Support the Dilmun Hill Barn Project!

We are happy to announce that we now have a CORNELL GIVING ACCOUNT .

Thanks to the help of Cornell Alumni Affairs & Development,  anybody can support the Barn Project with a tax deductible donation of any amount.

Please support our project and help us reach our fundraising goals! Our student architects have submitted their final designs for review. You can check out their work HERE, and read about our fundraising goals on our SUPPORT page.

Our alumni have already helped us reach our Phase 1 goal! You can help us reach the rest! Every dollar counts.

 

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Barn Project Exhibition TONIGHT, 5pm in Mann Lobby

The Dilmun Hill Barn Project exhibition is happening tonight at 5PM in Mann Lobby!

Come by to check out the progress of our work, ranging from structural designs, passive systems, embedded technology and community engagement efforts of our team. Team members will be there to discuss the project tonight, and if you can’t make it, the boards will remain in the lobby throughout the weekend.

Leave your name on the list (shown above) if you would like to learn how to get more involved – or contact Alena Hutchinson (amh345@cornell.edu). Hope to see you there!

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Project Spotlight: Process & Progress of Sustainable Design

The sustainable design and passive systems mission has begun to take form after research, interviews and collaboration. Written by Olivia Heim. 

Olivia Heim (’21) with Brian Byun (’19), current Dilmun Hill Farm Manager

As a Design and Environmental Analysis major, I have a general knowledge base that allows me to apply concepts of human and ecological centered design to various fields.

Coming into the project, I had my sights set on attaining a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the barn.  However, I soon discovered that the costs of going through the formal “LEED” process counteracts the economic distribution of the budget to maximize the barn’s design.

Consequently, rather than seeking the plaque, I decided to shift my focus and use “LEED” as a reference and basis for my decisions, thereby fulfilling the same sustainable goals. This idea coincides with our mission to create a feasible model for small-scale farmers. Often, the assumption that one does not have the resources or money to create a sustainable lifestyle alienates people from the concept; ultimately practical design invites all socioeconomic classes into an ecological way of life.

My process in reaching this goal has brought me to meet students and faculty passionate in the field, and since entering the culture of sustainable futures on campus, I am happy to say that I have been met with enthusiasm and an environment of collaboration.

In the midst of my search for examples and inspiration of sustainable design, I had the pleasure of receiving insight from Design and Environmental Design major, Chloe Collins (‘18). Chloe is LEED Green Associate and has an extensive knowledge of the “LEED” point system. After explaining to her the educational function and sustainable model for the barn, she 

STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHTING, VENTILATION, INDOOR AIR QUALITY AND THE OVERALL FOCUS ON HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN.

Zoned lighting systems, which allows for only necessary lights to be on, in addition to a focus on natural light will facilitate our pursuit for a net-zero energy loss. Likewise, natural ventilation and walls that maximize insulation are two of the many ways to negotiate the intense Ithaca climate with a net-zero goal.

WHEN IT COMES TO REDUCING ENERGY NEEDS, HEATING IS OFTEN THE PRIMARY OBSTACLE.

Solving this through an inexpensive design will be crucial to not only the barn, but for the many other small-scale sustainable buildings that we hope will look to the barn for inspiration.

My conversation with Collins concluded with discussion of phase 2 and 3 of the project which include building an education space for farm and general community workshops. She emphasized the potential for creating a space that can intertwine nature and therefore have healing qualities for the users.

Functionally, the classroom can be collaborative through the proper selection of movable chairs and tables. Most likely, the furniture will also be refurbished or built by the community to emphasize our focus on using locally sourced, recycled materials.

Collin’s assisted in narrowing down my design focus and will continue to be an important resource as the barn comes to life. From the research and insight I have received thus far, the design process is now moving towards gaining inspiration from projects on campus. Over the following weeks, I will be shadowing Matthew Kozlowski, one of the figures in the sustainable buildings sector of Cornell.

Soon, I anticipate having a clearer budget and phased plan for our passive systems.

A LOGISTICAL VIEW OF THE PROJECT PHASES WILL WORK IN CONJUNCTION WITH MY CONTINUED COLLABORATION WITH THE FARM MANAGERS TO MEET BOTH ECONOMIC AND HUMAN NEEDS.

