SUNY conference explores "lifestyle farming"
By Patsy Nicosia
Some people come to what's being called lifestyle farming with a background in marketing.
Or knowing how to write a business plan.
Others come to it experienced in gardening. Or maybe in raising sheep.
But all off them unsure of how to take the next step to make their interest in doing something with a few acres and a barn profitable-or at least sustainable.
Saturday's first-ever Lifestyle Farming Conference at SUNY Cobleskill was an effort to bring all of that together for a daylong series of classes on everything from growing mushrooms to farm brewing to backyard poultry.
The event was co-chaired by Plant Science Professors Tim Marten and Adam Wild with help from the college's Culinary Department and the Plant Science and Landscape Clubs.
The more-than 100 participants came from across the Northeast and the instructors came from both on-campus and out in the field.
Mr. Marten explained that the day's classes included both introductory and more in-depth sessions and were designed to give students hands-on experience-think grafting fruit trees in the campus orchard-and take-aways-a maple log inoculated with shitake mushroom spoor.
"A lot of this is intended for people who have a few aces and now want to know what they can do with it," Mr. Marten explained as he worked his way from room-to-room in the College Agricultural and Natural Resources Building.
With that in mind, participants were able to sign up, for example, for a class in making farm sausage, held in the CANR USDA-certified meat procession plant.
"In the past, it was difficult to bring all of these things together, but this building makes it possible," Mr. Marten said. "It's such a natural fit. Before we were in silos. This is more real-world and we're all meeting in the middle."
Mr. Marten said he sees the conference as something the college could host twice a year; a fall conference, for example, might include things like apple tree management and cider-making.
"Because farming is seasonal, it would make sense that this would be too," he said.
Mr. Marten said he and Mr. Wild "stumbled upon" the idea of the conference, which went from idea to reality in less than a year.
Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, but based on the attendance-he and Mr. Wild were hoping for 60 participants-it will continue to grow.
"This is a start, but we're looking for feedback today too," Mr. Marten said.
"We want the participants to start developing a sense of community. We want them to know there are others who will help them get where they want to go. "