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Lou Lego

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Organic farmer earns Excellence in IPM award for inventiveness, outreach

Contact: Abby Seaman | 315 787 2422 | ajs32@cornell.edu

Lou Lego

GENEVA, NY, January 21, 2017: Lou Lego worked through high school and into college on a large fruit and vegetable farm. So when he retired from his job as an electrical engineer, it was no surprise he went back to his roots, ultimately settling his family at 100-acre Elderberry Pond Farm in Auburn, New York.
 
Now, for his role as inventor, advisor, and developer of ecologically sound tactics for pests of organic farms, Lou Lego has received an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University.

When Lego first began farming, he missed the challenge of engineering. He soon realized that he’d simply traded one kind of science for another equally intricate. “We’d hired high-school kids and I was nervous about using pesticides around them, so we went organic,” says Lego.
 
“To farm organically, you have to understand pest habitat, then build habitat for beneficial organisms, and that’s just for starters,” says Lego. “It gets complicated in a hurry.”
 
“I first worked with Lou in 1997, when he worked on a project that tested use of beneficial wasps to control European corn borers in sweet corn,” says Abby Seaman, a vegetable specialist with NYS IPM. These wasps are the size of this comma, harmless to his workers.

Lego soon became a regular collaborator and advisor on Cornell research projects, Seaman says. She notes that he also conducts his own research projects through U.S. Department of Agriculture funding — projects that often draw on his engineering expertise in novel ways.
 
“Of all the tactics Lou has pioneered, his spore-exclusion filtration system to protect hoop-house crops from devastating diseases is the one that continues to amaze me,” adds Seaman.
 
Lego is as passionate about sharing his research with other farmers as he is about the work itself. He hosts on-farm field days and speaks at farmer meetings in New York and beyond, says Brian Caldwell, research specialist with the Cornell Organic Cropping Systems Project. Lego served on the project’s advisory council and is a member of NYS IPM’s Grower Advisory Committee.
 
Caldwell put it this way: “Lou is an outstanding example of a farmer who thinks all the time about ways to make his farm more environmentally positive, tries them out, and shares his successes with other farmers and the research community.”

“It’s not every day you get to work with someone who’s so innovative and service-minded,” says Jennifer Grant, director, NYS IPM Program. “We owe Lou Lego a debt of gratitude for everything he’s done to advance IPM and New York’s farm community.”

Lego received his award on January 21 at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA_NY) Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York.