Director, Cornell Small Farm Program
As the State Fresh Market Vegetable Specialist, my research focuses on innovative crop and soil management that balances triple-bottom line goals for growers and society. I also direct the Cornell Small Farms Program, with the mission to help farmers get expert assistance at all phases of business development, from start-up to growth to maturity.
My research program is focused on sustainability of vegetable production systems, designed to address constraints that exist regardless of farm size, approach and scale. My current primary research area is on reduced tillage systems for vegetables, either managed with organic or conventional practices. I am trying to identify effective strategies to integrate multiple soil health management strategies, like cover crops, compost, and reduced tillage, to result in measurable improvements in soil conditions without compromising crop yield, earliness and quality. I collaborate actively with colleagues across the Northeast and Midwest, to explore how these systems also affect weed and pest management, soil biological activity and profitability. I am also now initiating a new area of research in urban agriculture systems, with the intention of understanding where and how technologies and strategies can be scaled down to support intensive production in small spaces.
Outreach and Extension Focus
My current extension program targets four audiences: fresh market vegetable growers, organic farmers, small farmers, and agricultural service providers. My applied research program is focused on reducing tillage to improve soil health on vegetable farms. I work with both organic and conventional farms and support on-farm and on-station research and collaboration with colleagues from across the Northern Tier of the US. As a result of these efforts, over 20,000 acres of vegetables in NY are grown with reduced tillage practices. Another area of applied research has focused on exploring the factors supporting viability of commercial urban farms. This study was commissioned by USDA and will be published in 2018. Future education efforts will include urban agriculture entrepreneurs. I also serve as Director of the Cornell Small Farm Program, which has the mission of helping farmers get expert assistance to facilitate all phases of business development, from initial growth, to optimization to maturity. As Director, I have instituted the biennial Small Farm Summit, to engage small-scale producers in identifying priority research and extension investments to secure their viability. In response, I have secured competitive grants to support several priority areas: beginning farmer development, local and regional food systems education, specialty crop production, urban agriculture, veterans entering agriculture, and soil health. To meet this demand, we have increase our team to seven dedicated staff, who work collaboratively with Cornell Cooperative Extension and other non-profits in the state to develop targeted programs. Our education strategies include workshops, farmer-to-farmer discussion groups, web, online and print articles, referral services, network-building, online courses, webinars, and conferences. We serve as editors for the Cornell Small Farm Quarterly (30,000 family readership), with articles provide by educators and farmers around the Northeast, as well as share a bi-weekly update of current events, resources and opportunities. I also have organized and provided professional development opportunities to agricultural service providers along several themes, such as supporting beginning farmers, facilitating groups, leading farmer to farmer discussion groups, organic agriculture and general vegetable production.
While I do not have a formal teaching appointment, I work closely with undergraduate and graduate students through internship and inter-session research projects. I also provide guest lectures in several courses offered through Horticulture.
- Jack, A. L., Rangarajan, A., Culman, S. W., Sooksa-Nguan, T., & Thies, J. E. (2011). Organic amendments to transplant media influence plant growth and rhizosphere bacterial communities. Applied Soil Ecology. 48:94-101.
- Conner, D., & Rangarajan, A. (2009). Production Costs of Organic Vegetable Farms: Two Case Studies from Pennsylvania. HortTechnology. 19:193-199.
- Mochizuki, M. J., Rangarajan, A., Bellinder, R. R., van Es, H. M., & Bjorkman, T. N. (2008). Rye Mulch Management Affects Short-term Indicators of Soil Quality in the Transition to Conservation Tillage for Cabbage. HortScience. 43:862-867.
- Mochizuki, M. J., Rangarajan, A., Bellinder, R. R., Bjorkman, T. N., & van Es, H. M. (2007). Overcoming Compaction Limitations on Cabbage Growth and Yield in the Transition to Conservation Tillage. HortScience. 42:1690-1694.
- Brasier, K. J., Goetz, S., Smith, A., Ames, M., Green, J., Kelsey, T., Rangarajan, A., & Whitmer, W. (2007). Small Farm Clusters and Pathways to Rural Community Sustainability. Community Development (CDS). 38:8-22.
- Rangarajan, A., Jack, A., & Thies, J. E. (2007). Impacts of organic transplant media on plant growth and root rhizosphere bacterial communities. HortScience. 42:867.
- Aram, K., & Rangarajan, A. (2005). Compost for Nitrogen Fertility Management of Bell Pepper in a Drip-Irrigated Plasticulture System. HortScience. 40:577-581.
- Vanek, S., Wien, H. C., & Rangarajan, A. (2005). Time of Interseeding of Lana Vetch and Winter Rye Cover Strips Determines Competitive Impact on Pumpkins Grown Using Organic Practices. HortScience. 40:1716-1722.
- Rangarajan, A., Orzolek, M. D., Ingall, B. A., & Otjen, L. (2003). Moderate defoliation and plant population losses do not reduce yield or quality of Butternut squash. HortTechnology. 13:463-468.
- Rangarajan, A., Pritts, M. P., Reiners, S., & Pederson, L. (2002). Focusing food safety training based on current grower practices and farm scale. HortTechnology. 12:126-131.