Jim Cook gave up his dream of farming long ago to go into science. Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences member finally got his farm: The Washington State University Cook Agronomy Farm.
“It has been 50 years since I made that decision looking over my shoulder and looking at my bride-to-be that I’m not going to be a farmer,” Cook told an audience of 200 at the Precision Farming and Direct Seed Field Day. “Guess what, now I am.”
During a career spanning 40 years on the WSU campus, Cook, a plant pathologist, headed the USDA-ARS Root Disease Laboratory, was the first R.J. Cook Endowed Chair in Wheat Research, and in 2003, was asked to serve as interim dean of the college.
“One of my privileges has been to work with so many tremendous family farms, meet the folks and bring science to the farm and learn so much in return,” Cook said. “If I have had one goal, it has been to empower farmers to have the knowledge that they need to make the right decisions and make money.”
Friends and colleagues heaped praise on Cook. “He is one of the most well-known spokespeople for agriculture in the western world,” said WSU President emeritus Samuel H. Smith. “He can talk with anybody and explain things to anybody.”
Scot Hulbert, the current Cook chair, said, “If you talk with anyone whoever has worked with him, regardless of their position, they have total respect for Jim.
Reading remarks prepared by Dean Dan Bernardo of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Pete Jacoby, associate dean of the college, said, “Jim once remarked to a reporter that he loves to take science out to where the people can experience it and get excited about it. To me, that’s the heart and soul of what we mean when we say ‘World Class Face to Face.’ For this reason, I would guess the naming of this farm in his honor may be his most special recognition. For it is indeed at the research farm where the nexus between discovery and delivery occurs.”
Cook encouraged the university to purchase the 140-acre farm north of Pullman in 1997 to study direct seed cropping and precision farming technology on a large scale.