Funded Completed Projects for 2021

1. Agritourism Risk Management in this Brand-New Era
Project Director: Miriam Boateng (
Co-Project Director: Stephanie Radin (
Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County
Award Amount: $33,711

This project created a risk management resource guide for farmers to navigate risk management issues at agritourism events/farm operations. The guide is modeled on the NYS Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act (General Obligations Law, Section 18-303(1)(a)-(e)) and agritourism regulations from other Northeast States. The NYS Law provides agricultural tourism enterprises with certain protections from liability when provisions of the law are met. Thus, a comprehensive virtual workshop educational training series focusing on customer service management, farm safety, local laws, and emergency preparedness, among other topics, was offered to agritourism operators and farmers.

The guide is relevant beyond NYS and will serve as a resource for reducing risk management for events/farm operations. It will also provide an improved understanding of agritourism risk management and its associated requirements for operators.

2. Agritourism Safety and Liability: Updating Best Risk Management Practices for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Project Director: Lisa Chase (
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $45,870

Consumer demand for local food and experiences on farms has led to rapid increases in agritourism and direct sales of agricultural products. Agritourism enterprises allow farms to diversify their operations while preserving the working landscape, creating additional jobs, and maintaining farming traditions. At the same time, the public learns about the importance of agriculture to a community’s economic base, quality of life, history, and culture. However, opening a farm to visitors increases liability exposure and requires safety measures for the non- farming public.

This project provided training and resources on agritourism safety and liability for farms and agricultural service providers. In total, the project team efforts reached 1,178 participants. This included 1,038 participants through webinars and workshops on farms, producer association meetings, and conference presentations; 137 sign deliveries to comply with Vermont Act 31 (limited liability statute for agritourism); and 67 farm visits with complete safety assessments.

As a result of project activities, 148 farms implemented actions to improve safety and liability on their farms. Of those farmers that implemented actions, 12 obtained or changed liability insurance coverage, 17 set up new or improved handwashing stations, and 144 posted signage related to safety and liability on their farms.

3. Boots-2-Bushels: Improving Farm Viability through Comprehensive Education and Hands-on Training for Veterans and Farmers with a Disability
Project Director: Caragh Fitzgerald (
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $35,374

Boots-2-Bushels (B2B) is a comprehensive 9-month market gardening education and training program for beginning farmers with an emphasis on military veterans, their family members, and farmers with disabilities in Maine. This program, led by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine AgrAbility and collaborating with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) provided instruction to 28 meaningful participants, and an additional 13 occasional participants using the “Five Fs” framework (Farming, Family, Finances, Future, Fitness) to address production, marketing, financial and human sources of agricultural risk. B2B created a near-peer cohort that fosters unit cohesion in an empathetic and therapeutic environment.

During ten weeks of instruction by subject matter experts, students were introduced to production, marketing, and best business practices for small fruit and vegetable farms. Participants further implemented this knowledge by attending monthly farm field days that highlighted and demonstrated various aspects of the “Five Fs”. This grant provided support for the two years of hands-on field days at demonstration farms, farm coaching on resolving conflict, collaboration and farm planning and for one year of remote, online instruction.

4. Developing Culturally-Appropriate Record Keeping Methods & Tools to Enable Discovery and Communication of Marketing Risks and Opportunities at Amish Produce Auctions
Project Director: Elizabeth Buck (
Co-Project Director: Elizabeth Higgins (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $40,714

The Amish-run Chautauqua (CPA) and Genesee Valley (GVPA) Produce Auctions serve 120+ small specialty crop producers from 9 counties. Despite being key markets, both auctions struggled to achieve their financial and marketing risk comprehension goals due to a lack of culturally-appropriate record-keeping and business analysis tools.

Building on existing practices, this project co-developed improved record-keeping processes with auction staff and provided resources & training that aligned with staff time constraints and skillsets, plus created culturally-relevant sales analysis techniques. This work reduced the auctions’ financial risk, enabled marketing risk characterization, gave growers actionable information, and enhanced buyer feedback mechanisms.

