Cornell Climate Smart Farming Team


Cornell’s CSF Team: a Trusted Resource for Farmers

Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming (CSF) Team provides New York farmers with access to the top Extension specialists in the state to help them manage the risks posed by increasingly erratic and extreme weather events and climate impacts and plan for emissions reductions and carbon sequestration on the farm. Working in partnership with climate and agriculture researchers at Cornell, the team draws on the latest science to answer growers’ questions about changes they can make to their management practices that will help increase resiliency and farm sustainability. To reach the Cornell CSF team, contact the specific team members below by email or phone.

Field Crops and Soil Health

Janice Degni is the Team Leader and Field Crops Specialist with the SCNY Dairy & Field Crops Team, based in Cortland, NY. Janice has agriculture in her blood having spent summers on her grandmother’s dairy farm as a child. As a worldwide traveler who has explored interests in international agriculture and is fluent in Spanish, she can provide communication assistance to farmers. Janice works with farmers to help them on crop production issues, integrated crop management, environmental stewardship, soil health, and forage quality.  Janice holds an M.P.S. in plant protection and a B.S. in agronomy, both from Cornell University.
Email: | Phone: (607) 391-2660 Ext. 414

Dr. Kitty O’Neil works to improve the yield and production efficiency of field crops and forages – a goal that requires smart crop management and a keen understanding of climate-related risks and long-term soil health.  A field crops and soils specialist, she leads the North New York field crops team, which designs crop and soil management programs to serve the region’s farms. Kitty’s research has included cropping systems and the effects of soil amendments and cover crops on soil health on potato farms.  She earned a B.S. in animal science from Cornell University, an M.S. in animal nutrition and plant biochemistry, and a Ph.D. in sustainable plant and soil cropping systems, both from Michigan State University.
Email: | Phone: (315) 379-9192

Dr. Erik Smith works as a Field Crops Specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Central New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Team. Erik has 15 years of experience conducting agricultural research and educational outreach as a graduate student and Extension professional. As a Finger Lakes native with grain and forage crop experience gained on his family’s farm, he brings his knowledge to New York’s agricultural community to his work with farmers. Erik earned his B.A. from SUNY Oswego in Biology and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Entomology from Cornell University.
Email: | Phone: (315) 219-7786

Dairy & Livestock Management

Lindsay Ferlito is a Dairy Management Specialist with the CCE North Country Regional Ag Team. In this role, she works with dairy farmers across 6-counties to help them optimize management and production. She focuses on cow comfort and animal welfare, ventilation and facility design, and climate adaptation and mitigation on farms. Lindsay was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and received her B.S. in Animal Biology and her M.S. in Animal Science, specifically dairy cattle welfare and behavior from the University of British Columbia.
Email: | Phone: (607) 592-0290

Dr. Steph Herbstritt is the livestock and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) in Ulster County. At CCE, she provides education and technical assistance to farmers and others in the Hudson Valley on ways agriculture can adapt to and serve as a solution to climate change and reduce impacts on natural resources. Steph also works with CCE’s climate resilience partnership, helping municipalities to assess and plan for climate resilience. Steph grew up on a small farmette in Bellefonte, PA. She received her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Penn State University, and her master’s from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
Email: | Phone: (814) 574-5998

Small Fruit, Grapes & Vegetables

Elizabeth Buck is the Fresh Market Vegetable Specialist for the western part of the Cornell Vegetable Program region. Elizabeth offers diversified vegetable experience in the areas of nutritional management, disease control, variety evaluation, surveying, and scouting. She earned a B.S. in Plant Sciences and Agricultural Sciences from Cornell, and an M.S. from the University of Guelph, where she focused on integrated weed management practices in vegetable crops.
Email: | Phone: (585) 406-3419


Laura McDermott is a regional extension specialist in small fruit production for the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program. She currently serves 17 counties along the Route 87 corridor, where she concentrates on small fruit and fresh market vegetable production. Her current research projects include low-tunnel strawberry production, resistance management education, and invasive species management. In her 25 years with the Extension system, she has also amassed experience with all types of horticulture, including maple, forestry, and consumer horticulture, and with commercial fruit and vegetable farmer education. A native of Stillwater, New York, she holds a B.S. in plant protection from Cornell University and an M.S. in fruit crops from the University of Florida.
Email: | Phone: (518) 746-2562

