Aug. 26, 2013
Alum, banks support ag economics professorship
The sign of a good dairy farmer is not just how well he knows Bessie and Cornelia, his cows, but also Danny the fertilizer supplier, Donny the vet, Donelle the nutritionist, Dionne the loan officer and others who keep his operation ticking.
Management is key to agricultural success, according to Sheldon Brown ’68, and it’s the reason he teamed with CoBank and Farm Credit East to establish a faculty fellowship and student scholarship in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
“Although it is a biological process, farming is getting more and more businesslike every year. To survive, I think our future farmers need to be professional managers, whether they are growing 5 acres for a CSA or 5,000 acres of soybeans,” said Brown, a former member of the Farm Credit board of directors who recently retired from full-time farming and works as a farm consultant.
The CoBank/Farm Credit East Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellowship in Economics and Management of Agricultural Production Sustainability will support the hire of a professor with a research and teaching focus on sustainable production practices; agricultural adaptation to climate change; the economic and political implications of sustainability; and the development of information and tools for agribusiness management for sustainability.
The Farm Credit board of directors first discussed ways to encourage young people to pursue careers in farm management and finance a decade ago, leading to the $600,000 joint gift. Brown approached the board again after being inspired by a similar gift to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) made last year by fellow dairy farmer George Mueller ’54.
Brown, a dairy science major, said he took agricultural economics classes that still resonate with him today. “Whether you are running a mushroom farm, an apple farm or a dairy, the management decision-making is the same; the basic premise of marketing is the same,” he said, noting the need for management know-how will only increase as agriculture becomes globalized.
Brown continued, “Soon we are going to have to feed billions more people around the globe, and we are going to need intelligent decision-making by the people providing that food.”
CoBank provides credit to rural American industries. A member of the Farm Credit System, it also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to 29 affiliated Farm Credit associations, including Farm Credit East, an association serving 13,000 customers in six Northeastern states.
Farm Credit East has a history of involvement with CALS, including support for the Dairy Fellows Program and the CALS New York State Internship Program. Its executive vice president, Roger Murray ’81, chairs the Agribusiness Advisory Council in the Dyson School.
“We are very pleased to support this unique position at the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences because it will help expand opportunities for agriculture in our region and ultimately help enhance profitability for the farm community,” said Bill Lipinski, Farm Credit East CEO.
“One of the best ways for CoBank to return value to rural America is by giving to academic institutions that are training the next generation of rural business and civic leaders,” said CoBank CEO Robert B. Engel.
“By helping Cornell to continue to provide the very best research and education at the nexus of agriculture, business and sustainability, this generous gift represents an important investment in the future of the region’s agriculture sector,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.