Cooperative Extension names new Executive Director

John Christensen
Cornell Cooperative Extension staff (from left): Doreen Koch, Nicole Landers, Karen Gavette, Elizabeth Newbold, Vallie Castner.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicole Landers to its Executive Director position.  Originally from Torrington, Conn., Landers began working in the Cooperative Extension system 15 years ago, conducting agricultural and more recently ecological research, providing presentations to public, grower, faculty and student audiences. Her work and volunteer positions have included formal and non-formal education.

Landers has a strong agricultural background, having earned a M.S. in Plant Pathology with 11 years of experience in researching diseases of vegetables, ornamentals and fruit.  She has authored and presented dozens of papers and research reports in this field. Recently, she completed a M.P.S. in Ecology, focusing on invasive species important to New York. Her field research resulted in talks on invasive species to Cornell Cooperative Extension and nature hikes at Cumming Nature Center and Finger Lakes Museum venues.

Locally, Landers is co-founder and manager of the popular Branchport Farmers’ Market that began in 2011. It now hosts 18 vendors. She has a strong understanding of our local economy and related issues, having sat on the Finger Lakes Museum Education Committee and having worked with grape and apple growers in the region through the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station.

Yates County Extension programs bring research-based knowledge and best practices to nearly everyone in the area. These programs include Cornell Vegetable, Northwest New York Dairy, Agriculture Economic Development, Finger Lakes Grape, Sustainable Agriculture and Land Use, Master Gardeners, and Master Foresters. Nutrition specialists assist county residents through seminars and one-on-one sessions. Yates CCE’s strong 4-H youth development outreach builds diverse skills as well as confidence and self-esteem in children throughout the county. Many Yates County 4-H’ers will attend, present, or display at the 2012 New York State Fair Aug. 23-30.

Education outreach to local schools is one of Landers’ more laudable goals. 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? projects already gives families science enrichment opportunities and connects kids to Cornell’s science outreach programs. She hopes for 4-H to become more integrated into school curriculums, strengthening them and offering more opportunities for the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers by giving students the chance to apply learning to real world science.    

Yates CCE has been a leader in the recent development of Cooperative Extension’s Shared Business Network, hosting teleconferences and working towards streamlining administrative services throughout the system. Landers has already been impressed with the skills and personal accountability of the CCE staff. “They work well together, and are not afraid to share what they know about the local economy and what will work and what won’t work.”

Another area Landers would like to see Yates CCE improve is by the formation of a natural resources team to compliment the other team programs. She hopes to merge her knowledge of plant pathology and of forestry, gained at the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University, to help combat invasive species such as the emerald ash borer and the stink bug. The experience of previous generations with devastating invasive species bears out the legitimacy of her concerns.

“Nicole’s solid background in natural resources will be a key element in leading us into the future,” said Yates CCE Board President Bob Gillespie.  “She has done a wonderful job during the past several months as Interim Director, and we all look forward to her permanent leadership.”