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Dean Addresses State Agricultural Group

Collaboration has long been a hallmark of Land-Grant Universities, and Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), used her capstone address at the New York Agricultural Society forum to highlight a few ways CALS partnerships continue to support agriculture in the state. 

The meeting and agricultural forum held Jan. 5 in Syracuse brought together agricultural leaders from across New York. It was the 185th annual gathering of the society, which has as its mission to foster, promote, and improve the state's food and agriculture industries.

“We need collaboration at all levels, and in all areas: with growers, producers, small-scale entrepreneurs, industry leaders, state and federal agencies, and other like-minded institutions,” Boor said at the event. “Collaborations inform the purpose for which Land-Grant institutions such as Cornell exist: to take scientific knowledge generated through university research and apply that knowledge directly into local communities, with the goal of encouraging prosperity and greater efficiency.”

In her speech, Boor highlighted a few of the partnerships CALS has forged at multiple levels, including those within the college, with other institutions of higher education, and with state and federal agencies.

School of Integrative Plant Science

In 2014, CALS combined five departments across the key focal areas of horticulture, plant breeding and genetics, plant pathology and plant-microbe biology, crop and soil sciences, and plant biology, to form the School of Integrative Plant Science. The school unites all plant, soil and related microbial science programming within the college into a single structure.

Boor said the structure elevates the visibility of the plant sciences while minimizing barriers for faculty collaboration, and “empowering our scientists to better respond to emerging societal and scientific needs with transformative and interdisciplinary solutions.”

Master of Arts in Teaching

To meet the growing demand for qualified agricultural educators in New York, CALS joined with Ithaca College in 2015 to allow Cornell graduate students to earn a degree in agricultural education from Ithaca College.

“The partnership brings together the very best of Ithaca College – their highly regarded teaching program – with the very best in CALS – our ability to teach agricultural science,” Boor said.

The partnership will provide needed agricultural educators in schools across New York. The program’s first cohort will begin student teaching in January.

Harvest NY

Started in 2012, the Harvest NY program uses the county-level expertise of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) to spur agricultural economic development in New York State. The program helps farmers, food manufacturers, and food distribution hubs respond to changing marketing conditions by leveraging the research of Cornell, the resources of CCE, and relationships with partnering organizations across the state, according to Boor.

Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence

A joint venture between Cornell and the New York State Department of Health and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence is aimed at improving overall public health in the Northeast by strengthening surveillance for foodborne illnesses. 

“This center capitalizes on the research, educational and technical expertise that Cornell has to offer to train local health officials on implementing cutting-edge food safety tools that will help keep the public safe,” Boor said.  

Institute for Food Safety at Cornell

To prevent food contamination — starting on the farm, at the point of food production and all throughout food processing — the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell was launched in September 2016 to support farmers in complying with new federal regulations. The Institute provides training and outreach for both produce operations and the dairy industry.

“The goals of this institute are to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety regulations and to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks,” Boor said. “As a consequence of the institute and the new Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, we are addressing food safety from farm to table.” 

Food Venture Center

The Food Venture Center, located at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, provides food safety services, technical advice, and marketing and production assistance for new food products. The center has already helped entrepreneurs launch more than 13,000 new food products onto the market and is aimed at keeping food businesses innovative, according to Boor.

A satellite Food Venture Center is being developed in New York City to bring the same expertise closer to the state’s population center, she said. “Establishing a Food Venture Center in New York City will allow us to meet the increased demand for food processing and food safety training that is desperately needed in the city.  And it will also mean we can use our Land-Grant resources to connect small-scale NYC food processors with New York-grown products upstate.”

Plant Innovation and Data Analytics Institute

CALS is working to establish a Plant Innovation and Data Analytics Institute that will bring together plant, data and engineering scientists with private-sector entrepreneurs. While still in the nascent stages, Boor said the center “could have a tremendous impact on the future of agriculture in our state.”

The institute as envisioned would incorporate advanced analytics equipment as well as traditional laboratory and greenhouse spaces, according to Boor.

Boor said estimates indicate that the Plant Innovation and Data Analytics Institute has the potential to catalyze growth of over $3 billion in gross domestic product to New York’s economy over a twenty year period.

“One of the major benefits of this Institute will be its ability to accelerate the kind of ground-breaking research that is already happening on our campus and help bring new products and plant varietals into the marketplace,” Boor said. “Such products would not be possible without Cornell’s research behind them.”