GreenTree's farm customers are one-of-a-kind in many ways, growing different plant varieties, using varying growing practices and dealing with a range of topography. We work to support all of our agricultural customers, catering to their needs and eliminating the time consuming process of making soil themselves. Visiting with GreenTree’s farmers this season helped us learn how we can continue to be a great partner, while also hearing the unique stories that accompany every farm.
The farm at Tompkins Cortland Community College is one half of TC3’s innovative farm to bistro program. The working farm, headed by director Todd McLane, not only supplies produce to Coltivare, the college’s downtown restaurant, but also serves as a hands-on classroom. Students are immersed in the entire food system, learning where they fit in the local agriculture and food cycle.
The farm is currently 55 acres, with about 10 acres of wooded land for mushrooms and maple syrup, and six acres of fields. These fields are home to blueberries, rhubarb and mixed vegetables, as well as a vineyard. Eventually, an orchard will also be added. The challenging, unkempt terrain of the majority of the land is providing Todd with many teaching opportunities, including what can be grown on marginal farmland, how woods can be used for production and season extension.
Todd and his summer students were planting in the farm’s four greenhouses when we visited in June. Two of these structures roll on tracks to allow for season extension and cover crops. Each greenhouse has been modified for a top-notch educational experience, with taller peaks and wider isles than a traditional for-profit farm.
In the first greenhouse, seedlings were starting to take off in GreenTree’s AG Blend. We were able to see fennel, cucurbits, basil, peppers and broccoli, among others. Todd was excited to discuss why he chose GreenTree soil; “a lot goes into building a soil,” which he used to do himself, he explained. Todd aims to source “as much stuff locally or regionally as possible, keeping dollars here,” and he reiterated how integral soil is to the food system.
In addition to Coltivare, locals can find farm-fresh produce used in campus dining or through the farm’s CSA. Todd is committed to the local food movement, and encourages everyone to think about local options year-round.
The TC3 Farm serves as a “lab” that complements lecture courses taken on TC3’s adjacent campus. Unlike other agriculture programs, Todd aims to swap out research for applied learning and he wishes inspire a passion for the local food system. Basic business training is also included in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree, preparing students to work in multiple pieces within the food system. Todd tries “to show different options” within the farm to table cycle and demonstrate “the investment you need to make” in order to farm. He hopes all of his students “find where they fit in the farming system.”