COSA Progressing on Many Fronts

Alfred State College's Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA) has achieved several milestones thus far in building its capacity to help farmers in New York and beyond.

Faculty and staff from Alfred State College's Agriculture and Horticulture Department, including Dr. Matthew Harbur, program director for the Center; Larry Cornell, instructional support assistant; Lynn DuPuis, assistant professor, ornamental horticulture--landscape development program; farm manager Peter Chatain; and Alfred University botanist Cheryld Emmons, have launched an organically managed campus vegetable garden.

"Our vegetable garden is modest this year," noted Harbur, "but our plan is to start small and expand as we become more experienced with organic management strategies. Already this summer, we and our students have learned how to install a drip irrigation system and use row covers to protect mustards and other greens from flea beetles. We are also working with Johnny's Select Seeds, an organic supplier from Maine, to evaluate 30 varieties of carrots, greens, lettuces, and gourds in the challenging growing conditions on our farm."

Center faculty and staff are otherwise working to connect the Center to specific educational needs of the NYS agricultural industry. Dr. Dorthea Fitzsimmons, assistant professor, ASC Agriculture and Horticulture Department, is a member of the NY Dairy Task Force for the Center of Dairy Excellence. Fitzsimmons, who leads dairy science programming at the Center, is actively immersed in organic dairy education, participating in the Organic Dairy Transition Project advisory panel meeting in April and reviewing a chapter on herd health for the Northeast Organic Farming Association's Dairy Transition Self-Assessment book. She also apprenticed with Dr. Hubert Karreman and PSU Dairy Extension Agent Dr. Ken Griswald in Lancaster County, PA, to learn organic methods of bovine medical treatment. Harbur is working with scientists from the USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in State College, PA, to evaluate multiple pasture grass-legume mixtures for productivity in the Southern Tier. He also attended the July meeting of the fledgling Sustainable Agriculture Education Association and joined its steering committee. DuPuis attended the Big Flats Plant Material Center's Perennial Biofeedstock Tour in August in support of her efforts to build a native plants initiative with implications for forage production, bioenergy, and ecosystem services.

"The highlight of our new Center, of course, will be state-of-the-art buildings, equipment, and energy technologies which will allow us to better inform our students and other public audiences. But the purpose of our Center is work with stakeholders to identify ways in which farmers and consumers can participate in an agriculture that is more profitable, supports human health, and builds environmental quality," says Harbur. 

Although followers of Alfred State's new Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture may be wondering where the new barn is, Harbur notes that, "It is a more complex process to build a state barn than a private barn. Multiple architects must be interviewed, bids considered, contracts negotiated and approved. The SUNY Construction fund, which is managing the $4.9 million dollar allocation from the NYS Senate, is helping us to think carefully about our infrastructure. We are close to securing our contract with an architect, and we hope to site the barn this fall and winter. Once the barn location is identified, we will begin installing fence and rotationally grazing our herd," explained Harbur.

"Though we have not started building a new barn, we have definitely broken ground."