York State businesses and employees – including farms. The bill states that there will be an increase in the minimum wage in upstate NY to $12.50 (over five years), ​while in the rest of the State the wage increase will increase to $15/hour (see below for more details). While the bill is a major accomplishment in many ways, of course, as with any bill, there are strong supporters as well as critics.

For example, $12.50 falls short of the current Living Wage in Tompkins County, which is $14.34/hour. While the same high cost of living exists for other upstate counties, the bill is accused of not recognizing the expensive cost of living in NY outside of the New York City region. Others critique the governor’s phase-in plan, saying its unrealistic and that the State should figure out a way to help small business owners pay this wage.

Groundswell seeks to build strong, vibrant communities by promoting sustainable land-based livelihoods. Though it’s not the focus of our efforts, we feel fair wages are a key to these goals; yet, we also know most small-scale sustainable farmers are unable to pay themselves a living wage, let alone their employees.  The issues are complex and financially challenging and we are just beginning to explore them in more depth. Additionally, we are exploring ways Groundswell can support regional farms to prepare for the wage increases through information sharing, workshops, and more.  To begin this effort, we are sharing a brief interview I held with Evangeline Sarat, owner of Sweet Land Farm CSA in Trumansburg. Evangeline began paying her employees a living wage in 2015 and is a Certified Living Wage Employer. Read the interview on the Groundswell blog here.

I look forward to having more conversations with you about living wages and more! Please call or email me anytime.

With thoughts of warmth for your flowering trees and plants,

Elizabeth


 

Minimum Wage—The minimum wage will increase on the following schedule:

Region Final Wage Final Phase-in
New York City $15.00 12/31/18
New York City (<10 employees) $15.00 12/31/19
Westchester & Long Island $15.00 12/31/21
Upstate $12.50 (index to $15) 12/31/20

Upstate Schedule

Minimum Wage Phase-in Date
$9.70 12/31/16
$10.40 12/31/17
$11.10 12/31/18
$11.80 12/31/19
$12.50 12/31/20

 

Helping farm businesses thrive!

Helping farm businesses thrive!

Groundswell Center, CCE-Tompkins, and Alternatives Federal Credit Union team up to offer Farm Business Planning Course for beginning and established farmers

Ithaca, NY.  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 will once again offer an intensive Farm Business Planning Course in the winter of 2015. 

This course is for the serious beginning farmer who needs a plan. It is also appropriate for established farmers who want to improve their business planning and management skills. Ten weekly sessions cover all major aspects of the farm business planning process, including assessing your resources; legal and regulatory issues; production planning; marketing; financial feasibility, budgets and record keeping; and more. 

Farm Business Planning is designed for those who:

  • Have at least one year of hands-on farming experience
  • Have a clear business concept and expect to get started within one year, or are in already in business;
  • Can fully commit to an intensive ten-week course with substantial outside research and homework.
The class will run for ten weeks, meeting every Thursday evening from 6-9 pm from January 15ththrough March 19th. 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 and business owners whose stories illustrate the benefits of business planning and financial management skills. Tuition for the course is $480.  Tuition assistance is available for those with limited financial resources.

Apply Online Now!

 

“This is a rigorous course for the serious farming entrepreneur,” says Joanna Green, Director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming. Recent graduates of the course have gone on to establish innovative businesses like Main Street Farms, Redbyrd Cider Orchard, Crooked Carrot CSK Farm, Second Wind Farm, and Hammerstone Orchard. And graduates of the course have been very successful in obtaining loans to start these businesses.

Groundswell is committed to supporting a new generation of farmers that reflects the diversity of culture, color, and class in our community. 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.
 

Groundswell Farm Business Planning Course
2015 Class Schedule and Topics

 

Week #
Date
Topics
1
Jan 15
6-9 pm
Orientation, Setting Your Goals
2
Jan 22
6-9 pm
Planning for Your Farm Enterprise
3
Jan 29
6-9 pm
Reality Check with Farmers
4
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Marketing Basics & Strategy Development
5
Feb 12
6-9 pm
Accounting Basics & Financial Feasibility
6
Feb 19
6-9 pm
Financial Statements & Sources of Funds
7
Feb 26
6-9 pm
Creating a Marketing Plan
8
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Farm Business Legalities and Logistics
9
Mar 12
6-9 pm
Final Projects
10
Mar 19
6-9 pm
Final Projects