Staff at Cornell’s Hudson Valley Research Laboratory and members of the local community harvest apples that will be donated to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley lab donates tons of fruit to local food pantries

The Hudson Valley Research Laboratory (HVRL), a Cornell center for tree fruit research in Highland, New York, donated 47,000 pounds of apples and pears, more than 23 tons, to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and Ulster Corps this fall.

The contribution has helped support the 40,000 people in need of food assistance in the greater Hudson Valley region.

Operated by Cornell AgriTech, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, HVRL produces 20 varieties of pears and apples commonly grown by commercial and organic orchards in New York state. Its 21-acre orchard conducts horticultural, insect and disease management research that benefits growers statewide.

And while the fruit serves an important role in HVRL research, it drops to ground to feed wildlife if not harvested for donation.

“2020 has been a tough year for families everywhere given the pandemic and its economic impacts, so donating our fruit is a perfect way to give back,” said Peter Jentsch, superintendent of HVRL. “As Cornell employees, we feel an inherent call to help others not only through our research but also through acts of kindness.”

Annual fruit donations began in 2004 with Henry Grimsland, a vegetable entomology technician at HVRL and Catholic campus minister at the State University of New York, New Paltz. Grimsland and his students started picking fruit for donation and his efforts quickly became a HVRL tradition.

This year, members of the local community, students from the The Mount Academy and Ulster Corps, plus volunteers from across the tri-state region joined HVRL staff in harvesting the fruit – while observing proper physical distancing and safety measures.

Their collective efforts stocked the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and Ulster Corps with Bartlett and Bosc pears, as well as apple varieties including Zestar, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, EverCrisp, Crimson Crisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, Goldrush and RubyFrost, which was developed at Cornell.

HVRL added two large cold storage units to their facilities last year, which will help staff store and distribute additional fruit during the coming winter season.

“It’s been our privilege to serve those in need alongside generous members of the community who came out to help us harvest this year,” Jentsch said. “We are passionate about keeping these efforts going in years to come.”

Erin Rodger is the senior manager of marketing and communications at Cornell AgriTech.

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Lindsey Knewstub