- Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
OVERTON – Texas A&M’s new vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences Dr. Patrick Stover continued his statewide tour at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton recently for an onsite look at operations and visits with staff and regional stakeholders.
Stover, also acting director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, has been visiting AgriLife centers around the state to get a first-hand look at AgriLife assets and to meet scientists and specialists to glean information about innovations and approaches that better align agriculture with a focus on public health to benefit producers, consumers, the environment and the economy.
Stover has also been meeting with growers, agricultural commodity association leaders and industry stakeholders to better understand and assess opportunities and challenges within a diverse state such as Texas and how Texas A&M AgriLife can build new alliances and maintain existing partnerships to better serve industry and the public.
“Coming to East Texas following visits to other regions of the state, most recently the Panhandle plains, it’s easy to recognize the geographic diversity within the state of Texas,” he said. “But there’s also something else that is as recognizable, and that is the common ethos of problem solving. I’ve never seen a place with as much seamlessness between stakeholders and AgriLife. There is a great deal of mutual reliance and alliance that has taken years to cultivate. That spirit creates incredible opportunities for rapid, effective and collaborative interactions with a variety of industry stakeholders to address problems for the benefit of all Texas residents and consumers.”
Stover joined the Texas A&M System in March from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a recognized leader in nutritional science as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
At Cornell, he served as director of the university’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, jointly administered by the College of Human Ecology and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Now at Texas A&M, Stover’s interests focus on food, nutrition and added-value agriculture.
Previous visits have been at Weslaco, Corpus Christi, Amarillo and Lubbock. He also toured Texas A&M Forest Service operations in Lufkin and Rusk and met with producers and other regional stakeholders in Nacogdoches during his visit to East Texas.
Stover said AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and A&M Forest Service efforts align well with solving an array of state, national and global challenges – from feeding, clothing and housing a growing global population to providing new technologies and agriculture methods that better integrate their respective missions in a sustainable way.
Texas faces incredible challenges, Stover said. The annual cost of chronic diseases in the U.S. related to diet and lifestyle choices alone is $1 trillion, and Texans experience the financial and physical cost of that reality at a higher rate than most other states.
But a looming health crisis represents an opportunity to bring time-tested collaborations and burgeoning innovations together in a state built on agriculture to develop solutions based on science, education and AgriLife’s responsiveness and outreach to producers and consumers.
“What better place to bring consumers and producers closer together,” he said. “These centers around the state are clearly connected to the communities they serve and are responsive to stakeholders and ultimately make agriculture responsive to consumers. This gives AgriLife the opportunity to be more relevant than ever before as we respond to these challenges.”
Stover said both incremental and transformative advances are needed, and AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and A&M Forest Service can provide services that change communities and ultimately the state by addressing key challenges to ultimately improve the economy, environment and quality of life for all Texans.
“One example of that would be addressing food deserts,” he said. “That service – in the context of promoting healthy behaviors in individuals, a family, a community – translates into lower healthcare costs and a decline in diet-related chronic diseases. That is an immense value to every Texan.”
Stover said AgriLife Extension’s Healthy Texas initiative is a good example of an education and outreach program that will pay dividends in addressing public health. Healthy Texas is a statewide effort to address chronic health problems and improve Texans’ health and quality of life through preventative education of elementary students.
“It’s important that we ensure our efforts continue to be relevant within a very rapidly changing landscape, whether it’s our response to population shifts to urban centers, the labor force, addressing food deserts and water availability or the increasing demand for sustainability,” he said. “We need to continuously show our value as a public resource.”