In the latest episode of “Extension Out Loud,” a podcast by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shares his vision for carrying out Cornell’s land grant mission.
From his Midwestern agricultural heritage to his most recent faculty position at the University of California, Davis, Houlton leads listeners through the journey that brought him and his family to Ithaca, New York.
“If you shake my family tree, you get dairy farmers falling out of every branch,” Houlton told the podcast hosts Katie Baildon and Paul Treadwell. “And while I didn’t grow up on a farm, I did spend time on family farms as a kid, and practiced milking cows by hand.”
Houlton is as inspired by big questions like “How does DNA work?” as he is by practical solutions that improve lives, such as CCE’s efforts to connect families with meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. His approach to leadership begins with collaboration, coordination and deep listening, which, he said, aligns perfectly with CCE’s mission.
“Humility and responsibility, that is what CCE is all about in my experience,” Houlton said. “It’s about helping farmers. It’s about helping people who don’t have access to food. It’s about creating a more equitable and safe future for everybody.”
The conversation with Houlton kicks off Extension Out Loud’s latest season, “Leading Through Extension,” which will feature key CCE leaders discussing their approaches to extension work and how history – and this past tumultuous year – are shaping our path forward.
– Katie Baildon