Catharine Young, New York state senator representing western New York and a staunch advocate for agriculture and economic development statewide, has been named director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. She will begin work in her new role March 11.
The Center of Excellence launched in September 2018; its mission is to grow New York’s food, beverage and agriculture economy by serving as a hub for New York businesses to connect with the expertise and resources they need to innovate, grow and thrive. In the few months the Center of Excellence has been in operation, its team has engaged with more than 50 companies, providing mentorship and guidance to help food and agriculture startups raise more than $12.3 million in 2018.
“Agriculture and food manufacturing are two of upstate New York’s largest job creators, and Catharine Young has significant experience integrating farm business with food processors and championing initiatives that support the food and farming sector to push our region’s economy forward,” said Jan Nyrop, associate dean and Goichman Family Director of Cornell AgriTech. “We are very fortunate to have someone of Sen. Young’s caliber to step into this role with a strong vision, statewide network and proven track record of growing businesses.”
Young (R-57th) served with distinction in the New York State Legislature for almost two decades, representing most of the western Southern Tier and parts of the western Finger Lakes region. In a variety of leadership positions for six years in the New York State Assembly and 13 years as a state senator, she rose to become the first woman to chair the influential Senate Finance Committee. In the state Legislature, Young also served as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and founded the Legislative Wine and Grape Caucus.
She sponsored legislation to create the New York State Council on Food Policy, of which she was also a member, and chaired the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. Within her district, Young helped expand many food and agriculture businesses including Fieldbrook Foods and Nuovo Castelli Cheese.
Young expressed gratitude for her time in public office, saying the decision to accept her new role wasn’t an easy one.
“It was a very challenging decision to leave my service in the New York State Senate because I care so deeply about the people and issues facing my district,” she said. “However, this new role will provide me with more direct opportunities to make progress in one of the industries that is closest to my heart.
“I grew up on a dairy farm,” she said, “and know firsthand some of the challenges that those in the food and agriculture industry face and the opportunities that innovation, technology and business partnerships can bring to the industry. I am thrilled to continue making a difference in this new and enhanced statewide capacity.”
Young said she is excited to join the Cornell University family: “I have had the privilege to work with Cornell University on a multitude of projects, especially as Agriculture chair and Senate Finance chair and as a former ex-officio member of the College of Veterinary Medicine Advisory Council. Cornell is a world leader in agriculture and a natural fit for pursuing the mission of the Center of Excellence.”
“The Center of Excellence has the potential to make a tremendous impact on our state’s economy,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “With her leadership, I am confident that we will see more food and ag companies, more jobs and more leading-edge, ag-tech innovation in our state.”
Molly Israel is a marketing strategist at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.