On August 18th over 50 people gathered at Z’s Nutty Ridge near McGraw in Cortland County to attend CCE’s farmer education event. It was a perfect day to learn about propagating and growing chestnuts and hazelnuts, with plenty of sun and a nice cooling breeze combing through the hillcrest orchard site where Jeff and Dawn Z. have been trialing chestnut and hazelnut propagation to provide NY growers with regionally adapted cultivars.
The event was funded by the NY Farm Viability Institute through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant. This grant is facilitating collaboration among Cornell Cooperative Extension, the NY Tree Crop Alliance cooperative (NYTCA), and Cornell AgriTech.
CCE Agroforestry educator, Gabe Smith, was able to show off some of the value added products that NYTCA will be able to produce at its cooperative facility in Cortland, including hazelnut oil, nut butters, nut flours, and the expectation to add more to this list (maple and nut butter spreads anyone!?) These products were a result of the work that AgriTech has done with NYTCA in preparation for the opening of NYTCA’s facility in September. He also spoke to the ongoing efforts of Tompkins County Cooperative Extension to facilitate the growth of chestnut and hazelnut industries and help develop agroforestry resources for new and experienced farmers.
Jeff Z. guided the crowd of new and experienced growers throughout the plantings, discussing important aspects of growing and maintaining trees, and fielding questions about establishment challenges like pests and climate. With some of the attendees being knowledgeable tree nut farmers themselves, the group made many valuable side exchanges and connections.
A special thank you to New York State senator Lea Webb and Assemblymember Al Stirpe for their attendance and support of our local farmers.
CCE Tompkins is proud to be able to offer events like this to the community, in partnership with our CCE educators across NY, groups like Cortland Harvest who tabled at the event, and of course the incredible farmers that make this possible by offering to host, and by showing up to the event! Thank you to everyone who attended and watch out for more events like this in October. You can keep watch on our calendar of events. Join the conversation by filling out a survey, and let us know what you want to learn about chestnuts, hazelnuts, and agroforestry!
Four diverse acres of apples in Lansing, NY, will benefit from a new partnership between the orchard’s owner and a local wine and cider maker.
Ray and Barbara Reynolds started One of a Kind Orchard with just a handful of saplings — six small apple trees alongside of a few pear, cherry, and peach varieties. It was the apples, though, that quickly became the stars of the 4-acre patch in Lansing, NY. That’s not to say, though, that narrowing down to one fruit was a simplification — the orchard soon became a collection of dozens of rare or heirloom varieties alongside more common modern apples.
“We went and picked out one of every [variety of apple] tree that Miller’s nursery offered,” Barbara shared about the early stages of the orchard. “Later on we saw this article about an apple tasting down in Monticello, so we went down and found they had 35 apples they were testing! So we bought a lot of those…then this person, and that person.” As Ray and Barbara developed their expertise with pruning, grafting, and other growing practices, One of a Kind Orchard continued to grow — both in size and in the heirloom offerings that blossomed each season.
And while the makeup of the orchard was a passion project of her husband, over time Barbara tracked the growth of the operation through its collection of trees, making detailed charts of their names, locations, and the care and attention they received. “At one time we had 250 apple trees out there. The majority were either 1 or 2 apples of a variety. And I’d write down whatever root stock they were on,” she shared, referring as she spoke to a table-sized fold-out map of the orchard.
Over time, that care has become more difficult: since Ray’s passing in 2010, Barbara has continued to tend to the trees as well as she can while maintaining her records and following organic practices — “no fertilizer, no pesticides, no nothing,” she assures. But pruning, mowing and maintenance never ends, and recently Barbara started to look for a new caretaker to help the orchard continue.
Fortunately, since the first few trees started spreading their roots in the mid 80s, relationships have been central to the Reynolds’ orchard. A close friendship with Bob Baker of Baker’s Acres led to shared labor and experimentation in the early years. A collaboration with Bill Pitts of Wafler Nursery led to a new variety of fortune apple called Ray’s Delight. South Hill Cider helped with maintenance in recent years, in exchange for a harvest of apples that were pressed for “One of a Kind Cider.” The orchard was the site of a fruit growing seminar presented by now-retired CCE Tompkins County Agriculture Program Leader Monika Roth, as well as hosting a Cornell study of local honeybee and bumblebee behavior.
