NY FarmNet was founded in 1986 by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, in response to a nationwide farm crisis. An economic farm recession saw thousands of farmers go out of business; many more lost significant equity, as interest rates remained high and farm-gate prices diminished. Stories of farmer suicides attracted media attention, prompting response from government, agricultural universities, farm leaders, and others.

NY FarmNet began with a toll free hotline to link farm families who were experiencing personal and financial stress to consultants trained through the Cornell Cooperative Extension system. NY FarmNet financial consultants provided free, on-farm technical assistance in farm business management, such as cash flow planning and debt restructuring. NY FarmNet personal consultants offered assistance with suicide and depression intervention, stress management, improving farm communication skills, and more.

Thirty years later, the NY FarmNet program as evolved. We continue to provide crisis services, as needed, and have emphasized a more proactive approach in the agricultural community. Our farm business management technical assistance now includes business and marketing planning, developing financial records and record keeping systems, new enterprise and feasibility analysis, and more. Our farm family consultants work with farmers to develop job descriptions, techniques for managing employees, balancing work-home life, holding staff meetings, as well as stress management.

Some of the most prevalent calls for service in 2016: helping farmers respond proactively to the financial downturn to remain in business, estate planning and farm business ownership transfer, business planning assistance for the Southern Tier Ag Enhancement Grant program, and human resource management on farms with employees.

All services are free, on farm, and confidential. Staff and consultants are provided training throughout the year to remain current in agricultural, economic and social conditions and services, as well as refer farmers to appropriate agencies and programs.

NY FarmNet services are available to all farms in New York state, large, and small; with a diversity of commodities that includes dairy, crops, livestock, maple, fruit, vegetables, honey, nursery, and more. NY FarmNet also provides services for farmers relocating to New York.

Farmers contact NY FarmNet via telephone, email, and in person. Services vary from requests for information, to longer term cases that may last several weeks to several years.

NY FarmNet receives funding and support from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, NYS Office of Mental Health, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Cornell Cooperative Extension, public and private grants, and donations from farmers and agricultural supporters. We are part of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.