The Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm (ELF) and Education Center is located on Route 68 outside the Village of Canton, New York.
From the 1950s until the late 1990s the farm was used as an educational laboratory for the State University of New York Canton’s agricultural program. In 1998, SUNY Canton discontinued using the farm and the State of New York turned the farm over to Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.
Through an agreement with SUNY Canton, Cornell ran an Agronomy Laboratory at the site from the 1961 through 1999. This part of the facility was later turned over to CCE of St. Lawrence County.
Extension views the farm as a unique agricultural and educational resource. The farm provides an invaluable site for events and activities, and a place to expand youth-oriented agricultural awareness programs; adult educational programs in the areas of food, agriculture and natural resources; and demonstrations of innovative crops, products and farm practices.
The farm property includes two parcels totaling 363 acres. The Martin property is 220 acres with historic barns, two houses and several out buildings. Classrooms are local in the large barn and in the large Martin house.
The Kennedy property includes 143 acres, a house and outbuilding used for offices as well as a Quonset building and storage shed. Fifty-six acres at the Kennedy location are tillable; 80 acres are forestland. Six acres were in replicated plots until 2003 with other land easily accessible for further plot work. Crop and research studies here have included: switchgrass, grass varieties, kura clover, maple stand improvement, deer exclosure, and a sheep demonstration program.
Farm staff operate a commercial sheep flock of 80 ewes and a beef herd that is a combination of dairy, dairy cross and beef cows. In 2011, the cows and sheep were grazed in the same paddocks in a rotational grazing system using portable fencing. Multi-species grazing demonstrated the advantages for both pasture and animal management.
Other farm animals kept for Ag Awareness programs and demonstrations include broiler chickens, pigs, and laying hens.
A high-tunnel greenhouse was added to the farm’s demonstration resources this year. Raised beds and composting bins were built with the help of volunteers. The greenhouse provided fresh vegetables to the summer day camp, 4-H Camp Overlook, and food preservation classes.
Extension Educators hold meetings in the farm classroom on beef, sheep, goats, crops, pasture, maple and more. Groups such as the North Country Shepherds, Farm Bureau, North Country Grown, and St. Lawrence County Maple Producers meet regularly here. Community groups like Spay/Neuter Now and the Sustainable Living Project also use the space for their programs.
Projects at the ELF, as well as on local farms, provide an outstanding opportunity for local educators to partner with Cornell University faculty to provide information that can be practically applied to farms in St. Lawrence County and across Northern New York.
Several projects funded through the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program have taken place here, including studies of BMR Sorghum Sudangrass as an economic and environmentally sound alternative to corn in NNY, tall fescue variety trials, and grass-fed beef.
Youth, students, parents, teachers and chaperones visit the farm each year. Events and activities include Maple Tours, Summer Day Camp, Dairy Camp, Ag Field Days, Farm/Home Safety Days, SUNY Canton Veterinary Science Labs, Aquaculture Class, BOCES Community Connections Program, SUNY Canton Work-Study, and farm tours. Extension farm staff provide hands-on learning experiences for student-interns from Clarkson and St. Lawrence universities, SUNY Canton, Potsdam State, and Canton High School.