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: Garet Livermore, Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County
1. Where in New York State do you work?
CCE Herkimer County is in the heart of the Mohawk Valley of New York. The Mohawk Valley is a beautiful, historic area that has supported a rich farming tradition from the times when this was the heart of the Haudenosaunee people to the present. Because of its rich soils that produce quality feed and hay it has long been known as an important dairy region. In the 19th century Herkimer cheese was considered one of the finest of the American cheeses and brought premium prices in U.S. markets as well as in London and other international markets.
2. What brought you to this work?
I spent over thirty years working in museums, including 15 years at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, NY presenting the cultural and agricultural history of rural America. Through that work I developed a lasting interest and appreciation of the centrality of farming to our history and the importance of it in developing a sustainable future. When the opportunity at CCE Herkimer County came up it seemed like a natural extension of my interests and knowledge.
3. In what ways do you typically work with farmers and farmland owners?
I am a generalist. I have a good working knowledge of the region and its resources to help farmers plan on building productive operations while connecting to the community. I am also trained as a Soil Health Specialist so that I can help farmers and landowners implement regenerative agricultural practices to build soil health. This has proven to be very useful for farmers taking over older farmsteads where the soil was worn down by many years of heavy tillage and reliance on chemical fertilizers. Utilizing cover crops and other sustainable soil management practices can both increase yield and help with carbon sequestration.
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?
I am working with one family now that is facing the typical challenges of building a new farm operation on an older farmstead. Right now, they are evaluating several properties in the region, all of which were former dairy farms. The properties range in size from 150 to 225 acres, which is turning out to be a major challenge as they are planning to grow specialty vegetables for immigrant communities in the NYC metro area and the ideal farm size for them would be around 15-20 acres. I'm working with them to figure out how they can make excess land productive for them to fit into their business plan. We are helping them consider options like leasing the remaining land to other farmers in the area and how to use the larger dairy barns and ancillary structures that remain on the farm from its days as a dairy operation for their purposes.
5. What is one piece of advice you have for farmers seeking land or farmland owners hoping to keep their land in farming?
Take advantage of local folks in your county extension office and non-profit agricultural advocacy groups. They have many resources to help with and can plug you into their extended networks that can help you support your agricultural operation
Published in January 2022