Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

August 04, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Announces Statewide Listening Tour to Support New and Beginning Farmers

Builds on Governor’s State of the State Initiative to Establish Beginning Farmers Program

Stops Planned in Finger Lakes, Capital Region, New York City, North Country, Long Island and Western New York

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the start of a statewide listening tour to support early-stage and prospective farmers. Joined by state and industry partners, the Department of Agriculture and Markets will host six town hall-style meetings across the State to address challenges and concerns facing beginning farmers and to provide information about existing resources available to them. These sessions build on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State initiative to establish a beginning farmer program, which includes a one-stop shop for new or future farmers to learn about various government and non-profit programs designed to benefit them.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening in New York agriculture, but for farmers just starting out, it can seem overwhelming. We want them to know their success is our priority,” Commissioner Ball said. “We are here to help them navigate the process and understand the resources at their fingertips. This listening tour is also an opportunity for us to gain valuable feedback directly from the industry on how the State can better support current and future farmers.”

Commissioner Ball, along with representatives from Empire State Development, the Department of Labor and several industry organizations will kick off the listening tour August 9 at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls, Seneca County.  The two-hour long event will include a presentation of available resources for farmers followed by a question and answer session. Additional meetings are planned in Western New York, New York City, Long Island, the North Country, and the Capital Region through September.  The events are free and open to the public. To register for an event near you, click here

In addition to holding these listening sessions, the Department also serves as a one-stop shop for new farmers and those interested in farming as a second career. This new resource provides support to farmers in starting, diversifying, or expanding an agricultural operation. The one-stop shop offers individual assistance to early-stage and potential farmers on job training, land ownership, farm financing, compliance, marketing and other areas critical to starting a farm operation.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Agriculture is a crucial component of New York State’s economy and providing early-stage farmers with State funding and resources helps promote job creation and industry sustainability.”

“The agricultural industry is a major job-creator in our state,” said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “We must do all we can to support farmers and help them build sustainable, thriving operations. Twenty-first century farming doesn’t necessarily conform to the image we all grew up with and I’m proud to be part of an administration committed to seeing this important industry flourish both now and in the future.”

Chris Watkins, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said, “We are delighted to see this initiative by the New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets and other agencies to identify key needs of new and beginning farmers in priority areas of land access, funding, technical assistance and training.  CCE is uniquely placed to contribute to these efforts by delivering educational programs to beginning farming groups throughout the state.  Our Extension Educators are able to link new and beginning farmers to resources such as the Small Farm Programs and others in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  We are committed to this exciting effort to maximize success and sustainability of New York agriculture.”

About the Beginning Farmer Program

The average age of New York State farmers today is approximately 55, increasing the likelihood that many of them will be opting to retire or scaling back their operations. At the same time, there is a growing interest from women, veterans, new Americans, and others in beginning a career or starting a second career in farming.

At the direction of Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets has established a Beginning Farmer Program, including a one-stop shop, to help these groups overcome obstacles to entering the profession and launch a successful agricultural operation in New York.  The program focuses on four priority areas: access to land; capital and financing; business and technical assistance; mentorship, training and apprenticeship opportunities. 

Additional resources for beginning farmers are available on the Department’s website, or by contacting the one-stop shop at (718) 722-2668 or

2017 Press Releases