Tom Lewis, FaHN VISTA sat down with Margaret Ball, Agriculture Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County (CCE Tioga) to learn more about her work and the different projects that CCE Tioga is currently involved with.
Cornell Cooperative Extension associations operate throughout New York and have a presence in every county in the state. According to their website the mission of the extension system is to, “put knowledge to work in the pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being.” CCE Tioga runs a variety of different programs that cover diverse subject areas such as agriculture, 4H youth development, gardening, nutrition, and family development. Each of those areas has many different functions, roles, and projects associated with them. The majority of my conversation with Margaret focused on their agriculture programing and CCE Tioga’s role in the local food system.
The role of agriculture in Tioga County:
According to Todd Schmit, Associate Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, agricultural industry in Tioga County (including production, support services and manufacturing) has a total direct output of $261 million, employs more than 860 people and contributes $79 million (6.24%) to the Tioga County GDP. Margaret stated that, “Tioga county has quite a diversity of types of farms and different products. Almost anything you can think of there are at least a few places in Tioga County that produce it, and quite a range of sizes of farms. There’s a multigenerational farming community and also a lot of folks getting into farming, trying to start up new operations. There are also folks who have lived elsewhere and have moved here trying to set up a nice rural lifestyle.”
Last summer, CCE Tioga hosted four Cornell undergraduates who carried out an interdisciplinary research project called Our Farms, Our Stories. With support from CCE Tioga staff and Cornell advisors, the students documented stories, contributions, and needs of farmers in Tioga County. They interviewed farmers and community leaders, participated in local cultural events, and quantified agriculture’s contribution to the Tioga County economy. Our Farms, Our Stories results are available on the CCE Tioga website, including a 20-minute video, reader-friendly profiles of 14 Tioga County farms, and a comprehensive written report. Continue reading