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Agricultural Solutions Fair

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The Institute for Rural Vitality at SUNY Cobleskill, in conjunction with National Grid and NYSERDA, hosted a two-week seminar series in place of the annual in-person event. After having to cancel the 2020 event due to the pandemic, it was widely requested that there be an event in 2021. In previous years, the Ag Solutions Fair was a hub of resources for the industry, and we are excited to have been able to continue that tradition during these unprecedented times.


2021 Webinar Presenters


Jacob Evans, Farm Service Agency

Jacob Evans is a Farm Loan Officer Trainee with Farm Service Agency. Evans was born and raised on a small 60-cow dairy farm in Norwich, NY. After high school, he pursued and received a Bachelor of Technology in Agricultural Business through SUNY Cobleskill. Shortly after graduating, he was hired on with Farm Service Agency and have has been there for the last two and a half years.

Email: jacob.evans@usda.gov

Phone: 518-692-9940 ext. 2


Gary Pereira, USDA Rural Development

Gary Pereira is the Energy Coordinator and Business Programs Specialist at USDA Rural Development Agency State Office, located at the Galleries of Syracuse, Syracuse, NY. As a Business Programs Specialist, Mr. Pereira has worked extensively over the past twelve years in the Rural Energy for America Program at USDA. In addition, he is responsible for all aspects of the agency’s business grant, loan, and loan guarantee programs for central and eastern New York State. Mr. Pereira holds an MBA from Binghamton University, and a Bachelor's degree in Finance from SUNY IT.  

Email: gary.pereria@usda.gov

Phone: 315-570-2233


Nathan Rudgers, Farm Credit East

Nathan L. Rudgers is a Senior Vice President for Farm Credit East, a position he has held since December, 2005.  In his capacity as Director of Business Development, Nathan is responsible for bringing resources to Farm Credit’s clients who are planning or undergoing major business changes.  He is a frequent speaker in state, national and international forums on such topics as renewable energy, food safety, international trade, agriculture policy and economic development.  Nathan serves as a member of the Food Foresight Blue Ribbon Panel.  Food Foresight is an annual collaboration between the public relations firm Nuffer, Smith, Tucker and the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research at University of California, Davis, which offers guidance on the issues and trends shaping the food and agriculture industry.  Nathan is the Treasurer of Solutions from the Land, an on-going solutions-oriented conversation among thought leaders and practitioners on how to sustainable meet society’s increasing appetite for food fiber, energy and environmental quality.   Nathan serves as a member of the Farm Foundation Board of Directors, the New York Bioenergy Association Board of Directors, and the Genesee Community College Foundation Board. Prior to joining Farm Credit, Nathan served as Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets for The State of New York.  He was appointed Commissioner by Governor George E. Pataki in 1999.  Nathan also served as President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in 2005. Nathan was born and raised on a dairy and cash crop farm in Pavilion (Wyoming County), New York and is a 1982 graduate of Cornell University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics.  Nathan currently lives in Pavilion with his wife Eileen.

Email: Nathan.rudgers@farmcrediteast.com

Phone: 800-526-2235


Paula Bagley, NRCS

Paula C. Bagley, P.E. is the State Conservation Engineer (SCE) for USDA-NRCS New York.  Paula provides engineering leadership to NRCS NY staff and partners. Paula has been in the SCE position for 5 years and with NRCS for 14 years. She has 21 years of experience in New York of providing engineering implementation technical assistance and training to landowners, communities, groups, and individuals.

Email: paula.bagley@usda.gov

Phone: 607-761-5969


Lisa Coven, NYSERDA

Lisa grew up in a greenhouse family business, growing orchids, ornamentals, and vegetables in Maryland.  After moving to Vermont to attend the University of Vermont, Lisa quickly got involved in local agriculture during the late 1990s working at the Intervale Center, a Vermont non-profit focused on strengthening community food systems. After receiving her master’s degree in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School with a focus in sustainable agriculture, she spent a decade in local and federal governments managing agriculture and conservation lands. Today, Lisa works with agricultural producers all over the country to reduce operating costs by becoming energy efficient in their operations. On the side, she teaches basic gardening classes and lives on a mini-homestead with her two cats. 

Email: lisac@ensave.com

Phone: 518-412-2637


Jessica Zweig, NYSERDA

Jessica Zweig is a Project Manager in NYSERDA’s Industrial and Agriculture Group.  She has been working in energy efficiency with the commercial and industrial sector for over 20 years.  Focus on working with agriculture community began in the early 2000s when NYSERDA started offering specific programs for agriculture energy efficiency.  She enjoys working to keep the agriculture sector a valuable part of the NYS economy.    

