Leading Through Extension with Humility and Responsibility

By: Katie Baildon,  CALS
February 23, 2021

In this episode of “Extension Out Loud,” a podcast by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shares his journey and his vision for carrying forth Cornell’s Land Grant mission in New York state.   

From his midwest agricultural heritage to his most recent faculty position at the University of California Davis, Dean Houlton leads listeners through the personal and academic journey that brought him and his family to Ithaca, N.Y.  

“If you shake my family tree, you get dairy farmers falling out of every branch,” Houlton told “Extension Out Loud” hosts Katie Baildon and Paul Treadwell. “And while I didn't grow up on a farm, I did spend time on family farms as a kid, and practiced milking cows by hand.” 

Houlton is as inspired by big questions like “how does DNA work” as he is by practical solutions that improve lives, such as CCE’s efforts to connect families with meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. His approach to leadership begins with collaboration, coordination, and deep listening. And he aims to center those values in his approach to addressing the climate crisis, engaging in antiracist work, and building a more resilient future--which he said, aligns perfectly with CCE’s mission. 

“Humility and responsibility, that is what CCE is all about in my experience. It's about helping farmers. It's about helping people who don't have access to food. It's about creating a more equitable and safe future for everybody.” 

The conversation with Dean Houlton kicks off the latest season of Extension Out Loud, “Leading Through Extension” which will feature key CCE voices discussing their approaches to extension work and how history – and this past tumultuous year — are shaping our path forward. 

This article was originally published as CALS News.

Ben Houlton on a ranch with livestock