Farmhack@ESF was a one day conference for designers and farmers to brainstorm solutions for small scale agriculture. It was organized by Leanna Mulvihill as part of her internship with the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. The event took place in two parts, the design portion was Saturday September 17 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and presentations of the work accomplished that day took place in the evening from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and approximately twenty people were present for both sessions. The design session began with introductions from everyone present and design pitches. There were eight design pitches in the morning. Meg Backus from Library Farm proposed a rain collection/irrigation system. Creek Iversen of Sylvestor Manor wanted to work on improving a mulch spreader design. Taik Fountaine of Tantré Farm had ideas for a roller for felt used to protect crops from insect damage. Stew Diemont, assistant professor at SUNY ESF, was interested in bringing successional agroforestry systems back to New York. Eugene Law, SUNY ESF Environmental Resources Engineering Class of 2013, wanted to create an educational program about the love that goes into agriculture as a cultural restoration plan. James Kelly of Tantré Farm had plans for using a pig production operation as part of soil restoration on a site transitioning from conventional to organic practices. Christy Smith from Peacework Farm wants to turn her half acre plot into a micro-CSA. Luke was excited to chat about radiant heating for seedling production.

Leanna Mulvihill, smiling at left, is FarmHack organizer and at the drawing board!

Some of these proposals ended up gelling together and at the end of the day the designs presented were the irrigation system at Library Farm by Nick Haas, SUNY ESF Environmental Resources Engineering Class of 2012, successional agroforestry for soil building by Stew Diemont, James Kelly Jonathan Watterson, SUNY ESF MLA 2012 and Stephanie Willette of Tantré Farm, the felt roller and garlic processing equipment by Taik Fountaine, and a small scale mulch spreader by Creek Iverson and Benjamin Shute from the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. Each project had team(s) working on them that remained fluid and allowed everyone to really participate in all of the projects. Students from both SUNY ESF and Cornell University participated. Other farmers that attended were Dick De Graff of Grindstone Farm, Lindsey Lusher Shute the director of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, Casey Knapp of Cobblestone Valley Farm, Karin Crowley, Katie Zebrozek of Tantré Farm and Luke and Ruth whose affliation I did not know. Additional SUNY ESF students were Robinson Dugan, Dingqiang Zhao and Danielle Kloster. The Cornell students were Jim Jing, Cameron Finucane and Emily Reiss. Many more SUNY ESF students attended the evening presentations.

Illustrative irrigation idea.

The event was well received by all who attended and participated. I was told repeatedly that this was a valuable resource for farmers to be able to discuss their ideas with students who have technical expertise and other farmers with hands-on experience. Blog posts with results from the day will be up shortly on and this event will be featured in the upcoming Knothole issue. Leanna Mulvihill gave a presentation about this event at the Local Living Festival in Canton, NY on Saturday September 24th, 2011 and will be featured in a Clarkson University production directed by Nick Ruck.