While growing up on a farm in the small town of Chelsea, Terry Bradshaw learned from a young age the value of expertise and outreach.
To help keep his family’s farm running smoothly, his parents often asked state and regional agriculture officials for guidance on a variety of farming issues. That support system gave the UVM alumnus a foundation for his career as a tree fruit and viticulture specialist and UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences research associate and professor.
“Outreach is my pet cause,” says Bradshaw, who earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from UVM and works primarily on specialty crops research, outreach, and education. “I grew up on a farm so I know value of expertise, especially these days as farmers face the realities of climate change.”
Apples are the second largest specialty crop industry in Vermont after maple syrup, and grapes for winemaking are making gains in the state. Bradshaw works with growers to address everything from pricing to production. The two groups of people he focuses on are Vermont farmers and students in UVM agricultural programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
“I find that as we increase our focus on food systems, often times the food production end of things is considered last when, in reality, it should be thought of first,” Bradshaw says.
“Every time you grow food, you’re creating an artificial system,” he adds. “By that I mean that you are sticking a shovel in the ground and deciding to do something different from what’s already there. When you create this new system, you need to ask, ‘How am I going to do it in a way that is most efficient, that is fair to workers and farmers, provides food with as low an environmental impact as possible, and keeps costs low enough for consumers?’”
Bradshaw is also the director of the UVM Horticulture Farm and Catamount Education Farm and teaches UVM Plant and Soil Science Ecological Agriculture courses. He is also a guest lecturer for the UVM Farmer Training Program, a six-month program that gives students a chance to manage their own growing site, learn from experts, and gain hands-on experience at local farms.
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Bradshaw prides himself on playing the role of “farmer realist” to students, and explaining the most difficult realities in agriculture: weather and money.
“It’s wonderful to see a new generation of farmers coming through UVM. We need that because farmers are getting older and farms are shutting down,” he says. “Farming is not a sexy profession, and there are real economic realities to it. What I like so much about Farmer Training students is that it’s not a pie-in-the-sky concept for them because they’re out there doing it. “
The most rewarding part of his job?
“To know what you’re teaching is getting put to use,” Bradshaw says. “Knowing that I have the responsibility to direct public resources to help growers and students produce food for all of us is a pretty powerful thing.”
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