My experience thus far has been inspiring and has confirmed my intrigue in the future of sustainable design; I am so excited to see where else the project will take me and the team!

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Dilmun Hill Barn Project: Interview with CALS Dean Kathryn J. Boor


After meeting with the Barn Project team in October to discuss our long-term plans, Dean Boor was kind enough to sit with us for a full interview. Interview transcribed directly, photo taken by Sasson Rafailov.

Where are you from, and how do you  think that has influenced you?

I was born in Elmira, NY, which is about 30 miles south of here. I grew up on a family-owned dairy farm in Horseheads, NY. So, my entire life up until I went to Cornell University was spent in the Southern Tier here in the state of New York, on a farm where we raised our own meat, where we drank our own milk, where we grew almost all of the vegetables that we ate- we preserved them for the rest of the year; we bought most of our fruits but we also canned and preserved those too, and froze a lot of them.

My folks have lived through the Depression. They are extremely frugal; my mom still recycles aluminum foil, and there’s almost no waste on the farm, upon which my parents still live. That childhood has had a deep and lasting influence on me as a person.

I came here to Cornell as an undergraduate and studied food science, with a primary goal of ensuring that the world- every human on earth- has a safe, affordable, nutritious food supply; that was the vision and the concept behind choosing food science as a major. Food science is actually focused on preventing food waste: preventing food from spoiling and moving it to consumers.

“THAT HAS BEEN MY NORTH STAR, SO TO SPEAK, AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, MY ENTIRE LIFE.”

“A photo of me with my Brown Swiss cow at the Chemung County Fair, probably around 1976”

After I graduated from Cornell, I went to the University of Wisconsin to focus in this area, and I spent my research time in East Africa with the most vulnerable populations on earth at that time, along the shores of Lake Victoria. This region was experiencing the highest population growth rate in the world in the early 1980s. The farm sizes were diminishing with each successive generation, and you could see the consequences on the children, who no longer had high-quality protein in their diet. We aimed to move into their lives protein through multi-purpose goat production systems, and my job through food science was to see if we could introduce a new food like goat milk without causing harm, in a way that would be beneficial for their lives, for their health, for their overall well being.

After that, I completed a Ph.D. at the University of California Davis,

“AND THEN IN 1994 I CAME BACK HERE AS THE FIRST FEMALE PROFESSOR HIRED IN FOOD SCIENCE.”

The rest of the story, you know. Certainly that background influenced dramatically how I saw my career shaping up, and has really influenced the way I have focused my career, since the early days on the farm. My parents are still there, and I go down to visit them every Saturday. They’re in their nineties, and I make sure everything’s cool. I am still very deeply connected to that farm.

What would you say has changed since you were an undergraduate here?

Pretty much everything, other than some of these buildings. But certainly, and I’ll speak about Cornell more broadly, the things that I love so much about Cornell that have changed are a dramatic improvement in the diversity of students at Cornell, which I think is something that is really important.


“WE HAVE A GROWING UNDERSTANDING OF THE FACT THAT DIVERSITY IS NOT ENOUGH, YOU NEED INCLUSION, AND WE ARE SINCERELY WORKING TOWARDS IMPROVING INCLUSION FOR EVERYONE AT CORNELL AS A TOP PRIORITY.”

Those are the things I love most about Cornell: sincere commitment to diversity and inclusion, and that’s so different than the way that any university was in the late seventies. That whole mindset has changed, and the population of our students has changed so much in really, really good ways. In Cornell and in CALS, diversity is a very high priority and we take it very seriously.

The majors have changed, the departments have changed. Just in the last seven years we have merged the plant sciences into a school of integrative plant science. We have certainly updated our majors, and we have created one of the most exciting majors, I think, in the entire university, which is environmental and sustainability science. We have created that major with the explicit goal of ensuring that students who graduate from Cornell across that range of majors- from environmental engineering students, who could go into fracking, to folks who come out of what was our natural resources program, who tend to be environmental activists- the goal with this new major is that across this entire spectrum, those who graduate from this major will be able to speak respectfully to each other five years post-graduation. That was the charge that was given to the people to develop this major. It’s too early to tell if we’ve achieved it, because our first graduates happened only last year, but it’s

“The 1979 Cornell Dairy Product Judging team. Margaret Bender, Dr. Frank Shipe, me, Wendy Diener. We traveled to Chicago in November 1979 to compete in a national contest.”


