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New York Agri-Women Conference cultivatesMorrisville State College students’ minds

MORRISVILLE, NY—Chickens and rabbits on a rooftop amid a blanket of green grass peppered with herbs and colorful vegetables set against a backdrop of city skyline. They weren’t the images that popped into Morrisville State College student Cora Mason’s mind when she pictured urban farming.

Yet high atop concrete buildings, above the noise and congestion of the streets of New York City, farmers are making it happen—a viable way to grow food called rooftop farming.

It was among the topics discussed during the New York Agri-Women annual conference, “Straddling the Urban and Rural Divide,” held recently in New York City.

Mason, of Silver Springs, an agricultural business development bachelor degree major, was among four Morrisville State College students who participated in the conference with Sheila Marshman, assistant professor of agricultural business.

Also attending was; Meredith Beardsley, of Interlaken and Megan Brandt of McDonough, both agricultural business development bachelor degree students, and Anna Williams, of Truxton, a dairy management bachelor degree student.

Marshman, of Oxford, president-elect of New York Agri-Women, invited the four students to the conference to broaden their agricultural knowledge outside of the classroom.

“At Morrisville, we are all about experiential learning,” Marshman said. “It is one thing to discuss topics in class and another to actually see them, like the New York City food distribution system.”

It was students’ first live look at how some in New York City have taken to the skies starting gardens of vegetables and herbs to feed people instead of seeking out the limited number of plots available on the ground.

“It was insightful to see how people in the city perceive agriculture and how we perceive it,” Mason said.

“We think farms and acres of fields while they have limited space and focus on a patch of grass on a roof that is a viable space to grow food,” Beardsley said.

“No matter how small the space, they can still grow an amazing amount of produce,” Williams said.

During their stay, they visited Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, a 6,000-square-foot green roof organic vegetable farm located on a warehouse rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They also visited The Union Square Greenmarket, a farmers’ market in Manhattan’s Union Square and had a chance to talk to some of the farmers who sell their value-added products.

In addition to rooftop farming, the conference gave attendees an insight into the food system, food marketing and food distribution. They also learned about community supported agriculture, how urban and rural farmers can work together and value-added food products for increased profitability.

Throughout the event, they also gained a better perspective and appreciation of women’s role in agribusiness.

“I am amazed at the depth of women involved in agriculture,” Marshman said. “It is a traditionally male-dominated field, but now there are so many opportunities for women to get involved with agriculture.”

“I want to take back to my hometown some of the ideas and get myself more involved,” said Beardsley who grew up on a dairy farm and is reaching for a career in the ag industry along with Mason, Brandt and Williams.

On the Morrisville State College campus, all four students are actively involved with Morrisville Fresh LLC. Through Morrisville Fresh, students are responsible for making products and seeing them to fruition, from production to labeling and marketing them, with assistance from Nelson Farms, a unique combination of business incubator, food product processing facility and hands-on academic classroom facility run by the Morrisville Auxiliary Corporation (MAC).

Their trip was funded through sales from Morrisville Fresh.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit to experience, Morrisville in motion.