Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Dr. Patrick Stover’s interest in agriculture is firmly rooted in his boyhood in rural Pennsylvania. He remembers his parents regularly cultivating a victory garden, which had been promoted as a way to conserve national resources during World War II. The family garden provided a rich harvest of fresh produce. “We had a basement full of freezers and canned vegetables and canned tomatoes,” The Texas A&M University System vice chancellor and dean and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research said. “We even made our own sauerkraut.”

Memories of those freshly picked vegetables and fruits informed Stover’s academic career and sparked his research on the relationship between nutrition and health.

Now, Stover wants to put Texas A&M AgriLife front and center in this important national conversation. One way is through hosting the Advancing Texas Roadshows. These events, which are scheduled across the state in 2019 and 2020, will engage key stakeholders in the food system’s role in a healthy life and highlight Texas A&M AgriLife’s far-reaching education, research and extension efforts in a wide variety of agricultural areas.

ADVANCING TEXAS ROADSHOW DATES

Advancing Texas is a roadshow across Texas hosted by Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, with the purpose of engaging key stakeholders in the food system’s role in a healthy life and highlighting Texas A&M AgriLife’s far-reaching education, research and extension efforts in a wide variety of agricultural areas.

Be on the lookout for an event near you!

  • Corpus Christi/McAllen on August 19-23, 2019
  • Dallas/Fort Worth on October 7-11, 2019
  • Amarillo/Lubbock on December 2-6, 2019
  • In 2020, the Roadshow will also visit Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Bryan/College Station.

Learn more about Advancing Texas. 

Dr. Stover's research examines how we can better align agriculture with human needs  so we can lower health care costs. His vision for Texas A&M AgriLife is to bridge the gap between production agriculture and the consumer.

Nutritional Science and Babies

Stover, a first-generation college student who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Saint Joseph’s University, began to explore nutrition while earning a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from the Medical College of Virginia. “I became interested in questions related to how food and nutrients affect health,” he said. “For 23 years, I did research on folic acid, trying to understand why some women were genetically susceptible to having a child with spina bifida and why those women, when they took extra folic acid, could reduce that risk by up to 70 percent.”

Stover’s groundbreaking work led to his selection as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 1996. In addition, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Many state, federal and international policymakers and experts quickly took notice of his work. Stover served on expert committees for a variety of organizations, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We discussed food fortification policy and how we could use food to reduce disease risks like spina bifida, which we virtually eliminated because of that food fortification policy,” Stover said. 

His career, including serving as director of Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, continues to focus on the ramifications of a poor diet. “I was involved in a number of expert committees with the National Academy of Sciences on how we can better align agriculture with human needs so we can lower health care costs," he said. In fact, diet-related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy about $1 trillion per year. "There’s a big disconnect right now between production agriculture and the consumer that needs to be harmonized. The profitability of agriculture has to increase if we want future generations to enter the profession, as the average age of the U.S. farmer or rancher is approaching 60 years old. Furthermore, we must increase the quality of agriculture production to better align with consumer attitudes and preferences, but most importantly with their health needs."

Stover’s overarching vision is to improve the quality of life of every Texan by creating healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies through AgriLife’s teaching, research and extension efforts.

Welcome to Aggieland

Stover’s arrival at Texas A&M AgriLife in 2018 opened up many new opportunities. “When Dr. Stover arrived, it was clear that this was a turning point not only for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but also for the four statewide agencies that are part of Texas A&M AgriLife,” said Dr. Susan Ballabina, Texas A&M AgriLife deputy vice chancellor. “It was a real opportunity to think about showcasing who we are, what we’re doing and how we’re we’re building on our strengths to become a national model.”

Stover’s overarching vision is to improve the quality of life of every Texan by creating healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies through AgriLife’s teaching, research and extension efforts. His position at AgriLife gives Stover the platform, manpower and reach to make this vision a reality. In his role, Stover oversees more than 5,000 employees of AgriLife’s four statewide agricultural agencies: Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. He also leads Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which has 7,800 students and 400 faculty members in 14 academic departments. 

A vital part of his vision, Stover believes that Texas A&M AgriLife is uniquely positioned to address some of the pressing health issues of our time. “We can use genetics and precision agriculture technologies to increase the nutritional quality value of agricultural products, providing more economic value and profits for producers,” he said. “For consumers, we will develop next-generation smartphone technology that allows point of care diagnostics that track diet and disease biomarkers in real time. This will inform consumers how their dietary choices change their chronic disease progression.”

