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The Cornell Small Farms Program is preparing the next generation of farmers and ranchers to scale up their operations and reach key business milestones, thanks to a new grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The new program from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences provides a crucial skillset beginning farmers need to scale up and achieve the 10-year milestone of remaining in business, by preparing them to hire, manage and retain skilled employees. The project is part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which aims to help address issues associated with the rising age and decreasing numbers of U.S. farmers and ranchers.

With a $600,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Cornell team will create a new “Labor Ready Farmer” curriculum to provide emerging farm business owners with the skills they need to run a successful farm operation. The curriculum will include online courses and videos, plain language guides and visual resources, community-based training programs and new networks.

In particular, the project aims to support two underserved groups: Latino agricultural employees seeking to rise to the ranks of owners, and advanced beginners who have been farming for three to 10 years and need to improve their labor planning and management to grow their businesses. The team’s efforts will include forging a path to ownership for beginning farmers.

“Our long-term goal is to ensure that all new farmers in our region can access high-quality information, supportive networks and proven tactics essential to starting and scaling viable farms,” said Anu Rangarajan, director of the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) and senior extension associate in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

All materials and resources will be developed and tested within New York state, leveraging CSFP’s collaborative network of professionals and connections to beginning farm communities, and then be shared via numerous networks with beginning farm organizations nationwide.

Collaborators on the project include: CSFP; Cornell Cooperative Extension; GrowNYC’s FARMroots; Cornell Farmworker Program; Kitchen Table Consultants; Farm Credit East; Caracol Interpreters Cooperative; and Bent Creative.

Additional funding and technical support for this project comes from the USDA, the New York State Office of New Americans, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Local Economies Project.

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