“SOMETHING THAT I THINK IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT, MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER, TO CREATE PEOPLE WHO CAN SPEAK RESPECTFULLY TO EACH OTHER WHEN THEY DIFFER IN OPINION.”

That’s something that I see as a really important thing that Cornell can do and Cornell needs to do, and that’s something that I think we have really focused on. Our intergroup dialogue class that is housed in CALS is something that we support and will support, and is something that I think is another sign of the commitment of this college to these critical principles.

We also teach and focus on sustainable agriculture, and that was something that was way less true when I was a student, when we focused more on production agriculture.

“WE FOCUS NOW MUCH MORE NOT ON HOW TO PLANT YOUR FIELD, AS MUCH AS ON THE CRITICAL DECISION MAKING SO THAT YOU’LL BE IN BUSINESS TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW, HOW TO REALLY BE THINKING ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY IN EVERY DIMENSION”

because let’s be blunt about it: sustainability requires, at the end of the day, financial sustainability, and without that, you’re lost. Financial sustainability always has to be part of the equation, and that goes for whatever you’re setting up: your farm, your family, your business, financial sustainability is absolutely essential.

Could you talk about your personal mission as the Dean of CALS?

I will say, it has happily evolved since I’ve been in this role. I agreed to step into this role right after the global economic downturn, and so my goal when I first took this job was to cut our expenditures fifteen percent and to leave the college stronger than I found it. It was that sharp and that clear, that was what I was going to do. And the team; I have to say, none of this is about me, it’s about the team. We have the most incredible leadership team in this college that you can imagine. Everybody is passionately committed to the future of this college. So we achieved that: we cut our expenditures and I believe that we have created a stronger college  than ever.

We have been hiring a really exciting new faculty: one hundred and seven new positions that we have been able to release, with a great increase within the last couple of years.

“WE ARE REALLY FOCUSED ON BUILDING THE BEST SCHOOL OF INTEGRATIVE PLANT SCIENCES IN THE WORLD.”

We’re number two right now, we’re going to be number one; we’re aiming for that in an aggressive way.

We’ve launched a new major in organic food production, and we have had a tripling in applications to this college. Seeing student interest in this college go up so greatly since 2005, with the greatest increase in the last few years, is so gratifying.

“A photo of me with my family in June 2010, just as I became dean. You see me holding the beaver skin hat that belonged to CALS first dean, which was passed down to Dean Liberty Hyde Bailey and all successive CALS deans since then in a “passing of the hat” ceremony.”

In terms of what I want to do by the time, 2020 will be the end of my second term, and the end of my role in this position. By then I have a few other things that I wish to accomplish.


“THE MISSION REMAINS THE SAME, WHICH IS TO CONTINUE TO BUILD AN EVEN MORE VIBRANT COLLEGE WHERE PEOPLE WANT TO BE, WHERE PEOPLE FEEL INCLUDED, WHERE PEOPLE FEEL THAT WHAT THEY’RE STUDYING MATTERS AND THEY WILL BE PREPARED TO HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.”

 One more thing- I have a few- but one thing that’s really important to me is to elevate our international programs in this college above and beyond where they currently are. They’re already phenomenal, but I think they’re one of the best kept secrets at Cornell. So, one of the last things I want to achieve before 2020 is to elevate that program in a way that is sustainable, and in a way that brings more visibility to the program.

Within the last year, CALS has completed a rebranding effort. Could you talk a bit about the new CALS mission and the motivation behind it?

The mission hasn’t changed, it’s the way we talk about it. Part of our challenge, in being an institution as old as we are (the college itself formed in 1904), having a name like “agriculture”, that name has a lot of baggage, and a number of people who don’t have a close affiliation with agriculture don’t necessarily see it in a positive way.

“AGRICULTURE, THE WORD “AGRICULTURE”. WHILE I INSISTED THAT WE KEEP THE WORD “AGRICULTURE” IN OUR TITLE BECAUSE IT IS SO CENTRAL TO WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO, AND WHO WE WILL BE, I WANTED A FRESH WAY TO SPEAK ABOUT THE COLLEGE THAT SEEMS MORE VIBRANT.”

