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Adventures in the North Country: Field Visits

One of the most educational experiences of this internship takes shape through field visits from Cornell faculty. By bringing in a different person each week, Amy Ivy (executive director for the Clinton County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension – and my boss!) has made expert knowledge accessible to the members of the North Country. The idea is that by performing local farm visits as well as hosting a field meeting, the farmers and growers are able to ask specific questions about specific problems instead of being forced to search through Cornell databases for help. The informal atmosphere also helps to foster collaborations among farmers in the same region.

Consulting with a grower during Jud's visit

Last week, Jud Reid came in and hosted a field meeting at The Carriage House. Being an expert on vegetables and insect management allowed him to pass on advice to local farmers about nitrogen management during periods of heat stress. We stopped by multiple farms and growers. One that we lingered at for awhile was Campbell’s Greenhouse in Saranac, NY. Here, Jud gave advice to the owner about proper care for high tunnel tomatoes. The two discussed the proper suckering techniques. At another farm, Jud taught me easy identification of problems in plants. For example, yellowing of the tissue between veins on leaves of a crop can indicate a magnesium deficiency. At the end of his visit, The Carriage House hosted a field meeting that gathered multiple growers. One interesting aspect I learned from this tour was about how one grower was doing a study through a grant from the USDA that required he grow the same crops in two adjacent plots: one inside a hoophouse, the other outdoors. The one outdoors was more susceptible to threats such as pest infestations and weather disasters, while the other faced more problems with heat stress.

Talking with growers during Professor Reiner's visit

This week, Professor Stephen Reiners and his graduate student, Sarah Hulick, visited from Monday to Wednesday. On Tuesday, we spent the day visiting different farms and talking about issues at each. At each place, I was able to learn about something new. While attempting to identify a cover crop of grass at one farm, Sarah was able to teach me techniques to identify grasses (which should come in handy in my Field Crops class during the fall semester!!) such as looking for oracles. At another farm, Professor Reiners showed me an example of the blossom end rot for the first time and explained how it occurs due to a calcium deficiency (as well as other factors) and can be treated by applying appropriate moisture.

These field meetings have been a great experience because it perpetuates a discussion that will benefit all parties in the long run. Though you may think that growers would hold back due to fear of competition in the marketplace, that has not been my experience in Clinton and Essex counties. Growers have been very open and willing to talk about their strengths and their witnesses. At each field meeting, you can always spot a few growers chatting amongst themselves about which pesticides each is using, whether or not to use row covers, etc.

Also, it really is fun to goof off with your faculty advisor.

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