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Sustainable Farms

Greener Farms

The seven world-class research farms managed by CUAES, comprising 2,400 acres, are the bridge between academic discovery and commercial application, contributing to a thriving economy and a healthy environment. Each farm is ideally sited to support and showcase cutting-edge research suited to New York’s varying soils and climates—a real value to farmers throughout the Northeast. Three of the farms include certified organic acreage.

New York’s 36,300 farms are national leaders in dairy, apples, wine, sweet corn, maple syrup, and more. Each is a potential partner in this new venture: transforming New York’s 4.7 billion dollar agricultural economy into a beacon for sustainability.

Sustainable Agriculture

We focus on cutting-edge sustainable land-use and agricultural practices that maximize resources, minimize waste and increase yields.

Clover GrainTo improve long-term soil fertility, and reduce erosion and nutrient-leaching, our farms integrate cover- and companion crops whenever possible. Example: rye or oats are interplanted with red clover. Once the grain crop is harvested, the clover remains—naturally enriching the soil with nitrogen and crowding out weeds, reducing the need for supplemental fertilizer and chemical weed control.

Reduced tillage methods, including strip-till, no-till and zone-tillage, keep soil layers intact to preserve soil structure and quality.

Raised mower cutting height reduces the need for mowing of grass laneways and around field edges. With every cutting we remove the top 1/3 of the grass. With a longer maintained grass-height, the duration between each mowing is extended, reducing the mowing frequency.

GPS guidance systems on farm machinery help us to precisely sow seed and apply fertilizer and pesticides, reducing all inputs by about 10%.

Reduced water-usage by moving away from overhead irrigation and toward drip irrigation.

All of these methods conserve fuel and time while reducing costs and carbon emissions.

Improving Our Buildings, Roads & Equipment

Repurposing Road MaterialWe strive to make smarter use of our farm infrastructure, cutting operation costs, energy use and carbon emissions.

Insulating, weather-stripping, upgrading windows and doors and installing more efficient lights and furnaces considerably reduces our carbon footprint. Closing some buildings during the winter saves almost $7,000 a year. We use asphalt millings—a waste product from local road repaving—and stream bed material from work at a nearby stream to keep our farm roads in good repair. We share some farm equipment and vehicles across several operations, reducing the need for more.

Our entire staff continually seeks opportunities to test sustainable practices and promote them not only among the many students and researchers who use our facilities, but to the hundreds of visitors at our popular farm events.

Reducing Cornell's Waste

TractorOur 4 acre compost facility converts 6,000 tons of waste a year—half of Cornell's solid waste stream— into nutrient-rich compost for Cornell's farms, fields and orchards.

Along with recycling glass, aluminum and paper, researchers and staff at our farms can now recycle agricultural plastics, including: drip tape, row and hoop house covers, rigid plastic pots and trays.

Local Produce for the Cornell Community

Dilmun HillCorn, potatoes and winter squash are among the 13,000 pounds of produce our farms grow for Cornell Dining every year. Not only does this increase the share of the locally grown food on campus to feed students, staff and faculty, but it helps to raise awareness about sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Dilmun Hill Student Farm offers picked-that-morning produce to the Cornell community throughout the growing season. Dilmun's selection of tasty and nutritious vegetables includes many hard-to-find heirloom varieties.