Eleven auction staff gained new record-keeping and data analysis skills. One auction completely redesigned their sales processing protocol in response to project recommendations resulting in error reductions of 8X for market price and 7X for sales volume reports and improved customer complaint resolution ability. In August 2022, the other auction adopted a newly permitted technology (word processing machine) to conduct some data management and tabulation tasks. This will greatly reduce analysis labor and improve accuracy over the by-hand methods that were the project’s focus.

About 135 growers learned marketing opportunities from this project. At least 26 made changes to realize economic benefits.

5. Family Communications, Succession Planning, and Estate Planning for Maryland Agricultural Families
Project Director: Alexander Chan (
Co-Project Director: Paul Goeringer (
University of Maryland Extension
Award Amount: $34,345

Extension has a history of providing workshops addressing retirement and farm succession planning. However, without addressing family communication difficulties, the practicality of these workshops is limited. We provided a series of workshops on retirement and succession planning that included an emphasis on family communication skills. In particular, communication skills were focused on developing shared goals and conflict resolution.

Based on the limited numbers of participants initially, we requested an extension on the project and implemented a Powers Couples retreat that included communication skills on conflict resolution, financial planning, and estate planning. This retreat was held over a weekend at a hotel in Annapolis that allowed couples to get away for the weekend. This workshop attracted 9 couples.

The target audience was Maryland and Delaware farmers and their family members. The goal was to improve interpersonal skills in communicating and develop shared goals with family members to allow for the development of successful succession plans.

Number of producers who achieved these results: 49

6. Financial Management Practices to Rapidly Evaluate and Respond to New Situations
Project Director: Dorothy Suput (
Co-Project Director: Jeffery Cole (
TSNE-The Carrot Project
Award Amount: $24,707

This project trained farmers to respond quickly to stress from rapidly changing business environments. It covered three overall risk management topics established as key practices that successful farmers regularly implement:

  1. Maintaining up-to-date records and tailored recordkeeping systems;
  2. Using financial information to determine cost of production, create financial benchmarking, and manage assets;
  3. Comparing budgets to actuals to analyze input decisions in real time and manage assets/inputs to improve net income.

Each of these main topics were divided into discreet skills and habits used by successful businesses, resulting in 25 sub-topics in the training series.

Two live, interactive training series of four sessions each were delivered online, and recorded and provided to registrants for self-paced review or follow-up. These were supplemented with webinars and 1:1 business advising post-training. While the target audience was small farmers (particularly those converting production and marketing systems to pursue new markets) and value-added producers living in Southern New England (MA, RI, and CT), we attracted farmers from the South and the Pacific Northwest as well.

The project was successful. One hundred percent of responding participants increased their understanding of one or more skills and implemented one or more areas of improvement to their financial record keeping systems.

7. Grid Scale Solar Energy Development in the Mid-Atlantic Region – Leasing Impacts to Ongoing Agricultural Production
Project Director: Jon Laughner (
Co-Project Director: Daniel Brockett (
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $48,550

Shale energy leasing in Pennsylvania and nearby states impacted land used for agriculture in a limited fashion, as most of the follow-up development occurred below ground. Conversely, grid scale solar leasing, which is increasingly occurring throughout the mid-Atlantic region, has the potential to convert significant amounts of surface lands into energy development. Officials estimate that over 80,000 acres in Pennsylvania alone will be involved. Farmers on flatter land in proximity to electrical substations are the prime focus of leasing agents and are being offered substantial payments to transition their land to energy production. During the time period of the grant, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to modify our original project proposal and work plan.