At the heart of what we do is change life. We are life changing, we are about studying life as it is changing; evolution as one of our core disciplines in this college. We change people’s lives, we set them up to go on to do great things, so that resonated so much with me, that notion of life-changing. Including in the main CALS logo the delta sign instead of an “A” really symbolizes that importance, that notion of change, and how central that is to us.

Kathryn Boor, 15, in front of Bailey Hall with 4-H group

In fact, I have here the presentation that I gave when I was interviewing for this job. This is a photo of me at Cornell, at age fifteen or so, and this is Bailey Hall. I did 4-H, these were my buddies, and we were all here for a week-long program. It was that point I
realized that CALS was where I wanted to be. 

The part I wanted to point out: I was asked for my inspiration, and remember we had just gone through the worst recession, certainly in my life-time, and so Neitzche, that was number one (“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”), and number two was Darwin (“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”). Life changing.


“TO BE STRONGER, WE HAVE TO CHANGE. THIS IS PUTTING US ON A LIFE-LONG PATHWAY TOWARDS FEARLESS EVOLUTION AND TAKING RISKS.”

For example, the communication major started as agricultural journalism, and now it is the top-ranked social science program at Cornell, and it’s world ranked, in the top ten communication programs in the world. We haven’t lost our roots over there, because what they’re still focused on are issues associated with poverty alleviation, with feeding the world, with environmental issues, things that are really core to a modern college of agriculture and life sciences. So, they’re very true to their roots, but nobody would call them agricultural journalism. We have been really fearless about allowing that kind of evolution in the college. From the outside, people will look and say “what is a communication program that is a world specialist in social media doing in a college of agriculture?” But it makes perfect sense to us. Likewise, the Dyson School was originally agricultural economics, but we evolved that into a world-class undergraduate business program. Fearlessness about evolution in the college is just part of our ongoing theme.

The other thing that we had previously done was talk about our areas of focus more as silos: life sciences, food and energy systems, environmental sciences, social sciences, while in reality they don’t act that way, they’re all completely integrated.


“NOW WE HAVE BETTER LANGUAGE TO REFLECT THE INTEGRATION ACROSS OUR DISCIPLINES AS OPPOSED TO SPEAKING ABOUT THEM AS IF THEY WERE INDEPENDENT OF EACH OTHER, WHICH THEY ARE NOT.”

How do you think Dilmun Hill fits into the way that CALS is speaking about their mission now?


“I’M SO PROUD OF DILMUN HILL. IT IS, AGAIN, ABOUT EVOLUTION. WHAT I BELIEVE MATTERS THE MOST FOR STUDENTS, FOR ANYONE ACTUALLY, IS LEARNING HOW TO LEARN, LEARNING HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS, LEARNING HOW TO TAKE INITIATIVE.”

One of the things I think Cornell does best, not just CALS, but Cornell as an entity, is provide experiential opportunities for our students where the safety net is pretty far below and it’s kind of got holes in it.

Dean Boor with Dilmun student managers and CUAES staff in 2016, touring Dilmun’s new moveable high tunnel funded by TSF

The reason that’s so important is that you’re in charge, you are in charge of Dilmun Hill and you won’t find that at many other universities in the country. Cornell is unusual in putting control of student programs squarely in students’ hands.  For example, our EMS program is also totally student run. The students are in charge of maintaining the drug inventory, they’re in charge of maintaining the vehicles that they drive, they are in charge of saving lives. If they find a body out on the street, they’re in charge, there is no faculty member who is going to come along and tell them what to do. That’s the beauty of Dilmun Hill.

“FOR THE STUDENTS WHO COME ALONG AND EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE OF ALL THAT IS DILMUN HILL, THEY WILL GRADUATE FROM CORNELL AS STRONGER INDIVIDUALS, AS PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS, PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAN, PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO GET THINGS DONE.”

That’s why I am so committed to Dilmun Hill, and other experiential learning opportunities like DIlmun Hill for our students.

