Corrine Brown ’23 spent four semesters with Cornell CALS’ Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP), collaborating on their dairy sustainability project. The Agricultural Sciences graduate now heads to Newtrient as a sustainability analyst, where she will continue helping dairy farmers achieve sustainability goals.
How did you become interested in agriculture?
My passion for agriculture bloomed on my parents’ hobby farm, where we raised beef cows and pigs. I started my college career studying agriculture at SUNY Morrisville but chose to transfer to Cornell as a junior to take advantage of their Agricultural Sciences program.
What brought you to NMSP?
Through a soils class at Morrisville, I became familiar with NMSP’s nutrient mass balance tool, which helps farmers improve profitability and protect the environment by monitoring nitrogen and phosphorus levels. I liked that the tool approached sustainability by combining all aspects of farm management.
Recognizing my interest in sustainability and knowing that I planned to transfer to Cornell, my advisor and soils professor, Dr. Jennifer Gilbert-Jenkins, introduced me to Quirine Ketterings, director of NMSP and professor of nutrient management in the department of Animal Science. Quirine began guiding me through the transfer process and once I was at Cornell, she offered me a position with NMSP’s dairy sustainability project so I could get direct experience evaluating farm sustainability.
What was your role in the dairy sustainability project?
I worked with NMSP research associate Olivia Godber, evaluating various software tools that assess greenhouse gas footprints of dairy farms. My main task was to run the same data in different tools to see how results differed. As I did this, I found that some tools required significantly more data than others and were not practical for farm use, while others were too general to give valuable information to the farmers. Olivia and I shared these insights with the tools’ developers, who are now looking into fine-tuning the software.
Besides working on greenhouse gas emissions, I wrote a fact sheet explaining how to choose the right tillage practice when running a farm greenhouse gas assessment model. Farms use a wide variety of tillage practices and it is not always clear how these diverse practices align with the more limited categories in the software tools.
Besides working on NMSP’s dairy sustainability project, Corrine also took the Whole-Farm Nutrient Management course, co-taught by Quirine Ketterings and Mike Van Amburgh.
Tell us about your experience with Whole-Farm Nutrient Management.
Whole-Farm Nutrient Management was one of my favorite courses at Cornell! The class integrates management of crops, manure, animals and nutrition to improve water and air quality while boosting farm profitability. Not only are these topics important for my career in dairy sustainability, but they’re also vital to my classmates who are going to become herd managers, geneticists, nutritionists, and crop managers.
After working with NMSP for months, I was familiar with many of the topics and software tools covered in class and was able to help my classmates with activities. I collaborated with the course's teaching assistant, NMSP Ph.D. student Agustin Olivo to plan assignments and navigate lab sessions. Some of the students started calling me Ms. Brown!
How have you grown from your work with NMSP?
Working with NMSP improved my writing skills, deepened my understanding of the research process and helped me become adept at using various greenhouse gas emission software tools.
I’ve also grown in my communication and teamwork skills and gained confidence in sharing knowledge with the team, my classmates, professors, and producers about my research with NMSP. These are all skills that I’ll be using in my new role with Newtrient.
What kind of work will you do with Newtrient?
I will be an Analyst in Sustainability Research and Initiatives, supporting Newtrient’s environmental programs through on-farm sustainability assessments. I’ll also contribute to U.S Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative by translating research into practical and accessible guidelines for farmers.
What are your thoughts on the future of dairy sustainability?
Dairy sustainability has an incredibly bright future. Today, only 11% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and only 2% of those emissions come from the dairy industry. We can feed more people using less land, less water, less fuel, and fewer cows than we could just 10 years ago.
"Dairy farmers are working every day to reach sustainability goals and I’m excited and grateful that my NMSP experience helped me find a career contributing to this work. I’m eager to help farmers conserve natural resources for future generations while feeding the ever-growing population and taking care of their communities."
Megan Wittmeyer is a writer with the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program.
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