In partnership with the West Branch Crop Management Association, and following a Penn State Extension series of associated leasing webinars, PSU Extension investigators interviewed 8 landowners in central Pennsylvania, which were or had considered this transition, and wrote a case study on each.. An in-depth review of leasing documents, financial, and residual agricultural production outcomes were assessed, looking at solar leasing as a multi-generational risk management hedge allowing for sustaining the farming enterprise over the expected 25-year life of these contracts. Lease document recommendations and this data were made available in a collective form for other farms/landowners attempting to understand the implications of this risk management tool.

8. Hybrid Education to Advance Business Succession Readiness
Project Director: Mark Cannella (
Co-Project Director: Zachary Smith (
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $48,966

UVM Extension Agricultural Business developed a hybrid educational model enabling farm business owners to assess their readiness for business succession and to implement a targeted step(s) to advance the process. This project developed online assessments and a learning platform that to match specific educational resources to participants needs and offered targeted, consultation to identify and execute key implementation steps. Existing farm and maple business owners in Vermont were the primary audience of this program, inquiries from the rest of New England and New York were handled as well. This model served an audience of farm owners that prefer to self-navigate steps in transfer planning or need to self-pace their progress in often complex realm of succession planning. Participants were able to utilize the
online learning platform independently or engage with Extension educators trained for in person, online meeting, or phone support.

Two articles (2,500 readers) and three clinics (30) provided education and promotion that directed participants to the learning environment. A peer validated library was organized for customized resource referrals to 147 participants that increased their learning. Forty-one farm owners competed an assessment to identify their next succession action step and 32 owners committed to that action. Twenty-one implemented changes, agreements or planning outputs. Eleven Vermont farms and 2 Maine farms are now enrolled in long-term, professionally-supported succession planning programs designed to pass ownership to a new generation of farmers.

9. Managing the Marketing, Legal, and Safety Risks for Hemp Products
Project Director: Heather Darby (
Co-Project Director: Suzy Hodgson (
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Award Amount: $33,338

This project focused on the marketing, legal and safety risks of growing hemp and the risks that might arise from value-added production. UVM Extension built on its experience delivering hemp education by providing risk management tools to farmers and a wider group including those converting hemp to new production and marketing systems to pursue or expand markets.

Farmers and other stakeholders learned through participatory webinars with on-line chats and live Q&As, and gained skills to implement marketing and risk management strategies. Farmers also had access to an online resources, educational videos, and the 2022 UVM Industrial Hemp Conference.

This project delivered and coordinated an education and outreach which included:

  • Marketing sessions on the fundamentals of hemp, identifying and securing new market
    channels, and
    developing labelling, direct markets, and a Vermont Branding identity.
  • Federal and state regulations & implications for marketing and selling hemp.
  • Types of insurance for covering liabilities.- Basics of Sales contracts – Considerations and
    standards for safe hemp storage and product development, & Fire and overall facility safety
    related to hemp storage and processing.

10. Maryland Food Ventures Curriculum and Online Portal for Food Entrepreneurs
Project Director: Ginger Myers (
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $26,672

Overall, goal was to:

  • Provide a general overview of the nuances of starting a value-added agricultural business
  • Give instruction in the tools/strategies to mitigate the legal marketing and financial risks associated with developing and selling value-added agricultural products

Primary target audience:

  • Small farm/rancher
  • General public

What we did:

The prior in-person only program called “Food for Profit” required numerous revisions (e.g. new graphic designs, updated content to reflect changes to regulations and food safety recommendations, evaluation, record, edit, and closed captions to the videos). We revised the educational materials and built out a brand new online, at-your-own-pace course named Maryland Food Ventures.

Future work:

  • Add a cost to online self-paced course
  • Work with our Department of Health to co-teach the workshop
  • Recruit more Extension colleagues to teach specific modules
  • Update recordings and handouts as new resources and regulations occur
  • Analyze evaluation data


The online program launched for free, and 439 participants registered (two were paid registrations after 9/30/22). The number participants who only registered without participating further represented (n=314) 72% and 6% (n=27) completed the entire program.