You don’t have an abundance of resources, not nearly as many as I would like you to have, but to some extent, that’s part of the process. I love seeing the initiative, I love seeing folks understanding how to move things forward, how to navigate, that’s part of the process. Where will Dilmun Hill be in ten years? I’m not sure, but I am confident that with the kind of leadership that we get at Dilmun Hill that it will be in a better place, that it will have more resources, that it will have more toys.

“I SEE DILMUN HILL AS AN EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS, TOWARD SOMETHING EVEN BETTER THAN IT IS RIGHT NOW.”

Of course, it does rely very much on student interest, and it will continue to rely very much on student interest. That’s why you’re so important, and that’s why your colleagues are so important. What you do is to recruit others who, like you, become passionate about Dilmun Hill and who are committed to working with me, to working with the next Dean, to make sure that we don’t lose sight of it, to make sure that we are committed to it, and that we’re working with you to make things even better.

What do you think the future of Dilmun Hill and CALS looks like?

For CALS, the most important thing we can do is to create leaders from our students, and to set up the environments and experiences that help people learn how to make decisions.

“I SEE CALS AS BEING A LEADER, NOT ONLY AT CORNELL BUT MUCH MORE BROADLY, FOR CREATING THOSE KINDS OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS, AND DILMUN HILL IS REALLY RIGHT AT THE CENTER OF THAT.”

I see CALS as being committed to continuing to build opportunities like that, broadly speaking across the college and across the university.

I see us as continuing to focus on sustainable agriculture, trying to help mitigate climate change, and trying to help ameliorate some of the challenges we see. That’s the reason we are focused on plant sciences, because a lot of the solutions are going to come through plant-based proteins and plant based products.


“WE’VE GOT TO BE BUILDING THE TALENT WE NEED NOW. IN TEN YEARS WE WILL BE THE PLACE FOR THE PLANT SCIENCES, THERE’S NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT IS TRUE.”

Dean Boor at Dilmun Hill farm stand during Cornell Farmer’s Market. Photo by Lindsay France for Picture Cornell.

“DILMUN HILL IS AN EVOLUTION, AND IT REALLY WILL RELY ON BRINGING IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF STUDENTS WHO ARE AS PASSIONATE AS YOU ARE.”

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Barn Planning: Site Walk with the 2017 Managers

This morning the barn project design team met at Dilmun with the 2017 Farm Managers to learn about their work flow, and to investigate locations for the new barn. We began the discussion outside of our current barn, where we reviewed the layouts discussed with them last week.

Next, we followed the managers as they explained their work flow, from harvesting produce, to washing, packing, and finally, to storage.

THEY SPOKE WITH US ABOUT THE FARM’S GOAL TO MEET THE GOOD AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES (GAP) STANDARDS, WHICH ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT FOR SMALL FARMERS. 

We discussed layouts for a vegetable processing space that would streamline workflow and designate spaces for vegetables during their each stage during their progression from freshly harvested, to cleaned and packed.
Finally, we went to the top of the hill, where we discussed potential locations and orientations for the new barn, and how we could maximize space for educational and community gatherings.

DESIGNING TO MEET THE FUNCTIONAL NEEDS OF BOTH A FARM AND AN EDUCATIONAL FACILITY HAS BEEN AN EXCITING CHALLENGE FOR OUR STUDENT ARCHITECTS

We laid flags to mark a rough footprint, and were amazed by how large it feels.

The student architect team is now ready to return to the drawing board, and begin making final adjustments to their designs. To learn more about our architect’s design process, see our Architectural Mission.

COME TO OUR WORK PARTY NEXT WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER IST TO CHECK OUT OUR SITE FLAGS!

 

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NOW RECRUITING: Campaign Leaders

We are looking for student leaders to spearhead our fundraising and branding efforts!

Our team is recruiting student leaders to spearhead our fundraising and branding efforts for the Dilmun Hill Barn Project. This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in strengthening their leadership, communication, and networking skills. We are also seeking students with experience in media design and management.

To find more information about our goals, read ABOUT THE PROJECT

Email Alena Hutchinson (amh345@cornell.edu) if you are interested in joining us.

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Research Interview with Allen Gandelman, co-owner of Main Street Farms

We spoke with Allen Gandelman, co-owner of Main Street Farms, at his office in Homer, NY. Main Street has three different growing locations, and is also in the process of expanding into a new packing facility. More information about Main Street can be found at: https://mainstreetfarms.com/

“I WANTED TO START A FARM TO BE ABLE TO EDUCATE KIDS ABOUT WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM.”

