Interview with Barn Project Donor, Ellen Wolfson

This past summer Michael Wolfson, B.Ch.E. ‘64, LL.B. ‘67 and his wife Ellen were the first Cornell alumni  to donate to the Dilmun Hill Barn Project. Last week, we were lucky enough to catch up with the Wolfsons. We took them on a tour of the farm at the peak of our fall season, and shared our exciting progress. The next morning, we interviewed Ellen at Dilmun. We are forever indebted to the Wolfsons for their generous donation; without them, this project would not be possible.

How did you become interested in organic agriculture?

We’ve always been Cornell supporters, and we were looking for something that involves students in a personal way. Through Joan Gussow, I had met Michael Mazourek. Michael suggested the Dilmun Hill Barn Project, and it sounded like a perfect mesh of what we were interested in. We wanted to be working with undergraduate students, and we loved the idea that people with different interests would be doing this. This was exactly what we were looking for, and we have learned a lot [from visiting Dilmun Hill] that we take back to our own gardens.

What do you and your husband, Michael, hope that your donation will achieve for the Dilmun Hill Barn Project? 

I would love to see more undergraduates getting interested who can see that they can mesh their interests in engineering or architecture with a sustainable farm on a small scale. If our project that we are doing together with you helps move that along, that would be wonderful.

“WE WANTED TO BE WORKING WITH UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS, AND WE LOVED THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT INTERESTS WOULD BE DOING THIS”

What do you hope the future of small scale agriculture looks like? 

I am very encouraged, based on three locations: what I see here, the people that I have met at Stone Barns who will be leaving and moving out into the world, and our daughter who is also a Cornell graduate and lives in Massachusetts. She is raising sheep and other crops, and her friends are all interested. They all have other professions, but they find time and ways to do this. It’s amazing.

“I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE UNDERGRADUATES GETTING INTERESTED WHO SEE THAT THEY CAN MESH THEIR INTERESTS IN ENGINEERING OR AGRICULTURE WITH A SUSTAINABLE FARM ON A SMALL SCALE”

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