Former Vt. Ag chief brings farm resume to job as head of Extension
BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences last month named Chuck Ross director of UVM Extension. Until this month, Ross served as secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, a position he held since 2011 and the beginning of Gov. Shumlin’s time in office.
Prior to his role as secretary, Ross served for 16 years as state director and senior advisor under U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
According to Tom Vogelmann, dean of the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to whom Ross will report directly, the experience and skill set Ross brings to the job make him well suited to lead UVM Extension after a recent re-integration of the unit into the agricultural college. The two units had become separate in 1998, largely for administrative reasons. The move was made in early November to facilitate closer working relationships among the faculty in the two units, strengthen economic development and education, and to unify outstanding research throughout Vermont, education and outreach.
“Chuck has had great success in promoting collaboration between different state and government agencies, and he led and implemented a strategic planning process at the agency that was very successful,” Vogelmann said. “Those are all skills that will serve him well as we think through how Extension and CALS can again work as an integrated unit that will strengthen the missions of both entities. He also has strong organizational management and communication skills and proven leadership ability.”
Ross said he looks forward to continuing to work in the agricultural and food arena that shapes a large part of Vermont’s economy, community and culture.
“The team at Extension and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a talented group of professionals with whom I am excited to take on the challenges and opportunities facing Vermont,” Ross said. “Whether it be helping on water quality, implementing food safety or helping to build a Vermont food system that is accessible to all, Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has much it can do to help build a healthy population, economy and environment in Vermont.”
The son of a seventh-generation Vermonter, Ross has a long and distinguished track record of serving the state of Vermont. As Agriculture secretary, Ross administered a complex agency consisting of 120 staff and managed a budget of $22 million.
Notable achievements include coordinating agricultural recovery efforts in the aftermath of tropical storm Irene; establishing the Working Landscape Enterprise Board which provides policy advice and administers up to $1 million in grants/year; collaborating with state and federal agencies and stakeholders to pass Act 64 (Vermont’s clean water law); and helped lead the effort to pass the Required Agriculture Practices (rules to implement Act 64 and the total maximum daily load of pollutants for Lake Champlain).
Ross also recently served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), a position that connected him with department of agriculture agency heads from every state and informed him of agriculture and policy issues across the nation. In his capacity as secretary and president of NASDA, Ross helped lead NASDA’s engagement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine how to best implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Prior to his role as agency secretary, while serving as state director for Sen. Leahy, Ross helped lead a collaborative effort to establish a state-wide smart grid in Vermont that led to a $66 million grant to Vermont from the Department of Energy. Prior to his work with Sen. Leahy, Ross served for six years as a representative in the state legislature from Hinesburg.
“Chuck is the ideal person to lead UVM Extension, and we couldn’t be more fortunate to be able to bring him on board,” said UVM President Tom Sullivan. “He has a strong knowledge of Vermont agriculture in the broadest sense, a deep working relationship with Vermont stakeholders and agencies, and has worked successfully with the Vermont Legislature and Congressional delegation to fund critical initiatives, all skills that will serve him well in this position.”
Ross will begin at UVM on Jan. 30. He replaces Doug Lantagne, who will take a leave of absence after serving Extension since 2003 and then return to teaching and research.
“Doug built the foundation of what UVM Extension is today,” Vogelmann said. “He hired a talented cadre of professionals and shaped the mission of Extension, following the successful career of his predecessor Larry Forcier, so it meets the needs of Vermont in the 21st century. His outstanding leadership means that we can continue this forward momentum under Chuck’s leadership without missing a beat. We owe Doug a debt of gratitude.”
“This is really wonderful news for Chuck and the University of Vermont,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, in a press release last month. “Chuck is an innovative thinker who gets how important agriculture is to Vermont’s past, present and future. Under his leadership at the Agency of Agriculture, we have made substantial progress to move Vermont’s farming culture forward and provide opportunities for Vermonters to continue to innovate and produce some of the best products in the world. I want to thank Chuck for his service and friendship. He has done great things for Vermont and I know he will continue to do so in this new role.”
“Secretary Ross is a dedicated public servant and I am grateful for his commitment to the state and our agriculture community,” said Gov. Phil Scott. “His leadership and experience will be a valuable asset to UVM Extension and its mission to improve the quality of life of Vermonters.”