Why did you start farming?

I started farming because school food was really bad where I was a teacher. I wanted to start a farm to be able to educate kids about where their food comes from and to be able to grow food for the school cafeteria. Main Street provides food to a bunch of schools in the Southern Tier, and we do lots of education for kids.

Could you talk about starting Main Street?

It was hard. It was a learning experience because we started very small as a one acre market garden. Every year have been expanding; right now we have thirty acres in vegetables, and next year we will probably have fifty acres in vegetables. We also have a lot of greenhouses and high tunnels, and we just got a new warehouse facility down the road where all of our packing, washing, and distribution will be. We will also have a big commercial kitchen, which is really exciting.

“THE COMMUNITY SUPPORTS US.”

What role do you think the community plays at Main Street, and what role does Main Street play in the community?

The community supports us because they’re members of our CSA, and we support them by making sure we can provide them with affordable vegetables and educational opportunities to learn about food.

Ten percent of all of our shares go to low income families and they’re subsidized by a nonprofit in the Cortland community, which also does educational programming with those families.

Is there any technology that would make your life easier?

Really good monitoring systems. We have so many irrigation lines everywhere, and you don’t know that they’re leaking until you see it. In-line water flow sensors would be nice, and technology like that could prevent waste.

Have you seen any major technological advances made in small farming in the last decade?

New hand tools and cultivating tools, tractor tools, and tractor designs are slowly happening, but it’s all kind of expensive and untested. In terms of back-end software to run the farm and be integrated into a building or greenhouse, none of it is that user-friendly. I use four different systems: a software that runs our CSA, a software for wholesale, we use Google docs for the day-to-day, and we also use Quickbooks.

What do you think the future of small farming looks like?

“SMALL FARMS WILL GET BIGGER, TO A REASONABLE SIZE WHERE THEY CAN PRODUCE AFFORDABLE FOOD AND ACCESS BROADER MARKETS. THE OPTIMAL SIZE IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERY COMMUNITY”

 

Photographs by Sasson Rafailov

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Research Interview with Mark Kimball, Owner of Essex Farm

We visited Essex Farm on our way to a weekend camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains. We spoke with owner Mark Kimball (pictured above) in his tomato field, and then roamed his farm until dinnertime. Mark invited us to stay for his weekly Friday Team Dinner, where we had homemade pasta, vegetables, cheese and yogurt. Ever since, we have been (unsuccessfully) searching for a cheese that comes close to as good as what we had there. Thank you for your generosity and hospitality, Mark and Kristin! For more information about Essex Farm, visit http://www.essexfarmcsa.com/ 

“FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION”

We didn’t sit down for a formal interview with Mark, but he was a wealth of information. The Essex Farm CSA is full diet (fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat), year round: a pretty incredible feat for being so far North and farming on sandy Adirondack soil. Mark had the following suggestions regarding our project:

“KEEP THINGS AS MODULAR AND ADJUSTABLE AS POSSIBLE”

This will make expansion and repurposing easier, should we need to do so in the future.


Make as much of the building “exposed” as possible.

“EACH COMPONENT OF THE BUILDING CAN BE A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY” 

Exposed structural elements make for informative tours.

Regarding technology, Mark encouraged us develop a system for tracking where Dilmun produce is, that people could view in real time. He suggested that we take advantage of underutilized cooler space on campus, which could make our produce more readily available to students, faculty, and campus businesses. 

Photos by Sasson Rafailov

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Research Interview with Bob King, Senior Agricultural Specialist of Monroe County


Bob King, PhD, is the Senior Agricultural Specialist of Monroe County, and also played a key role in establishing the Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY.  We spoke with him at his home in Webster, NY. To learn more visit www.monroecc.edu/go/agriculture.

Where are you from, and how do you think that’s influenced you?

Originally, I’m from York, Pennsylvania. We moved from Springettsbury Township, a suburb of York, to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, which is farm country. From the age of fourteen until I was about twenty-one, most of my friends were either farmers or folks who worked in factories. A lot of folks were very rural in their character and nature, but one commonality that we all shared was an interest in plants and animals. When I went to Penn State, I had an interest in the business of agriculture because I was exposed to it a lot. Most of my aunts and uncles were farmers, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a tobacco farmer and a huckster. Agriculture has always been part of my background.

