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  • Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • Agriculture
  • Applied Economics
Wendong Zhang, assistant professor of applied economics and policy, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Academic focus: Agricultural and environmental economics 

Research summary: My research and extension program seeks to better understand trends and determinants of U.S. farmland market, conservation and technology adoption by row and specialty crop farmers with a focus on agricultural water conservation, as well as the global trade implications of Chinese agriculture. I am proud to say that I am one of few extension economists across the nation who could read a Chinese newspaper, which proved to be a valuable skill when examining the impacts of U.S.-China trade war on U.S. agriculture. 

What are your current outreach/extension projects? 

I have several outreach/extension projects: one focusing on farmland ownership and the other focusing on specialty crop growers’ technology adoption. In particular, I led a survey of women landowners to gauge their information needs and preferred way to receive information on conservation, farm management and farm succession, and we are currently developing educational programming based on their stated preferences. I am also working to develop a web-portal to map and visualize farmland purchased by foreign buyers in NYS and across the United States. Finally, I am involved in two specialty crop projects with one focusing on organic cucurbit crop growers’ attitudes towards mesotunnels and one focusing on apple growers’ adoption of intelligent sprayers. 

What (specifically) brought you to Cornell CALS? 

I am especially drawn by the “any person, any study” ideal at Cornell, which to me is deeply synergistic with the Land Grant mission of providing practical and useful information to stakeholders. As a faculty member with extension duties, I feel that Cornell CALS provides the ideal platform to do impactful research with relevance for stakeholders in NYS and beyond. 

Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field? 

I grew up in a rural county in Shandong province, which is a northern Chinese province where Confucius was born over 2,000 years ago. Farmers in my grandpa’s village have been growing corn and wheat on their <2-acre fields for over a thousand years, however, over the past 30 years, the production has shifted to table grapes and now cucumber and tomato production in greenhouses, making it one of the largest vegetable production counties in China. These transformations really sparked my interest to examine the role of agriculture in promoting prosperity, sustainability and rural vitality across the globe. 

What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered about Cornell and/or Ithaca so far? 

My two daughters (ages 8 and 5) are already deeply impressed by Purity ice cream, and I am surprised at the long late-night lines every time we go. 

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve? 

To figure out the right incentives to help reduce the nutrient and carbon footprint of agricultural production while maintaining the profitability and viability of family farms. 

Learn more about Wendong on his faculty profile page.

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