Gerald White, supporter of NYS wine industry, dies at 83

Gerald White, a professor emeritus of agricultural economics in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management whose research supported fruit growers and winemakers in New York state and around the world, died April 14, 2023, in Ithaca. He was 83. 

White’s work emphasized helping growers adapt to new technologies and enhance productivity while maintaining environmental quality. 

“Jerry did many studies on the costs and returns and marketing of apples, grapes and horticultural specialty crops during his tenure at Cornell,” said Wayne Knoblauch, professor of applied economics and management in the Dyson School. “Most notable was his work with the fledgling New York state wine industry. That work multiplied over the years and took on a national and international dimension. 

“Jerry will be remembered for his steadiness and commitment,” Knoblauch said, “his gentlemanly demeanor, his eagerness to help and his Sunday country breakfasts.” 

For years, White’s research aided the state’s wine industry by tracking statewide grape production, wine trail visitors, input costs and marketing strategies. He also analyzed costs related to establishing a new winery in the state and managing pests in vineyards, and he explored the feasibility of grape grower cooperatives. 

White also developed relationships and shared economic analyses with numerous growers, winery operators and vintners in Western and Eastern Europe, said Nelson Bills, professor emeritus of applied economics and management. In recognition of his work, White was named an International Professor by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), a prestigious title given to faculty members whose research and service demonstrate commitment to international development. 

White presented regularly to growers in New York state and across in the U.S., and had strong collaborative relationships with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, Bills said. These contacts helped inform his contributions to numerous extension and research bulletins, he said, including the annual Finger Lakes Grape Growers’ Conference and Cornell’s annual Agribusiness Economic Outlook Conference. 

White also worked extensively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency to develop and revise crop insurance programs, Knoblauch said. With the New York State Department of Equalization, White was part of the team that analyzed how best to determine a fair value for agricultural lands – work that was critically important for growers’ property taxes and borrowing potential. 

In 2006, White was recognized for his work with a Distinguished Extension/Outreach Program Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. 

Born April 25, 1939, in Statesville, North Carolina, White grew up working on his family’s dairy farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy husbandry from North Carolina State University. 

White served in the U.S. Army from 1962-66 during the height of the Cold War, including a two-year NATO assignment in Greece as a missile control officer. He then worked four years as an agricultural extension agent in Virginia before earning his master’s degree in agricultural economics from Virginia Tech and his Ph.D. from Penn State. In 1978, he was hired as an assistant professor at Cornell, where he stayed until his retirement in 2007. 

White was preceded in death by his wife, Maria Telc White, and son, Michael. He is survived by stepsons Robert Telc and Peter Telc ’85, daughter Christina White ’90, and four grandchildren. 

Krisy Gashler is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

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