Meet the Panelists! Two Part Webinar March 24th and 25th

Farm Viability is fortunate to work with some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, and talented researchers in the country.  The individuals participating as panelists in our upcoming webinars are just a few of the project leaders that are working hard to create the knowledge that New York’s farmers need.

Through the lens of the panelist’s careers, we hope to learn more about how scientific knowledge and societal needs come together to drive change, the challenges they’ve needed to overcome throughout the process, and their hopes for the future.

The webinar series will explore the history of science and its relationship to changes in agricultural production. The discussion will be facilitated by Nicole Welk-Joerger. Nicole is a trained agricultural historian, currently a professional specialist at Princeton University who has taught at Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and North Carolina State University. Her current book project is titled Rumen Nation: Consuming Sustainability in the United States, which explores the history of ruminant nutrition science and its impact on popular definitions of sustainability today.

The webinars will be held from 12:30 to 2:00 pm on Thursday March 24th and Friday, March 25th. Registration is available here.

March 24th Panelists

Tom Kilcer, Independent Agronomist, Advanced Ag Systems

Tom is a systems thinker, and his proposals resonate strongly with the NYFVI review panels.  His work has moved the crop selection decisions from a focus on yield, to a focus on nutrients. He also has ensured that farmers have the information they need to understand if a lower yield on summer corn can pay off with the addition of a winter forage on the same field.  His mantra is “It is the crops that feed the cows that make the milk which creates the money.”

Since 2007 Tom has completed 9 projects with NYFVI funding. With all his work he is careful to ensure that the solutions are good for animal productivity, farm’s bottom line, and the environment. 

Tom Overton, Department Chair, Professor of Animal Science, Director of Pro-Dairy, Cornell University

Tom directs the Pro-Dairy Program at Cornell and is also the Chair of the Animal Science Department. The 14 projects that he and his team have completed with Farm Viability funding reflect both roles. His research has focused extensively on creating a better understanding of nutritional strategies for dairy cows. At Pro-Dairy he and his team have developed tools that help dairy farmers better understand their farm’s performance as a series of interdependent cost centers. The ability to benchmark specific operational costs against similar farms has allowed dairy businesses across the State to better evaluate their performance and improve their operations.  He was recently awarded an FVI grant that will explore the significant variation found in fresh cow performance across dairy farms, despite adoption of similar diets. His goal is to understand if the variation is driven by diet or feeding management.

Quirine Ketterings, Professor of Animal Science, Director Nutrient Management Spear Program, Cornell University

Quirine is passionate about working directly with farmers and farm advisors to conduct on-farm research and developing “win-win” nutrient management solutions for farms and the environment. She is known for bringing evaluation tools to New York management including the Corn Stalk Nitrate Test that can help farmers identify where improvements in nitrogen management can be made without negative impact on crop yield and quality. A recent focus of her work has been the development and testing of crop and soil management zones based on farmer collected information on yield and yield stability over time. This allows farms to more precisely manage their nitrogen use. An outgrowth of that work is the development of a Single-Strip Spatial Evaluation Approach (SSEA) that provides a simple method for a farmer to conduct their own field trials and get meaningful data. She has completed 8 projects with Farm Viability funding and has collaborated with the organization on other initiatives.

March 25th Panelists

Elson Shields, Professor of Entomology, Cornell University

Elson has led nine Farm Viability projects focused on establishing the use of biocontrol nematodes to fight pests.  His work has demonstrated that these microscopic worms can be used in conventional and organic systems as an effective solution for the alfalfa snout beetle, corn rootworm, black-vine root weevil in strawberries, and the Colorado potato beetle. The challenge? It can be hard to keep the nematodes alive until the crop is ready to be treated.  He recently was awarded a grant to lead a project focused on improving the shelf life and formulation of the substrate for this biocontrol agent to make the technology easier to use.  Elson is driven by solving hard problems and excels at understanding the economics involved with creating change in agriculture.

Brian Nault, Professor of Entomology, Cornell University

Brian’s work has focused on understand the biology and ecology of insects that attack, and/or spread disease.  His Integrated Pest Management approach seeks to help farmers use fewer pesticides and avoid insecticide resistance to treatment. Brian recently expanded his work, collaborating with Elson Shields, to include using  nematodes to protect onions from insects and the diseases they transmit. He has worked in both long-standing pests such as thrips, as well as the newer invasive pest threat of the Allium Leafminer.  Farm Viability has supported six projects between the FVI program and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program the organization administers on behalf of New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Aaron Ristow

In his role at American Farmland Trust, Aaron leads the Genesee River Watershed Demo Farm Network, partnering with 11 farm operations to support the adoption of regenerative farming practices in New York’s Genesee River Watershed. Through this network and a series of demonstration projects, Ristow works with farmers to increase knowledge about on-farm conservation systems that build soil health and benefit the environment. Aaron uses a scientific and historical approach to evaluating the impact of no-tillage methods, cover crops, adaptive nutrient management and other soil management methods on a farm’s viability and improved environmental outcomes. This work is supported by a number of organizations including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), and the New York Farm Viability Institute.  It is AFT’s second Farm Viability funded project.