Empire Farm partners with SUNY, Cornell University

Posted: Friday, July 31, 2015 12:00 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


I don’t know if you know, but kids learn better by doing. And garden-based learning is key to innovation. Honestly, everything I ever needed to know I learned at a farm, which is exactly what we are building today at Empire Farm in Copake in that spirit.


The exciting news offers an accredited partnership with the State University of New York and Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences giving students opportunities to learn the business of food on a working farm with impactful curriculum custom growing for New York City chefs outside of the traditional classroom.


The program involves notable influencers, experienced farmers, smart educators, an incredible governing board of directors together with support from the state of New York and other distinguished partnerships that make learning fun and a difference that matters in a community committed to resilient agriculture that keeps farmers farming — and earning a fair living wage.


It starts with seed, soil and students!


Last week, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher visited Empire Farm and announced this new partnership with the FarmOn! Foundation at the 5th annual “Hootenanny!” event to an audience of 500 guests (including 100 local family farmers) to provide State University of New York students with a cooperative education opportunity that bridges the gap between agriculture and entrepreneurship. Participants initially will come from SUNY Cobleskill, Morrisville State College and the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to integrate higher learning into an experiential education and project-based initiative by living on Empire Farm for three-, six- and nine-month programs.


“This announcement represents a first-of-its kind partnership, with three campuses working with a nonprofit to shape the college curriculum and prepare our students for successful careers in agriculture and beyond,” said Zimpher. “We are so pleased to be working with the FarmOn! Foundation to bring these learning solutions to our students for a true hands-on experience as they develop their skills and pursue careers in this growing industry.”


Joining Zimpher at the “Hootenanny!” benefit dinner (sourced entirely from 50-plus family farms within 30 miles of guests’ plates, hosted by Chef Jonathan Wright of the Rainbow Room, New York City) were Morrisville President David Rogers, Cobleskill Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources Timothy Moore and Cornell CALS Assistant Dean Julie Suarez.


The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating nearly 460,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 college and university campuses and online through OpenSUNY. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in nearly $1 billion of externally sponsored activity each year. There are three million SUNY alumni worldwide.


Our SUNY partnership began last year, when the State University Plaza Lawn in Albany was opened to the downtown community for the area’s first — and only — year-round farmers market. SUNY believes in the power of learning by doing, with currently about 200,000 students participating in applied learning opportunities across the 64-campus system, including 30,000 in field placements, and having announced intentions to bring that to full scale and made available to all SUNY students across the state. Co-op education experiences like the one FarmOn! Foundation will offer students are nationally recognized as being nearly 100 percent effective at preparing students for a career in their field and resulting in their employment at graduation.


Students studying agriculture and food sciences, food production and management, viticulture and hospitality, among other disciplines, will be able to live and work on this working farm and Ag-Academy gaining real life experience in the entire food industry vertical.


Learning will range from crop production planning, profitability and projections to planting seed, growing food, harvesting, distributing, budgeting, networking, marketing and scaling for production, cooking, conserving and preserving in the new on-farm Mazzone Hospitality Commercial Student Teaching Kitchen (Angelo Mazzone generously donated and named) to New York City plates and beyond. This fosters the entrepreneurial spirit for youth in agriculture creating vocational, entrepreneurial and academic pathways to breed resilient local economies.


Alice Waters, executive chef, founder and owner of Chez Panisse (American pioneer of a culinary philosophy that believes cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients produced sustainably and locally), cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of Empire Farm last September to christen FarmOn! at Empire Farm in Columbia County with an edible education as we work to change the way America eats and preserve farming while teaching our youth how to make a living. This happens when urban and rural marketplaces are reconnected to build health and wellness in our communities.


I’m honored and privileged as SUNY alumni to partner with Chancellor Zimpher and the State University of New York to bridge the gap between higher learning and applied experiences for students. Together we will develop pathways and 21st century skills at Empire Farm creating outcomes that make a difference for the next generation to secure viable livelihoods and success.


Good food is not a privilege. Education is vital.


If you don’t know already, the FarmOn! Foundation is a nonprofit organization of professional farmers, educators, influencers, supporters, nutritionists, students and community leaders invested in the future of agriculture and supporting local economies. This organization and public charity creates and funds youth educational programming and is working to preserve family farming in America.


FarmOn! Foundation partners include TasteNY, Applegate, Bronx Zoo, New York state Department of Agriculture & Markets, Local Economies Project, Hudson Valley Fresh, Maple Hill Creamery, Herrington’s Fuel, Ed Herrington Inc., Benjamin Moore, Kohler, John Deere & Hudson River Tractor, Whole Foods Market and Hudson Valley school districts, Questar III, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the NBA, Modern Farmer, Walt Disney Company and SUNY.


To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.


Visit us at Empire Farm and learn more about opportunities available for your family, friends and schools online at farmonfoundation.org. We believe in the power to do good and strength in numbers! FarmOn!


Contact Tessa Edick at tessa@ and on Twitter/Instagram @FarmOnFarmOn


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