Respondents from our retrospective survey (n=24; 44.45%) had ideas for a food business that would fall under Maryland’s Cottage Food Business, and this program was their first step towards starting a food business (n=16; 29.09%) and first steps to start mitigation strategies towards various risks to their business (n=30; 54.55%), and some had an idea of how to mitigate various risks (n=16; 29.09%).

11. Navigating an Uncertain Employment Environment with Support in the Northeast Region
Project Director: Sarah Vaile (
Co-Project Director: Rachel Armstrong (
Farm Commons
Award Amount: $48,529

This project set out to create a set of comprehensive state-specific guides on select farm employment law issues, and then to create an online course as well as individual print guides to help farmers utilize the materials. The project succeeded in creating the state-specific guides on select issues as well as a detailed, comprehensive advanced farm employment law workshop that adheres to best practices in adult education including multi-media resources. We created a Selected Essentials in Farm Employment Law guide for each state in the Northeast region. These state specific guides are complimented by the Farmers Guide to Hiring Obligations which discusses in detail the nuances behind minimum wage exceptions, overtime laws, and paying workers via salary. We also created detailed guides on the definition of agricultural labor, and state-specific information on in-kind wage rules. The online course leveraged video learning, analysis activities, quizzes, and peer learning towards success.

To increase engagement, the project hosted a webinar on the popular subject of H-2A workers. High goals were set for learner engagement, but the online workshop proved very difficult to recruit participants for, due to a number of factors.

12. Next Generation Farmer Peer Group Development to Build Risk Management Strategies
Project Director: Teresa Rusinek (
Co-Project Director: Elizabeth Higgins (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $48,210

The “Next Generation Farmer Peer Group Development to Build Risk Management Strategies” project addressed several risk management areas with a unique focus on human risk issues faced by next generation farmers seeking opportunities to develop interpersonal and business relationships. Cornell University Cooperative Extension specialists from the Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program (ENYCHP) recruited, and guided a next generation farmer cohort through this program. ENYCHP specialists set up an online collaboration platform to build and support the cohort in a easily accessible and convenient format. Specialists and farmers engaged regularly using the web-based team collaboration app Slack and when possible, through in-person meetings. Four facilitated programs addressing risk management topics, identified as priority areas by participants, were offered connecting participants with other growers, industry professionals, and USDA risk management programs. These programs were delivered through two web based video-conferences and two in-person meetings. The target audience were next generation farmers with significant years of farming experience on multi-generational, diversified, produce farms located in the Eastern New York region. Twenty six farmers participated in the program resulting in increased resiliency and viability of the farm operations.

13. Oneida County Urban Farm Learning Lab at Union Station
Project Director: Bonnie Collins (
Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County
Award Amount: $39,991

Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County (CCEOC) has established the Oneida County Urban Farm Learning Lab which is located in the retired Railway Express Agency (REA) wing at historic Union Station, in Utica, NY.

The Learning Lab has become an experiential training facility for aspiring urban farmers who face business start-up barriers and limited resources. Through the completion of the six-week aspiring farmers have a better understanding to help manage their business risks in the areas of production, market development, and business/financial planning. In addition, we have assisted aspiring farmers in locating potential growing space, access to capital, and other resources.

Overall, we had twenty-three individuals that participated during the ’21 and ’22 summer growing seasons. Participants worked in teams in this experimental training facility, learning to cultivate and harvest products. This allowed them to have hands-on experience and to learn some of the challenges that might happen in their urban growing settings (i.e., aphides and water conditions in an indoor growing system).

Education and training provided individuals with business planning and risk reduction in a workshop, focus-discussion groups, and hands-on participation in growing vegetables, herbs, and food items. Without the learning lab programming, these aspiring urban farmers would not have the ability to access this information.

Through grant funding received from the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center (NERME) and a facility-use partnership with Oneida County, the Urban Farm Learning Lab was established in 2021 and successfully offered two years of free public programming to Oneida County Residents.

