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The Cornell Small Farms Program’s specialty mushroom project provides educational programming and resources to those interested in cultivating specialty mushrooms. From handbooks and supplier lists, and online classes and hands-on workshops, the mushroom project works to support those already growing mushrooms, teach beginners how to get started, and even eventually train other educators to help support the mushroom cultivation community. 

Project specialist Steve Gabriel was recently quoted in a Civil Eats article about mushroom cultivation and self-taught grower, forager, and educator William Padilla-Brown. He is also the creator of his own business: Mycosymbiotics. Padilla-Brown recently joined Gabriel for the June edition of the Cornell Small Farms Program’s free monthly mushroom webinar, where Padilla-Brown shared his insights and experiences from his journey to becoming a successful grower, business owner, and educator. 

The project also connects mushrooms growers to unique educators like Padilla-Brown, who provide a variety of expertise and viewpoints so that people from any background have the opportunity to learn more about mushroom cultivation. 

“It allows people to walk away feeling empowered and excited,” Gabriel said of Padilla-Brown’s teaching style in the Civil Eats article.

The mushroom project works closely with growers and educators like Padilla-Brown often, the second half the monthly mushroom webinar series will continue to feature information and experience from those with unique and varied experience in mushroom cultivation. 

Read more about the growing field of specialty mushroom cultivation and William Padilla-Brown on Civil Eats.

Specialty mushrooms are easy to grow and maintain, making them a lucrative product for beginning and experienced growers alike. These mushrooms often require little start-up costs, and may even only require materials you already have on hand. 

On Wednesday July 17, the Cornell Small Farms Program’s specialty mushroom project is partnering with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Grow NYC, and Just Food to host a workshop on specialty mushrooms production. The workshop will cover how to grow mushrooms, focusing on their potential as a small enterprise for community and local markets. 

During the workshop participants will learn how to inoculate a shiitake log, grow oyster mushrooms on straw, and plant wine cap mushrooms into wood chips. Everyone who completes the workshop will leave with materials to produce their own mushrooms. 

The workshop will be lead by Yolanda Gonzalez an Urban Agriculture Specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest NY that lives in NYC supporting urban farmers.  Additional expertise will be provided by Jie Jin, a mushroom grower and founder of CuriouSeed, an education studio dedicated to cultivating eco consciousness through playful, experimental and hands-on programming and experiences. Steve Gabriel, an extension specialist for Cornell Small Farms Program and a mushroom farmer in the Finger Lakes, will also provide instruction and addition expertise. 

The workshop will take place at Green Valley Garden (Isabahlia Farm) at 93 New Lots Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212 — at the corner of New Lot Ave and Sackman — from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This workshop is offered for free, thanks to supportive funding from the USDA and Cornell Cooperative Extension. However, space is limited and participants are asked to only register if they are committed to coming. To register, visit:

For more information on mushrooms, visit our project page or check out the Harvest NY Urban Ag Program on Instagram

Alfalfa Mix

A combination of reduced-lignin alfalfa planted with the right meadow fescue can result in a large increase in forage digestibility.
Debbie J.R. Cherney / Cornell University

The addition of alfalfa to dairy forage can support healthy milk production. However, because alfalfa relies on temperature to grow rather than day length like grass, it can be challenging to know what varieties to plant in our region that will translate into the perfect mix of forage for New York dairy cows.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), a small grants program that focuses of research areas of interest for farmers in northern New York, has just released their findings on growing alfalfa in combination with grass species to provide dairy farmers the opportunity to enhance forage yield, quality, and digestibility.

The results of the alfalfa-grass mix trials conducted by Cornell University researchers show that a combination of reduced-lignin alfalfa planted with the right meadow fescue can result in a large increase in forage digestibility. The study ranked alfalfa grass varieties and mixes on their fiber digestibility, crude protein, and lignin (a fiber present within alfalfa plants). 

Increased forage desirability encourages adequate dry matter intake for cows, in turn supporting healthy milk production. However, knowing the varieties and mixes that will grow properly in your region can be challenging.

“These regionalized trials are especially important for analyzing the localized conditions that impact grass yield and quality,” project leader Debbie J.R. Cherney, a Cornell University professor of Animal Science.

Field trials were conducted in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and are set to continue into 2019 with the future goal of assessing the impact of seeding rates for fescue and reduced lignin alfalfa.

Read more about the research and findings on the NNYADP website.

Graduates of the Western New York Master Class for Bilingual Orchard Crew Members toured the Plant Science greenhouse during a day-long event on Cornell’s campus.
Josh Manser / Small Farms Program

In the spring 2019 edition of their magazine In Good Tilth, organic farming nonprofit Oregon Tilth published an article  on the importance of worker development in agriculture featuring the Cornell Small Farms Program and our own Nicole Waters.

The article discusses the challenges of getting farmers to invest in worker development — the biggest factor being a perceived lack of time to invest in training and hiring with paperwork, planning, and harvests to be completed. However, the article goes on to discuss how developing leadership and team-building skills in staff members can create motivation and really pay off.

Nicole Waters, our Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator, discussed how to acknowledge the actual needs of staff in a labor-focused environment and learning how to support them. Most importantly, she noted how to make sure that staff feels they are being trusted and invested in.

Waters said this communication from management tells staff: “I trust you, and hired you because I believe you are the best possible person for the job, and now I want you to have the bandwidth you need to succeed.”

The article also discusses the training opportunities offered by the Cornell Small Farms Program for both established farmers looking to expand their business, and developing skills that foster greater upward mobility in Latinx employees.

Read the full article to learn more about how investing in worker development really pays off.

Investment: 101, Oregon Tilth, May 21, 2019.