Strong friendships typically spring from deep roots. That is certainly the case with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and Eden Valley Growers, Inc., a 50-year-old vegetable growing farm cooperative in western New York. It’s also why CCE recently honored Eden Valley Growers with its 2016 Friend of Extension award.
“Excellent extension and research programming is not possible without grower involvement and that is where Eden Valley Growers comes into the picture,” said CCE Director Chris Watkins during the keynote address at the Friend of Extension luncheon on Dec. 2, held at Cornell University’s Moakley House. “Their member farms are key in connecting university research to real-world farm utility.”
Based in Eden, New York, Eden Valley Growers consists of ten member farms, most of which are third or fourth generation. Members use the co-op for marketing and distribution of produce. Each year, the cooperative ships over half a million cases of fruits and vegetables throughout the United States.
For more than 30 years, the Friend of Extension award has be presented by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Epsilon Sigma Phi to recognize truly outstanding support of and personal involvement in Extension efforts.
In nominating Eden Valley Growers for the award, CCE of Erie County Executive Director Diane Held and CCE Erie Farm Business Management Educator Megan Burley along with Cornell Vegetable Team Specialist Darcy Telenko described members of the cooperative as always willing and able to answer questions from CCE educators, host farm tours and sit on panels for a grower workshops. In addition, Eden Valley Growers advise CCE staff on research projects and have participated in hiring searches to fill positions on CCE’s Cornell Vegetable Team.
On hand to accept the award were representatives from member farms Henry W. Agle & Sons, Amos Zittel & Sons, W.D. Henry & Sons, MCR Farm and D. & J. Brawdy Farms. In accepting the award, Mark Zittel told the audience that the relationship between Eden Valley Growers and CCE is a symbiotic one and that CCE provides unbelievable resources for vegetable growers throughout the state. The most important of those resources, he said, are extension specialists such as Telenko, who are wholly committed to assisting the cooperative’s member farms.
Watkins said those farms in turn provide an important conduit for extending Cornell’s research and agriculture expertise. “The member farms’ support and willingness to host research trials and implement Cornell recommendations allows CCE to provide current solutions that keep the vegetable industry thriving across the state,” said Watkins. “We are honored to call Eden Valley Growers a true Friend of Extension.”