It’s a bold initiative, but according to Stover, it’s one Texas and Texas A&M is ready for. “Texas is a state that is heavily invested in agriculture, which represents about $100 billion annually to the economy. At the same time, it’s also a state with a major public health crisis related to diet-related chronic disease,” he said. “So, if there is any state that would be motivated to address this problem and to be a national and global model for how to better align agriculture and the consumer, it’s Texas.” 

Increasingly, large-scale agricultural operations are integrating new technologies, such as drones, to improve processes and production.

Advancing Texas

Advancing Texas is an awareness and development initiative. “We want to travel around the state and get people excited about what we’re doing by appealing to their passions,” said Ballabina, pointing to AgriLife’s depth and breadth of knowledge as well as its reach within Texas, the nation and the world.

The Advancing Texas Roadshows will engage stakeholders—including policymakers, former students, industry leaders and donors—to share state and regional information, raise awareness and learn about regional needs. Each roadshow will have a theme appropriate to the region. For instance, the Rio Grande Valley event will focus on growing citrus, while Amarillo’s presentation will highlight the area’s beef cattle production. “We really want to highlight the expertise that we have across the state,” Ballabina said.

Equally as important, the Advancing Texas Roadshows will also connect urban areas with rural Texas’ agricultural roots and help harmonize agriculture with consumer needs. “As Texas becomes increasingly urbanized, Texas A&M as a land-grant university has an obligation to meet the needs of every Texan. The best way we can do that is make every Texan aware of agriculture and its value in their daily lives, health and well-being,” Stover said. “We want them to understand the role forests play in environmental health and the role that food plays in their human health. We want everyone to understand the relevance and importance of what we do.”

How You Can Get Involved

Growing opportunities to support AgriLife’s programs

The Advancing Texas Roadshows are an opportunity for Texas A&M leaders and faculty to share Texas A&M AgriLife’s programs and their far-reaching impact. The initiative focuses on multiple pillars that support Texas A&M’s land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension. The Advancing Texas initiative offers not only a snapshot of current efforts, but also a vision for Texas A&M AgriLife’s future.

Click through the initiatives below to learn how you can support AgriLife's programs. To donate to these areas or learn more about the Advancing Texas Roadshows, contact Allyson Tjoelker ’02, assistant vice president of development, at atjoelker@txamfoundation.com or (979) 458-7279.

You can also visit the Advancing Texas website or learn more about funding opportunities here.

We Educate 21st Century Leaders

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is committed to preparing transformational 21st century leaders. To achieve this, college leaders have set priorities to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate scholarships as well as faculty support, including endowments and fellowships. Additionally, high-impact student experiences such as congressional internships and livestock judging contests are targets for additional financial support.

The college also needs support for a number of increasingly popular programs that teach students about entrepreneurship, finance and sales. New and growing programs include the forensic and investigative sciences program in the entomology department as well as a new certificate program in enology and viticulture, which will train Texas’ next generation of winemakers.

We Pursue Purpose-Driven Science

One of the college’s major priorities is developing a research program to connect agriculture to health through the Institute for Advancing Agriculture and Health. This institute will focus on developing responsive agriculture to better serve consumers, use technology to assess an individual’s health in relation to diet, and strive to bridge the gap between Texas’ urban and rural communities. Additionally, the institute’s vision includes becoming the world’s trusted source of unbiased information on agriculture and food to support decision-making by policymakers and consumers.

Other research funding priorities include:

  • Advancing the Animal Science Beef Cattle Area of Excellence, which will help beef cattle producers maintain a competitive edge in today’s markets.
  • Supporting the Center for Coffee Research and Education, which is using research and education to help improve the quality and supply of coffee globally.
  • Funding innovative science in the areas of water, disease prevention, land use, bioenergy, sustainability, food and nutrition, insect vectored disease, new crops, pests and invasive plants, and livestock and plant genetics.
  • Supporting the Human Behavior Lab, which is helping us to understand, predict and change human behavior to improve the lives of people in the state, nation and world.

We Strengthen Our Urban and Rural Communities

This pillar, which involves engaging a wide range of stakeholders, includes a variety of funding priorities, including but not limited to:

  • Expanding Texas A&M’s Leach Teaching Gardens.
  • Expanding the Healthy Texas program, a groundbreaking collaboration between Texas A&M AgriLife and the Texas A&M Health Science Center.
  • Providing initial support for the proposed Natural History Museum, which would showcase the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ extensive collections in entomology, wildlife and fisheries.
Contact:

Allyson Tjoelker '02

Assistant Vice President for Development
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
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