COBLESKILL -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, toured SUNY Cobleskill's School of Agriculture and Natural Resources Friday, promising federal support for the school's skill-building modern approach to applied agricultural technology.
"I'm sold," Schumer told SUNY Cobleskill President Marion A. Terenzio after touring the facility. "You have to let us know how we can help you in any way with the federal government."
Terenzio, along with Timothy Moore, the dean of the School of Agriculture, and some of the school's professors showed Schumer around the school's agricultural complex, which includes a working farm, 14 greenhouses, a 10-acre arboretum, a 40,000-gallon fish hatchery, a 200-cow contemporary freestall dairy, a USDA-inspected meat laboratory and an equine complex with an indoor arena.
Terenzio said she viewed Schumer's visit as an opportunity to explain the school's approach to agricultural education.
"We are a relevant program in the sciences and the contemporary needs for food systems, health and safety. I wanted to tell him about the cutting edge applied research Cobleskill needs to stay that way," she said. "We've been in operation as a continuous farm for 100 years, so we've always been ahead in industry. From every kind of cutting edge technology, right from the plow right on through to tractors that drive themselves. As we've gone along it's been made possible by investments along the way because of the importance of the food production system."
Cobleskill’s School of Agriculture and Natural Resources has about 1,400 enrolled students, with majors ranging from animal science, plant science, fisheries, environmental science, agricultural business and the culinary arts.
"Everything from business to consumption, while being good stewards of our resources, that's who we are," Moore said.
Moore said technology is increasingly important to agriculture and to the teaching of agricultural science. He said Cobleskill has been training students in the operation of autonomous tractors, which he said are very common in the Midwest. He said for the last two or three years drone farming equipment has also been incorporated into the curriculum.
Brent Lehman, Cobleskill's fish hatchery manager, showed Schumer the school's hatchery, which has 40,000 fish made up of four species -- brook trout, brown trout, tiger trout and an Arctic char/brook trout hybrid – which are used to train the 60 students in the fishery program.
"Some of the fish will be sold to private individuals, municipalities, sports clubs for fishing derbies and also for food. The money goes back into the program," Lehman said.
Terenzio said Cobleskill has the largest cold-water fish hatchery in the Northeast.
Agriculture Professor Tim Martin showed Schumer the school's hydroponics facilities, where plants are grown without any pesticides. Martin said the school is using tiny natural insect predators that lay eggs inside the bodies of insects that are harmful to crops.
"They eat the bad insect from the inside out. We've been using biological controls for almost 20 years. If you think about it, it's like the use of ladybugs in the garden, or the praying mantis – we're just downsized to the point of your pencil," Martin said.
Schumer said he likes what he sees at the school.
"It's amazing. Food is becoming more and more important, how to grow it in different ways, how to feed people more cheaply, and they're right at the cutting edge. They aren't doing the research, but they're training students how to use that research, and they're all going to get good paying jobs, so it's fabulous, and I will help them with any kind of federal help they need."