For this special article in our FLX Foodie Photo column, John Marks of the Geneva Historical Society has highlighted the work of Susan Brown, an apple breeder and geneticist with Cornell AgriTech who has dedicated her career to developing innovative new varieties of apples that benefit farmers and consumers—in the Finger Lakes and beyond. She is among countless women enhancing the bountiful Finger Lakes food scene who we praise on this International Women’s Day in 2021.
By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Geneva Historical Society
If you enjoy trying new varieties of apples, you can thank apple breeder and geneticist Susan Brown for some of them. As an apple breeder at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, she has spent decades developing apples that have just recently shown up in your grocery store.
Susan is the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). She leads Cornell’s apple breeding program—one of the largest fruit breeding programs in the world.
“My objectives include the development of new superior varieties for the apple industry with unique flavors, exceptional crispness, enhanced storage and shelf life, and the incorporation of resistance to disease and insect pests, and training students in the science of fruit breeding and genetics,” she says of her work on her webpage at cals.cornell.edu/susan-k-brown.
Breeding a new apple variety balances farmers’ needs and consumers’ desires. Farmers need plants that withstand changing climate conditions and fruit that will retain freshness for shipping. Consumers have a variety of desires but tend toward apples that are firm, juicy, and have complex flavors.
In 2013, Susan’s team released SnapDragon and RubyFrost. Last year, three new varieties were announced: Cordera, Pink Luster and Firecracker. The last one has the rare property of being good for eating, baking and making hard cider.
John Marks is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Geneva Historical Society, whose properties include the Johnston House and Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum. To learn more, go to genevahistoricalsociety.com.
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