Email: jessica.zweig@nyserda.ny.gov

Phone: 518-862-1090 x3346 


Robert Muller, National Grid

Bob was born into a family of farmers and grew up on a dairy in Schoharie County, NY. Bob attended SUNY Oswego for both his Bachelor of Science and Master’s in Industrial Education.  He started his career as an industrial arts teacher and in 1981 was selected as New York’s “Super Teacher of the Year” for his innovative energy technology classes and co-authoring a Solar Energy Curriculum for Schools, which was nationally distributed through the DOE. Bob was firmly bitten by the energy bug and went on to train nearly 1,000 energy auditors across the country for the Residential Conservation Services (RCS) Program as well as to develop and manage a variety of energy efficiency programs. In addition to performing numerous marketing and program management roles he was the driving force in introducing multiple agricultural initiatives to promote and support NY agri-business energy efficiency within National Grid. Bob is currently the Commercial and Agri-Business Specialist for National Grid, NY and supports multiple internal and external advisory committees including GLASE Greenhouse Initiative, Renewable Natural Gas (Biogas) and Controlled Environment Agriculture Best Practices.  He facilitates the implementation of energy efficiency programs across a broad spectrum of agribusinesses customers and stakeholders in both National Grid’s Eastern and Central Regions. To date he has directly worked with over 400 NY farms to provide energy efficiency incentives and support. 

Email: Robert.Muller@nationalgrid.com

Phone: 518-810-6224


Joe Russo, National Grid Economic Development

Joe Russo is an Economic Development Program Manager for National Grid, based in Syracuse, NY. He has worked in economic and community development in New York State since 1978, with experience as a city, county, chamber of commerce and utility economic development manager. In addition to serving as Secretary to the North Country Alliance Board of Directors, Joe serves on the board of directors of the CNY Economic Development Corporation (Secretary/Treasurer) and Empire Housing & Development Corporation. Joe is an active member of the NYS Economic Development Council (NYSEDC) and has chaired its Marketing Committee since 2000. He is on the Utility Economic Development Association (UEDA) Board of Directors, serving as Co-Chair of the Program & Education Committee. He is also a member of the Northeast Economic Development Association (NEDA), the International Economic Development Association (IEDC), CoreNet Global Real Estate Network and a Charter member of the Industrial Asset Management Council and an IAMC Fellow. 

Email: Joseph.Russo@nationalgrid.com 

Phone: (315) 428-6798


Stephen Finkle, NYSERDA New Construction

Stephen Finkle is a Senior Project Manager in the Commercial New Construction Program and has been with NYSERDA for over 12 years.  Stephen is responsible for development of initiatives, metrics and reporting, special projects and oversight of project managers and consultants.  Prior to this Stephen was in architectural practice for over 38 years, in positions ranging from project architect to firm owner.  Stephen is a licensed architect in New York State and a LEED accredited professional.  

Phone: 518-862-1090 x3505 

Email: stephen.finkle@nyserda.ny.gov


Jim Manning, Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship

Jim Manning is CADE's Senior Program Manager of Farm and Food Business Development. Prior to joining CADE, he served as a Farm Business Management Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County from 2007-2017 with a special focus on entrepreneurship, marketing and local food systems. In addition to working with many agricultural and food businesses, helping them to manage operations and finances and to develop new business opportunities, Jim led a series of special projects for Cornell Cooperative Extension. He is also lead facilitator of the Mohawk Valley Food Policy Advisory Council.

Email: jim@cadefarms.org

Phone: (315) 272-9529




Carrie Edsall, SUNY Cobleskill and Black Willow Pond Farm

When a customer places an order to Black Willow Pond Farm, a noise pings (‘cha chings’) on Carrie Edsall’s phone. It is a standard alert like the one you can choose to get when you send an email or receive a text. Before she has a chance to sit down and make a more detailed financial assessment, it is the first gauge Edsall has to the success of that day’s business. The noise started last spring when Black Willow Pond Farm began shipping orders, in addition to selling products at local farmers’ markets in and around the Mohawk Valley and Catskills. Black Willow Pond Farm is a mostly-seasonal operation; it does the majority of its animal growing between the start of daylight saving’s time and Thanksgiving. It fits with Edsall’s SUNY Cobleskill teaching schedule.

Email: EdsallCA@cobleskill.edu

Phone: 518-255-5641


Chef Michael Lapi, SUNY Cobleskill

Chef Lapi is an instructor of Culinary Arts and Meat Processing at SUNY Cobleskill, Lapi shares his expertise of farm-to-table cuisine and whole animal butchery with aspiring culinary professionals. He is also deeply involved with the Chef’s Consortium, a group of like minded individuals who promote the use of local diversity and sustainable farming methods through an educational and fundraising platform.

Email: LapiMA@cobleskill.edu

Phone: 518-255-5824


Dr. Sophie Ano, SUNY Cobleskill

A native of southern France, Dr. Ano joined the Agricultural Business Management team at SUNY Cobleskill in 2014. She received a Masters degree in Agribusiness from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Arizona State. Her teaching interests include food systems, marketing, small business development and entrepreneurship. Dr. Ano is faculty advisor for the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA), a student organization that competes nationally each year in marketing plan competitions.

