Cornell Cooperative Extension Of Oswego County Welcomes New Agricultural Team Coordinator

Submitted Article

MEXICO, NY – Farming is more than a career, it’s a lifestyle.

Farmers often live at their place of business and are not only taking care of their business, but are caregivers to the crops and animals that are the keys to their success.

Caring for those plants and animals knows no vacation schedule, no eight-hour day and certainly is vulnerable to changing weather.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Agriculture Team Coordinator Jonathan Schell discusses potential problems and solutions regarding the tomatoes in the high tunnel with Pete Ferlito of Ferlito's Berry Patch and Roadside Market.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Agriculture Team Coordinator Jonathan Schell discusses potential problems and solutions regarding the tomatoes in the high tunnel with Pete Ferlito of Ferlito

Assistance on how best to be successful in this field comes from many sources.

One of them, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, has been a solid partner of farmers throughout the county for many years.

“Farmers are very busy in the day-to-day operations of their business,” said CCE of Oswego County Agricultural Team Coordinator Jonathan Schell. “Our job is to assist them find ways to make their businesses viable and sustainable in constantly changing global economy.”

Schell understands the needs of farmers, having grown up in the business while his father worked at a local dairy farm in Watertown and he worked on various farms since high school.

“The personalized attention local farmers get through Cornell Cooperative Extension is second to none in business development,” Schell said. “We work step-by-step with local agricultural businesses to help them make the most of their resources. We help them plan and show them the most current practices and research that can help them be more productive and successful in their business.”

Mark Greco recently entered the farming business in Oswego County with the purchase of the former Wadsworth Orchard in Oswego.

“Coming into this field new, there is information and resources from Cornell Cooperative Extension that have been invaluable in starting out,” Greco said.

Jack Torrice has been a fruit grower in the region for 23 years and also sees the value in CCE of Oswego County.

“Can you imagine somebody who just bought a farm trying to learn their trade and keep up-to-date on the business at the same time,” Torrice said. “Extension is a great resource for new farmers. Even though I have been doing this for many years, I still place a lot of importance on it. I don’t care how long you have been farming, things change and Extension helps keep you up on those changes.”

Sometimes unforeseen events leave growers searching for information. CCE of Oswego County can often assist in these situations.

“We had a lot of hail damage this year,” Torrice cites as an example. “With the help of Extension I was able to find out more about how to determine what to do with damaged fruit. I got information on what could be sold, what could be used for juice and other ideas.”

Even though many services provided by CCE of Oswego County have been limited due to budget constraints, Torrice and others have made extra efforts to keep expertise through CCE in the region.

Torrice is a member of the Lake Ontario Fruit Team that provides a team of expert “Fruit Agents” who are hired out by organizations like CCE of Oswego County to continue providing expert services despite not being able to have a full-time fruit agent on staff.

“The service is important and we need to find ways to keep that service available to assist farmers and growers in Oswego County,” he said.

Sometimes the flow of information goes the other way to benefit CCE and other farmers.

Dick DeGraff has been an organic farmer in the Pulaski area since 1988.

Although CCE of Oswego County did not have an organic farming expert, CCE was able to learn from DeGraff in order to help more farmers grow organically.

“Even though Extension did not have a wealth of material on organic farming early on, there was still enough material regarding other issues to make it an invaluable resource for me,” DeGraff said. “Extension is extremely important. Farmers don’t always have the time to be researching and finding new technologies and new practices. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides much of that information.”

In addition to assisting with the mechanics of farming, CCE of Oswego County also provides assistance on how to expand the market for local farmers through their Agricultural Economics initiative.

“The agriculture producers in Oswego County have much to offer,” said Schell. “Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County helps interested local farmers with branding, image, expansion into niche markets, and partnering opportunities in larger markets as well as assisting them in new growing techniques and other operational issues.”

CCE Executive Director Paul A. Forestiere II is proud of the work his agency does in Oswego County and the contribution CCE makes to a strong segment of local, small business people in the community.

“Agriculture is a key component of the economic well-being of our county,” Forestiere said. “Being able to support that industry with important information and services is a responsibility we take very seriously. We are here to serve local growers so that their success can strengthen their own business and the overall economic health of our community. Many people drive by the mucks and other local farms, purchase goods from local farmers’ markets and think that is agriculture, but this is far from the truth. Agriculture, or agribusiness, is a major economic player in this county. Our role here is multi-faceted as an advisor, a consultant and educator.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension is a key outreach system of Cornell University with a mission to grow and educate the regions it serves and to provide an extensive local presence that is responsive to needs of New York communities.

The CCE educational system aims to enable people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work in practical and business situations.

For more information, contact CCE of Oswego County at (315) 963-7286 or visit