“I THINK THAT THE BUSINESS OF AGRICULTURE CAN BE VERY INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING.”

After college, I ended up going to to work at Southern States Cooperative as a manager, and then I was a plant manager for the Cumberland Valley Cooperative in Shippensburg.

I got a master’s degree in business administration because I wanted to understand more about the business of agriculture. I started analyzing enterprise budgets and scale economies, and realized that I really enjoyed this type of research, and wanted to go more in depth. I started my doctorate in agricultural economics, but it was a lot of theory, and I had more interest in interacting with people, so I wound up finishing in with a PhD in agriculture education and extension with an emphasis on agronomy and economics. My thesis was on the adoption and infusion of technology and innovations.

“ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT AGRICULTURE IS THAT IT TENDS TO CHANGE EVERY FIVE YEARS, SO YOU WANT TO HAVE FLEXIBILITY IN YOUR BUILDING TO REFLECT THAT. AGRICULTURE IS QUICK TO ADAPT.”


Could you talk about some of the differences in the technology available to small and medium sized growers versus what is available to large growers?

Some of the technology is available to both. Often times what smaller growers tend to have is not as much information or access to expertise for adoption.

Regulatory hurdles can be huge. There can be a lot of money, time, and effort involved, and any one of those factors have an impact on small scale agriculture.

Recently, in Rochester NY, we have seen a lot of interest in the Eastman Business Park by large, medium, and small companies- that have an interest in agriculture and food.

What are some of the major needs that small farm infrastructure needs to fulfill?

I think it’s really important for a community- whether it’s a town, a county, or a state- to sit down and say, “We want agriculture to be here and we are going to promote agriculture by making sure farmers have access to roads, energy, water lines, and markets.”

“THE SAME INFRASTRUCTURE THAT BENEFITS AGRICULTURE ALSO BENEFITS COMMERCIAL, RESIDENTIAL, AND INDUSTRIAL USES.”

 photos by Sasson Rafailov
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Interview with Barn Project Donor, Ellen Wolfson

This past summer Michael Wolfson, B.Ch.E. ‘64, LL.B. ‘67 and his wife Ellen were the first Cornell alumni  to donate to the Dilmun Hill Barn Project. Last week, we were lucky enough to catch up with the Wolfsons. We took them on a tour of the farm at the peak of our fall season, and shared our exciting progress. The next morning, we interviewed Ellen at Dilmun. We are forever indebted to the Wolfsons for their generous donation; without them, this project would not be possible.

How did you become interested in organic agriculture?

We’ve always been Cornell supporters, and we were looking for something that involves students in a personal way. Through Joan Gussow, I had met Michael Mazourek. Michael suggested the Dilmun Hill Barn Project, and it sounded like a perfect mesh of what we were interested in. We wanted to be working with undergraduate students, and we loved the idea that people with different interests would be doing this. This was exactly what we were looking for, and we have learned a lot [from visiting Dilmun Hill] that we take back to our own gardens.

What do you and your husband, Michael, hope that your donation will achieve for the Dilmun Hill Barn Project? 

I would love to see more undergraduates getting interested who can see that they can mesh their interests in engineering or architecture with a sustainable farm on a small scale. If our project that we are doing together with you helps move that along, that would be wonderful.

“WE WANTED TO BE WORKING WITH UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS, AND WE LOVED THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT INTERESTS WOULD BE DOING THIS”

What do you hope the future of small scale agriculture looks like? 

I am very encouraged, based on three locations: what I see here, the people that I have met at Stone Barns who will be leaving and moving out into the world, and our daughter who is also a Cornell graduate and lives in Massachusetts. She is raising sheep and other crops, and her friends are all interested. They all have other professions, but they find time and ways to do this. It’s amazing.

“I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE UNDERGRADUATES GETTING INTERESTED WHO SEE THAT THEY CAN MESH THEIR INTERESTS IN ENGINEERING OR AGRICULTURE WITH A SUSTAINABLE FARM ON A SMALL SCALE”

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