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Gary Fick

Gary Fick


507 Bradfield Hall
(607) 255-1704

Dr. Fick has studied the ecology and management of forage crops since he came to Cornell University. He has been especially interested in alfalfa and in methods of predicting alfalfa forage quality as the crop is growing in the field. In addition, he has been teaching three or four subjects each year related to forage crops, sustainable agriculture, and research methods. His present research includes the study of sustainable land allocations to support a balanced local food system. He is an academic advisor, having served over 180 undergraduate and 66 graduate student advisees, an author with over 315 scientific publications and abstracts, and an editor with service to 14 scientific journals.

Research Focus

Dr. Fick and his graduate students developed the standard method for scientifically quantifying the morphological stage of development of alfalfa, a procedure recommended for routine use in alfalfa research by the Crop Science Society of America. As a graduate student, he developed the first computer simulation model of the growth of sugar beet. At Cornell, he wrote three important models for alfalfa growth, development, and nutritional quality. The most detailed model was used extensively in the formulation and testing of management protocols for insect pests on alfalfa, especially the alfalfa weevil. A simplified version of the program is still used in studies of whole farm management for dairy and beef production systems that include alfalfa as a farming enterprise. Out of this work, he has made important contributions, especially with colleague Hugh Gauch, to the identification of appropriate procedures for statistical model testing. With his students and colleagues, he also developed computer simulation models for the growth of sudangrass and of pastures in New Zealand. Dr. Fick and his graduate students also adapted the method of quantifying the stage of alfalfa development so that it could be used to predict the main nutritional properties of alfalfa forage. This has led to greater precision in determining the best time to begin alfalfa harvests in the spring. His related program, Cornell FORVAL, estimates the fair market price for any forage (grass or legume, hay or silage) given a forage test result and current market information. This program helps hay buyers and sellers estimate the fair market price when they have a forage test. It also helps farmers conduct economic evaluations of forage enterprises on their farms, and it is useful to researchers who want to estimate the economic impact of forage management practices that affect both yield and nutritional quality. Recently, Dr. Fick has been working with Christian Peters and Jennifer Wilkins to determine the potential of local food systems to supply a balanced diet given sustainable and economical land management practices. This work is defining and applying the concepts of a “foodshed” and a “foodprint.”

Outreach and Extension Focus

Dr. Fick has no formal extension appointment, but his research activities are oriented toward practical applications and generally include extension personnel as collaborators. The Cornell FORVAL computer program is available online for use in the field ( His extension publication with Sharon Mueller is the Crop Science Society of America standard for staging alfalfa (

Teaching Focus

Dr. Fick teaches the undergraduate courses in "sustainable agriculture" (CSS 1900, 3 credits) and "food, farming, and personal beliefs" (CSS/IARD 4910, 1 credit), and the graduate course in research methods (CSS 6900, 1 credit) with Hugh Gauch, author of Scientific Method in Practice, which is the text for the course. His own book, Food, Farming, and Faith is discussed in CSS 4910. This course takes a holistic view of sustainable agriculture including the perspectives of several religions. Dr. Fick also gives 6 lectures on forages in "field crop systems" (CSS 2110/4050) taught by Tim Setter.

Awards and Honors

  • Agronomic Education Award (2011) American Society of Agronomy

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Peters, C. J., Bills, N. L., Lembo, A. J., Wilkins, J. L., & Fick, G. W. (2012). Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State by food group: an approach for prioritizing which foods to grow locally. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 27:125-137.
  • Gauch, H. G., Hwang, J. T., & Fick, G. W. (2003). Model evaluation by comparison of model- based predictions and measured values. Agronomy Journal. 95:1442-1446.
  • Fick, G. W., Pfeifer, R. A., & Lathwell, D. J. (1994). Production patterns of perennial herbaceous biomass crops in the Great Lakes region. Other. 16:333-348.


  • Fick, G. W. (2008). Food, Farming, and Faith. p. 223 State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, USA.

Book Chapters

  • Fick, G. W., & Lamp, W. O. (1995). Chapter 4: Integrated pest management in forages. p. 45-53 Forages volume II: The science of grassland agriculture R.F. Barnes, D.A. Miller, and C.J. Nelson (ed.), Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames, IA.