Q&A with a Regional Navigator: Myron Thurston, Cornell Cooperative Extension Madison County

5 Questions with a Regional Navigator

Farmland for a New Generation New York Regional Navigators provide training and on-the-ground customized support for farmers and landowners in regions throughout New York. 

Featured Regional Navigator: Myron Thurston, Agricultural Economic Development and Marketing Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension 

1.Where in New York State do you work? 

Madison County

2. What brought you to this work? What is your connection to agriculture?

I grew up on a family dairy farm with about 600 cows and 2,000 acres of land. I never anticipated getting back into agriculture after I finished my graduate degree but an opportunity came up with Cornell Cooperative Extension and I jumped at it. It is an opportunity to blend my background in growing up in agriculture and my MBA to help farmers and their businesses.

3. What is your area of expertise? In what ways do you typically work with farmers and farmland owners?

I work with farmers on their business plans, grants, loans, and other financial transactions/planning. The option for them to put their land into a conservation easement and recoup some money to keep their businesses running smoothly is of huge interest to our farmers in Madison County. Particularly, for those who are dairy farmers. We also have a lot of farmland available from various dairy farms closing down so the Farmland Finder has been incredibly valuable for our Association.

4. Can you give an example of one farmer or farmland owner you are currently working with, the challenges they are facing, and how you are helping them work through those challenges?

We just finished a conservation easement with our local land trust, Southern Madison Heritage Trust, and one of our dairy farmers in the dairy succession program. The father was not willing to pass his farm down to his son with so much outstanding debt and so this funding was incredibly important to the succession process. I am happy to report that they just received their funding and are now pulling together their finalized succession plan. They would not have been able to do this without our work with American Farmland Trust and Farmland for a New Generation.

5. What is one piece of advice you have for farmers seeking land or farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming?

Think ahead. It is incredibly important to be prepared for these types of life changing situations well in advance. Conservation easements can take years to process, and succession planning is a living document that needs to be started as soon as possible. It is never too early to start planning for transitions in your farm or ag business. 

Learn more and contact Regional Navigator Myron Thurston of Cornell Cooperative Extension Madison County

Published in June 2021