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Anu Rangarajan

Anu grew up growing vegetables and flowers for her family. Her love of horticulture led to degrees from Michigan State (BS, Ph.D.) and University of Wisconsin (MS), in floriculture and vegetable production. She has been at Cornell since 1996, as a statewide specialist for fresh market vegetable production. Her research interests include tillage, compost, and soil quality in vegetables and organic production systems. In 2005, she joined the ranks and started a small farm in Freeville NY.

Violet Stone
Baskets to Pallets Project Manager
Northeast SARE (Sustainable Ag, Research and Education) Coordinator for NY State

Violet is originally from northeast Pennsylvania where she grew up on a 600-acre wildlife preserve. After graduating from Oberlin College with a degree in Environmental Studies, she worked as a farmers market manager, local foods educator and farm direct-marketing consultant in the Hudson Valley, New York. She spent several years on the west coast, working with diversified vegetable farms in Washington and California. In 2005, she earned a Certificate in Agroecology from the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.  In 2009, she joined the Northeast SARE Professional Development Committee and now serves as the NESARE State Coordinator.  Violet has a passion for flower production and maintains lots of gardens at her homestead in Danby along with her husband and three-year-old son.

Erica Frenay
Online Course Manager

Erica began working for the Small Farms Program in 2006. A former co-manager of Cornell’s student-run farm, she graduated from Cornell in 1998 and moved to Oregon to serve in AmeriCorps. Erica spent 6 years in the Pacific Northwest, working as Project Coordinator for an agricultural land trust and then as Executive Director of an urban educational farm in Portland. In 2005 she completed a 2-year program in Holistic Management. During her long and indirect journey back to Ithaca, Erica and her husband lived on a permaculture farm and nursery in the San Juan Islands for a year and spent another year working on farms and building with clay and straw in New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Australia. They returned to Ithaca to settle down in the summer of 2005, and five years later started Shelterbelt Farm. Now she works part-time for the Small Farms Program and part-time producing sheep, beef, duck eggs, honey, fruit, and veggies on her farm.

Ryan Maher
Extension Specialist
Reduced Tillage Project Manager

Ryan began with the SFP in the summer of 2013 and focuses on research and extension in soil health practices for vegetables. He is a Baltimore native with family and educational ties to CNY. After graduating from SUNY-ESF in 2003 he spent two summers training on diversified vegetable farms, first in SW Oregon and then in the Boston metro area. In 2007, he graduated from Iowa State with an MS in Sustainable Agriculture focusing on soils in native grassland restorations. He spent five years with the USDA-ARS in St. Paul MN, coordinating research on nutrient cycling in perennial forage crops. Ryan, his wife Jackie, and daughters Gia and Olive are happy to settle in CNY and enjoy the food, farms, forested hills, and water of the Finger Lakes region.

Steve Gabriel
Agroforestry Specialist

Steve grew up in the Finger Lakes Region and from a young age took a passion for nature, forests, and farming. He graduated from Empire State College with a BS in Environmental Science, an educational path which incorporated aspects of forestry, ecology, and permaculture. He co-founded the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute in 2005 and began working at Cornell in 2009 in the Department of Horticulture, focusing on permaculture and agroforestry research and education. Along with fiance Liz, he operates Wellspring Forest Farm in Mecklenburg NY where they produce shiitake mushrooms, duck eggs, pastured lamb, and maple syrup. He has co-authored a book called “Farming the Woods” with Cornell professor Ken Mudge, which was published in Fall 2014.

Dean Koyanagi
Veterans Program Associate

Dean served as a US Marine followed by a 10-year career in corporate and government facilities consulting. He obtained a master’s degree in environmental education and served as Cornell’s sustainability coordinator. He and his wife have run a small fruit and vegetable farm for past 8 years.

