Will Salamone ’22 was first exposed to agriculture mowing the lawn of a neighboring dairy farm. Years later, a Cornell class in Whole-Farm Nutrient Management (ANSC4120) and a joint summer internship between the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), led the Cornell CALS Animal Science alum to a career in crop consulting. Discover how Will’s experiences at Cornell brought him to where he is today.
Where did you discover your passion for agriculture?
I grew up around agriculture, mowing lawns for a neighborhood dairy, Lawnel Farms. My interest in dairy science developed as I began to take on more responsibilities around the farm. To this day, I work weekends at Lawnel feeding and helping with harvest.
What brought you to Cornell?
The Lawnel farm owners observed my interest in dairy and encouraged me to study agriculture. My college career was a winding path that began with SUNY Cobleskill animal science and finally brought me to Cornell animal science, where I found a second home in the Dairy Fellows program and NMSP.
What led you to work with NMSP?
I took ANSC 4120: Whole-Farm Nutrient Management in the spring of 2022 and met Quirine Ketterings, co-instructor of the class and director of NMSP. I really enjoyed the class and felt encouraged to pursue NMSP’s joint internship with CCE, where I discovered a passion for dairy sustainability. Whole-Farm Nutrient Management was hands-down my favorite class at Cornell. I encourage all dairy-focused students to take that class.
ANSC 4120: Whole-Farm Nutrient Management emphasizes sustainable dairy farming by integrating management of crops, manure, nutrition and herd to improve farm efficiency and profitability while improving air and water quality. Read more here!
What did you do during your summer internship?
I spent half of my week working with NMSP on the Dairy Sustainability Key Indicators Project and half of my time shadowing CCE’s South-Central NY Dairy and Field Crops team. While with NMSP I worked with postdoctoral researcher Olivia Godber to run whole-farm nutrient mass balances for dairy farms. Nutrient mass balances measure farm sustainability by indicating whether a farm is a net importer or net exporter of nutrients. Years of farm experience at Lawnel farm combined with a summer at NMSP gave me direct insight into the nutrient mass balance’s utility – it’s an awesome tool for dairies to see where they can increase profitability and efficiency while minimizing environmental impact.
I also worked with NMSP Ph.D. student Agustin Olivo on field nutrient balances. In this project we looked at the nutrients added to individual corn fields, such as manure and other fertilizer sources, and the nutrients that left those fields in the form of the harvested crop, to determine field nitrogen and phosphorus balances. The goal there was to find out where field-based changes in manure and fertilizer use could be made without compromising yield. Besides running whole-farm and field nutrient mass balances, I actively participated in the weekly team meetings, applying my farm experience to ideas for projects.
For the CCE part of the internship, I worked closely with team lead and field crop extension specialist Janice Degni, visiting NMSP case study farms, soil sampling, and monitoring seed corn maggot traps. Another NMSP intern in the program, Molly Mueller, and I also set up a booth at Cortland County’s annual Agstravaganza event to teach 4th graders about the crops grown in this region.
How did this internship influence your career path?
Upon entering Cornell I wanted to be a dairy nutritionist but the Whole-Farm Nutrient Management class and my experience with NMSP exposed me to a new side of dairy and changed my career trajectory. I realized I wanted to stay involved with the dairy sustainability projects of NMSP while also expanding my skills and knowledge into the crop side of dairy.
After graduating last December, I joined Western New York Crop Management Association (WNYCMA) as a field technician. My job includes collecting field data, soil sampling, scouting crops and developing nutrient recommendations for farms. In addition, I work with farms collecting mass balance data which I then process with NMSP and report back to the farmers. I get to work with a lot of different farms which gives me the opportunity to encourage additional dairies to participate in the nutrient mass balance. My partnership with NMSP and WNYCMA allows me to stay in touch and contribute to both organizations.
While at WNYCMA, I’m also studying for the certified crop advisor (CCA) exam to become a crop consultant - a role that involves providing crop management recommendations to farmers. In my last semester at Cornell, Quirine directed an independent study for myself and a couple other students to prepare us for the CCA exam!
Eventually, I want to be a nutrient management planner and directly help dairies improve their environmental footprint while also helping with their economic sustainability. I never would have imagined this kind of career path for myself without working for NMSP.
Learn more about NMSP’s Summer Internship Program
NMSP works with farmers, farm advisors and state agencies to conduct research and advise on the nutrient management of field crops across New York State. Last summer, the program welcomed Dairy Sustainability and Precision Agriculture interns, who were mentored by Postdoctoral Associates, the team's Crop and Data Specialist, a Ph.D. student, and Cornell Cooperative Extension specialist Janice Degni. We sat down with students before and after the summer to document their growth!
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