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Growers Group Disbands—and Donates Funds for Ag Labor Projects

By Linda McCandless ”74

Wayne County Growers and Processors

Pictured (l–r): Tom Maloney, Gary Verbridge, Bill Bishop, and Dave Smith ”67.

After nearly 60 years of operating housing facilities for farm workers in the heart of New York’s fruit and vegetable growing region, the Wayne County Growers and Processors has decided to disband and donate all remaining funds—$150,000—to Cornell. The money will support education and research on agricultural labor in the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM).

“We wanted the money to go where it would benefit farm employers and their workers,” says William E. Bishop Jr., president of the Wayne County Growers and Processors and chairman of the board of Sodus Cold Storage Co. Inc. “We feel that funding Cornell extension projects is the most effective way to accomplish this objective.”

Tom Maloney, senior extension associate in AEM whose extension program seeks to improve the abilities of farm employers to attract and retain a productive, satisfied workforce, notes that the agricultural economy depends on the hardworking people employed on farms. “Workforce issues continue to be a major concern for New York farmers,” Maloney says. “These funds will be used to continue applied research and extension projects in agricultural labor policy and human resource management.”

Maloney announced the gift on behalf of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the Jan. 25 Robert Becker Forum in Liverpool, N.Y., an annual gathering of the state’s food and agricultural producers that Maloney chairs. According to Maloney, the Wayne County organization wanted to use its funds in the spirit in which the money had been raised, which was helping growers and processors with their workforce needs.

The Wayne County Growers and Processors group was formed after World War II, largely to house Puerto Ricans who came to work in fruit and vegetable processing plants in western New York. After many years of operating worker housing in Marion, Williamson, and Lyons, the group sold the facilities one by one. Last fall, Bishop and two other remaining board members, Dave Smith and Gary Verbridge, formally disbanded the organization and distributed the remaining funds.