14. Risk Management for Improved Viability of the Northeast Hemp Industry
Project Director: Lindsey Pashow (
Co-Project Director: John Hanchar (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $29,220

The project Risk Management for Improved Viability of the Northeast Hemp Industry had New York and Vermont hemp growers and processors work together to identify the areas of risk in production, marketing, financial, legal, and human risks. The growers and processors prioritize risks into three areas marketing, financial, and legal then focused on creating solutions to mitigate risk. This project will help future hemp growers and processors be informed of the risk involved in the hemp industry but make plans to minimize risk to their future operation.

15. Soybean Cyst Nematode: A New Threat to Soybean Production and Profitability in the Northeast
Project Director: Kenneth Wise (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $29,730

We conducted trainings across NY to educate farmers on the biology, epidemiology, sampling and testing, impacts, and management of SCN to help farmers reduce risk to losses from this pest by making the best and most economical management decisions. Most sessions were virtual (due to COVID), open to surrounding states, and recordings made publicly available. Each training session reached about 20–200 stakeholders each, and 710 farmers in total.

Participating producers did 1) understand the importance of testing and implement regular testing of their fields, 2) understand how to interpret test results and implement appropriate management actions according to results , and 3) understand all integrated pest management options available and implement the best strategy for their individual situations.

16. Strengthening Women and Beginning Farmers Labor Management Skills to Reduce Risks on Livestock and Specialty Crop Farms
Project Director: Beth Holtzman (
Co-Project Director: Kenesha Reynolds (
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $49,684

Through this project, 87 farmers and farm managers who operate specialty crop and diversified livestock farms increased knowledge related to managing human resource risks and 59 reported taking steps to incorporate communication, recruitment, supervision and retention practices that will contribute to increased viability and resilience of their operations.

Our outreach efforts, conducted through e-newsletters and social media, reached approximately 1200 women and beginning farmers with risk management and record-keeping information appropriate for the stage and sale of their operations. From that larger group, we recruited 87 farmers, farm managers, crew leaders, to participate more intensive education via a series of small-group workshops, online tools and tutorials, and learning circles. Best practices in adult education, incorporating gendered aspects of learning, guided program development, implementation and evaluation.

Educational offerings helped farmers development leadership, communication and decision-making skills that are critical to effective labor management. Workshops and tools also addressed intersecting components of financial and legal risk management – e.g., building cash flow projections, managing production costs, employer rules and obligations — that are needed to help these enterprises become an “employer of choice” – for people seeking work in the ag sector.

17. Supporting Producers to Manage Risks through Online and Novel Software Technology Applications
Project Director: Jennifer Hashley (
Trustees of Tufts College
Award Amount: $49,943

Producers desired to improve sales, manage customers, track production, increase land access, and improve financial management and record-keeping practices. COVID and climate change have accelerated the need and interest in technology solutions. Technology exists to solve agricultural challenges and manage business risks, yet barriers to adoption exist and producers want to learn directly from peers.

A series of 12 educational workshops across risk management topics was scheduled and offered between November 2021 and February 2022. Topics covered included: 4 marketing workshops (online sales and customer management systems), 3 production workshops (field and yield tracking systems), 2 legal workshops (farmland access and tenure tools), and 3 financial workshops (record-keeping, sales integration, and enterprise analysis software). Workshops featured software demonstrations by leading technology platforms alongside local farmers providing user testimonials and 1:1 advising on how the technology performed for them. Technology risk management decision-making worksheets, workshop recordings on YouTube Channel, and a fact sheet series with highlights of the benefits and features of the workshops was posted online. Over 138 unique producers registered for the virtual/online workshop series, and the workshop recordings have received over 679 views online.

In follow up evaluations, over 80% of respondents completing evaluation surveys gained increased understanding of technology options and evaluating adoption. Follow up evaluations resulted in respondents considering and being better prepared to implement new technology systems that can result in increased sales, improved production efficiency and record-keeping, tools to access to secure farmland, track financial data, and increase overall economic viability.