Jennifer Phillips Russo is the Team Leader and Viticulture Specialist with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, based in Portland, NY. Her work at LERGP brings local experience and research-based solutions together to provide projects aimed at increasing yields, product quality, diversity and improvement of cultivars, the efficiency of production, profitability, and adoption of environmentally sound cultural management strategies with an emphasis on soil and grapevine health, site selection, growth control, nutrition, and water management, and harvest management. She holds her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from The State University of New York at Fredonia.
Email: | Phone: (716) 792-2800 ext 204

Ag Climate Resiliency

Zach Spangler is an Ag Climate Resiliency Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Harvest New York team. His work supports farmers’ efforts to contribute to climate change mitigation, improve their ability to respond to stresses, and adapt to changing climate patterns while maintaining or improving farm viability. Prior to joining the Harvest New York team, Zach earned an M.Sc. in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation from Lund University (Sweden) where he researched barriers and enablers of farmers’ engagement in climate change adaptation. Zach also holds a B.S. in Chemistry from SUNY-ESF and has contributed to diverse farms in California, New Hampshire, and Sweden.
Email: | Phone: (518) 935-8062

Jenna Walczak is the Ag Climate Resiliency Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Harvest New York Team. She works with Extension staff to assist farmers in implementing practices to mitigate climate change and reduce its impact across New York State. Her work focuses on agroecology and supporting farmers in frontline communities. Jenna has a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Colgate University and worked on a farm in Western, NY before joining Cornell Extension. She was born and raised in Cheektowaga, NY, and is based in the Hudson Valley.
Email: | Phone: (518) 791-1888

Cornell Campus

For the full list of campus collaborators, see the CSF Program Directory

Dr. Allison M. Chatrchyan is a Sr. Research Associate in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences with Dr. Art DeGaetano and leads the Cornell Climate Smart Farming Program and Cornell Climate Stewards Program. She facilitates interdisciplinary research and Extension teams and helps develop resources and tools for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Dr. Chatrchyan is co-chair of the Agriculture Chapter of the NYS Climate Impacts Assessment and is active with global initiatives on Climate-Smart Agriculture. Before coming to Cornell, she previously worked for CCE Dutchess County for seven years. A native of Hamilton, NY, she received her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Maryland College Park, and her B.A. from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
Email: | Phone: (607) 254-8808

Dr. Art DeGaetano is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University and Director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC). His research interests include applied climatology, which involves the development of methods and data sets that provide climatological information to decision-makers in a variety of fields; modeling climate influences on man-made and biological systems, documenting observed variations in the climate system; improving climate data quality; and assessing climate impacts. Art received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. focusing on Climatology and Horticulture from Rutgers University.

Dr. Deborah Aller is an Extension Associate and program coordinator for the New York Soil Health Program at Cornell University. She conducts and coordinates Extension and applied research activities across NY State that support and improve soil health. Dr. Aller has an in-depth research background in biochar and other organic amendments and expertise in working with vegetable, fruit, and nursery growers to implement sustainable soil management practices. She is Co-Chair of the Agriculture Chapter of the NYS Climate Impacts Assessment. Debbie earned her M.Sc. in Environmental Science and International Development from the University of Edinburgh and Ph.D. in Soil Science from Iowa State University.
Email: | Phone: (631) 902-1582

Dr. Toby R. Ault is an Associate Professor in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department at Cornell University. His research is related to emergent climate risks, including 1) estimating the risk of prolonged drought under climate change; 2) understanding the dynamics of seasonality, particularly the onset of spring; and 3) characterizing variations in the Tropical Pacific on timescales of decades to centuries, and their influence on global climate. Toby received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, and he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Brian N. Belcher is the Climate Applications Developer working with the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) at Cornell. Brian participated in the development of Decision Support Tools available on the Climate Smart Farming website since its inception. Since beginning his career at Cornell in 1999, he has gained extensive experience in applied climatology, weather and climate modeling, Linux system administration, applications programming, and all aspects of efficient scientific computing. Brian received his B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell and his M.S. in Meteorology from Texas A&M University.

Joe Lawrence serves as a Forage Systems Specialist with the Cornell University PRO-DAIRY team. He has been involved in the dairy industry his entire life, growing up on a dairy in Northern NY and working in the New York dairy industry for over 15 years now as an Extension Educator and private sector Certified Crop Advisor. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering from SUNY Canton, B.S. in plant science from SUNY Cobleskill, and an M.S. in Soil Science from Cornell University. His work has always had a strong focus on a whole farm approach to forage management and in recent years applied research studying the impact of weather patterns and growing environment on key forage quality parameters important to high quality forages for dairy cows.
Email: | Phone: (315) 778-4814