Located on Maple Avenue just south of the Cornell campus, the East Ithaca Farm is the home of the Department of Horticulture's hoophouse and cut-flower research.
This area was assigned to the old Department of Vegetable Crops at the time of its inception shortly after World War I. It is uniquely suited for graduate student research due to its proximity to campus, sandy well-drained soil, irrigation facilities and notable freedom from late spring and early fall frosts.
The soil is an Arkport sandy loam, ideal for irrigated vegetable production. The farm was worked by horses until after World War II, and the buildings were designed to house horse drawn equipment at the ground level. Development of student housing south of Maple Ave reduced the available space, but three and a half acres of experimental plots remain.
Many of the early experiments conducted at East Ithaca that are now considered classics. Concerns addressed in the early years included depth and frequency of cultivation, tomato pruning and staking, muskmelon nutrition and sweet corn sucker removal. The experiments were viewed each fall by Vegetable Crops students of the day.
Early storage experiments described the influences of variety, temperature, humidity, handling and storage container. The terrain of portions of this farm were exceptionally rolling, resulting in problems with erosion and uneven soil moisture. This section was leveled with heavy machinery in the early 1950's. Soil was brought in from a nearby pasture to raise the grade, and the hollows were filled (one to a depth of 13 feet!). The extensive excavations disturbed drainage patterns within the soil, but this was remedied over a period of seven years with deep tillage, cover crops, tile drains and heavy applications of straw manure.
The Department has constructed several hoophouses on the site to test how farmers in the Northeast might use them to extend the harvest season for cut flowers and other crops.
Cut-flower harvest from hoophouses at East Ithaca Farm.
Hoophouses at East Ithaca Farm.
Field day visitors view hoophouse-grown cut flowers.