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Spring 2012
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Senior Portraits

Casey Knapp

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12 | Photo: Kent Loeffler

Casey Knapp

Casey Knapp isn’t your grandpa’s dairy farmer.

Hailing from a family of farmers who transitioned from conventional to organic milk production, the animal science major attended an exclusive TEDx conference in Manhattan and travelled the country in a bus that ran exclusively on biodiesel and vegetable oil as part of Organic Valley’s “Generation Organic” tour.

The young agricultural advocate has also travelled abroad to speak about food and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and national agricultural policy, including a trip to Turin, Italy, for Slow Foods International’s Terra Madre Conference.

Although only 12 years old when his family decided in 2001 to reinvent their Preble, N.Y., farm, Casey played a big part in helping them transition to organic and diversify their dairy operations to include other products, such as strawberries. 

“Dairy farming has been changing a lot in recent years, and most farmers have reacted either by selling their farms or expanding them. We decided to go a different route,” Casey said.

The tough decision paid off, and the Knapp family was able to carve out their own niche market in Upstate New York. They also found great success working with Organic Valley, a national farmer-owned cooperative, inspiring Casey to spread the message about the benefits of organic farming and agriculture.

Through speaking engagements and social media, Casey motivates and educates young farmers and consumers about organic farming.

Casey transferred to Cornell from Onondaga Community College during his junior year for the simple reason that CALS is, he said, “the best school for agriculture.”

As an animal science major, he is gaining the background he needs to pursue a career in dairy farming. He said his coursework has also been valuable in helping him challenge and ultimately strengthen his beliefs about food, especially the crop and soil sciences course The GMO Debate, which explores the contentious issues surrounding genetically modified organisms and their role in sustainable farming.

“I’ll admit that I came into the course with a very one-sided view, but the professors did a remarkable job of objectively presenting all the information and letting the students draw their own conclusions,” Casey said.

When he’s not studying, Casey can often be found sampling the fare at Trillium. He said Cornell has some “pretty good food”—high praise coming from a student used to farm-fresh meals.

After graduation, he plans to head to Texas or California to pursue opportunities in the dairy industry.