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2020 Agriculture Environmental Practices Benchmarking Case Studies

Tompkins County farmers are implementing practices that reduce nutrient runoff, improve soil health and lower on-farm energy use, but a broad understanding of the extent of those practices has been limited. A recent project at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCE-Tompkins), funded with the support of The Park Foundation, attempts to catalogue and understand those efforts.

Over the past year, CCE-Tompkins agriculture program staff has worked with an advisory group comprised of farmers, Tompkins County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) representatives and the CCE Regional Dairy & Crop Team to develop and share a survey that measures actions local farms are taking to conserve resources and mitigate climate change. The survey results provide a baseline against which future progress can be tracked, and have been used to create resources to help other local producers adopt the same successful practices.

From the survey respondents, eight farms ranging in size from 3 acres to over 5,000 acres were selected as subjects for case studies. Those chosen represented the major farming sectors (dairy, row crops, vegetables, fruit, beef, and diversified livestock) in this area. In-depth interviews were conducted with the farm owners who described how their operations had incorporated resource-conserving systems and practices.

The resulting farm “success stories” document sustainable farming practices used at each location, such as reduced tillage or intensive no-till, cover cropping, rotational grazing, stream bank protection, riparian forest buffers, rainwater runoff containment, windbreaks, perennial-based agriculture, and participation in the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Farms profiled include Grace Wyly Farm and Shelterbelt Farm in Brooktondale, Hemlock Grove Farm in Danby, Carey Farm in Groton, Buck Farm and Walnut Ridge Farm in Lansing, Remembrance Farm in Trumansburg, and Stick & Stone Farm in Ulysses. Individual case studies may be read online or downloaded as PDFs here:

Buck Farm - Hay and Grain Crops

Carey Farm - Dairy

Grace Wyly Farm - Beef

Hemlock Grove Farm - Apples

Remembrance Farm - Mixed Vegetables & Livestock

Shelterbelt Farm - Mixed Vegetables & Livestock, Specialty Crops

Stick & Stone Farm - Mixed Vegetables

Walnut Ridge Farm - Dairy