Jul 13, 2020
Soil Health Center goes virtual at Empire Farm Days

When this year’s annual Empire Farm Days – the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeast – was forced online due to COVID-19, organizers of the trade show’s Soil Health Center quickly transformed it into a virtual format.

The Zoom format will allow farmers, agriculture professionals, home gardeners and others to participate from a distance. The Empire Farm Days’ Virtual Soil Health Center, via Zoom, will provide short programs July 29-31. Participants can choose to attend any or all the presentations, panels and demonstrations. The sessions are free.

“The Soil Health Center has been part of Empire Farm Days since 2015,” said Joseph Amsili, New York Soil Health extension associate. “We are grateful that this year we can bring the best of the Soil Health Center via online programming to an even broader audience.”

The Soil Health Center is coordinated by New York Soil Health – an initiative led by Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – and the New York State Interagency Soil Health Working Group.

Healthy soil can lead to increased profitability and resilience for farmers, while also contributing to many off-farm benefits, including clean drinking water and climate change mitigation, Amsili noted.

Each day will feature a keynote speaker with soil health expertise:

  • John Wallace, assistant professor of weed science at Pennsylvania State University, conducts cutting-edge sustainable cropping systems research aimed at developing cover cropping strategies to manage weeds in full- and reduced- tillage systems. He specializes in finding cover crops and other solutions to managing herbicide-resistant weeds.
  • Jennifer Moore-Kucera, leads the Farmers Combat Climate Change program at American Farmland Trust. The program focuses on regenerative agricultural practices, farmland protection and clean, renewable energy. Moore-Kucera has been a leader in soil health research and outreach in previous positions in academia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Jean-Paul Stewart-Courtens, Roxbury Agriculture Institute, conducts on-farm research and practices reduced tillage and cover cropping on organic vegetable farms.

The Empire Farm Days’ Soil Health Center also brings together innovative New York farmers who have broad experience with the successes and challenges of managing agricultural lands to improve soil health. Two farmer panels will foster conversations to help participants understand soil health practices in dairy systems and in organic vegetable and grain cropping systems.

Dairy systems panelists:

  • Forrest Watson, Mulligan Farm, Avon;
  • Ryan Akin ’01, Hemdale Farms & Greenhouses, Clifton Springs; and
  • Jason Burroughs, Aurora Ridge Dairy, Aurora;

Organic vegetable and grain crop panelists:

  • Aaron Munzer, Plowbreak Farm, Burdett;
  • Josh Jurs, Kreher Family Farms, Clarence;
  • Rick Pedersen, Pedersen Farms, Seneca Castle; and
  • Jean-Paul Stewart-Courtens, Philia Farm, Johnstown.

There will also be a special presentation on optimizing no-till planter performance for improved yields and soil health. And at a live cover-crop walk, Rod Porter of King’s AgriSeeds will discuss various cover crop species, their benefits and drawbacks, and tips for success.

The Soil Health Center at Empire Farm Days is made possible by the New York State Interagency Soil Health Working Group, New York Soil Health and Empire Farm Days.

For more information and the schedule of events, Virtual.NewYorkSoilHealth.org.

– Kitty Gifford, communications consultant for New York Soil Health

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