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Gardening and More: Dreaming of farming? Get some solid information

A CORNY CROP — What really separates a gardener from a farmer is that a farmer needs to make money from the plants he or she grows. If you’ve ever thought about supplementing your income by selling produce or even quitting your day job to become a farmer, check out the information that Cornell University offers for beginning farmers in the Northeast at its website Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko.

There’s a difference between farmers and gardeners.

The difference isn’t what they grow; gardeners can grow corn and tomatoes and pretty much anything else a farmer might grow. It’s not necessarily the size of the property, either. I’ve seen huge lots with extensive vegetable and flower beds that were planted and tended by homeowners.

The real difference between a farmer and gardener is that a farmer needs to make money. For a gardener, growing things is just a hobby. It’s wonderful to be able to spend your workday doing what you love, but, like any other entrepreneur, a farmer has to pay attention to the business side and make his or her work pay off.

Whether you want to supplement your income by selling what you grow, you’re dreaming of quitting your day job or you’re already a farmer, you can get help at Cornell University’s website for beginning farmers in the Northeast, located at

Online courses for aspiring, new and experienced farmers are being offered. The courses fill up fast and a few are already closed, so if you think you might be interested, check them out now.

The interactive, six-week courses aim to connect you to the information and people you need, to start a successful farm business or diversify your farm. They are led by experienced educators and farmers. Courses cost $200 each.

Course topics range from farming techniques to business practices. “Berry Production – Getting Started with Growing and Marketing,” covers how to choose a site for berry farming, basic cultural demands of various berry crops, pests, post-harvest requirements of berries, considerations for successful marketing of berry crops and how to analyze costs versus expenses, in order to incorporate them into a business plan.

Another course is “Taking Care of Business – Understanding the Business, Regulatory and Tax Implications of Your Farm.”

In addition to the courses, the site offers free information in a “New Farmer Hub” that includes tutorials, videos and links to people who can help you develop your farm plans.

Topics include:

– Accessing and evaluating land

– Planning and funding your farm business

– Learning how to farm

– Choosing what to produce

– Selling what you produce

– Taking care of the land

– Achieving or improving profitability

– Understanding taxes and regulations

If you’re thinking about making the move from gardening to farming, check out Cornell’s website, to get helpful information.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email her at


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