Apple varieties Cortland, Empire and Jonagold were favorites of President Elizabeth Garrett long before she took the helm at Cornell University.
But it wasn’t until her tenure began this summer that she realized the credit for bringing those favorite fruits into existence belonged to researchers at the university’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.
On Oct. 6, Garrett visited the campus along with Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to meet department heads, tour the facilities and lay out her vision for what the Geneva station should strive to achieve.
During her talk at a town hall-style meeting, she lauded the spirit of innovation that has helped introduce 279 new fruit varieties, strengthened the New York economy and made Geneva a pre-eminent global research facility.
“Your work in food science is creating new, healthful products and guarding the safety of our food supply,” she told faculty and staff, adding, “one of the joys of being at Cornell is to get to be a part of the amazing products that we send into the world.”
Cornell research has made fruits hardier against disease and climate, and improved quality and productivity, she said. That commitment to basic and applied research, graduate education and outreach has translated into agricultural knowledge that has positively impacted the state’s economy.
Work at the facility includes research in plant pathology, entomology and horticulture. Garrett said foundational research at the experiment station has advanced pest management techniques and reduced pesticide use in fields around the world, with profound implications for the way crops are grown and managed.
Along with the commitment to creating knowledge, the station has seen a resurgence in the commercialization of agricultural products. Garrett pointed out that over the past three years revenue from plant licensing has grown by 40 percent. With 47 plant licenses completed in the 2015 fiscal year, she said, “Your record of productivity and impact continues to grow.”
As president, Garrett said one of her most vital roles is to trumpet the research and innovation carried out by the university’s faculty.
“I want Cornell to be the first name that comes to people’s minds when they think about solutions,” she said, noting that is already the case when it comes to the research in agriculture and plant sciences needed to innovate in the 21st century.
“In me you have a champion, and I can’t wait to continue to talk about everything you do, not only here in the state, but in the world,” she said.
Matt Hayes is managing editor and social media officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.