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NYS IPM 2003
Excellence-in-IPM Award Winners:
Laura Pedersen

Laura Pedersen
Laura Pedersen receives her Excellence-in-IPM Award
from Michael Hoffmann, Director of the IPM program,
and Nathan Rudgers, Commissioner of the NYS Dept.
of Agriculture and Markets.

Laura Pedersen, who farms 1,200 acres of vegetables in Seneca Castle, NY, with her husband Rick, never expected to farm again after leaving the 1,000-acre upstate New York farm of her childhood.

But a summer job during college, back in 1978, scouting for cabbage pests using what was then a new concept in pest management—that you can reduce pesticide use if you observe pests and understand their biology—took her straight back into agriculture.

Now Pedersen has received an “Excellence in IPM Award” from the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at Cornell University for her innovative work in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York State IPM Program.

This award recognizes outstanding efforts of people who practice IPM—who deal with insects, weeds, and diseases in ways that pose minimal risks, whether to the environment, human health, or economic well-being.

Lately, Pedersen has been part of a “pest patrol” that’s on the lookout for swede midge, a new and potentially devastating pest of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The swede midge has recently destroyed up to 90 percent of these crops at the epicenter of its spread in Ontario, Canada.

This tiny pest easily could get blown across the Great Lakes to infest crops in the Northeast. Because New York leads the nation in cabbage production, the economic havoc that swede midge could cause has many farmers worried.

Although there’s no one “best way” to do IPM, scouting is forever at the heart of it. Pedersen relies heavily on consultants who regularly scout the fields, using methods that can predict if and when a pest may become a problem.

“We hire scouts according to their expertise,” Pedersen says. “There’s one who does cabbage, another does cauliflower.” Pedersen herself does all the pumpkins.

“Our goal is to run a farm that’s both profitable and environmentally sound—and to be good neighbors, “ says Pedersen. She sends letters to all her neighbors each spring, letting them know what’s planned for the year, and reminding them to call if they’ve got any questions.

This past year, the Pedersens received a “Lake Friendly Farmer Award” that recognized them for their work to keep fertilizers and pesticides out of the Seneca Lake watershed.

Pedersen was also an educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Ontario-Wayne-Yates-Steuben vegetable extension program until 1999. “Over the years, she was involved in dozens of demonstrations of insect and disease thresholds on growers’ farms,” says Carol MacNeil, a former colleague. “The growers trusted her because she was one of them.”

Pedersen received her award on February 11 at the Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Expo in Rochester, NY.

written by by Mary Woodsen