Email: anost@cobleskill.edu

Phone: 518-255-5192


Professor Katrina Pearl, SUNY Cobleskill

Professor Pearl primarily teaches courses in Marketing at Cobleskill. Prior to joining SUNY Cobleskill in August 2015, she worked for Schenectady County Community College as an Assistant Professor of Management. She also has five years of industry experience in accounting, finance, and real estate. She is currently in the last stages of her dissertation to complete her Doctorate of Management degree from the University of Maryland University College.

Email: PearlMK@coblekill.edu

Phone: 518-255-5381


Kaitlyn Sirna, Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship

Kaitlyn Sirna is a Senior Program Manager at CADE and is working on Farm to School and Institution Supply Chain Development. Kaitlyn's knowledge and passion for farming comes from her parents who are first generation farmers and self-proclaimed land conservationists. The Sirna Family purchased and saved their now family-farm from development over twenty years ago in Northeast Ohio. 

Since moving to New York Kaitlyn has worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension, where she helped farm and food businesses with product development and the implementation of New York Agriculture and Market's TASTE NY program in Broome County. Most recently before CADE, Kaitlyn worked for Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES), a non-profit urban farm in Binghamton, where she ran and rapidly expanded two of their oldest program areas, Youth Programming and Community Gardens. Kaitlyn has a Masters in Science from Binghamton University in Sustainable Communities and her thesis analyzes the relationship between food security, food access, and culture.

Kaitlyn is Chair of the Downtown Binghamton Courtyard Market and works closely with small businesses in New York and Ohio to support their needs to grow (figuratively and literally!). She passionately advocates for small businesses and local farms and has first-hand experience working in these fields across the Midwest and Eastern US.

Email: kaitlyn@cadefarms.org

Phone: 315-272-9529


Jessica Brooks, NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets

Email: Jessica.Brooks@agriculture.ny.gov

Phone: (518) 402-7398 


Emily Cooks, NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets

Email: emily.cook@agriculture.ny.gov

Phone: 518-474-5538


Lindsey McMahon, NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets

Email: lindsey.mcmahon@agriculture.ny.gov

Phone: 518-485-8030

2021 Webinar


Access to Capital: Traditional Funding

There are many options throughout the industry when we think about traditional avenues for funding farm and food businesses. To kick-off our series, you'll hear from the following presenters about programs they have available ranging from a conventional loan program to government grants. Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation. 


Controlling Farm Energy Costs with Energy Audits and Utility Incentives

Energy use is an expense for New York farms and farmers can control this cost by improving their energy efficiency.  Agriculture Energy audits serve as an important road map for making long-term operational improvements and updates. In general, a farm can expect an energy audit to identify savings representing between 10% and 35% of their energy use. This workshop will provide farmers with the information and resources to sign up for FREE agriculture energy audit and learn about National Grid incentives that can potentially offset the cost of energy-efficient projects. Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation. 


Access to Capital: Alternative Funding

In addition to the traditional resources available, there are also unique alternatives available to fund and enhance farm and food businesses. In this webinar, we will explore several incentive programs and private investment opportunities.  Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation


COVID-19 Market Dynamics

The pandemic has created a new market dynamic, where we have seen a shift in demand for locally produced and sourced food products. Road-side farm stands, farmers' markets, and local retail centers have never been so popular! In the webinar, we will hear from a producer who has experienced this shift first hand and explore what makes a successful value-added product. Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation.


Leveraging the Pandemic: Agri-tourism and Ecommerce

With the hopes of “lockdown” soon to be in the past, farms are in a unique position to open up their operations to folks looking to escape the city for some fresh air and family fun. In this webinar, you will learn the fundamentals of running an agri-tourism operation and how to influence a new connection beyond their visit using the world wide web. Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation. 


Access to Markets: Assistance Programs

NYS has a long history of farm-to-table and local food movements. Since COVID-19 hit the nation by surprise last year, several new and existing programs rose to the occasion to assist producers in accessing markets. In this webinar, we will hear from NYS Ag and Markets and the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship, to provide an overview of available market facilitation programs. Q&A to follow the one-hour presentation. 

Our sponsors


L&S Logo

L&S Energy Services (L&S) proudly serves New York’s agricultural and dairy sectors. Now, more than ever, agricultural and dairy farms face significant economic challenges due to increases in energy costs, environmental impacts, and cost of labor. At L&S Energy Services, we focus on providing cost effective energy efficiency and improvement strategies. Our locally-based project team has worked with over 400 New York farmers and producers such as dairy, maple, greenhouse, winery, fruit/vegetable and more.  We are a National Grid and a NYSERDA energy efficiency contractor and as such we can help obtain grants, incentives, and financing for your energy efficiency improvement projects. Past projects involved equipment such as LED lighting; high efficiency barn fans and variable speed controls; milking robots; chillers and refrigeration; vacuum pumps and air compressors; heat recovery systems; and super-efficient greenhouse systems.  To receive a free energy efficiency assessment, please contact our ag/dairy program coordinator, Michelle Wooddell, at (518) 348-6953 or by email at MWooddell@LS-Energy.com.