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Projects and Research

Dillmun Hill Market Garden and Pioneer Garden

Start date: 1996
Managers: Nina Sannes, Kirby Peters

Description: The Market Garden and Pioneer Garden at Dilmun Hill refer to the plots of land that are intensely cultivated each season. While the Market Garden has changed locations and recently expanded, it has been the venue for Dilmun’s vegetable production since 1996. The Market Garden is located on the hill, and its beds are contoured with the slope in order to reduce erosion. In 2014, Dilmun expanded the land it cultivated to include the Pioneer Garden located behind the barn.

Each year the summer managers, with help from a diverse volunteer base, plant and manage a vegetable plot and herb garden, totaling approximately 1.5 acres in size. Because the focus is on experiential learning and exploring methods of sustainable agriculture, many heirloom and unusual varieties are planted instead of standard commercial crops. The gardens utilizes organic production methods including intercropping, companion planting, and floating row covers. It provides sustainable agriculture education and outreach to Cornell University and community members through these practices.

The produce is marketed through the farm's CSA, on-campus farm stand, and various eateries and groups on Cornell's campus – including Cornell’s co-ops. Additional produce is given as compensation to volunteers and donated to local food banks. Since much of Dilmun's soil fertility comes from Cornell-generated compost, the farm maintains a fairly sustainable local nutrient cycle. Frequent work parties provide volunteers a convenient opportunity to help on the farm.

Dilmun Hill CSA

Start date: 2015
Managers: Katie Donnelly Moran

Description: Dilmun’s CSA – community supported agriculture – was revived in the summer of 2015. CSA members were looking forward to their weekly shares of farm-fresh produce, and the occasional fruit and flowers, and the CSA grew quickly to capacity. The farm’s success in 2015 demonstrated that it is a good model for Dilmun to market its produce to the Cornell community. For the second year we now have both, a summer and a fall CSA program, to include students who are only in Ithaca during the school year. In 2016, the farm’s CSA had 13 members with full-sized shares and 32 members with half-sized shares, and lasted for 12 weeks. The fall CSA provided 46 members with vegetables for six weeks.

While the CSA is the farm’s main form of income, we strive to make the vegetables affordable and accessible to Cornell’s undergraduate students. Summer shares are being picked up at the farm, but during the fall shares are distributed on the Ag Quad on campus. We also offer a sliding scale, to make the CSA affordable for everyone. While the farm’s small size limits the number of people our produce can reach, we are dedicated to helping decrease food insecurity at Cornell, in particular among the student population. We also offer CSA memberships to a small number of volunteers who work at the farm in exchange for their share. The managers benefit greatly from the dedication of work-for-a-share volunteers and the opportunity to establish ongoing relationships with members of the Dilmun community.

If you would like to receive information about Dilmun's CSA next season, please contact the managers.

Field Crop Production Course

Start date: 2016
Managers: Noelle LaDue

This summer the managers prepared a field at East Ithaca – a farm near campus – for wholesale production, under the guidance of Professor Michael Mazourek. The plot will be used for the potential pilot project of a "Dilmun Hill course" for Cornell students interested in small-scale, organic-practice farming. Students will receive credit for their work while gaining practical, hands-on knowledge about sustainable agriculture.

During this year's planning stage for the project, some Dilmun Hill students are working with Professor Mazourek at East Ithaca for independent study credit, to develop a set of course goals, outcomes, and learning objectives. They are assessing which crops are ideal for fall harvest, have high yields and sell well, and are reviewing methods for improving the cultivation of the plot, such as techniques and plot infrastructure. Outcomes of this fall's project include a set of clear recommendations for next year, and a selection of video and photographic guides and tutorials for fall season production, and late indoor greenhouse production.

Movable High Tunnel

Start date: 2016
Managers: Alena Hutchinson

Description: The installation of the new high tunnel is complete, and tomatoes and peppers are thriving in the new structure. The steel-framed high tunnel is 20 x 72’ long, and mounted on wheels that sit on 144’ long metal tracks, giving the tunnel the capability to alternate between two adjacent growing sites. This allows the tunnel to be managed in a way that achieves maximum operating capacity without sacrificing soil health, as the high tunnel can always house crops in production, while the adjacent site is cover cropped. An automated sidewall system (to be designed and constructed by Alena Hutchinson in 2017) will guarantee fast and responsive climate control.

Construction of the tunnel was closely documented so that a comprehensive assembly manual can be made and distributed through Cornell Cooperative Extension for growers interested in building their own movable tunnels. In addition to growing produce for Dilmun Hill’s CSA, the high tunnel will serve as a location for student and faculty-led research projects and educational workshops on topics such as plant breeding, climate controlled production, and soil remediation. Keep an eye out for Dilmun Hill’s High Tunnel Production Workshop Series, led by our High Tunnel & Greenhouse Manager. Participants will receive hands-on experience in high tunnel management, and learn skills including variety selection, bed preparation, trellising, pest scouting, and harvesting.

This project was supported by Cornell’s Towards Sustainability Foundation (TSF). A partnership with builder Howard Hoover of Penn Yann, NY, has allowed us to design a high tunnel that could be purchased locally, and effectively meets the unique needs of small and medium-sized growers in New York state.

Learn more and see time-lapse videos of the installation:

Irrigation Renovation

Start date: 2016
Managers: Alena Hutchinson

Description: This fall, Dilmun Hill, with the help of the CUAES Farm Services staff, will be laying new underground irrigation line and frost-free hydrants throughout the entirety of the farm. The new irrigation system will more than triple the amount of land that can be put into production, allowing us to fully utilize the farm for education, research, and production.

The irrigation system will be designed in such a way to minimize water waste, by employing a “block” system. During the planning phase, the farm was divided into sections based on the type of crop and anticipated water need for a given area. In each section, a frost-free hydrant will connect to the main underground line, and drip tape will then run above ground from each hydrant. Each of the hydrants operate independently, thus allowing for precision watering throughout the farm.

We will also be designing and building a portable, solar-powered fertigation unit that can attach to the hydrants and administer controlled doses of fertilizer to a given block. This piece of equipment poses a unique design challenge, as organic fertilizers need to be kept in suspension.