The agricultural industry in Northern New York continues to struggle.

Dairy farms have an especially difficult time making ends meet. Milk prices faced a period of decline for several years, although forecasts are more positive for 2021. But it’s still likely to be a bumpy road for the near future.

Some property owners, therefore, are allocating their unused farmland for other purposes. With a growing demand for renewable sources of energy in New York, inviting companies to implement solar projects on available space is certainly tempting.

However, individuals considering this option should understand everything that’s involved. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County will hold two online forums to address relevant issues.

“Utility-scale solar projects have been expanding across New York because of a need for renewable energy development due to changes in policies at the state level. Farmers and landowners are being approached with exploratory offers to lease (or purchase) their land for solar development. Leases can provide extra income to landowners, but this leasing decision can affect the property for many years. Many concerns exist and questions remain unanswered,” according to a news item published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County will host an online workshop to discuss some of the implications of solar [siting] on farmland and how they can support renewable energy while protecting agricultural lands. This is the first of a two-part series organized by CCE of Oswego on the impact that climate change is having on the agriculture sector.

“The first workshop is focused on renewable energy, looking specifically at the implication of solar installations on farmland. Speakers will include David Kay Sr., extension associate with Cornell University, and Matt Johnson, planning director with the [New York State] Tug Hill Commission. … The second online workshop will give an introduction to climate science, why it matters from a global perspective and how climate change will impact agriculture in the future. The workshop will also highlight practical solutions that the agricultural community can adopt in order to become more resilient in the face of a changing climate. This workshop does not assume prior knowledge of climate science. Speakers will be Allison Chatrchyan, director of the Cornell Climate Smart Solutions Program, and Kitty O’Neil, a Climate Smart Farming extension associate.”

The first forum will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. May 6, and the second will be offered from 1 to 2:30 p.m. May 20. Both workshops are free and open to the general public on Zoom.

Some of the advantages of operating a solar farm are that they energy they produce is environmentally friendly; they’re low maintenance; and they are quiet and sustainable.

That’s the good news.

But there are some drawbacks. The space needed to store batteries can be costly; available sunlight is irregular; and rare materials are required to produce solar panels.

People interesting in having their farmland used for solar projects are encouraged to participate in these online workshops. The Cornell Cooperative Extension has the expertise to advise prospective hosts on aspects of solar farming that they may not have considered.

To register for the May 6 forum, visit To register for the May 20 forum, visit Send an email to Joshua Vrooman, agricultural community educator for CCE of Oswego County, at; or call him at 315-963-7286, Ext. 200, for more information about the program.

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