3 join staff at SUNY Institute of Rural Vitality


The Institute for Rural Vitality at SUNY Cobleskill welcomes three new members to its team, allowing the Institute to expand its reach and further extend the resources offered.
Mary Cool, Food Science Program coordinator, obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Food Science from Cornell University and has over 30 years of experience in the industry.
Her expertise lies predominantly in new food product development, and she has managed both internal and outsourced new product food production with Life Savers Inc, WhiteWave Foods, and Beech Nut Nutrition.
Katerina Weingarten, program administrator, is an alumna of SUNY Cobleskill’s Agricultural Business Management program and went on to receive her Master’s degree at Oklahoma State University in Agricultural Communications.
She worked for Oklahoma State University's Department of Brand Management for two years and has been an independent marketing and communication consultant since August 2020.
Growing up, Ms. Weingarten was active in 4-H and FFA, showing livestock locally, and was a member of Block and Bridle, the National Agri-Marketing Association Club, and the Livestock Judging Team while attending SUNY Cobleskill.
Melissa Struckle, program coordinator for the Mohawk Valley Farm and Food Program, is an Agricultural Business Management graduate of SUNY Cobleskill with more than a dozen years of program coordination experience in higher education.
Ms. Struckle has completed graduate work focused on food and agribusiness, and brings a lifetime of agricultural experience, growing up on a dairy operation, showing dairy cattle at the local and national level, and active in 4-H and the Dairy Ambassador Program.
Today, Ms. Struckle remains connected to agriculture by operating a small farm where she raises goats, cattle, and miniature donkeys.
Additionally, The Institute for Rural Vitality has had two interns for the summer.
Josephin Colon has been providing program support for the Mohawk Valley Farm and Food Program, while Bennett Ashely has been creating a series of workshops to benefit small businesses, people looking to create businesses, and business professionals hoping to reaffirm their skills.
The Institute for Rural Vitality team plans to increase assistance to farm and food entrepreneurs throughout the Mohawk Valley with these additional resources.
Since its inception in 2018, the Institute has served 578 farms and food businesses and has assisted 21 beginning farmers in entering the local and regional food market. Through this support, entrepreneurs have been assisted in the development of 46 unique business plans and 60 distinctive marketing plans.
Through a new Farm and Food Business Accelerator program, the Agriculture Innovation Center will provide educational and practical knowledge, hands-on experience, development and consultation services.
Participants can access product development and co-working facilities on the SUNY Cobleskill campus through the Institute for Rural Vitality. Incubator and Accelerator participants receive product, process, and business development support from SUNY Cobleskill faculty and staff, including food science and food specialists, as well as dedicated staff expertise and resources from the Institute for Rural Vitality partners, including the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship and FuzeHub. Assistance includes training, workshops, and one-on-one business planning and marketing advice.