So recalling the Cooperative Extension connection, Barbara picked up the phone, eventually touching base this spring with Farmland Protection and Ag Marketing Educator Crystal Buck. Crystal helped connect Barbara with a couple of leads through the Farmland for a New Generation website before identifying a new partner in Ian McCarthy of Behemoth Farm Winery.
“The diversity of apples is both a blessing and a challenge,” Crystal explained. “The first farmers I talked to pointed out the logistical challenges of such diversity, needing to harvest over a long period of time and store apples until there were enough to process. But Ian was super excited about this diversity and what it could bring to his cider. It feels like a really great match for what he’s looking for and the orchard management skills he has. It’s wonderful to see new life brought to the orchard, while at the same time continuing to have this be Barbara’s home.”
“The wealth and variety of apples planted in the orchard is fantastic,” said Ian, a wine and cider maker who moved to Tompkins County from Northern California two years ago. “It is a unique and special site. I'll be focusing on holistic and organic stewardship, and perhaps doing some replanting where trees have to be removed. It's an ongoing process, much bigger than myself, and I'm happy to be able to put my energy into it.”
“I had been on the hunt for orchard and vineyard land to work since arriving here,” Ian shared. “There is a shift underway, a generation of farmers who are leaving the work, often without kids who want to take it over. I would encourage letting folks in your community know what you are looking for…go out there and meet your neighbors.”
In fact, about one third of NY farmers are over the age of 65, and American Farmland Trust research shows that 92% of these do not have someone to take over their farm when they retire. Similarly in Tompkins County, 31% of farmers are age 65+, and the County’s most recent ag district survey suggested that only about 60% of all farmers plan to still be farming in eight years.
Addressing this trend is central to Crystal and CCE’s agriculture and food systems work, which involves helping make connections between farmers and those who are looking for land to grow on — as well as support with negotiating leasing details such as insurance, landscaping requirements, and other property management stipulations.
“It was very rewarding for me to help [Barbara and Ian] through this process and feel like they both got what they needed from the arrangement,” Crystal said. “Barbara found a farmer who could commit to taking care of the orchard so that she did not have to look for someone new every year, and Ian was able to secure longer-term use of the orchard for his cider making. It was wonderful to help them connect with each other and come to an agreement that was beneficial for everyone!”
If you or someone you know is looking for help with a similar situation, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 607-272-2292 anytime. Feeling like doing some research beforehand? Find resources on AFT’s Farmland for a New Generation site at NYFarmlandFinder.org, where property owners that would like to sell or lease land (or find a farm manager or farm partner) can create a profile.
Additionally, more local resources are available 24 hours a day at CCETompkins.org/Agriculture.
If you are in the blue you most likely have seen damage to trees, plants, and crops. For tree and vine loss, growers can look to the Tree Assistance Program for potential reimbursements for the cost of replanting (contact local USDA FSA). The Southern Tier region surpassed the 30% loss threshold to qualify for disaster relief if the USDA implements it.
For more information see https://www.nrcc.cornell.edu/industry/apple/apple.html.
Tompkins County experienced some of the worst air quality due to the smoke drift from Midwest and Canadian wildfires. Smoke is distressing to humans and animals, psychologically and physically. Our friends from SWNY dairy have created this informative press release for livestock owners during this ongoing smoke exposure.
Smoke is unhealthy for plants too. Smoke adds to the creation of ground level ozone, which impairs the ability of plants to function properly.
Crops like soybean and wheat are particularly sensitive, potatoes, rice, and maize are moderately sensitive.
Have you seen your landscape responding to the smoke exposure? Let us know, and contact Gabe Smith at email@example.com with any questions.
Last updated August 31, 2023