Nicole Waters
Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator

Raised locally in Freeville, NY, Nicole joined the Small Farms Program in 2018. Her work focuses on supporting beginning farmer projects throughout the Small Farms Program. A diverse background of experiences enhances her work coordinating efforts to support farm employees and beginning farmers. Post-graduation from SUNY Albany in 2004, Nicole was certified as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in Sevilla, Spain. Upon returning to the U.S., she co-taught English lessons at a dairy farm and took a part-time position at a local winery. The part-time winery position led to a degree in enology and a six-year career as an assistant winemaker in the Finger Lakes region. She has spent the last six years coordinating grant-funded projects and supporting international students seeking graduate degrees. Nicole’s free time is spent with her son, Sawyer, who shares a passion for canoeing, camping and hiking NYS forests.

Kacey Deamer
Communications Specialist

As the Small Farms Program’s first dedicated communications specialist, Kacey will work to build a storytelling and outreach strategy across the website, social media, newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for a decade, with specialties in science and sustainability. An Upstate New York native, Kacey received her undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Environmental Studies from Ithaca College. She is excited to return to the community she has always called home, and hopes to start a small farm of her own.

Shaun Bluethenthal
Veteran Program Associate

Shaun is originally from NC. While serving in the USMC infantry he was part of the ground operations during the invasion of Iraq (OIF) in ’03. Ten years later, after some time in civilian world, he felt strongly that he needed to reinvent his self and begin a new career path that aligned with his values. He returned to school at Cornell and graduated with a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences. He is now working with us to broaden his industry connections and to share what he has learned about agriculture, through working at various farms throughout the Finger Lakes and coursework, with other farmer-veterans.

Talia Isaacson
Student Assistant

Talia is originally from San Diego, CA, but her passion for agriculture mostly developed on the coast of Maine, where she lived and worked on an educational diversified farm throughout parts of her high school years. Since then, Talia has spent time working on various farms in both Vermont and Arkansas, which has further solidified her interest in small-scale agriculture and its myriad intersections with community welfare, environmental sustainability, and education. She is a sophomore in the English department at Cornell and began working for the Cornell Small Farms Program in early 2018. Talia also works for the Local & Regional Food Systems initiative.

Anna Birn
Student Assistant

Anna is a junior in CALS studying Agricultural Science with a minor in Community Food Systems. She comes from suburban Putnam County NY but has always been drawn to farms. Her ag interests started with horses, but quickly turned to sustainable livestock, and then to food issues. Anna is interested in a holistic view of the food system with an emphasis on bridging the gap between the farming community and underserved populations in search of good food. With a love for small ruminants and a desire to help fix the food system, Anna was thrilled to join the Small Farms team in January 2019.

Kelsie Raucher (Currently Studying Abroad)
Student Assistant

Kelsie is from southwest Missouri and grew up on a 150-acre farm helping her family buy and sell horses and cattle. She credits FFA for finding her passion for agriculture and food issues and desiring a career as an “agvocate.” Since coming to Cornell, she has gained interest in local production, global food issues, and environmental impacts of and on agriculture. She joined the Cornell Small Farms Program in May of 2018 and is excited to gain experience to complement coursework in the Agricultural Sciences major and Communication major.

Nina Sannes
Student Assistant

Nina is a 5th year student pursuing an independent major in agroecology in an effort to gain a nuanced view of the social and scientific sides of agriculture. She is from a small town in coastal North Carolina and originally came to Cornell to study astrophysics, but changed her tune after discovering her love of farming while managing Dilmun Hill, the Cornell student-run farm. She hopes to work to aid small farmers in adopting agroecological growing practices, and run a small farming cooperative one day.

Claire Morrow 

Student Assitant


Claire is preparing to start her senior year as a Plant Science major in CALS. She is concentrating in sustainable plant production, and hopes to one day work in extension to help farmers implement sustainable practices that are both economically feasible for them and good for the planet. She is from a small town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where she learned to appreciate nature and great farm fresh food. She is excited to have the opportunity to both help out with Small Farms programming and get her hands dirty on the research farm this summer.